Tag Archives: social justice

empathy machines

This post is fresh from my dusty Drafts folder … a collection of things I wanted to say but didn’t.

The horrific events in Christchurch are a reminder that decent people should speak up more often. Failure to do so can mean public discourse is dominated by blinkered, unbalanced, extremist voices. When these are all we hear, the angry clamour can be normalised. There’s a risk we’ll forget there’s a rational moderate middle ground, inhabited (I believe) by most of the population. Good people are out there. It’s just that they’re too polite or wise to engage and/or publishers know their views don’t work as well as click bait.

Which brings me back to the original purpose for this post. I can’t recall who said it first, but books are empathy tools. Or, to quote Neil Gaiman, ‘little empathy machines’ that make it harder to hate.

I believe in the maxim that it’s best not to judge people until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Books let us inhabit another person’s shoes, head, world…

The titles listed below all deal with immigration issues, asylum seekers and human rights. The content is confronting. It includes torture, murder, starvation, extreme poverty,  death, grief, mental illness and injustice.

All four affected me deeply. Please consider the maturity of readers when recommending these books. Actively debrief those readers but encourage them to keep reading on these subjects.

Because if we don’t understand why some people need to seek safety, ignorance and fear may continue to fester. And that’s dangerous for all of us.

Highly recommended reading:

Book cover for The Bone Sparrow

History is happening now: Manus Island vs Gary Ablett

A report was handed down in Australia yesterday. Another report wasn’t.

The report looked at the death of a man who wanted to be Australian and the people who killed him, acting on behalf of all Australians.

The report that didn’t happen involved our best Aussie Rules footballer, Gary Ablett Jnr, not being cited for elbowing his Western Bulldogs opponent.

The Cornall report, prompted by a fatal bashing and other violence on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, will attract minimal public interest. The action occurred offshore, out of sight, out of mind, rather than during a televised sporting event.

The Ablett non-report will generate much discussion and many column centimetres. It will trigger allegations of bias in favour of the AFL’s reigning best and fairest player. Morons will boo the little champ each time he takes the field.

There’ll be little or no cat-calling about the asylum seekers being hit with much more than a stray elbow.

Fairfax journalist Tony Wright says it will take historians to appreciate the true significance of the Cornall report.

God help us if we have to wait for history to turn the spotlight to where it should be shining.

Open your arms

It’s great to see Mark Seymour and fellow Hunters and Collectors’ band members continuing to stand up for the rights of asylum seekers everywhere.

The legendary Oz-rock band are touring with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and delivered an impassioned and powerful set last Saturday night. Their classic song, Throw Your Arms Around Me, has been given a new verse, highlighting the need for empathy and justice for all people in need.

Here’s how Mr Seymour introduced it: “This song is about faith, hope and compassion. It’s about the stranger at the door. We are all asylum seekers.”

I haven’t found footage from last weekend but here’s a version from a Sydney concert. If the lyrics are a tad difficult to discern, try here.