There was a bit of controversy after I pressed 'Save & Publish' the other day. It was regarding a few genuine concerns I have about the plight of the asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Australia. So I proposed some practical questions about how Australia could look after the 43,000 people that arrived by sea over the last six years.
When I pressed a work associate, who themselves was UN-selected humanitarian entrant years ago, as to what they thought of the 'boat people' debate, they laughed at me. The answer was, "We keep these thoughts close in our chests." They know me enough to know my chest is too wide open at the best of times.
What was most fascinating about the online response to these questions was the way in which people cannot argue, even
if they believe they hold the Truth. The extremes of either side are almost religious in their ferocity. And, as with all zealotry, there is more emotion than substance behind the hysteria.
No one has yet attempted my queries about housing or health. But I am accused of some awful personality traits. As the interactions progressed, where evidence wasn't available, the discussion then grew emotional, irrational and irrelevant. It was like debating fanatical Christians again. Eventually it came down to faith, and my lack of it. If it's hard to believe in the Jesus story, it's way harder to believe in the Australian government as benevolent tale.
Watching people fall apart because they're running on adrenalin or emotion is still fun after all.
Every single body has an opinion, ironically, because of the enormous volume of reporting thrust our way. It's an inescapable topic. It's mandatory. You would think it were a national crisis or a deathly epidemic.
Many bodies, though, are keeping their opinions close in their chests because both sides are deeply cynical about the other. Harshly so. You can be seen as either:
- as a bleeding heart liberal who wants to give everything 'we' worked so hard for to 'them' who don't look like 'us' in the slightest. Because that's a part of it too.
Would we struggle with as hard if these asylum seekers were gorgeous blondes from Norway?
Or you can be seen as
- as a cold, selfish, greedy bigot who is doesn't care about the suffering of children. No not indigenous children. They're not as exciting.
So, it's time to ask some other questions. It's time to be unpopular, amongst the intelligentsia in this here big old country town where everyone knows everyone. There seem to be so few acceptable points of view in this country, Nile, Katter, Rudd, Abbott, Alan Jones, Murdoch, Packer. Worse yet, are the popular left wingers, those who dare never to offend, yet are so easily offended. Or is that the right wing?
I still want to know where the housing is coming from for all those who come by boat. You know that sub-standard accommodation will make further headlines. So the living conditions have to be acceptable. Tens of thousands of people need somewhere to live. Where will that be?
I get in trouble for these kinds of questions, a lot, in fact it's generally cost me a lot, especially career wise. But if it's good enough for Lieutenant Columbo to say, "One more thing....?" as his signature move than it's good enough for every one of us.