Sad, Bad, Mad: Cat Person

The New York Times published a short story, “Cat Person” and people have gone a bit nuts over it. Including me.

Minor things first:

*Trigger warning: This article might bring up traumatic memories for some people.

*Cats are awesome and cat people are awesome. Cats are not the point of the story. (But some of us will lie awake wondering about them all the same. Are they real? Am I? Are you?)

*The cats are definitely not real. I’m sure of it now. Cats feign disinterest but would definitely come to investigate the smells of a new person in their territory. Which means Robert’s creepiness factor just went up to eleven. Fake cats? That’s bonkers.

*There’s a fascinating interview with the author here.

*Yeah, that excessive close-up photo that goes with the story is super gross. I have to put my hand up to my screen to block it out whenever it comes up.

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#fixedit

*Also, the story gets really into fat-shaming Robert, which is cheap and gross and suggests immaturity on the part of the writer (as well as, of course, the character). The writing clearly mocks the viewpoint character for her various delusions, but Margot’s disgust at Robert’s extra weight is written about non-critically. It’s about as deep as having an evil ugly witch who is baaaad.

*Yes, gay folks are most welcome to have a “Lol, you poor sad heteros!” moment. Because although a lot of the story does apply to anyone attempting to negotiate dating, the deepest, scariest level of the story is absolutely about what women face when dating men.

*A lot of men feel disturbed and defensive about the story, or simply feel that it’s stupid. Although all art is subjective, most of the men that dislike the story are missing that deep, scary level of the tale. I’ll address the valid points of negative male reactions later.

*It is deeply saddening for speculative fiction lovers that no one in the story turns out to be even slightly feline. Agreed.

*The main characters’ names, Margot and Robert, make me think of Margot Robbie. This is never a bad thing.

Summary (including spoilers)

Margot meets a guy who is pretty average but witty in text form. They eventually have a kind-of date with very bad sex and then Margot texts him (technically her room-mate texts him) to end things, and he calls her a whore.

The deep, scary bit that hurts to think about

There is an underlying tension to the story that a straight female reader (or anyone in a non-male body who has dated a man) has a visceral response to: While on the surface the relationship is mundane (and in the thoughts of the main character it varies as she judges and re-judges the situation), the third layer is the knowledge that Robert has the physical power to rape or kill Margot at virtually any time (and could probably get away with it too).

Women

live

with

this

knowledge

every

day.

Here’s the worst part, the part the story doesn’t even touch on: When a women is a victim of violence, it is almost always at the hands of someone she knows. Someone she trusts. Someone she isn’t afraid of; not any more. Should I live in fear of Chris, my Chris, father of my kids and love of my life?

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Of course not!

Except, statistically, yes.

Women live in a world where half the people we know are bigger and stronger than us. We are taught from birth to be careful. Don’t go to certain places after dark. Don’t go to certain places at all. Carry mace. Keep your eyes open. Don’t wear certain clothes. Don’t drink too much. Learn self-defence. Don’t show weakness. Don’t drop your guard.

Then at the same time we’re taught how to survive in the living world: Be nice. Don’t say ‘no’. Flirt. Wear heels and makeup. Marry a breadwinner. Have a private bank account. Don’t have a shrill voice. Don’t complain. Don’t be a feminist. Don’t be loud. Don’t be unlikable. Don’t get angry. Don’t cry in public. Don’t show weakness. Don’t drop your guard.

I am an innocent, partly because I choose to be and largely because my privilege allows me to be. I am white; I grew up thinking I was straight; until recently I was able-bodied.

One of my fictional characters (in a deleted novel) leaves her shoes above the high tide line of a beach while she wanders along the water. Her friend asks if she’s concerned about them getting stolen, and she admits that sometimes they are in fact stolen, but she’d rather have to buy new shoes sometimes than to constantly worry about her possessions.

At a certain point, women have to accept that we might get murdered—and then we befriend men anyway.

I met a man online who lives in Adelaide (I live in Canberra). We got to know one another online (as much as anyone can). Daniel visited Canberra, and we began dating. Then it was my turn to visit Adelaide. He picked me up from the airport and drove me back to his house.

Like a lot of Australian cities, Adelaide has sections of well-established bushland, many of them bisecting the city itself. Daniel and I had already joked about how one of us was most likely an axe-murderer, and as we passed through an unlit section of what appeared to be virgin bushland I felt my heart beat faster.

I didn’t rehearse in my head how to throw myself out of the car, or carefully recollect exactly where my phone was in case I needed to call the police. Instead I tried very hard to pretend I wasn’t afraid. Because when it comes to priorities, men’s feelings almost always come above women’s safety.

Now, spoiler alert, I wasn’t murdered. So I was arguably right to be polite. But that knee-jerk reaction to Be Nice At All Costs isn’t just manners—it’s another type of fear. What if Daniel had noticed and been offended that I’d thought such a thing of him, even just for a moment? What if he’d been so offended that he threw me out of the car, or punched me? That instinct to Be Nice—Or Else is hugely powerful and damaging. That right there is the reason women are frozen in terror when a man masturbates in front of them. He’s already crossed so many boundaries that trying to get away might just be the catalyst that leads to him doing so much more. It also applies to so, so many other awful situations: getting groped, getting overlooked for a deserved promotion, getting interrupted mid-sentence. Women’s default setting is less powerful, and the imbalance gets wider in a thousand different interactions every day. Because men don’t want to give up power, and they push back against women who try to change things.

It’s difficult for men to understand what it’s like from the other side of the gender divide. It’s not a fun think to think about. Quite often, a man will suddenly have a light turn on in their head when they have a daughter: Suddenly they understand the terrifying vulnerability of women from a position where it matters to them.

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I asked my mother once if she was scared of being raped. “I used to be,” she said, “then I had daughters. So now I’m afraid of my daughters being raped.”

I hesitated to include a picture of my daughter in this article. You all know why. Yet I didn’t pause for even a second when including a picture of my son. Of course not.

Back to the story. . .

The story plays with the conventions of three different genres, keeping the reader guessing since those genres have very different endings.

One is a romance. I felt myself give that little ‘Aww’ smile as certain beats were hit: The cute meet over Red Vines; the nearly-missed-it moment when the girl doesn’t really know why she gave the boy her number; the tension at silly misunderstandings. Margot gives Robert several chances, and for all her flaws I admire her for that. That genre always ends with a critical romantic moment (a wedding, or meeting the parents, or a first kiss) that indicates that the pair will live happily ever after.

As it turns out, this is not a romance.

The second genre is comedy; there is clearly a slightly dark, wry, self-deprecating humour as Margot’s expectations and opinions about Robert shift and change from moment to moment, only to be ultimately let down by the reality. This layer of the story is expertly done, highlighting the self-delusions and awkwardness of dating in a way that made millions of readers say, “That is the truest story I’ve ever read.” The comedy genre climaxes (oh, lolz) with the awkward horror of the sex scene.

The third genre is horror. When it becomes clear that it’s not a romance, the reader is left not knowing if this is a comedy or a cautionary tale. The horror genre ends with violence, usually with a sense that the protagonist has somehow brought it on herself by her foolish decisions. Margot risks her safety by giving Robert a chance—doubly so by going to his house, and any sexually active female (fictional or otherwise) is guilty for the purposes of fictional denouement. A story is sometimes sympathetic to the sexually active heroine, but it will still kill her for putting out. Stories understand, consciously or otherwise, that sex is dangerous for women and not so much for men.

But refusing sex, as Margot wishes she could do? That’s even more dangerous. Because the last thing you want to do is make a man angry. She’s very conscious of the need to soothe and console Robert (before, during, and after their ‘date’) and is sufficiently aware of her own vulnerability that she finds herself unable to figure out how to break up with Robert, even though she knows she must do it.

Is she promiscuous for sleeping with a man she doesn’t want to? Or is she a victim, unable to extract herself safely from a threat? Or is Robert a victim, lead on and discarded by a powerful (better educated, more attractive) woman?

