“Imagine if every problem were solved appropriately, if every relationship evolved appropriately, if every act were an appropriate one. That alone would be the kingdom of heaven. And that is, I think, what we’re pushing toward. Not cosmic fireworks, but simply appropriate activity—empowered, felt experience—and the abandonment of the illusion of separateness.”—Lecturer and author Terence McKenna.
Asylum seekers: those who seek refuge, sanctuary, shelter, protection and safety, what grave disloyalty Australia has shown in reaction to this basic human right. In a country that thrives on multiculturalism, a country that was established by immigrants when Europeans first settled, it is hard to believe the current state of our affairs.
Out of the thousands of refugees who have been detained offshore on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea since 2012 only one has been processed. Recently, a clash between inmates and guards at the processing centre left one person dead and 77 injured. To be imprisoned with an indefinite expiry date is a frightening prospect.
At the root of this current travesty lies a simple yet profound lesson. In order to progress and evolve as a people, we must abandon the illusion of separateness between Self and Other and re-evaluate what it means to be human. Only then can we begin our ascent towards fostering a more harmonious existence within our global community.
We have nothing to fear except that which has been wrongly communicated to us by mainstream media. “To set up what you like against what you dislike, this is the disease of the mind” wrote author and philosopher Aldous Huxley. If everything exists in comparison to its underprivileged other, this hierarchical order inevitably breeds inhumane prejudice towards the reduced other.
In Turkey, the 14,000 Syrian residents at the Kilis refugee camp are considered guests of Turkey rather than refugees. Considering that in three days Turkey receives the same number of refugees as Australia did throughout the entirety of 2013, it is humiliating to realise the stark difference in living conditions that Australia provides.
Turkey’s protection centre is said to be the most hospitable in the world. At the entrance of the camp is a banner that reads, You are Welcome. Though this example is not by any means ideal, Turkey’s hospitality exemplifies an imperative step towards creating a more humane environment for asylum seekers.
I may be naïve to assume that our current predicament is one of mere human misperception, but let’s suppose that it is. If we can transform our individual perception towards asylum seekers than this change can begin to materialise in the world and eliminate the act of de-humanisation that is occurring.
Though there are many conscious and compassionate citizens in Australia, a huge percentage of people do not have access to both sides of the story. After the recent tragedy on Manus Island, the United Nations Human Rights Office declared that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers sent to offshore processing centres is cruel, inhumane and degrading, and that it violates international law.
“You are not naked when you take off your clothes. You still wear your religious assumptions, your prejudices, your fears, your illusions, and your delusions,” wrote Terence McKenna. “When you shed the cultural operating system, then, essentially you stand naked before the inspection of your own psyche… and it’s from that position, a position outside the cultural operating system, that we can begin to ask real questions about what it means to be human.”
For some people it is hard to imagine what is hidden behind the silkscreen of racist propaganda that has infiltrated our politics and newspapers. Behind this distortion of truth is another human. Not some conceptual puppet of political muscle, a human, in fact thousands of them, just like you and I, who are imprisoned both physically and mentally. Until our government accepts the potential of asylum seekers enriching our country rather than burdening it, this severe injustice will continue.
People motivated by fear do not act well. Right now the predominant motivation behind the conversation of asylum seekers is fear. Fear simulated by media outlets with an obvious predisposition. A protest, gracefully written by poet Michael Leunig pleads, “There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, and two results. Love and fear.”
We are given a very distinct choice here in Australia. We can surrender to the current discrimination that is degrading innocent people in desperate need of benevolence. Or we can renounce the fear of asylum seekers. We can choose to move beyond the manipulation of the media and enter into a new understanding of what it is to be human. An understanding that is drawn from the very core of our being: a centre from which the decay of cultural conditioning has not yet infected, from a place that is driven by love and not fear.