By now it is certainly not news to point out how compassionate our politicians are. They’ve shown time and again how committed they are to pursuing a humanitarian agenda, the value they place on every human life matched only by the tireless passion with which they pursue the ultimate goal of respect and dignity for all people of the world.
But there’s no doubt that ever since the Australian Parliament was established several years ago for the purpose of preventing asylum seekers drowning, it has confronted some enormous challenges.
One of the biggest, of course, has been the utter failure of the asylum seekers themselves to know what’s good for them. There are times when a less patient and kind government would have thrown up its hands and cried, "Enough! There is nothing to be done with these ingrates!" For the world, it seems, is full of people so inconsiderate that even when a government goes out of its way to save them from drowning, refuse to stay put, instead jumping on rickety, leaky, embarrassing boats and paddling all over the place like a bunch of queue-jumping pelicans.
Don’t they realise our government loves them and wants them to be happy? Whether Labor, Liberal, National or Natural Law Party, all of our politicians dream of a world free of pain and suffering, where we all live in harmony with our fellow human beings who are a long way away living in a tent. And yet they are constantly repaid for this tender loving care by a bunch of rabble-rousers packing up their tents, hitting the seas, and recklessly and insolently drowning, just to make us look bad.
But of course the drowning isn’t the real problem, although it’s obviously very worrying and your MP sheds a bitter tear with every life lost, which has led to the latter-day tradition of every sitting of parliament being opened by a united scream of "IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME! GOD WHY?"
And as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. If we were to avoid any more tear-stained Question Times, we needed to act quickly to save these silly asylum seekers from their inexplicable desire to take unpleasant holidays. Locking them up wasn’t working. Sending them back wasn’t working. Gently psychologically torturing them wasn’t working. What to do?
And then, Immigration Minister Chris "Schindler" Bowen had a brainwave, based on a brainwave he didn’t have six years ago. It was all so terribly logical. What do you do when you have people turning up uninvited to your house and you’re worried they might snag themselves on the thorns of your rosebush?
Obviously, you pretend your house doesn’t exist. The exchange would go like this:
Uninvited visitor: Hello, I just showed up on your doorstep to pursue economic opportunities in your kitchen!
You: Sorry, this house isn’t actually here.
Uninvited visitor: Oh well, I’ll go home then.
And if it worked so effectively on a micro level, Schindler Bowen reasoned, why not on a macro level too? Why not, in fact, for the whole country?
And so, the greatest idea in the history of philanthropic life-saving has come to pass: to prevent people coming to Australia, we will excise Australia from its own migration zone.
Isn’t it brilliant? What makes it so impressive is that on first glance it sounds absolutely, irretrievably parrot-molestingly insane. And on second glance, it sounds like that too. But on third glance, you start to get bored and forget what we were talking about. And therein lies the genius: what is more compassionate than letting everyone forget about a problem and get on with their lives? Not only do the asylum seekers get the comfort and security of never having to leave their homes, we Australians get the comfort and security of not thinking about asylum seekers anymore. So many people, made happy and/or indifferent.
And it’s so effective, too. You see, the trouble with threatening asylum seekers with being locked up on desert islands or forced back to Afghanistan or made to join multi-ethnic youth basketball leagues is it leaves an opening — they know it might not happen. They know they might slip through the net. But when you excise Australia from itself, there is no net. The asylum seekers try to sail to Australia, and we’re standing here shrugging, saying, "Australia? Never heard of it", and so they’ll have to turn back, or keep sailing down to Antarctica to live a frugal existence feeding on penguin-meat. Either way, they’ve wasted a trip.
And thus the deterrent is established: who wants to travel to a country that doesn’t exist? If you were planning a trip to Italy, and the girl at Flight Centre told you there was no such country as Italy, you wouldn’t say, "Give me the ticket anyway, I’ll take my chances!" No, you’d say, "OK, I guess I’ll go to Spain then as I don’t want a holiday in a ridiculous fantasy-land." In this case, Italy is Australia, and the Flight Centre girl is Chris Bowen, and Spain is probably New Zealand or something, and instead of a holiday it’s a desperate flight to the chance of a better life. But it’s still a bit like a holiday, because we know what those refugees are up to, right? I mean… really. We’re clear on that, aren’t we? Good.
My only quibble with the elegant solution we’ve found to our saving-lives-compassionately problem is that the government seems to only intend using it for asylum seeker situations. Why not expand it to address other pressing social issues? After all, just as an economic migrant backdoor queue jumper can’t apply for asylum in a migration zone that isn’t there, a drug dealer can’t deal drugs that don’t exist. Why doesn’t the government legislate to make drugs non-existent. The Drugs Aren’t Real Act 2012 will quickly clean up the drug problem. Likewise, speeding drivers can’t cause fatal accidents on roads that aren’t there. The government merely needs to excise all roads from Australian territory and boom! Road toll solved.
The applications are, quite figuratively, endless. We can stop climate change by excising Australia from the climate. We can reduce the budget deficit by excising government debt from the Budget. And we can end poverty by excising poor people from everything.
Simplicity. Efficiency. Denial of reality. These must be our watchwords, as we enter this new era of kindness and compassion and people not drowning near us. "When in doubt, excise!" we shall cry, and thus shall we build Jerusalem in this brown and pleasant land.
And one day we shall reach the point when we can confidently excise ourselves, and by erasing ourselves from existence, finally relax and enjoy life a bit. That day, we’ll know we’ve fulfilled our destiny.
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