Cassandre Hubert discusses the asylum seeker debate
Borders are human ideas, but somehow we find ourselves ruled by imaginary lines drawn on a globe. In some ‘countries’, the border delineation is completely out of place – consider the remnants of the British and European colonisation projects – people forcibly defined by Western ideas of borders that do not truly reflect culture, language or custom.
While creating clear borders has allowed for national sovereignty which has arguably reduced the extent of warfare following the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the time for national demarcation is over. Just as the countries composing the Eurozone are testing the meaning and relevance of the term, so too should the rest of the world be reconsidering the place of labelling.
It has been said that all conflict in the world can be traced to a disagreement over the meaning of things – language. Hence all conflicts existing today and into the future can be attributed to this clash of understanding, over words such as ‘border’ and sovereignty.
The very interpretation of nation’s sovereignty has seen much change this century – with the rise of the globalised age, the ‘right’ of a country to impinge the sovereignty of another is unclear.
This takes me to the issue of migration, or specifically, refugees. In recent times the phrase ‘charity begins at home’ has been used and interpreted to mean that the welfare of those most immediately proximate should be prioritised. While this is perhaps persuasive from an emotional standpoint, it is far more difficult to justify within the greater context of world-wide suffering. Having a care for those living beyond one’s immediate circle is not to the neglect or detriment of those closer by. The need of someone living much far enough away as to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’, is by no means lessened because there are people of similar need close by. We should not prioritise human need and suffering.
The mere fact of location, an occurrence of chance, is not legitimate grounds for discrimination.
There is limited validation in a biased distribution of aid, where neighbours are preferenced. This is perhaps symptomatic of the wider problem, of national interests being forced to the fore. Human suffering at its core is unchanged, wherever it occurs.
In restricting the numbers of immigrants permitted into a country, those presently living there are only limited in opportunity. As is often the unfortunate case, lessons from the past have not been heeded – Australia is only capable of the stunning growth, development and innovation of the last 100 years thanks to the broad diversity of its population. The strength of the economy, and financial buoyancy in the face of international collapse is testament to this highly ranged skill and experience base.
Some may argue that by denying entry the privileges of citizenship are left undiluted. This is evidently an unfounded claim, made by those whose only contribution to the state as a citizen is to occasionally pay tax and complain loudly about misunderstood matters. It is a case of those who contribute little to the improvement of society complaining the loudest. Citizens who genuinely feel concern for the future of their society can only desire it be strengthened and enhanced by exploring differing aspects of the human condition.
It is time to embrace a new line of thought – compassion as an action and not a throwaway line or where you send your spare change. Studies have indicated that the gene for altruism may be partially genetic. Despite this, it is apparent (in animals at least), that this altruistic gene is increasing. As the dominant species on Earth, we should be proud to mirror these roots, and surpassing them.