Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HUMAN RIGHTS CHALLENGE

With United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in the country at the moment, the Australian government is on notice that it could very well be in breach of the United Nations refugee convention if its proposed deal with Malaysia for processing asylum seekers goes ahead.

For her, it is not enough to hear verbal assurances that the key elements regarding the processing and treatment of refugees will be adhered to. She condemns people smuggling, but while our government spends so much time debating how to stop the people smugglers dumping their desperate cargo on our shores, she challenges us to work out how to accept these people once they're here rather than sending them somewhere else.

All member countries who have ratified the UN refugee convention are reviewed by their peers to monitor whether their policies and procedures adhere to its requirements. Australia was reviewed in 2009, and questions were asked back then about prolonged mandatory detention as well as the government's intervention in Northern Territory indigenous communities. Very little has changed since then, with the consequences being played out for all to see on the nightly news.

People become homeless for many reasons, most of which are not of their own making, but to lose your home, family, friends, employment, educational opportunities, community networks, cultural identity, country itself, is to lose your sense of place in the world. To be so displaced, to have nothing of your own, nothing familiar, only adds to the trauma from which you’ve fled. You lose your sense of identity, your individuality, you become yet another nameless face on yet another boat.

In The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy wrote of the disenfranchisement of indigenous cultures.

We’re prisoners of war…we belong nowhere. We sail unanchored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough….to matter.

What an indictment on our government, on us as a country, on us as individuals, if we care so little that those in dire need of a safe haven just don’t matter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WHERE'S A LIGHTHOUSE WHEN YOU NEED ONE?

Belt out the booming foghorn, the sea is becalmed, the fog has drifted in, the sails have been lowered and the old vessel has almost come to a standstill. It’s not always easy negotiating a way forward when you’re not sure which direction is the right one. For me it’s writing, for others it could be any one of a number of creative pursuits or career paths or whatever.

There may be no literal rocks looming in these uncharted waters, no sandbars on which to run aground, but the metaphorical ones are just as clever at bringing things to a grinding halt and shedding doubt on any glimmer of hope I might have had of producing anything other than this little missive.

Where’s a lighthouse when you need one, with its bright beacon shedding light on all the obstacles, showing the way forward and giving you something to aim for. Self doubt can be a crippling thing, and such a time waster I’ve found. In the time it takes to whip yourself for not applying your brain and engaging your mind and heart in something, anything towards your goal, you could’ve actually done something that moved you a little way forward at least.

Maybe that’s why I’m rabbitting on, raving just for the sake of it, in an attempt to crawl out of the little rut I’ve created for myself. I looked back at my very first blog entry, where I idealistically committed to writing every day, and have to admit to slacking off in that area. Nothing of value comes easy, and the dream of whipping up a best seller may look tempting, but making the dream a reality can be a nightmare.

So I take heart from the following words of wisdom from Garrison Keillor, taken from his novel Love Me:

Every writer I know is on a winding mountain road in the fog.

Writers like to think that writing is like Arctic exploration or flying the Atlantic solo but actually it's more like golf. You've got to go out and do it every day and live by the results. You can brood over it but in the end you've got to take the club out of the bag and take your swing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

LEARNING TO LIVE...WITH MORRIE & BOB

Watched Tuesdays with Morrie on the weekend, the movie based on Mitch Albom’s book of the same name, recalling his weekly visits with his old university professor. Hearing that Morrie Schwartz is terminally ill, Mitch rediscovers the affection he had for the professor he dubbed ‘coach’, and in the last months of Morrie’s life finds he learns far more from him than what he gleaned from his sociology lectures and tutorials back in his uni days.

As Morrie’s physical condition deteriorates, he uses the only thing left he can control which has any strength, his voice, to help Mitch see that learning to die teaches us much about learning to live. Sharing his insights on marriage, love, fear, forgiveness, spirituality, intimacy, you name it they talked about it, and in the process Mitch takes his own inward journey to reflect on his own life and the direction in which he’s heading.

Morrie has become an inspiration to many through the gift of Mitch Albom’s book. Morrie certainly had his moments when he raged at his plight and mourned the loss of the life he enjoyed so much, but to quote him…

Dying is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else.

Aging is not just decay…it’s growth…If you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back, you want to go forward.

The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

Shed a few tears, great performances by Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria, as the portrayal of the relationship rekindled between the two men was reminiscent of my own husband’s illness and what he felt as he prepared to die.

Bob lectured in theology, sociology and psychology, as well as being a graphic designer, so his work life was pretty full on. It took a brain tumour to turn our lives upside down in the space of twenty four hours, but like Morrie, the experience brought into focus for him what was important, and while he was still able he also used his voice to share what he was learning about living in the process of dying.

It’s strange to actually face dying…I’m not finished, I’m still learning and growing, and I know God has some lessons for me for this time. You just see things a little clearer or something.

I hope I’ve become a gentler person already. Always was a bit of a workaholic. No computers now, what are they for? I prefer people now.

Don’t want to be a burden – want to be a source of strength, a spring whose waters never fail. I know joy unbounded, I feel surrounded by the goodwill of others.

As busy as his life was the wishes during his illness and tributes after his death reflected that even in the midst of his daily schedule people felt seen, valued, heard, and encouraged to become who they were meant to be. As important as our jobs and careers may be, and whether or not we derive pleasure from them, when it comes down to it, it’s our relationships which are really precious and of lasting value. Giving of ourselves to others is the best investment we can make.

The desire to experience the world fully for Morrie meant having an open heart, and I have no doubt Bob would share Morrie’s evaluation of how to find meaning and purpose…

Have you found someone to share your heart with?

Are you giving to your community?

Are you at peace with yourself?

Are you trying to be as human as you can be?