The Labor leadership is settled now.
The next question is, how do we lead our leaders into making better choices and communicating better about asylum seekers?
Some Australians have been so thoroughly frightened by ‘them’ that if they hear the message ‘asylum-seeking is not illegal’ all they hear is ‘we can’t stop those brown people’.
People with education assume the politicians are ducking a tough problem, but in fact most of the time they’re responding to the fear of most of the electorate.
In our history, we ‘trained’ our population to be frightened of the advancing hoards. Now we have some un-training to do.
It won’t help to only reverse asylum-seeker policies; the population has to accept refugees fully and see them as humans.
Almost all of the solution is in our (the progressive voters’) hands and we should stop outsourcing our angst to media and pollies. We need to think of ways we can communicate and build little friendships with those ‘other’ people we meet – at the supermarket, at BBQs, at work, on the train. The ones we politely disagree with but never really engage with, because their views repel us. We should also speak up when the media reinforces the fear – but don’t make the frightened audiences take on yet more fear – fear of us as well.
The solution is really very simple and we don’t like it: we need to reach out to our neighbours and touch them (ugh – not literally). Not preach, just connect. We need to respect them as fellow citizens, but not let that respect ossify into just accepting everything, let that respect mean we care enough about them to have conversations of substance.