In my opinion, only one of the above interpretations is a ‘yes’ according to the story—but it’s written well enough that the other questions are allowed to be asked.

Angry men on the internet

There’s a twitter handle set up just to repost men’s reactions to the story, mainly because a lot of men don’t understand the fear Margot feels, and/or they relate to Robert as the victim but feel he is portrayed as a monster.

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Margot is not a good person. Nor is she a bad person. She is vain, certainly. She lets her imagination run away with her as she tries to figure out what kind of person Robert really is. She flirts at work (an activity that is harmless, but could hypothetically lead to mildly hurt feelings).

This article is getting ridiculously long, so I’ll be brief: Yes, being a man (especially a straight white man) is the lowest difficulty setting in this game we call life (as written about by straight white male John Scalzi, here, including several follow-ups, one of which is  here). And, as John Scalzi and others have stated loudly and repeatedly, that definitely does not not not mean that the lives of straight white men aren’t hard or don’t suck. Life has times of suckitude for everyone, and many lives just suck from beginning to end, and it hurts to be in a sucky place and feel like others are telling you:

  1. Stop whining. My sucky place is suckier than your sucky place.
  2. Give some of the tiny scraps you have away to others.
  3. A lot of what is bad in the world is the fault of you and people like you.

All those three things are true of me and my privilege as well. My methods of coping are:

  1. Trying not to compare my pain to anyone else. That never ends well.
  2. Giving away a little (money, time, and mental energy) when I can, and trying to be aware of barriers that other people face and I don’t. This also means consciously supporting minorities when I can, and continuing to learn painful truths for the rest of my life. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding.
  3. Pretty much the only way to deal with this is #2.

Is Robert a baddie?

I. . . I wasn’t sure, but then I reread the story.

The first hint of a red flag is when Robert steps back from Margot’s very mild flirtation “as though to make her lean toward him, try a little harder”. If someone stepped back from me, I would assume they were not into me and nothing more. It probably wouldn’t even be a conscious thought on my part. It’s unclear if Margot is interpreting him this way or if the story is. It’s a very very subtle form of negging.

He calls her ‘Concession-stand girl’ which is either cute or insulting. Could go either way.

He plays it a bit cool with texting, letting her choose whether to keep texting or not. That’s more of a positive sign than negative, and their sharp humour is the one real connection they have. Another good sign.

He kisses her on the forehead “as if she was something precious” which charms Margot but also suggests fetishisation of the big man/little woman dynamic. In both directions.

The silly scenario they play out via their cats involves jealousy and tension. Is that because Robert is the jealous or possessive type?

He sends a heart-eyed smiley at the mention of her parents, which is a good sign.

Then he acts strange and cold after spring break. A red flag on its own, and even more so when it turns out he is jealous of an entirely fictional potential ex (although it certainly shows that he and Margot have imaginative portrayals of one another in common).

It takes longer than it should for him to stop being unpleasant and weird, and it also seems he’s trying to impress her due to feeling insecure about her higher education and youth.

(There are plenty of red flags about Margot, too—particularly the way his grouchy behaviour makes her feel honoured by his vulnerability. That kind of attitude puts her at high risk of an abusive relationship.)

When she begins to cry during the humiliating ID incident, he kisses her for the first time—like her, he is emboldened by vulnerability, even or especially as a flaw. This is a two-way red flag. Vulnerability is good, certainly, but both Margot and Robert are genuinely turned on by it. It’s not intimacy they crave, but power. That’s messed up.

I’ll stop there rather than pick apart the story line by line. Men who hate the story see Margot as more powerful: She is young and beautiful; she is the viewpoint character; she is more educated than Robert.

But is the risk of rejection as bad as the risk of being murdered?

Of course not.

But. . . is the 90% certainty of being rejected as bad as the .001% likelihood of being murdered?

I don’t know.

There are two more points worth making. First, Robert is 34 and Margot is 20. Once again, that gives Robert power. It’s also a big red flag. (Margot guessed he was in his mid-twenties and was off by a decade so this one’s all on him.) There are loads of thirty-something single women, so why isn’t Robert dating one of them? At best it suggests he prefers younger, prettier woman. Given the rest of the story, it strongly suggests he likes all the power he can get—needs it, because he is so insecure he doesn’t stand up straight.

The age difference could be just coincidence (after all, Robert doesn’t realise she can’t get into a carded bar, and is horrified she might be a virgin) except then Robert appears in the same student bar that he earlier mocked. What is he doing there? There are three possible answers. If one is extremely charitable, one could argue he has decided to study (why not? He’s smart—except it’s clearly in the middle of the semester, so no). It’s far more likely he’s looking for a new twenty-something to hook up with. Or, worse, he is looking for Margot. Either way, this is the moment we know for certain that something is definitely truly off about Robert, and while the Secret Service-style exit of Margot and her friends is needlessly dramatic, she is also genuinely afraid. And at this point, that is not being dramatic. Her friends know it, and they know what all women know: there is safety in numbers. That is the only safety women can draw on.

One of my friends was attacked at a bar because her friend was too drunk to protect her. I feel disgust at the men, but I have a burning fury at the woman who abandoned my friend.

Women protect each other. That is the law. That is how we survive.

Here’s an interesting fact: not all that many people are attracted to me. (That’s not the interesting bit.) Of the dozen or so people that ever confessed attraction to me, three were more than a decade older than me.

One of those men I never knew well. The other two both have a very clear pattern of dating younger women. One prefers women who are sexually inexperienced (not necessarily virgins, but women who lack the confidence of a past healthy romantic relationship they can use to spot his patterns of abuse). The other’s self-esteem is strongly based on being helpful, so he tends to be attracted to people who are needy in some way (usually mentally ill, or those who have been abused, or both). When I dated him, I found myself acting depressed and unhappy when actually I felt fine. It took me a very long time to figure out that I was unconsciously adapting to what he wanted in a relationship.

So again, you have older men grasping for power of various kinds over a younger woman. (Dating suuuuuuucks!)

There’s one final red flag about Robert: When they spot one another in public later he sends Margot a series of texts. They start friendly and then get harsher and more jealous, ending with the final word: “Whore.”

It is a punch of an ending, revealing the true character of the man who seemed harmless and sweet.

But (say male readers) it’s just a word.

Robert insults Margot with time-honoured sexism, condemning her as the baddie with a blithe unawareness of the irony of condemning her sex act when he was there and participating at the time. He condemns her sexual activity, when it was her fear of his anger that caused her to have that sex at all. (No, it wasn’t assault. . . but it wasn’t an empowered choice either.)

The story ends there, but does it?

In real life, would Margot ever feel safe on campus again? He literally knows where she lives, not to mention where she works and where she eats and drinks.

He is angry. The beast of legend, the monster Margot had sex to pacify, has awoken.

Margot could never possibly know if his anger was “harmlessly” spent by insulting her via text, or if he will begin/continue to stalk her. Or if he’ll get drunk one night, three months from now, and break into her dorm and shoot her.

No woman ever quite knows. She only knows that if he wants to hurt her, he can.

A stitch in mine

It’s November. I’m not counting the days until Christmas, but I am counting the days until I get to experience something far less common and more painful: An operation. Yay!

(This is a long entry, with a sprinkling of swear words. Feel free to skip to the bottom where there’s a link to donate money.)

On 30 November (moved from 7 November) I’ll be getting the 9-cm gap in my stomach muscles stitched back together. It’s 100% normal for stomach muscles to separate during pregnancy, and to gradually close over the six months post-pregnancy (one of several excellent reasons to never ever ask a lady if she’s pregnant, especially if she has young children). Most women wind up with a permanent stomach gap of a centimetre or so. If the gap doesn’t close on its own, no amount of exercise or weight loss will fix it.

Similar injuries caused by sport or accidents are covered under the public health system in Australia. Pregnancy injury is not. The excellent Waleed Aly once did a segment on the inherent sexism in not assisting women like me. Louisette turns six in January and TJ is three and a half, so I’ve had the unwieldy annoyance and pain of a pregnancy-style belly for more than six years, and have been trying to get the necessary surgery for three years.

