Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sacrifice (someone else)

It has been playing on my mind recently how quick we are to sacrifice others, their families and their communities, for our own personal or national self-interest.

The Australian public has been bombarded with damaging political rhetoric about refugees for decades. Many are prepared to turn a blind eye to abuse, injustice and abdication of international responsibility in the 'national interest', building an argument on the logic that oppressing a relatively small number of the global displaced, the most vulnerable and damaged, will keep 'the masses' away from our entitled existence. That this is built on centuries of dispossession and injustice is not something that those advocating for its protection wish to acknowledge. We plan to send babies born in Australia to Nauru, to put it beyond doubt that if you try to come here, we are prepared to torture your children. We are sacrificing the vulnerable for self interest.

My wholehearted daughter, out protesting for refugees in Newcastle...

Having thrived during an age of climate stability, the human race is facing climate change as an existential threat, pushing well beyond the planetary boundaries that would ensure some measure of safety. We have destroyed the very ecosystem that we depend on for life, a tragedy and a disgrace. The villains in this arena; the corporations and industries that profit, the politicians that enable and, like it or not, the people that consume. 

As the world wakes up to this climate reality, it appears to be too little too late. The powers that be are unwilling to adopt the radical change that is necessary. And yet again, we sacrifice the little guys to maintain the status quo. Pacific island states will be lost to the sea. Developing nations will be pummelled by ever more frequent and destructive disasters. It is not unrealistic to expect climate change migrants to be met with military force in the years to come. In international forums, talk of common but differentiated responsibility is quelled. In the meantime, trade agreements continue the raid on resources begun under colonial conquest. We are sacrificing the vulnerable for self interest.

In the US the political establishment continue to oppress the working man. In a country rich on international plunder, millions earn a poverty wage. In the UK, the government continues to enforce austerity on the poor while giving corporate and millionaire welfare. In Australia, unions are under attack by politicians that are unwilling to allow scrutiny of their own activities and are opposed to transparency in the affairs of their industry backers. We are sacrificing the vulnerable for self interest. 

We make war when diplomacy does not ensure our supremacy in determining the affairs of other nations. We call it 'freedom' and 'democracy', and those who would be patriots must not dissent when we kill other people's children. We support tyrants around the world, as long as they play by our economic rules. We supply the weapons to kill and maim, and wonder why there is not more peace on earth. Can we truly desire peace, and build it through violence? We are sacrificing the vulnerable for self interest. For Oil. For Markets. We call it 'national interest' or 'national security'.

In our workplaces, in our social clubs, in our communities and in our homes, we have fallen for the age old lie, that looking after number one is all you can really do. Some of us extend our caring to our family, our friends, our tribe, our nation. How many extend it to all human beings? How many extend their compassion to all life on earth? We are sacrificing the vulnerable for self interest.

The cowardly resolve to make a sacrifice of those least able to raise a voice or a fist must be challenged on all fronts. We cannot claim to be for justice and equality while we turn a blind eye to another's suffering. We are all in this together.