How the Australian government reaps the rewards of globalisation and war, but takes no responsibility for its cost.
By E. F Nicholson
Tony Abbot has recently been doling out some sage wisdom to his European counterparts, in terms of how to deal with “them boat people.” It’s Ozzie wisdom at its finest: “Just stopp’m,” like with war ships and stuff. “Send them back to the hell-hole they crawled out of.” Tough Tony doesn’t mess around when it comes to foreigners illegally invading sovereign lands. That is, unless he is talking about the British invading Australia a few hundred years back, or Australia invading Afghanistan or Iraq a few years back; then it’s a different story. When we illegally invade other countries, we don’t do it on rickety boats, we do it with the British or American empire behind us. By putting aside the illegality of out-rightly preventing migrants from exercising their legal right to seek asylum, within the whole debate about the “refugee crisis” in both the US and Europe, Australia seems not to be recognising it as a symptom of wider global dysfunction. People flee their homelands not because they want to or because they just happen to fancy a change of scenery, but rather because circumstances and events outside of their control forces them to do so. Economic adversity, the ravage of war, climate calamity, or any number of other variables all drive people to risk life and limb, often just to survive.
The factors that bring millions of people to flee in desperation do not happen by chance or in a vacuum. They are part of the structural violence that underpins the global economy and ensures we in the West have it good, whilst the other 5 billion scattered throughout underdeveloped regions have it bad. For the last few hundred years, Asia, the Americas and Africa have been the West’s backyard to draw resources at will. Be it gold, slaves, raw materials, fossil fuels, or agriculture, we have helped ourselves to all the resources we have needed to build our opulent lives. To ensure profits stay high, labour costs have been kept low, raw materials cheap, and small local governments corrupt. Any divergence from this protocol has been met with brutal and violent reckoning, from the Congo to Chile, Indonesia, Vietnam, Granada, and dozens of others that the powers of the West have ensured through regimes who support our interests, at often incalculable and horrific costs to the local populations. The whole process and play-book is outlined here in an interview with John Perkins, author of the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”
So, as we see, “economical development” and “globalisation” are just code words for “business as we want it.” For Australia, this has meant importing goods and resources from countries whose economic systems are built to keep the population poor while ensuring Australian business interests can grow rich. For example, Australian clothing manufacturers can be ensured to make millions in profits by allowing textile workers in Asia to be kept in a vicious and inhuman poverty trap. We can export our mining resources to countries who need to fuel the wheels of this exploitation. We can invade countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria with total impunity, and expect a slice of spoils when the time comes. The Australian political class and the business interests it represents have done very well from the way the world works, but here is the hypocritical kicker:
All of this exploitation, meddling and economic dominance is at a great cost and has very real consequences. Innocent families living in such abject poverty and such dire circumstances would rather risk drowning at sea than to remain where they are. We in the West have created and are directly and indirectly complicit in circumstances that create what drives those migrants to take those risks. The same goes for Europe and the US and the poorer continents that each of them closely boarder. We shouldn’t be able to have all the spoils of neo-colonialism and then when the blowback of all the pillaging and rampaging hits us, in the form of men, women and children seeking refuge from the hell we brought to them, say, “Sorry, not our problem.” Such as the case with the banks’ new bail-ins, when they make a profit it will be all theirs, but when they make a loss that loss will be all yours, so it goes with the global village we are meant to be living in. Being the world’s bullies and assholes is not karma-free; its ugly manifestations show up as ISIS and the like, while its more tragic and heartbreaking show up as the floating corpses of the unpeople left to drown, or the devastation of an Afghan family stuck fleeing one hell-hole in Afghanistan to end up in another in Cambodia as they’re turned away from Australia.
Tony Abbott didn’t stop the refugee problem, he just stopped it from being his problem, which is like stopping the rape problem by soundproofing my apartment, so if or when a woman screams, “Help! I am being raped!” if I don’t hear it, it’s suddenly not a problem any more.
There is more than enough wealth to go around if we could all stop suffocating each other with our own greed. We could all live well enough here in Australia and still ensure everyone in other parts of the world share in what we have so they may also live well. The structural violence that ensures poverty is by choice, not chance. This means we can choose to handle this differently. We can stand up and say, “Let’s stop the boats by making sure they have no reason to leave their homes, their culture, and their heritage in the first place. Let’s stop the boats by not being such greedy and indifferent assholes.” It’s really that simple.