Here’s the awkward bit: Because re-attaching stomach muscles involves dealing with skin, it’s plastic surgery. It also makes women look less pregnant. I imagine this is why male politicians refuse to fund it. Women could take advantage of the system just to restore their exhausted parasite-hosting bodies to their previous appearance! Women who’ve had an improbably large object rip its way out of their most sensitive organs might have one aspect of their horrifically violating journey to motherhood erased! Women might have one less complaint that needs to have, “But of course I wouldn’t change a thing! I’m just so thrilled to have a child!” tacked onto the end.

I’m one of the lucky ones, psychologically. Both of my pregnancy experiences were awful awful awful, but they’re over now. My births went pretty well. I noticed and suffered from various problems the medical industry could have done a lot better, and I hope that makes me a useful advocate for other pregnant people in future.

But.

Becoming a mother gave me a long list of permanent chronic conditions that ultimately made me unable to care for my own children (and also cost me my job in childcare, which I loved). This year I’ve gotten to the point where I can mind both kids solo for about three hours fairly consistently, or one for a full day. My kids are pretty great—healthy, happy, and fundamentally decent human beings. But I’m disabled now, because of having them, and that—well, it just sucks.

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(Pause for cuteness.)

It’s very clear that not everything that’s wrong with me can be fixed. I realised that a long time ago, and the writer and advocate in me is glad, because I know that I can now write some types of disabled characters really well. My pain is fodder for better stories—the kind that can give hope to people who need it, and a bit of empathy to everyone else.

I still have hope that one day I won’t feel afraid of my children any more. Right now it hurts to stand, to make a sandwich, to pick them up, to buckle them into the car, to walk with them to the shops (or to the front door of the school), to get down on the floor and play with them, and so on. Sometimes I don’t care, and I pretend nothing hurts. Other days it feels like my kids are torturing me on purpose. Most days I plan carefully: How much strength do I have? Is today a good day or a bad day? How can I make the kid/s feel loved without risking long-term injury to myself? What corners can I cut without hating myself or neglecting the kids? How do I manage my stupid body so it lasts until bed time today?

I’ve had a few wins along the way. With TJ I had daily migraines (mostly “silent” migraines that are mainly aura with not much pain) for the whole pregnancy, and then they just… didn’t stop. I now take a medication that has 90% solved the migraine issue (although I haven’t yet recovered from the brain damage that resulted from two years of daily migraines). I had a minor operation a few years ago that improved some other stuff, and I have a third major problem that can also be treated with pills. (The second and third conditions in this list are a bit too personal for a blog.)

 

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(Pause for cuteness.)

Here are some things that will definitely/probably be improved by my stomach surgery:

-vertebrae and disc spinal injuries (the pain will be eased after the surgery because there won’t be a giant stomach pulling my spine out of alignment) causing significant pain and disability.

-prolapsed uterus (hopefully all my misplaced organs will slot neatly back into place)

-abdominal diastasis (that’s what the surgery is actually for)

-umbilical hernia (which will definitely be fixed by the surgery)

-pain-related depression and anxiety (which will be improved by surgery)

I’m also looking forward to seatbelts working properly again. At the moment, they slide up my stomach and cut into my neck (literally; I have a lovely connection of skin tags on each side of my neck; half from driving and half from being the passenger).

And I might just be able to wear pants again, which would be awfully convenient. And swimmers. Technically I can and do wear swimmers, but my stomach is so disproportionate that they’re really uncomfortable.

Lotsa nausea will be reduced or eliminated, which will be nice.

And I’ll be able to cut my own toenails without swallowing vomit (due to pressing down on an unprotected stomach in order to reach my feet). That’ll be nice too.

It will be awesome to be able to wear dresses again. It took me far too long to realise that dresses always exaggerate a big stomach, because they’re designed to show the nice straight lines of a body (which pregnant bodies don’t have).

Anyone who’s been pregnant knows the pain of picking things up from the floor. I’m really looking forward to that being less of a big deal.

And of course, I won’t look nearly as pregnant! I’m not expecting a bikini body—in fact I imagine I’ll still look a little bit pregnant—but it’ll be soooo much better than my current reality. When I’m faced with large social events I often have quite bad panic attacks beforehand due to knowing most of the people there will assume I’m pregnant. Did I mention I already had a social anxiety disorder?

Here’s a real story from literally less than a week ago:

Nice Lady, sympathetically: Oh, how are you doing?

Me, immediately realising what she’s getting at: I’m fine thanks.

Nice Lady: It’s such hard going when you’re so far along!

Me, thinking both, “Well this is an especially bad one” and “She’s old and I’ll probably never see her again. Let’s not correct her”: Thank you.

Nice Lady: So when are you due?

Me, thinking, “Fuck. Oh well here goes”: I’m not actually pregnant.

[Cue classic conversation in which I try to make someone feel better for making me feel like absolute shit.]

I once had a man I didn’t know approach me at a funeral and ask me my due date while rubbing my stomach.

Aaand I once went into a physio appointment at the hospital where I’d recently given birth, and seen that exact same physio a week earlier for a pre-birth appointment, and had the physio look at me and say, “Weren’t you going to be induced last Friday?”

Yes. In fact I was induced last Friday. The baby was out.

In her defence, this is what I looked like that day (and ever since):

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If you want to be respected by a medical professional, be very careful not to tick any of the following boxes:

  1. Being female. Statistically, reports of female pain (and various other issues) are underestimated by medical professionals across the board.
  2. Being overweight. Were you in the healthy weight range before you began to suffer from [insert medical condition here]? It doesn’t matter. If you are fat, your medical condition is your fault, or at least made worse by you.
  3. Being mentally ill. Why should anyone listen to a crazy person? If you talk rationally, your mental illness isn’t serious and you’re probably just looking for attention. If you talk irrationally, you’re an irrational person and anything you say is suspect. (Fun Fact: Although “Violent offender was mentally ill” is a common theme in both fiction and real-life news reporting, mentally ill individuals are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Because who listens to the mentally ill? Not doctors or police or reporters or writer, apparently!)
  4. Being pregnant, post-partum, or a mother. Women’s uteruses and hormones have been the ultimate go-to cause of all physical illnesses and pain since Ancient Greece. Not only can a doctor comfortably diagnose any disease as “women’s problems” (and therefore natural), but any women who continues to complain is violating the well-known fact that motherhood is a BEAUTIFUL and NATURAL thing, and all that pain and illness and childbirth and breastfeeding/bleeding and 17% lower wages and sexual harassment is because we’re just SPECIAL and PRECIOUS and PRIVILEGED to be the bearer of little health-destroying bundles of JOY. I couldn’t tell you how many times I was told that my pain levels were a normal part of pregnancy. Actually, I’d injured my spine and dislocated my hip, both of which still cause me pain today. Thanks, medical science!

For the record? There’s probably no high greater than the high of having a baby. I’ve been there, and it’s awesome. A lot of doctors are aware of their biases and are working on making things better. And let’s be clear: I have two kids, so all the shit I waded through evidently didn’t put me off motherhood. There are lots of precious and beautiful aspects to motherhood, but they tend to come at a high cost (higher than any man ever has to pay for fatherhood). Higher than usual, in my case—not just because nature is an asshole (although she is) but because our society as a whole still has quite a ways to go before women, especially sick women (or women of colour, which I am not) are treated with the respect they deserve.

Ultimately I was forced to go the private route for this surgery, which costs around $15,000. Super fun when I don’t have a normal job any more!

You can donate here, if you like.

Four years

I’m crying, but it’s not sadness.

My husband Chris and I have been following the US election with increasing horror today. We both chose not to speak openly in the car on the way home, because our kids were with us. We exchanged a few careful words, and I asked Chris to drive. He knew without asking that I was too upset to drive safely.

TJ fell asleep.

