Judith Butler’s talk truly stirred up something in me - a desire to make comment on the australian images of “acceptable” torture - the refugees that are in our country being held in detention centres, which are appalling places with hundreds of people with no voice. Forget all those cutesy images plastered over the media showing Schapelle Corby, convicted of 20 yrs in a Bali prison for drug trafficking. She is surrounded by legal teams, celebrities, and family who are bringing her fresh and home baked food for her everday. Images of Schapelle show her dressed beautifully, mascarad tears running down her face, and a cohort of people looking after her. This is where the Australian media has concentrated for far too long.
I had numerous petitions sent to me to call for Schapelle’s release. I deleted them all. She is in discomfit, yes, but she is clearly being well looked after and getting all the media attention and special treatment - she is young white and female, and quite pretty. We are allowed to see her suffering and grieve for her.
Meanhwile, what happened with any sort of reporting whatsoever of the Australian refugees being held at Villawood Detention centre. Let’s look instead at the images of these nameless people behind the barbed wire who have no voice.
Note that we are not allowed to see the faces of these people behind the fence - they’re at a long distance and appear a blur. They are effaced, we are not meant to experience affectual response from their plight.
The Sydney Morning Herald have a report about Villawood detention centre today:
13 detainees slash wrists at Villawood
By Frank Walker and Danielle Teutsch
June 19, 2005
ONE woman attempted suicide and a dozen other Chinese detainees slashed their wrists at Villawood detention centre yesterday afternoon in what refugee advocates said was a desperate bid to avoid deportation.
There are 159 reports about troubles experienced by the prisoners at Villawood over the past 12 months. Children who were born there, now 4 years old and depressed, listless. Now that Amanda Vandstone has announced that some women and children will be released, the husbands are protesting by inflicting self-harm. From the report:
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said: “Self harm is not a form of protest the Government condones. I urge anyone - media, advocates and others - not to encourage such protests.”
Surely we should be the ones doing the protesting? How can we turn a blind eye to all this? There’s no excuse really. I feel powerless to do anything and yet I feel guilty because I do respond to their silent suffering, the suffering we can only imagine because it has not been represented to us. What does Amanda Vandstone urge is to do to support the refugees? Sit back and hope that she will sort things out? I can’t express how much I admire Judith Butler. She has an Internationally well respected academic name in the area of gender, but her move to talk about suffering and the plight of humankind is refocussing the eyes of the world back to basic human rights again. She is really doing something meaningful to invoke major changes in the way society views times of war and suffering. I am not politically minded, I hate debate and confrontation, I am not skilled in any way to help, but I do feel that major changes should be made in the way refugees are treated in our country. I don’t know, I feel like sometimes my work is inadequate, because it isn’t really solving the major crises of humankind in my country. *deep sigh*
Anyway its the World Refugee Day on Sunday. Maybe there’s something we can do?