Some days it’s incredibly difficult to resist the urge to lay about me with the frying pan of enlightenment: whack Focus on what you have got, not what you haven’t. bam Help people in need. pow Take care of the environment. slap Speak up for the voiceless. biff Don’t wait for others – do what needs to be done. boom Love more, hate less. thwack Money isn’t what matters. thud Just plain do the right thing. It’s not rocket science, ok?
And then something happens that changes the political landscape. Suddenly the world seems a different place, and maybe there are more positive weapons than frying pans. Maybe those positive weapons are even in the hands of real people, rather than corporations and billionaires.
Last night, GetUp, at a few hours’ notice, raised enough money (well over $16,000) to win time with Tony Abbott, the Australian Federal Opposition Leader, through a charity auction. GetUp is making sure that time gets put to good use: Abbott will be spending it with Riz Wakil, a former Afghan refugee who spent months in the appalling conditions of Curtin Detention centre, According to GetUp’s email: “these opportunities are normally claimed by mining magnates and other corporate donors, but instead you can give that opportunity to a voice that wouldn’t normally be heard in the corridors of power.”
Riz has the opportunity to put a human face on the trauma of mandatory detention. On the reasons why people become refugees, risking their lives to get here, only to be locked up. Given that Abbott and Rudd both seem oblivious to Australia’s legal obligations (among other things, we are signatory to a UN convention that states that refugees must not be discriminated against on the basis of how they arrive), perhaps understanding the reality of the lives they are using as political footballs might be more effective.
It’s clear that Tony Abbott is impulsive and can be swayed by emotion. It’s clear that Government policy is frequently a race to the right against the Opposition. What would happen if the Opposition Leader actually recognised the inhumanity of his position, and became aware of the human consequences of his political games… well, that’s anybody’s guess.
But until last night I’d have said there was no chance we’d ever find out. GetUp has changed the game on a moment’s notice. What else could be possible? Perhaps the frying pan of enlightenment can be shelved in favour of the power of a motivated populace. It’s a cheering thought!