Louisette is four years old, a pre-schooler in a Peppa Pig shirt and a baseball cap. She picked up on the vibe and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Chris looked alarmed as I opened my mouth to explain today’s election: “A country a long long way away has just chosen their President. I don’t think they made a good choice. He’s… mean. I think now he will be able to be mean to more people.”

Louisette was silent, thinking.

“It’s a very very long way away,” said Chris.

Damage control.

“Yes,” I said. “On the other side of the world. And there are lots of other politicians who will also be making the laws and all that kind of thing. The whole system of government is designed especially so that if someone mean is the president, they can’t do too many bad things.”

“A long, long way away,” said Chris.

“That man doesn’t hurt people on purpose,” I said. “But when people ask him for help, he says no.”

“That country is all the way on the other side of the world,” said Chris. “Really super far away.”

“And you know what?” I said. “I bet all the kind people in that country—and even us, right here in Australia—will be extra super kind and we will look after all the people who need help.”

“How?” she said.

I’d just received a “Really Useful Gifts” magazine in the mail. They have a wide range of physical items—a goat, a well, a school—that are labelled with prices eg for $50 you can buy a goat so a family has a source of milk, cheese, and future income (if they have a boy and a girl goat…).

When we got home and sorted out the inevitable chaos of bags and drinks of milk and the parental win of transferring TJ into his bed without waking him, I showed Louisette the magazine.

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Louisette has an allowance of $1 per week. Sometimes she buys a 50 cent lolly. A lot of the time she saves it up. Sometimes she dips into her savings and buys herself a toy.

I steered Lizzie towards the things she’d understand best in the magazine: A school. Chickens. A vegetable garden (she always claims to love vegetables, although when we put them on her plate she says things like, “I meant in Summer I like them; not today.”)

She was excited that she could give these presents to someone she’d never met. I told her she had $20 saved up, and that she could spend as little or as much of it as she liked. I told her I would put in the same amount of money that she did.

We kept coming back to chickens. And a small business. And a pre-school. And adult literacy (she was shocked at the concept of someone who was all grown up but still couldn’t read. Reading is hard). And a vegetable garden.

I warned her that if she got all those things her money would be gone. All of it.

“What about my flower?” she asked.

I remembered it well: A little plastic thing with a smiling face that bobbed back and forth. It was the first toy she bought for herself with her own money.

“Actually,” I admitted, “that’s broken. It cost $3. So if you bought all of these things, you would have to wait three weeks with absolutely no lollies or buying anything. Then you could buy a new flower.”

“Okay,” she said. “Then I will buy no lollies for weeks and weeks, and I will buy this”— A school building—”and this”—a clinic—”and all those other things too.”

That’s when my eyes started to mist over. I counted up the cost. $80. Every bit of me wanted to buy it all with my own money, and let her keep her allowance. “That’s a lot of things, Louisette. You’d get no allowance at all for weeks and weeks and weeks.”

She nodded gravely. “You’d get no money at all—not even one single dollar—for weeks and weeks. Not until your birthday.”

An unimaginable distance.

“Yes,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”


A lot of people feel scared of a lot of things right now. We feel helpless.

I can’t change the world, but I can change it for a few of the people who need it the most. I can be kind. I can learn about other cultures and get to know people who aren’t exactly like me—Mexicans. Homosexuals. Muslims. Trump supporters.

I can find out what we have in common, even if it takes some digging sometimes.

I can change an entire village in another part of the world by giving it a school, clinic, small business opportunity, and chickens.

I can teach my children to respond to fear by being more kind, by making more friends, and by giving more of whatever we have to give.

Four years feels like a long time. For my daughter, it’s a lifetime. But in a world that seems to be getting darker and meaner… there she is. There I am. There you are.

The world is a beautiful place.

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If you’d like your money to be more effective where it’s needed most, skip the charity gimmicks and give money to a reputable company like World Vision or Oxfam.

 

 

Same story but without the Trump stuff (so it’s more shareable):

My four-year old daughter Louisette was thrilled to discover that she could use her allowance to buy presents for people she’d never met—and her presents could help them have better food, water, and jobs!
Her allowance is $1 per week and she’d saved $20. I told her that I’d give the same amount of money she did, and we looked at the “Build a Village” range and some other things that made sense to her, like chickens and adult literacy. She is learning to read and she knows it‘s hard work but super important… especially with a mother who’s a writer!


We had to choose so carefully. She paused and asked me about a toy she wanted to buy. I told her that it cost $3 so if she wanted to give her whole savings away she would have no money at all for three whole weeks and then she could buy the toy. 


“Well,” she said. “I want to buy the school, and the clinic, and the vegetable garden, and the chickens, and the pre-school, and the one that teaches a grown-up to read. So if I have no money at all for weeks and weeks and weeks, can I do that?”


“That would be a very, very long time,” I told her. “All the way to your birthday… with no money at all.”


“And then I can give them all those things?” she asked.


“Yes.”
“Then that’s what I really real
ly want to do.”


Louisette loves to dress as SuperGirl, and pretend to help people. Today she made a difference to people in the real world. https://www.usefulgifts.org

CwzsqnMVQAAfyHo.jpg

An Immodest Proposal

*This is likely to be upsetting to people suffering from the effects of violence.*

IMG_0235 (2)

 

 

An Immodest Proposal

 

For Preventing Poor Individuals in Non-Australian Lands From Being A Burden to the International Community, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Australian People and to Other Nations Struggling to Cope with their Comparatively Low Levels of War, Disease, and Oppression.

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Dear Immigration Minister,

I have chosen not to address you by your Christian name for two reasons. Firstly, because in your policies and speeches you are indistinguishable from a long line of Immigration Ministers before you, and Secondly because the use of the word “Christian” in connection with your office might give this letter the appearance of Satire.

We certainly wouldn’t want that.

I find myself struggling with the task of addressing you at all. The words “Immigration” and “Minister” are as ludicrous as the word “Christian” in connection with your official duties, since the word “Immigration” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country” and the word “Minister” is defined as the verb “to attend to the needs of (someone)”. This falsely implies that your career involves attending to the needs of those who must live permanently in a new country.

It is clear from your actions and from the actions of your predecessors that your primary task is to prevent the needy (specifically those who have “come across the sea”) from gaining entrance to Australia’s “boundless plains” – or indeed to any grain of the “Golden Soil” of this nation “Young and Free”.

I applaud your ongoing effort to avoid the dangerous precedent of allowing foreign invaders to come into contact with our Golden and/or Red and/or Brown Soil. Although increasing numbers of asylum seekers(1) are departing from warring, starving, or dangerous countries due to humanity’s pathological addiction to the twin evils of hope and survival, you have successfully stopped the majority of asylum seeker boats from touching our invaluable dirt.

It is very efficient of you to also keep most of these desperate individuals from touching our sea borders, so that their deaths on the ocean are legally nothing to do with us. Better yet, Australia has made a brave stand against People Smugglers by actually reducing the number of refugees accepted into Australia(2), including those using the infinitely more popular(3) route of airplane flight. This in turn increases the number of boats, which means that some people smugglers have probably lost Several lower-level staff in drowning accidents just out of sight of our Sovereign Lands. I’m sure they’re terribly put out.

Well done. You may not have stopped the boats from existing, or stopped people smugglers from exploiting the desperate, or stopped the wars and torment that are creating the current record-breaking numbers of refugees(1) all around Our World, but it must be said that a boat filled with dead refugees on the bottom of the ocean has most definitely been Stopped.

Once again, Well Done. You have protected our innocent Australian citizens, who are Most Terribly Vulnerable to feeling Briefly Disturbed by the sight of drowned children. If asylum seekers made it onto our golden dirt, that could potentially lead to a state in which the slogan “Stop the boats” might be understood by its truest meaning – to wit, “Sink the boats” (5).

Of course, some boats do not sink, even after their dangerously long journey is doubled in length due to their being turned back by our Heroic Navy. Those boats are not wasted! Not on your watch, Minister! Sea-going vessels returned intact and under guard to their country of origin build friendly trade relations between Australia and those military-based dictatorships that prefer to personally kill their citizens rather than letting them drown out of sight (5).

