Friday, September 6, 2013

striking a blow

This is one of the coolest things I've seen [a picture of] in a long time:

Zenos Frudakis' sculpture Freedom is at the corner of 16th and Vine in Philadelphia.

I only [re]discovered it because someone had bastardised a photo of it with the banal, trite little self-help mantra; "Break the Mold" and posted it on faceachebook.

If we must add comments to photos, let's at least write something worth saying:


The photo of Frudakis' sculpture reminds me that, following an interesting discussion on one of Andrew's posts at High Riser, I'm uncertain where I might stand with regard to one aspect of this whole UN/ Asylum seeker thing.

Where is the line between ignoring genocide [if, indeed, we can even decide when the word applies or doesn't apply], and not interfering in the internal affairs of another country?

It seems the intention of the original [1945] UN Charter was mostly about preventing another international war.

In spite of the parallel good intentions of promoting the economic and social advancement of all peoples, the focus was on International relations.
In fact the Charter was quite clear on one point:

There is only a tiny, passing hint that even after WWII anyone gave a damn about Nazi Germany's deliberate acts of genocide. There was certainly no rush for anyone to claim persecution of Jewish people had influenced anyone's decision to go, or not to go, to war.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the SS St Louis – perhaps from the 1976 movie Voyage of the Damned.
This YouTube clip asserts
  • the ship was German.
  • the Nazis' plan was forced emigration, on a "don't even think about coming back" basis.

It would be a lie to pretend anti-Semitism was a uniquely Nazi invention, but it was all rather too easy for Hitler to isolate a group of people as scapegoats – a sound political strategy given there is no force so cohesive as a mutual enemy.

The gutless vilification of "boat people" by Australia's ambitious politicians does not seem too far removed from what happened in Nazi Germany.

What, if any, are the key differences between the voyage of the SS St Louis and the voyages of asylum seekers from Indonesia?

One key difference is the role of International Military forces in areas like Afghanistan. We should not be interfering in the internal matters of another country. We should certainly not be thinking of innocent victims of drone attacks as just so much collateral damage.

We may not like Sharia Law but, as was the case in Vietnam, the humans who are the enemy are bloody hard to distinguish from the friendlies. In Nazi Germany, there was no question who were the victims and who weren't.

If any force should be interfering in another country's internal affairs today it should be a UN force, not a congaline coalition of vengeful western countries.

A further difference between the voyage of the St Louis and the masses seeking asylum today is that UN camps and Refugee processing centres, theoretically at least, are intended to provide a safe haven until persecuted people can go back where they came from after the shit at home is all sorted. There was no safe haven for German Jews [or poofs, pinkos and other pesky people].

So, in light of our intention to "never forget" the holocaust, how does our attitude to today's refugees stack up? No country should be acting independently of the UN. [Which is pretty well what Andrew said in a few words less than I've used here.]

But I must add, the UN needs to get its [i.e. we need to get our] shit together in terms of providing shelter for the duration of the conflict. Bugger the niceties or the open the gates compassion overload, what we need is someone "over there" with some negotiating skills. Oh, wait, that might be Julie Bishop.

Sorry peeps - if you are wondering if she is the best we can manage, at least we have something in common.


  1. great post. I could cope better next week if Julie Bishop was PM than I will with either of the two men.
    German NAZIs were not the first, you are right there. In Britain it was illegal to be Jewish until 1854. Britain had African slaves before the USA, and the UK makes a lotta ackers from selling evil arms (drones, smart bombs etc each cost more than a house) to all the war fronts. It is all about $$$ and always has been. Not about people at all.

    1. Interesting, M Stacks; I would have thought it a bad idea to be Jewish in Britain before 1854, but I never knew it was illegal.

      It will also be interesting to see how Bishop and General Molan work together with Operation Sovereign Borders - especially now the Coalition has decided to cut aid to Indonesia by up to $1 billion over the next 4 years.

    2. I think so far as refugees go, we need to distinguish between who is under threat because of who they are, such as Jews in Germany, educated people in Cambodia and those who we screwed around with in Indo China, from those who want to flee a repressive government but are without a direct threat to their lives.

      Is Em Stacks sure about 1854? I am not sure, but Jews and their synagogues have been in England for a long time.

    3. Your ideas about how to define "refugee" works for me, Andrew.

      Most western [and therefore mostly Catholic/Christian] countries in the middle ages "tolerated" the presence of Jews because the Christian church still observed biblical injunctions against charging interest. I think this also has something to do with the origins of the mort gage - an agreement under which if money loaned [by church, of course] is not repaid, assets revert to the lender on the death of the borrower.

      Which is to say, having developed a loop-hole, Christians no longer need the services of [or were prepared to tolerate the presence of] Jews.

      All of this, in turn, is largely reflected in the Merchant of Venice, and the character of Shylock.

      Sometime - yes, wiki says 1190 - there was a horrendous massacre of Jews in York.