This week, I have mostly felt normal. I never knew that it would be a celebration to feel normal, but there you go.* Because I’ve been feeling normal I’ve been getting out and about. There was an enjo party, countless walks, drinks with my (work) team at Elizabeth Quay and two trips to the cinema. Two very different cinematic experiences. Let me tell you about them.
Last Sunday I went and saw Chasing Asylum. A documentary by Eva Orner which gives an insight into the detention centres run by the Australian government on Manus Island and in Nauru. I confess that over the years, I probably haven’t thought that critically about the ‘Turn back the boats’ policy (Policy) that has been employed to deter people from getting on boats to come to our shores and to break down the people smugglers businesses. What Chasing Asylum highlights, particularly well, is the human face of the Policy. The refugees and asylum seekers who are living in the dreadful detention centres, places that seem worse than prison. Seems strange that we put people seeking asylum, a lawful human right, into these God awful places. But then, as the pollies explain, it’s all in the name of deterrence. I can understand the idea behind deterrence – make it so awful no one would ever consider getting on a boat to come to this country. But, surely if watching a documentary about detention centres can move pretty much an entire cinema to tears, we must question the cost of the Policy. Certainly Chasing Asylum has caused me to think about it. Did you know:
- Australia is the only country in the world to indefinitely detain children?
- Australia took 12,000 Syrian refugees last year, Germany took 1 million.
- Australia launched air strikes on Syria on the same day that it announced it would take 12,000 Syrian refugees.
- It costs about $500,000 per year per asylum seeker/ refugee to keep people in detention in Nauru and Manus – that about $1.2 billion per year.
- In comparison, to allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are processed costs about $12,000.
- Detention centres are dirty, people self harm regularly, there have been reports of torture.
You get the picture. Well, if you don’t, I did. But in the end, after trying to really think about how the Policy could be better, it’s been difficult to come up with much. How do you deter people smugglers while humanely processing refugees? Do/ should our questions even end there? No. Are we doing enough as a country? There are more displaced people in the world than there were after world war 2. And yet, our response as a nation is turn back the boats. I wonder if in 50 or 100 years kids will be reading about this time in their history books and wondering how as a nation we could have done so little for those looking for safer shores… Chasing Asylum – it will certainly give you a few things to think about. And if you’re like me, shed a tear or two. It also helps put things into perspective. This week I have been celebrating feeling normal again. But, for the people stuck on Nauru and Manus Island, I wonder if they will ever feel normal again? It’s not hard to imagine that the damage and harm being in detention is doing to these people will leave a life long impact. They may never feel normal again. I on the other hand will. So, I am grateful.
My second cinematic experience this week was watching Me Before You. You will have seen the shorts for it. It’s about a man, Will, who gets hit by a motorbike, ends up and quadriplegic, falls in love with his carer, Lou, and decides that he wants an assisted death because he just can’t live as a quadriplegic. I actually found it quite a lovely movie. I have read all the critical reviews about how the movie (and indeed the book on which the movie is based) perpetuates a number of negative stereotypes and glorifies what is, in effect, suicide and makes it seem like the only option for quadriplegics is to end things. And there is something to them. But as someone who has been slapped with sickness this year, it wasn’t the end of the movie that resonated with me, but rather little things throughout the film. For example, at a particular point in the movie Will goes to a Beethoven concert and when the night ends, he tells Lou that he doesn’t want to go inside (to his house) because for just a few moments he just wants to be the guy on a date with the girl in the red dress. And that, I can completely understand. No one wants to be defined by disability/ illness/ paraplegia. And, if you happen to be sick in any way, there are always times when you want to shake it off and be normal, if only just for a moment.
I guess the theme of this weeks blog is ‘normality’. I never realised how important it would be to me to feel normal. To feel like just me. But, now that I do, I will never take it for granted again.
Happy Sunday to everyone. I’ll be enjoying another glorious day before chemo # 5 next week.
* Incidentally, when I was looking for a cover image for this post, a quick google of ‘normal’ quotes revealed that most quotes are about normal being boring and awful. Pfft. The quote authors have obviously never had chemo, because normal is actually pretty amazing.