Well done on your compromise solution of stopping some boats by sending them to Davy Jones’ Lock-Up, and stopping others by sending their human-like contents back to be tortured and killed in a place where any remaining relatives can also be tortured by proxy, or perhaps drawn out and killed in person thanks to our most timely intervention (5).

Since I am congratulating you, I shall also congratulate you on effectively eliminating queue jumpers by ensuring there is often no legal path through which asylum seekers can safely and legally arrive in Australia (12). No one can jump a queue that doesn’t exist, can they?

The large number of asylum seeker drownings and deaths(5) reveal the drowned individuals’ innate lack of planning and survival ability. If they had predicted Total Economic and Social Collapse of their home nations, or had arranged to be born into a different ethnic group, sea level, gender, or orientation, they would not have felt the need for a perilous voyage at all.

It is a testament to the hardiness of Australian government ministers such as yourself that we have lost only one Australian Prime Minister to the sea (13), while refugees such as the three-year old Alan (known as Aylan) Kurdi are among some hundreds of drowned asylum seekers (14). People are perfectly capable of swimming the English Channel, so it is obviously just laziness and/or poor parenting that allows three-year olds like Alan to falter when crossing the various oceans they must face in their path to safety.

Speaking of drowning, our Prime Minister Holt contrived to drown within sight of shore, while the vast majority of drowned asylum seekers are foolish enough to drown on the open ocean while attempting to reach a nation that they believe values human rights. Not only are their swimming skills lacking, but their beliefs in the notion of Universal Human Rights is simply wrong. Only people with the Good Sense to be born in safe location are Worthy of full Human Rights such as the right to work, to be free of torture, to be locked up only if found guilty, or to survive at all.

Rather cleverly, you have worked hard to ensure that these drowned individuals are almost entirely kept away from Australian TV screens and therefore from Australian living rooms (15), where true Citizens of our Nation might accidentally confuse them with the Humans for whom Human Rights might someday apply. Best to keep them hidden! Congratulations on the wise investment in offshore detention, where asylum seekers, like naughty children, are neither seen nor heard. This helps maintain that important distinction between Human and Non-Human that keeps our country from developing into a more multicultural society. It is well worth increasing our budget deficit to pour endless money into an awkward and never-ending debacle, so long as Australians don’t suffer from our peculiar malady of guilt over Those Individuals we spend billions to avoid helping (9). A budget must be full of sacrifice, and we sacrifice a great deal of money in order to sacrifice the freedoms of asylum seekers.

There hasn’t been an invasion of our precious dirt so determined since the year 1788, when boats brimming with Diseased Criminals changed Australia forever. In order to follow in that tradition, we would have to do away with our flood of asylum seekers in favour of those who are more inclined to carry small pox and/or murder weapons.

Small pox is difficult to acquire in this day and age, but there are plenty of criminals that should perhaps be imported to Australia in order to reinvigorate the traditional system of Australian Immigration. Unfortunately Muammar Qaddafi, Slobodan Milošević, Saddam Hussein, and Augusto Pinochet are all unavailable due to their deaths at the hands of individuals who Disagreed with their Methods of Government. A truly courageous, innovative government must bravely face the risk of such censure! Your own courageous stand against Human Rights has drawn global recognition, as it should (11).

This heroic array of world leaders would surely add to Australia’s cultural landscape, but instead we are subjected to an influx of less famous individuals fleeing their homes, families, and livelihoods in order to avoid the above characters and those like them. Worse, those whose homes, families or livelihoods have been destroyed tend not to invest heavily in their new Nation of Residence – at least until such time as they are Released into Society (6), which is of course Unthinkable. Giving these individuals the ability to move about freely and perhaps Earn a Living would blur that important line between Asylum Seekers and Humans.

This is where my Immodest proposal shines in its efficient simplicity. I flatter myself that you understand already that such an Elegant Solution to a Global Issue cannot possibly inspire modesty.

The Australian People are repeatedly shocked and saddened at the live export of cattle and sheep to distant and/or unsavoury locations around the world. At the same time, we have an overabundance of human cattle, many of them young and therefore ideal for the premier export market.

It might appear a little cruel to simply kill all of them, but it’s the most efficient way to solve the Asylum Seeker problem. Naturally we are Wise Enough to keep the best breeding stock alive.

Weaker governments might set up a raffle system, whereby applicants to safety and freedom have some small chance of reaching a new home. Weaker governments might even give in to the Repeated Pleas of their own Citizens (16) to process Asylum Seekers Swiftly, Transparently, and In Australia. Weaker Governments might make fast, easy budget savings by accepting the hundreds of offers of free accommodation for Asylum Seekers from the Australian People (17). However, this kind of practice might encourage the persistent mould of hope, which must be bleached and scoured until none remains. Otherwise individuals who have lost their savings, homes, jobs, freedoms, and assorted loved ones will never learn to accept their lot in life and/or death. We mustn’t encourage them to think or feel like Normal People.

Instead of a “Life Lottery” there should be more wide-reaching education about the God-given Lottery of Geography. If a person is born in a place that fails to grant them status as a Citizen – a Rohingya in Myanmar, or a person whose nation is vanishing outright due to the side effects of global warming – they must not be accepted as a citizen anywhere else in the world. Such behaviour disturbs the Natural Order and could results in yet more individuals Falsely Categorised as human.

Similarly, if a girl is sold into sexual slavery, she should be taught to appreciate her unique perspective in that ancient industry, and perhaps to anticipate the experience of having her first period and then her first pregnancies, assuming she should live that long. Otherwise she might get ideas above her station and become unhappy – much as my own daughter becomes upset when she discovers my chocolate stash and I don’t let her eat it all. The main lesson here is not to allow children to believe in a different life.

Obviously a sex slave’s captors are unlikely to take the time to train him or her in more than one skill, and the pleasure of their customers must always take precedence over their own desensitisation. That is where our government bravely steps forward, erecting billboards abroad to proclaim Australia’s increasingly famous racism, and stopping hundreds of genuine refugees (5) from ever reaching shore anywhere on Earth. All of these initiatives are specifically designed to extinguish any small, inconvenient hope the Geographically Challenged might mistakenly possess.

I confess I felt a little sick mentioning my funny, friendly, Frozen-obsessed four year old in the same paragraph as child sex slaves, but that just shows that I have my own geography-based cross to bear. I’m sure the mothers who lose their daughters to international child prostitution rings soon adjust to that Unusual Career, even if it wasn’t what they originally planned for their babies. If it were not so, ignoring their plight would be too cruel even for a First World Country such as ourselves.

Hopefully the parents of boys likely to be drafted into military service before they reach puberty will be similarly responsible, advising their toddlers to design a realistic five-year plan that includes their own abduction and various gunshot or stabbing wounds inflicted by their playmates. It is very much the same kind of experience as the resignation I myself feel when I tell my own child than he really must wear pants despite our mutual dislike of that article of clothing. I stick to my guns, and I expect child soldiers to do the same.

I felt a little sick mentioning my chatty, charming, chubby-cheeked one-year old in the same paragraph as child soldiers, but that just shows that I have my own geography-based cross to bear. I’m sure the mothers who lose their sons to roving militias soon adjust to that Unusual Career, even if it wasn’t what they originally planned for their babies. If it were not so, ignoring their plight would be too cruel even for a First World Country such as ourselves.

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Children should never make their own choices. Their minds and bodies belong to their governments, and if they should manage to avoid death in their own land or at sea, they have ipso facto surrendered their bodies and minds to our wiser Australian government. The UN has been kind enough to describe our treatment of refugees as “torture” (11) which just goes to show how accurately our detention camps mirror the conditions our most Asylum Seekers have experienced in their own countries of origin.

Having said all of that, there will always be a small number of individuals who are unable to completely vanquish the growth of hope and/or their instinct to survive, and a small number of those determined and hardy individuals will get perilously close to Australia and an Actual Liveable Existence.

