We are Punitive

When did we become such a punitive society? When did punishment become the lone tool to engage with change? When did we lose respect for human complexity, of circumstance and context? When did we forget that we are essentially all the same? In Australia we have become preoccupied with solving issues with punitive measures. The way we have treated the influx refugees from conflicts around the world is appalling. We have set out to damage and punish those fleeing conflict, rape and death, and succeeded. Our detention centres, whether on the mainland or setup on desert islands in the Pacific, are hot beds of tragedy and pain that we seem willing to inflict on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. 

We lock children in prison. 

We lock children in prison. 

We lock children in prison

Why do our politicians consider this OK? Why do we let them get away with it? For more than a decade we’ve been fed a narrative that it’s OK to punish these people. Why? Because it sold news, it got people elected, it made us feel secure, it provided a distraction, it gave us a scape goat. We were scared and somehow it made us feel safe. And now the lies we’ve been told about refugees have become truth, justification for inflicting pain. 

We keep being told it’s to stop the people smugglers – but we’re not locking them up! We haven’t done anything to the people smugglers. We’re not depriving them of freedom or dignity. We’re not threatening to ban them from ever entering the country. We’re not forcing them to resettle on remote 3rd world islands. No, we save that for those seeking safety from conflict for themselves and their families. We save that for children. 
I find the way we have been treating refugees in Australia abhorrent. It sickens and saddens me, and yet somehow I’m in the minority. Not only are these policies popular, they’re being considered around the world as a viable solution to what seems to be gripping the world – the fear of the other. Let’s be clear, this policy doesn’t fix the refugees crisis. It doesn’t resettle people faster. It doesn’t hurt or hinder people smugglers. It does stop the movement of desperate people, it actually forces it to become more sinister and exploitative. Desperate people turn to slavery and human trafficking in order to seek safety. We create a situation a where children become slaves. 

I don’t know why we we’ve adopted this punitive approach to dealing with other people. I don’t know why punishment has to involve inflicting pain on other people. I don’t know why we think it’s okay to do this. I don’t know when we lost our compassion, our empathy, our ability to collectively love, care and nurture. But we did. 

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