The Heartbreak Of Being Human
9th September 2015
This week I have been listening to the BBC World Service Daily Commute podcasts in my safe and comfortable house, as I wonder whether I have enough bread for sandwiches and where I put the hairbrush. I’ve cried as I have listened to the stories of the many tens of thousands of refugees streaming into Germany and Austria, and the efficient Germanic machine that swung into place to feed and process and transport them all.
Hundreds of Germans waited to greet refugees at the train station, eager to show them a rousing welcome, and to volunteer to help with the incredible logistical task of managing this great tide of people. It was so incredible moving to read and hear about.
The shared anguish felt by so many when that photo of drowned toddler Aylan was everywhere, inescapable, somehow set off this groundswell of compassion. It was a choir that drowned out the fearful and racist shouting that sometimes claims all the air, a choir so large that it forced the political machinery to act. There was an incredible sense of shift, of the essential goodness of humanity taking centre stage for once. For once, the best of us, rather than the worst.
I felt wretched as Tony Abbott finally conceded that he would increase the Australian intake of Syrian refugees, but only by tinkering with the numbers, and not by opening our doors to more.
Today, I am so pleased to hear that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has announced that we will take an extra 12, 000 Syrian refugees on top of our normal asylum-seeker intake. Hooray, government! In this moment, we are part of a compassionate response. Thank god.
I feel compelled to record the happiness I feel in this moment, because it will be fleeting. Our home-land response to aylum-seekers remains despicable, and the deeper problems of wealth disparity and the great shifting movements of displaced people are defining the 21st century. It’s hard to know where this will lead next. There seems little hope of an effective political solution. We’re extending our military commitment in Syria, along with many other countries. So the wars continue , and the refugees will keep coming.
At least, this week, the voice of compassion shouted louder than the voice of fear.
This short film, so moving:
And this poem, ’Home’, by Warsan Shire
“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here”
We are warm and safe in our beds by accident of birth. Sheer, dumb, incredible luck. May we never forget that.