In this short story, Rasunah contemplates her not so successful love life as she attempts to meet a deadline for an article on asylum seekers incarcerated on the small tropical island of Nauru.
Sex and Australian Asylum Seekers
I came across a statistic the other day that claimed that 84% of people in the US dreamed about writing a book. Well, there’s a thing. According to Wikipedia, there were around 305,000 book published fresh or as new editions in 2013. In 2010, Google suggests that some 130 million books had been written since writing began and some 50,000 were added each year. At 50,000 a year it would take 2,600 years to publish 130 million, so on the face of it the data are suspect to say the least. Someone else chipped in with the claim that in 2009 over 1 million books were published in the US alone.
I closed the browser and went off in search of a beer. There was just one bottle of light hidden away at the back of the fridge between some highly suspect double whipped cream and the left over stew from three days ago. Living alone as a post modern journalist was not always what it was cut out to be.
I didn’t have to live alone. Last time Bob and I were having sex I looked at my watch as he, not yet at the fully excited, desperate stage, was slowly thrusting deeply in and out. I guess I started as I realised I had seen Elizabeth Taylor, I think it was, do exactly the same in a sex scene in an old movie. The men of the day, self centred pricks as they were, declared she was timing the event to know when to simulate an organism. Phaw. She was simply bored and checking when her next appointment was. Bob fell out and I could not stop laughing. He stormed off. Which to my surprise suited me fine; I guess I had become bored with him.
I took another mouthful of beer. The current piece I was working on, or at least trying to work on was not going well. It was a follow up piece on Australian asylum seekers in Nauru after the recent Amnesty International 1 report on the torture that they suffered there at the hands of the Australian government. Sex for them had a much greater chance of being rape whether they were male or female young or old, than being excited and desperate for the tumultuous relief of orgasm.
The trick was to find something new to say. That they are being tortured, that their hopes are continuously dashed, that they are held in such squalid conditions that the RAPCA would declare unfit for pigs let alone dogs and that all of this was not their fault had been said before. Many times. And ignored by Parliament even more times, if that were logically possible.
The Greens of course kept up a constant if somewhat infrequent twittering pointing out that the crime of people smuggling ought to be laid at the feet of the smugglers, not on the heads of those who were smuggled. But the Greens lacked political power in Australia and, more importantly, lacked the ability to persuade the masses of anything other than just possibly climate change.
My mind turned back to Bob and sex, or at least the lack of it now that Bob had taken his bat and balls and charged off into the night. Some Freudian link with sucking at the beer bottle I suppose. It would not be too hard to find an active replacement. I am still young, fit and when you get down to it drop dead gorgeous, providing that is you liked a dark hair, dark eyed, dark skinned, Arabian beauty. Enough did; there are plenty more single Bobs wanting to chomp at the bit and even more married Bob’s who did not care whether their wives understood them or not. I did as it happens, on principle, so everyone missed out there. But what the watch episode had finally brought home was that I did not want a casual Bob. Like the asylum seekers what I wanted was hope, security and a chance to set up my life for the future. To nurture a family. To be complete as a woman. To have a friend for life.
My preferred writing style, which when you got down to it was more than comfortably successful from a financial perspective, is that of social fiction. In the sense demonstrated by the American Creativity Association prestigious Special Achievement Award in their Social Fiction series. The series itself is a set of full length books that are informed by social research and if you like, comment of current social issues in society. The concept mirrors science fiction in which the inventions of authors predict and possibly even direct in a minor way new scientific discovery. The hope is that those who read social fiction will somehow be directed or at least pointed towards new ideas to make progress by tackling social research and development.
That at least is how I now write novels. The shorter, mundane freelance contributions to dailies, weeklies and monthlies are more rewarded for facts than for advanced concepts of literary style. Still, it’s sometimes possible to mix the two.
The beer finished I went back to the iPad. Thinking about sex will not get a baby let alone bath one, and I did need to meet the article deadline. I reread the Amnesty report. Without the slightest doubt it was an excellent rendering of the truth. The truth is that Australia does inflict mental torture on the refugees housed in dreadful conditions on Nauru. The truth is that the island itself, which has some difficulty supporting a population of around 10,000, just can’t cope with an extra 1,300 refugees. The truth is that successive Australian governments have abandoned their responsibilities towards international law and hidden that under a cloak of imposed silence. And the truth is that those same governments have repeatedly lied about what they were doing.