This is not a disaster, but an opportunity!

In this age of cooking shows and political correctness, Australians are longing to do something that is both creative and overtly xenophobic. The one thing all Australians love about non-Australians is their food. Taking that love to its natural conclusion will feed Australia’s hunger for novel cuisine, not to mention alleviating our “white guilt” as well as our accidental hint of appreciation for other nations. Best of all, it will save thousands of cows and sheep from a deeply unpleasant and dangerous sea journey! No one wants our animals to suffer that way, and far too many sweet innocent creatures have drowned and been lost forever.

All we have to do is treat our Asylum Seekers as nature’s own GM-free farm. We don’t need to hunt them or even feed them, since so many are already weak from malnutrition and grateful for the least scraps of humanity they’re given – why, our Asylum Seekers stay in detention for well over a year on average, and they’re so unused to human kindness that even Basic Medical Care is a privilege they’re no longer accustomed to. Many are denied sufficient drinking water and/or time enough to shower (4). Since asylum seekers are already treated like animals, the transition to meat product will be a smooth one.

This will be a great economic boon to Australia. Not only will our own local meat prices plummet, saving households a great deal of money in their grocery bill each week, but our live meat exports could be expanded overnight – and all without any upsetting cruelty to animals! The innate profitability of living asylum seekers (6) has not been enough to bring them home to Australia, but the profitability of their flesh is sure to motivate all Australians to lobby until we finally welcome our fair share (7) of the world’s refugees.

Asylum Seekers, on the whole, are an excellent lean white meat – although since refugees come from literally every walk of life, there are plenty of fattier, juicier meats on offer as well as the usual “heart smart” stock. Anyone can become a Refugee!

My own children are naturally slender, and as a result would be best suited to become the chief ingredient of a hearty stew. They could also be boiled down into an excellent natural meat stock.

I confess the idea of eating my own children makes me feel a little ill. Given that natural reluctance, we must take care in our Immigration Detention camps that any low-cost meat gleaned from asylum seeker children should be shipped to a different shore. I recommend shipping all food-grade Asylum Seekers to the mainland for consumption, since Australian Citizens no longer fear asylum seeker children once they have ceased to draw breath. I freely admit that this will add to the production costs of the meat, however since the “meat” has already been flown or shipped back and forth across oceans and from Offshore Detention Centre to Offshore Detention Centre while alive, the relatively minor shipping cost of the dead children will be quickly balanced by the sale of that meat. Since the meat is likely to quickly become a luxury item, I recommend adding GST to the product before it hits shops. Adding GST to the product later will create the appearance of a cynical price hike, and might enrage Australian citizens.

But the true Market Strength of asylum seekers is that a disproportionate number are women and children. The children are perfect for all your favourite veal dishes from Warm Winter Roasts to Summer Salads. For Australia Day, a little boy or girl’s leg can be sliced horizontally to make delicious Miniature Butterfly Roasts at a tenth of the price of similar-quality lamb shanks.

Asylum seekers already make excellent Breeding Stock. They often come equipped with several children, and only the strongest survive long enough to be put into Immigration Detention in the first place. Women who aren’t actively breeding may still end up participating in the program, since the Transfield Company running our camps reports the current rate of sexual assault to be One Attack Every Four Months under their Care (10). Many of those assaults are wasted, since they are Perpetrated on Children, but it is likely that several will still result in pregnancy – and a mother who is tormented daily by the sight of her attacker/guard is less likely to protest when her child is taken on the inevitable one-way Abattoir Excursion.

This renewable meat supply is thus far being wasted, particularly considering that the Transfield Contract to run our detention centres is worth $1.2 billion over twenty months (9). The asylum seekers themselves are making every effort to reduce the Financial Burden of their own existence by engaging in attempts at self-harm, on average, every four days (10), as reported by Transfield. This proves that Asylum Seekers are fundamentally Considerate Individuals who will perfectly understand the good sense of my proposal.

The constant adrenalin and pummelling from beatings and self-harm tenderises the meat, making it ideal for your Australian/International stir fry fusion dishes. The roasted meat of a young asylum seeker child is so tasty as a sandwich filler the following day that you’ll wish you could eat nothing but Abusive Guards’ Leftovers!

But of course this era of Thrilling New Cooking Opportunities can’t stop there. Asylum seekers make excellent casseroles, stroganoffs, risottos, pasta dishes, and savoury pies. Imagine the popularity of a reality cooking show focused entirely on the innovative methods of preparing a Hitherto Largely Untasted source of Lean White Meat!

Once again, the best recipe ideas come straight from the Immigration Detention Centres themselves. Every so often an individual who manages to find the endurance to get to Australia – nearly – loses their last spark of hope behind Australia-funded barbed wire, at which point they recognise their true place in this world. It isn’t under the table, like a dog begging for scraps. No! They deserve pride of place on the table, Cooked and Plated to Perfection.

And so it is that, every so often, a refugee turns their very Last Feeble Spark of Hope into a literal fire, and sets themself on fire. Helping those in need is an Australian trait, and nowhere is it expressed more fully than when someone who once dreamed of becoming An Australian Citizen chooses instead to pre-cook their own body. In this manner he or she saves time for housewives and househusbands who are already Overworked and Pushed for Time; often exhausted from spending all their time looking after and feeding their own non-drowned, non-slaughtered children.

The genius part of this cooking method is that the charred individual generally stays alive for some days before dying of their wounds. This keeps their meat fresh as it slow-cooks over several days.

Rather appropriately, this innovative self-cooking method tends to bring the Burned Individual to Mainland Australia just in time to be given medical treatment that isn’t quite timely enough to keep them from expiring soon afterwards.

In this manner, they get to touch Australia’s Golden Soil in the most thorough method possible – by burial.

Personally, I recommend the one possible action that’s even more Australian than burying yet another dead Asylum Seeker. I confess I’m inspired by their own final act in this world.

Could there be anything more Australian than throwing a few Asylum Seekers on the Barbie?

 

Yours Sincerely,

 

A Human Being

 

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  1. 2015 likely to break records for forced displacement – studyhttp://www.unhcr.org/5672c2576.html “The global refugee total, which a year ago was 19.5 million, had as of mid-2015 passed the 20 million threshold (20.2 million) for the first time since 1992. Asylum applications meanwhile were up 78 per cent (993,600) over the same period in 2014. And the numbers of internally displaced people jumped by around 2 million to an estimated 34 million.”
  2.     2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile – East Asia and the Pacific   http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e487af6&submit=GO

“In Australia, restrictive policy changes introduced previously were further reinforced       by the coalition Government elected in September 2013. The introduction of   (regional) offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in 2012, with no  prospect of durable settlement in Australia, was combined with ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ to implement the Government’s policy of intercepting and returning boats to           Indonesia.

The new Government reduced the humanitarian programme from 20,000 resettlement places in the fiscal year 2012-2013 to 13,750 places in 2014-2015.”

  • Boat Arrivals Fact Sheet

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/fact-sheets/asylum-seeker-issues/boat-arrivals/

“The number of people arriving by boat in Australia is very small. In 2010-11, Australia received 11,491 asylum applications. Less than half of these (5,175) were from asylum seekers who arrived by boat. Over the same period, 2,696 Protection Visas were granted to refugees who arrived by boat. This is just 1.3 per cent of the 213,409 people who migrated to Australia during the year.”

 

In 2009/2010, 80% of boat arrivals were deemed to be genuine refugees, and only 3% of asylum seekers arrived by boat (ie “boat people” are an incredibly minor part of the issue, and are usually genuine refugees).

 

  1. Open Letter: Living in the hell called Nauru

http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2014/10/25/open-letter-living-the-hell-called-nauru/14141556001165#.VKF2EfCcC

            “Drinking water is hardly found here. Sometimes we can find no water even for taking pills. You need to wait until a meal time. Toilets are very dirty because they are cleaned only once a week. Sometimes, recycle bins are full and remain for several days. Unlike what is claimed, here we have no health standard. A traffic of mice and poisonous millipedes has become normal in our camp. It is full of flies.”

