Andrew Wicks

Margin call: The vote to save those on Manus should not be celebrated

Yesterday a win was registered by those on Manus Island, but the margin of the vote should be a matter of discussion.

 

 

Yesterday, the controversial plan to transport the medically at-risk off Manus and Nauru narrowly passed through the grinding bowels of our government. Perhaps it was controversial that it only passed via a single vote, or perhaps it was controversial because it circumvented our national plot to make the legal/illegal refugees/boat people suffer/wait their bloody turn.

I’m not entirely sure. The Daily Telegraph certainly had a clue, as they cobbled together a nifty side-by-side that compared Manus Island to Auschwitz, in a kind of click-bait version of top trumps. For those curious, it was Manus by a landslide, finally proving that if you had a choice to be forcibly sent to such a location, that location would surely be Manus, because its not that bad. You know, comparatively.

 

 

As the gates of Auschwitz smugly mused, “work makes you free”, a trite local comparison might be “rubbish passes as journalism”. It’s also worth mentioning that the Telegraph was responding to a comment that an AMA doctor made, claiming that Manus is far worse than Auschwitz.

 

 

The problem is that the doctor in question never really said that. He referenced the writings of Victor Frankl, particularly the theory that discussed the severe mental trauma a lack of meaning bring, in that a lack of clarity on their purpose speeds the end of their lives. But hey, context, whatever. Don’t read the book, or the comment, just skim the words “gas chamber”, “Auschwitz” and exhale the memes.

 

 

But, let’s not focus on those who feed on racial division and click-through rate, let us discuss those in power. To use concentration camp parlance, if Manus was Auschwitz, our government are certainly the residents of the village over the hill, those who knew nothing about the camp, nor what went on there. Therefore, they couldn’t possibly be tasked to clean it up, or take responsibility for those who built it. They were just going about their business.

Whatever you think of those stuck on Nauru, or Manus, or detention, they’re people. Seems obvious, but we tend to forget. Too often, they’re morphed into political footballs to be passed around, poker chips to be pushed across a table, or a means to launch careers, memes or diatribes. The fact that this bill passed by a single measure (not a handful of hours after serious speculation that Bill Shorten would back flip on the issue), should stick long in the mind. Neither party cares that much. Shorten, by the by, is suspected by his own party to maintain the labyrinthine department of neg vibes that Peter Dutton built, should he win the election.

As that man Viktor once mused, “No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.”

Frankl, of course, was one of those not fortunate enough to witness the privileges that Manus Island has to offer, but his words should resonate should Shorten bring Labor’s suspicions to term. As it stands, the ALP must be seen to be empathetic enough to hook the left, but apathetic enough to coerce some from the other side. It is, of course, an election year. Each step is telling, each minor win is major. The margins are fine, and it is why Bill congratulated John Howard for stopping that domestic violence incident in North Sydney (where Johnny may have stopped the wrong person, the coverage was spectacularly patchy), or why he sided with Morrison’s moronic Endeavour sequelbefore changing his tune after the internet lost the plot. By pleasing everyone, he’s pleasing no-one. At least Scott Morrison is an open book, even if that book has the word lebensraum in it.

What is mostly felt as a result of this behaviour, is our lack of feeling, a growing national ennui. We’re all searching for an Australia we’ve never met, or prop up one we barely remember, or seek leaders yet to materialise. The strings that hold us are cut, as we dangle, fielding the clicked tongues and shaken heads of our international cousins who expect answers. We either offer apologies, or our best middle fingers. I’m not here to influence your vote, or cast judgement, but all the jingoism and flag waving of late, all the angry calls to change the date, or the hopes to railroad KAK, is built on the assumption that we have a way of life to be proud of. We’ve always operated on the assumption that we have the opportunity to shape our nation in a way we see fit, in a manner befitting the brilliance we see looking back at us in the mirror.

We may have the opportunity, but we’ve long let it slip.

Passing such an obvious measure by the barest of minimums doesn’t make me particularly proud, nor should it you.

 

 

Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks is a country boy with a penchant for movies and sport. After a few years working in health, he decided he'd rather work with today's youth and studied arts and education in rural NSW. His main interests are religion, health and lairy shirts.

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