Prime Minister Rudd’s new asylum seeker plan with Papua New Guinea is as shocking as it is cruel. No wonder it has provoked a lot of criticism. Is the plan driven by Rudd’s opportunism or does it reflect an ever growing degree of egoism, amoralism and lack of solidarity among human beings?
Tony Abbott has been shouting his “stop the boat” slogan for a long time and now Kevin Rudd joins the cheap campaign on his attempt to win back an almost certainly lost prime minister seat some weeks back. This behaviour doesn’t come as a surprise for someone with a wide view over the political scene, be it in geographical or historical terms. And it suits perfectly in time: history has shown that a suffering economy is the best godfather for xenophobia. In Europe a similar right-shift in politics controls politics in most countries since the beginning of the economic crisis a few years back and even more shameful examples are known well enough and, hence, needn’t be mentioned.
The psychological explanation for xenophobia is that people who cannot cope with the complexity of the world, life or their environment, separate their world into one which is known, and everything around it which is “strange”. In addition, they perceive that all unknown (which is not part of their world) must be bad. That makes life easy because they do not have to make the effort to understand that “outer world”. They can simply classify it as bad. Everything new or any change to their little world is bad. Likewise, a general punishment of people we have never seen and whose stories we have never known is the peak of xenophobia.
That in mind, we shouldn’t be so much shocked (what doesn’t mean that the action is less cruel) about Rudd’s plan. It’s a cheap trick to get the support from people in a “little world”. Nevertheless, it is alarming to see that apparently ever better educated societies tend to be less stringent in their behaviour and more amoral in their decisions. In its core Rudd’s plan doesn’t accept that there are refugees – victims of war, crime, misery or whatever situation that makes them flee from their home – only because the Australian government (like any other) is unable to address those who are the cause of this escapes. Besides, the plan is meant for people smugglers but targets at refugees. How can it be that even in the 21st century people do target their punishment at victims because they cannot get to the offender? To me such behaviour feels like kicking at a person that already lies on the ground. It’s shameful and disgraceful.
What in the case of Australia is even more shameful than in the case of Europe is the fact that the supporters (as the whole Australian population) of such right-wing politics are to a big majority descendants of people that once fled their country in hope to find a better future and a liveable alternative to where they came from. How can we not help those in need now if we only exist because others accommodated our grandparents and great-grandparents when they were on the run?
I remember an interesting study that aimed at finding out what motives those had who helped to hide Jewish people in Europe during WWII. Other than one might expect, it weren’t people that had once been helped in similar situations. Instead, the study revealed that those who took the risk and helped others were people that believed in justice. People that had hope that somehow justice existed and that it was good to do the right thing, not matter at what risk. The study also showed that persons who had suffered unjustified or excessive punishment (from their viewpoint) during their childhoods were later very unlikely to help others.
It is certain that we can’t choose where we are born. Nor can we influence to a big degree how we grow up. However, all of us can decide how we want to live our adulthoods. We can be selfish, amoral and ignorant, and keep what we have for ourselves while kicking at those who already lay on the ground. Or we can reflect and think that maybe not everyone had the same luck we did, to be born in a rich country with plenty of resources and/or the privilege not to be discriminated for our race, religion, gender or political viewpoint. If that is not yet enough, we can imagine that there might come a day when we or our children might as well need help from others and might be grateful if justice existed. And those who did not believe in justice before reading this due to their own childhood experiences might hopefully do now anyway.
Rudd’s plan is a simplification to a very complex subject that has no quick solution. It is a disgraceful, cruel and selfish act, not only of Kevin Rudd but of all those who support him. It is unclear if the plan will hold legally. What, however, is more than clear is that every Australian who has a little sense of justice, who is not completely selfish, and who tries to think a bit beyond their daily life, will remember Rudd’s plan when they can vote for the future of Australia in a couple of weeks. If this future shall be just and meaningful, then neither Kevin Rudd nor Tony Abbott are eligible options.
 “This is a rush to the right, a rush to refugee cruelty so that Kevin Rudd can rush to the polls,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. (http://greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/auistralias-day-refugee-shame)