  • Immigration policy in 2014: Reza Barati’s death was a low point, and just the beginning

 

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/23/immigration-policy-in-2014-   reza-baratis-death-was-a-low-point-and-just-the-beginning

A summary of 2014 for asylum seekers in Australia: “Under Australia’s watchful eye,     asylum seekers face an environment of intimidation, violence, self-harm and procedural uncertainty.”

 

  1. Malcolm Fraser savages Scott Morrison’s new asylum seeker laws and senators who passed them

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-fraser-savages-scott-   morrisons-new-asylum-seeker-laws-and-senators-who-passed-them-20141210-124bp1.html

Former PM Malcolm Fraser is appalled at the recent Migration Bill and the powers it bestows upon the Immigration Minister (including secrecy and the ability to knowingly return people to a place where they are likely to be tortured).

 Scott Morrison may gloat but asylum seekers’ boats haven’t really stopped

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/11/scott-morrison-may-gloat-  but-asylum-seekers-take-more-boats-than-ever?CMP=share_btn_fb

The “stop the boats” policy is putting more people in danger (the most vulnerable are ignored because they are forced to go and risk death elsewhere).

  • ‘Stopping the boats’ a fiction as Australia grows ever more isolationist on asylum

 

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/31/stopping-the-boats-a-fiction-as-australia-grows-ever-more-isolationist-on-asylum?CMP=soc_567

According to the UN, the reason there are less people arriving in Australia by boat is             because the “stop the boats” policy is causing more to die at sea. A more effective             method of reducing people smuggling and needless death would be to create better             legal channels where possible (but for many of the most desperate asylum seekers,             there IS no legal path to safety because their own government wants them dead).

  • Australia hands over 37 intercepted asylum seekers to Sri Lankan navy

 

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/29/australia-hands-over-37-intercepted-asylum-seekers-to-sri-lankan-navy?CMP=share_btn_fb

Sri Lankan asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka were immediately (and predictably)    arrested.

“Less than two years ago, the Australian government’s own statistics showed that             about 90% of boat arrivals, including those from Sri Lanka, were judged to be in need    of protection. Yet suddenly, under a secret process on a boat on the high seas, with no        legal oversight, only one of 38 is judged to need protection.”

  • Asylum seekers return to living hell

 

http://www.smh.com.au/national/asylum-seekers-return-to-living-hell-20120723-22kq6.html

Tamil asylum seekers deported from Australia allege torture (sometimes to death) and      imprisonment without trial. Their allegations fit into human rights abuses already             documented against Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

  1. Economical advantage:

http://www.mdainc.org.au/sites/default/files/Assessing-the-economic-contribution-of-refugees-in-Australia-Final.pdf

http://wbttaus.org/better-ways/

Although studies vary considerably in their estimates, all agree that in the long term             refugees settled within Australia benefit the national economy.

7.

  • Amnesty Annual Report 2015/16: Australia can do better

 

http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/41350/

“Australia must lift its refugee quota to at least 30,000 people in 2016 and end the regime of offshore detention.”

Australia vs the World

http://www.asrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Australia-vs-the-World_July-2015_m.pdf

“Our World Ranking (2014)

 

  • By total number of refugees 50th (prev 48th)
  • Compared to our population size (per 1000 inhabitants) 67th (prev 62nd)
  • Compared to our national wealth per billion GDP 84th (prev 85th)”
  • Australia’s Position on Refugees is Despicable.

 

            http://www.theage.com.au/comment/australias-position-on-refugees-is-despicable-20141213-124abc.html

Australia is a safe, wealthy country that is not pulling its weight in terms of  international responsibility to the poor, desperate, and endangered.

  1. Transfield wins 1.2b contract for Manus, Nauru detention centre security

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/fragment/transfield-wins-12bn-contract-manus-nauru-detention-centre-security

Transfield Services will be paid $1.2 billion over 20 months to continue overseeing security at Manus Island and Nauru.

  1. Comment: Don’t attack Transfield over detention centres, attack the contract

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/10/28/comment-dont-attack-transfield-over-detention-centres-attack-contract

Detention Centres are host to an attempt at self-harm every four days, and an incident of sexual assault every four months.

  1. Australian asylum seeker policy may contravene torture convention – UN

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/28/australian-asylum-seeker-policy-contravene-un-torture-convention

“The UN refugee agency had, the committee said, found that overseas centres did not provide humane detention conditions.”

  1. There’s no such thing as a “queue”

http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/comments/22616/

A number of countries in our region refuse to allow UNHCR to even register refugees.

  1. Harold Holt – Fact sheet 144

http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs144.aspx

“Harold Holt disappeared while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria on 17 December, 1967. His body was never recovered.”

  1. Alan Kurdi’s Story: Behind the Most Heartbreaking Photo of 2015

http://time.com/4162306/alan-kurdi-syria-drowned-boy-refugee-crisis/

“Alan Kurdi was one of a million. In the summer of 2015, the three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish origins and his family fled the war engulfing their country, hoping to             join relatives in the safety of Canada. They were part of a historic flow of refugees             from the Middle East to Europe this year, and they followed the dangerous route             taken by so many others.”

  1. Concern over media restrictions on Australia’s asylum seeker policy

https://www.ifex.org/australia/2015/10/23/asylum_seeker_policy/

“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Media,             Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in raising strong concerns about the media  restrictions that surround Australia’s asylum seeker policy and its offshore             immigration detention centres. The IFJ and MEAA call on the Australian government     to end the restrictions on media access and access to information.”

  1. Some examples:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/grandmothers-hit-the-road-to-protest-against/7250000

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/medical-staff-protest-children-in-detention/6899542

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/hundreds-protest-in-sydney-against-asylum-seeker-high-court-decision-20160204-gmlo3o.html

https://globalhome.org.au/2015_kids-out/

http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-148871386

https://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/open-letter-to-immigration-minister-peter-dutton/

  1. Some examples:

http://www.roomatmyplace.org/

#Bringthemhere

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Homosexuality and Divorce

I really hope it’s actually a satire gone wrong, but apparently a Christian Canberra couple says they’ll divorce in protest if gay marriage becomes legal. In addition to the obvious point of, “Even if homosexuality IS a sin, how does it affect you at all? Wouldn’t that be for God to deal with, along with all the sins He’s forgiven you for?” it’s worth noting that the Bible is passionately against divorce.

It comes up far more often than homosexuality… yet those who speak passionately against homosexual marriage graciously accept those who divorce and remarry. If you are a Christian like me, stop and think about WHY you are so focused on the one sin in the Bible that applies only to a small number of people. I wrote an article about this whole issue, with Bible verses, some time ago.

Oh, and by the way – if you’ve never met a gay person, you have. Although I’m deeply in love with my husband, I am sometimes attracted to women. Does that change your view of me? If so, why?

This is what a bisexual mother of two looks like.

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Open Letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton

Felicity Banks

fellissimo@hotmail.com

 

Dear Mr Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection:

I was a teenager when I first realised there was something wrong with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. A case was being discussed on the radio of a gay man in danger due to his homosexuality. When I heard the story, he had already been returned to his country of origin on the basis that he was faking homosexuality in order to gain entry to Australia – despite the fact that he was in a relationship with another asylum seeker at the time.

I’m in my thirties now with two children of my own that I would protect with my life – but I still fear for the children and adults who have come to Australia for help only to face an immigration system that is designed to send away as many asylum seekers as possible. It seems asylum seekers are presumed to be guilty of “faking it” – but statistics indicate the majority are genuine refugees1.

I know that as a police officer you have seen the best and the worst of humanity, and have protected and defended the most vulnerable people in our community. You have also seen first-hand that justice requires an open flow of information.

Thanks to the recent Migration Bill, your job includes the power to hide Australia’s legal processes regarding our asylum seekers. You even have the power to knowingly send genuine refugees back to likely torture and death without ever letting the Australian media or the UN find out2.

