Only a lobotomised nation could have sanctioned this with a smile on its face

25 09 2008

If you want a vivid demonstration of the abject sociopathy of authoritarian-follower morality, in which the harm principle is trumped by self-righteousness and aggression towards outgroups, look no further than the immigration detention regime presided over by the recently-deposed Howard Government. The People’s Inquiry into Detention, the product of documentary evidence, 200 testimonies at 10 public hearings, as well as 200 written submissions, “heard heart-breaking evidence of the unnecessary cruelty inflicted by the Howard government on people seeking asylum in Australia. It places the stories of detention on the public record from the perspective of those most affected by the policies and practices” (ABC News Online). The inquiry documents the deaths at sea of more than 360 asylum seekers between 2000 and 2001, the placement into desert prisons—often for years on end—of those waiting for their refugee claims to be processed, and the savage conditions within those detention centres.

It was told of people being forced to steal food to feed their children, of assaults on both adults and children, of physical and mental health care so inadequate that many former detainees now have serious, permanent disabilities. A lack of accountability created a culture of violence and self-harm within detention. Protests were routinely met with armed force. The inquiry was told of people eating glass and gravel and pouring boiling water on themselves, and presented with images of self-harm too graphic to publish.

A boy who spent three years in detention said:

The worst thing, I will never forget it, was people cutting themselves. It was horrible. I remember one time a person was harming himself up a tree and his children was crying under the tree. His wife was crying and yelling under the tree. His blood was dropping from the tree.

Once released from detention, many refugees told the inquiry their experiences had irrevocably changed them. Many were unable to forget the violent images they had been exposed to in detention and suffered ongoing mental health problems. Others told how the uncertainty of their temporary visa status compounded their anxiety.

Christian organisations, including the Brotherhood of St Laurence and UnitingJustice Australia, were among those in the front lines fightng to bring an end to the cruelty; other Christians, including many of those in the then-Liberal/National government, were among its most vocal supporters.

But none of this is really news for those who have been interested enough to follow Australia’s mistreatment of asylum seekers. The evil leftist ABC, SBS and Fairfax press—latte-sipping dibber-dobbers that they are—have been documenting such tales at a steady rate since Tampa. The aspirationals lapped it up, hailing as a national virtue the kicking in the guts of the downtrodden, and voted for Howard in increasing numbers. You can still see the vestiges of this crowd in the comments section of the already-cited ABC article, propounding the same “they were asking for it” apologetics they’ve been pushing throughout this decade-long debate.

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5 responses

25 09 2008
ozatheist

a question: do you think illegal immigrants should be detained at all?

25 09 2008
AV

I think the term “illegal immigrant” is as loaded as “family values” (esp. in the context of the asylum seeker debate of the past ten years).

25 09 2008
CASE

Better than illegal aliens though 😉

Then again, in an age of Rfid chips and mass computing – I don’t see why people that enter the country without visas can’t be released into the community and monitored. Perhaps its the supposed deterent quality of the thing.

25 09 2008
AV

I was watching an old episode of The Atheist Experience. Don Baker was talking about the relationship between authoritarianism and politics, and how in the Bush era right-wing authoritarianism has become so dominant in the political culture that the leader of a so-called civilised liberal democracy can actually defend torture and get away with it. (By which I mean, escape media scrutiny or punishment at the polls.) Too true. And I think the cruelty meted out in Australia during the Howard years to those fleeing despotism and barbaric theocracies is another manifestation of the seepage of authoritarianism into politics.

25 09 2008
Sammy Jankis

…I think the cruelty meted out in Australia during the Howard years to those fleeing despotism and barbaric theocracies is another manifestation of the seepage of authoritarianism into politics.

Notice how claims of despotism and barbaric theocracy in their home countries are met with indifference when discussing asylum seekers, and yet when we’re talking about ‘The War on Terror’ or invading Iraq suddenly the human rights records of those countries suddenly is of great interest?

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