Such a shame: contemplations on feeling ashamed to be an “Aussie”

Come, let us all be friends for once
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lovers and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to no one.

Yunus Emre

I am ashamed to be Australian.

I said that to a group of people I barely knew the other night at a dinner party. You know those dinner parties where suddenly the conversations actually become a little meaningful simply because you’ve all run out of that superficial stuff … and there’s been a lot of wine consumed.

Anyway, I announced my shame to the table.

“That is such an Australian thing to say,” replied one.

I was disgusted.

“I don’t think we know how lucky we’ve got it in this country,” she wouldn’t stop (I blame the aforementioned wine) “You know, like, you go overseas and you, like, realise, you know, like you see how much better it is here and you’re all like, I can’t wait to get home and then you do and you just, I dunno, like, you get back and then you’re all like, I hate Australia and stuff again and you take it for granted, or something.”

I really had not meant that I took this place for granted, that the opportunities and safety and lifestyle that Australia offers to many are extraordinary … No. Not that.

I am ashamed that I live in a country where opportunity, safety, the ‘lifestyle’ we go on and on about ad nauseam, is only available for some not all. And all of those there at that dinner party, drinking wine and attempting to forge some meaningful conversations, were part of that some.

The recent politicising of asylum seekers has fuelled my shame of the deep divide and the mountainous contradictions that are Australia.

For, if Australia was a person, it would begin most of it sentences with “I’m not racist, but …”

There are bumper stickers: “If you don’t love it, leave it”

There are the Cronulla Beach Riots.

There was (still is; just with a less obvious name) The White Australia Policy.

There is the untold history and continued mistreatment of and horrific injustices against our Indigenous population.

There are the shock jocks.

There is the “she’ll be right” attitude.

There is the “no worries” and “fair dinkum”

There is Australia Day.

There is the myth of mateship and the ANZAC-spirit and the fair go.

And now there is a government who will not allow any refugee who arrives by boat to ever settle in this country. Ever.

Australia is a spoilt-brat. It is an obnoxious, selfish child who stamps it foot and demands everyone else do the work so it can continue lying on the beach and working on its tan (so long as it doesn’t get too dark, Australia doesn’t like that). It’s time for Australia to grow up and realise that the world doesn’t owe it anything.

I am ashamed that I live in a country where the Prime Minister’s popularity can go up when he announces inhumane, racist, asylum seeker ‘solutions’. I am ashamed to live in a country where the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are currently fighting for votes through creating more horrific policies that play with vulnerable people’s lives. I am ashamed to live in a country where this is a way to get votes. I am ashamed to live in a country that is xenophobic and so very lacking in compassion, where the comments you read on these new asylum seeker policies include;

We are seeing an islamic [sic] invasion into Australia one boat at a time. We must make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible for the detainees otherwise we shall see hundreds and thousands of Muslims coming to Australia and ultimately wrecking this country with their radical islamic [sic] agendas. Islam is not the relgion [sic] of peace ………..but the false relgion [sic] of death and suffering.

Stephanie McCathie, NSW (comments on SBS – Dateline page)

If these people had half a brain they’d realise Australia is not set up to handle the plauges [sic] of illegal boat people flooding our shores. It’s 100% there [sic] fault and blame lays [sic] solely at there [sic] feet not Australia’s. Their [sic] getting there [sic] reward , for there [sic] sly and under handed entery [sic] into or turf [sic]. No pitty [sic] coming from me.

true blue ozzie, Queensland (comments on SBS – Dateline page)

My husband (along with lots of others) works in PNG He does not have airconditioning, and thanks to the Labor govt he now pays double tax (something they introduced if you work overseas), If [sic] you think we are happy about supporting you illegal maggots who come here and demand this and demand that, and then tell us your offended. The majority of Australians would be quite happy for you to go back home. Our boys are over in your countries fighing [sic], and you flee and come here expecting what!!!!!!!!

 Sandy, far-north Queensland (comments on SBS – World News page)

None of these boat people were invited to come to Australia. In fact, they are invading our Country and I could care less about their situation [sic]. They are not refugees [sic], they throw away their passports so we don’t even know who they are. Let’s hope for a change in Government so we can, once again, protect our boarders [sic]. We have many struggling Aussies and they should be getting our billions of tax dollars, not these parasites.

 Elizabeth Smith, Baulkham Hills (comments on SBS – World News page)

I could post these all day but it is depressing and I’m getting a little tired of having to add [sic] to every sentence they write.

Ill-educated, ill-informed and ill-mannered. Maggots? Parasites? It seems many Australians have a terrifying sense of entitlement simply because by some twist of fate they were fortunate enough to have been born here: “we grew here, you flew here” they cry. What the hell is wrong with these people? You did nothing particularly special nor clever to be born, you had no say in it, the least you can do is offer your compassion to others who also had no choice in being born but , through some twist of fate, ended up in a country where they are prosecuted or tortured or hungry or live in a constant state of fear.

We cannot imagine that. We’ve never had to deal with that. We are from the ‘lucky country’. Of course, not every Australian is so lacking in empathy but it can sometimes feel that way when you look at the Newspoll results.

But is this shame I feel simply limited to the fact that I happen to be an Australian?

Would I feel less shame if I was from somewhere else?

In Canada they treat asylum seekers like prisoners.  

In France, the government continues to restrict the rights of asylum seekers and migrants.

In Greece, Golden Dawn are proving very popular with the locals.

In America … well with Guantánamo Bay and Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning and the George Zimmerman case and the Iraq War and … well … yeah

The list goes on and on.

Maybe I am simply ashamed to be human? Ashamed to be from Planet Earth.

Next time I am at dinner party and the conversation moves from that superficial stuff, and if I have indulged in enough wine, I will announce that: I am ashamed to be from Earth.

“Oh, that’s like such an Earthling thing to say,” one of my new acquaintances will reply.

Maybe if more of us were ashamed, from whichever nationality fate has us born into, there would be more of a call to change and we would be working towards policies that make us proud of our citizenship and place in the world … Proud to be a human-being.