I do not believe that is the kind of person you are.

There are three things I think you and I both believe in:

1. Transparency.

The Australian government must be 100% transparent about exactly what is happening to asylum seekers who attempt to find a home in Australia (except of course for hiding names and faces of asylum seekers who feel they or their loved ones may be in danger if revealed).

2. Freedom.

No innocent person (particularly a child) should be imprisoned.

a. We urgently need to get kids (and adults) out of detention and into Australia (not Papua New Guinea or Nauru, where they are in immediate physical danger from locals when released into the community3). The Uniting Church has volunteered to find safe homes for all the unaccompanied minors, and there are many other organisations falling over themselves to volunteer to help more people – at zero cost to the taxpayer4.

If sorting out aid organisations is too complex, ask the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to do it for you.

b. Our legal process is appallingly slow5 and the lack of a firm release date from detention is causing enormous harm6. It is not right to treat asylum seekers as badly as we do7, even in an effort to discourage people smuggling. The “stop the boats” policy looks good on paper, but only because the horrors are happening out of sight8.Our legal process should be weighted accordingly. The purpose of law is to protect the vulnerable – punishing the guilty is a secondary concern.

The fast-track-style legal process would be a good thing if it was used to get genuine refugees out of detention fast. It is not a good thing when it results in genuine refugees getting deported due to a lack of adequate examination of their case.

The needs of the incarcerated children are paramount, and their innocence is clear. But the majority of adults in detention don’t deserve to be there either1.

3. Humanity.

Please formally reaffirm Australia’s commitment to international human rights law, including the Refugee Convention that we helped to write9. Until now, we had a good human rights record. You have the power to make us a human rights leader once again.

Yours Sincerely,

Felicity Banks

Please note this is an open letter that, excluding my contact details, will be shared online.

1. https://www.facebook.com/australianwelfarenews/photos/a.1415143595422337.1073741828.1415019052101458/1505522853051077/?type=1

In 2009/2010, 80% of boat arrivals were deemed to be genuine refugees, and only 3% of asylum seekers arrived by boat (ie “boat people” are an incredibly minor part of the issue, and are usually genuine refugees).

2. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-fraser-savages-scott-morrisons-new-asylum-seeker-laws-and-senators-who-passed-them-20141210-124bp1.html

Former PM Malcolm Fraser is appalled at the recent Migration Bill and the powers it bestows upon the Immigration Minister (including secrecy and the ability to knowingly return people to a place where they are likely to be tortured).

3. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/oct/28/child-refugees-australia-sent-to-nauru-report-beatings-and-death-threats

Men and women granted refugee status and released into Nauru face persecution and threats, including police harassment when they ask for help. Women are afraid of being attacked and raped in their camps (both in and out of detention, but out of detention is more dangerous).

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/31/refugees-living-on-nauru-say-they-want-to-return-to-detention-to-flee-violence?CMP=share_btn_fb

Unaccompanied children granted refugee status and released into Nauru face persecution from locals including beatings and threats.

4. http://www.mdainc.org.au/sites/default/files/Assessing-the-economic-contribution-of-refugees-in-Australia-Final.pdfhttp://wbttaus.org/better-ways/

Although studies vary considerably in their estimates, all agree that in the long term refugees settled within Australia benefit the national economy.

http://wbttaus.org/better-ways/

Suggestions of better ways to process asylum seekers (especially children).

5. http://wbttaus.org/

At the time of writing (30 December 2014) 603 children are in immigration detention in Australia, 186 on Nauru, and the average time spent in detention is 413 days.

6. https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2014/12/13/taliban-targets-afghan-family-scott-morrison-stalls/14183892001364#.VKF0pfCcC (trigger warning)

A case study of a girl given asylum in Australia after her father refused to allow her to become the concubine of a Taliban chief. While she waited three years for paperwork to process so her family could also be given asylum, her father was killed. Her brother is missing and probably also dead.

7. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2014/10/25/open-letter-living-the-hell-called-nauru/14141556001165#.VKF2EfCcC

An asylum seeker mother details the horrific and unsanitary conditions in Nauru, including a lack of adequate drinking water.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/23/immigration-policy-in-2014-reza-baratis-death-was-a-low-point-and-just-the-beginning

A summary of 2014 for asylum seekers in Australia: “Under Australia’s watchful eye, asylum seekers face an environment of intimidation, violence, self-harm and procedural uncertainty. “

http://theconversation.com/asylum-seeker-code-is-a-rhetorical-tool-with-severe-consequences-35083

The bizarre rules for refugee visas (eg not being allowed to swear in public or they may have their visas revoked) are designed to dehumanise legitimate immigrants and promote racism in the community.

8. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/11/scott-morrison-may-gloat-but-asylum-seekers-take-more-boats-than-ever?CMP=share_btn_fb

The “stop the boats” policy is putting more people in danger (the most vulnerable are ignored because they are forced to go and risk death elsewhere).

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/31/stopping-the-boats-a-fiction-as-australia-grows-ever-more-isolationist-on-asylum?CMP=soc_567

According to the UN, the reason there are less people arriving in Australia by boat is because the “stop the boats” policy is causing more to die at sea. A more effective method of reducing people smuggling and needless death would be to create better legal channels where possible (but for many of the most desperate asylum seekers, there IS no legal path to safety because their own government wants them dead).

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/29/australia-hands-over-37-intercepted-asylum-seekers-to-sri-lankan-navy?CMP=share_btn_fb

Sri Lankan asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka were immediately (and predictably) arrested.

“Less than two years ago, the Australian government’s own statistics showed that about 90% of boat arrivals, including those from Sri Lanka, were judged to be in need of protection. Yet suddenly, under a secret process on a boat on the high seas, with no legal oversight, only one of 38 is judged to need protection.”

http://www.smh.com.au/national/asylum-seekers-return-to-living-hell-20120723-22kq6.html

Tamil asylum seekers deported from Australia allege torture (sometimes to death) and imprisonment without trial. Their allegations fit into human rights abuses already documented against Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

 

9. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/28/australian-asylum-seeker-policy-contravene-un-torture-convention

Australia is breaking international human rights law, and is therefore condemned by the UN.

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/australias-position-on-refugees-is-despicable-20141213-124abc.html

Australia is a safe, wealthy country that is not pulling its weight in terms of international responsibility to the poor, desperate, and endangered.

 

The tiniest protestor

My mother and sister were both arrested today.

Last week a new Migration Bill was passed granting extraordinary powers (including a great deal of secrecy) to the Immigration Minister. The following day, the government used its new power to begin the procedure of deporting 25 asylum seeker babies that were born here in Australia. Eight of the babies are from the Rohingya people group, who are not recognised as citizens by their native Myanmar. They are persecuted on that basis, and women and children have been killed (both by institutions and by mobs) simply for being Rohingya.

Australia helped to write the Refugee Convention that made it illegal to send people back to a place where it was likely they’d be tortured or killed. This new Migration Bill overturned it, making Australia a willing and knowing accessory to crimes against humanity.

I want it to be illegal to send people back to a place where they’re likely to be harmed.

I want total transparency on all refugee cases taking place in Australia.

I want all asylum seekers processed in Australia (so they have basic human rights protection), by people who are politically neutral, with reasonable speed and a clear time-frame (as opposed to indefinite imprisonment without trial, as too many are now suffering).

I want all refugees deemed safe (by a neutral body) to be released into the community – there are dozens of individuals and organisations that have volunteered to take them, which would save Australia millions of dollars.

I want Temporary Protection Visas to be used only until cases are processed, and then converted into true security for the men, women, children and babies who need a home.

So basically, I’d like asylum seekers treated as humans in genuine need until proven otherwise.

That is why I attended the protest today at which my mother and sister were arrested (I was in the outside crowd, which was never at risk of arrest). And that is why TJ attended – representing the 25 Australian-born babies that our government is trying to get rid of.

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