So why, you might ask, was the report not only rejected by the current government as being untrue but also ignored by the vast majority of Australian citizens?
These refugees have been demonised as queue jumpers. This brilliant piece of government propaganda has been enough to turn the refugees into objects of scorn. Quite simply Australians could not care less about them. The quintessential Australia quality of mateship, support of a friend or a stranger even at the risk of one’s own life, just does not apply to these refugees.
The Amnesty report excellent as it is, will definitely cause citizens of other countries to consider that what Australia is doing is wrong. But it does not stand a snowball’s chance of surviving on a road in the middle of summer of persuading Australians to mobilise in favour of the refugees.
Something else was needed. A different approach. One that would resonate even with those who hate queue jumpers. Clearly the UN was not going to be able to fix it. Only last month the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child produced a 17 page report 2 delineating in quite some detail the inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse that children suffered in Nauru. That report went straight through to the keeper also.
It was getting late and I was getting nowhere. At the current rate of progress, finding a new super suitable Bob was a piece of cake compared with writing a compelling article. Time for bed. Perhaps my subconscious would dream up the perfect answer while I slept the sleep of the innocent.
Neither turned out to be the case.
Sleep was interrupted by a series of nightmares. I was running away from something in all of them; in the one I actually remember I was being chased by a whole mob of Bobs. Each was naked. Each had my watch tightly fastened around the shaft of his erect penis. Each was demanding the same service that Madonna had recently offered to anyone for the price of voting for Hilary Clinton. Happily I woke before I could read the time, but I was covered in sweat and needed a shower before I could get back to sleep.
The next morning I threw the watch into the trash. Then I got it out. Logic suggested that it was not the watch’s fault and I could hardly throw out the parts of me that had been quite happy to surround and indeed engulf Bobs penis. Logic lost; the watch went back into the trash.
My subconscious did a marginally better job with the article. It occurred to me to consider how those seeking asylum were being treated in countries other than Australia. In Turkey for example and in Europe. President Erdogan had things down pat. In the first place he blackmailed the EU for three billion Euros and the he treated them hardly any better than in Nauru. There was a difference however. Australia denied their asylum seekers any hope whatsoever. The absolute best they could hope for was being taken in by some desperately poor foreign country that Australia might be able to bribe to receive them. But the bribe money would disappear into the deep pockets of government official and ministers. The asylum seekers would then be left to fare for themselves, read be even worse off then in Nauru.
There was one aspect of the refugees flooding into Europe that seemed to distinguish them. Not only did they demand that they be able to choose which country they would settle in but they insisted that that very choice was their absolute right. Some wanted Germany, others the UK and they would not accept a country other than the one they wanted. None wanted to stay in Greece and most of the countries between Turkey and Greece on the one hand and Germany and the UK on the other didn’t want anything to do with them. Those feelings were mutual. The current riots and associated tear gas in France as the French close down a refugee camp is but one example.
An important factor, it seemed to me, was that nowadays refugees have access to and have become experts in the use of social media. Facebook, Twitter and the like. They are much more able to organise themselves and those who pray on them are much better pariahs at getting what they want. Be it money for transport or access to children for sport and export.
Whatever the trials and tribulations of the asylum seekers in Nauru, and they are many, the number involved is not many. It palls into total insignificance when compared with those drowning in the Mediterranean and those surviving to drown in the interminable process of being processed. Because their numbers are fewer, and because Australia does not allow journalists access to the camp, they are less assertive. The one or two riots have been walks in the park compared with tear gas, riot police and TV cameras in Europe.
Australian governments would get away with their crimes against humanity simply because they commit them against a relatively few, media isolated victims. At the individual level these crimes are horrendous, but as a totality there in so shortage of other issues that demand or at least get the attention and protest of citizens of Australia.
More importantly though, Australians are only tangentially focussed on the plight of refugees. They are much more focused and enthralled at the daily spectacle of what causes the refugees in the first place. They soak up the visual reports of destruction and dismemberment of human beings like sex craved voyeurs. They suckle at the accompanying propaganda as a starving baby might at an overflowing nipple. They celebrate each apparent success as a vapid supporter might when their team surprisingly wins an international competition. Such compassion that is left over for the refugees is less than that accorded to minor support actors in a B grade movie.
That, I decided sadly, is the message of my article.
The closing question has to be: does anyone really give a damn?