Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Myth of The Economic Migrant

The Myth of The Economic Migrant 
as propagated by Alan Jones and The Daily Telegraph

Imagine you live in an average community in a poor country somewhere on the other side of the world. You survive in humble, frugal conditions perhaps on between the equivalent of $40-$80 a week. Not much really. The people in your community are poor like you and your immediate family. However you do have access to food and water, shelter and basic health and education services. You are surrounded by your friends, your brothers and sisters, mother and father and extended family whom you can turn to in times of need. You’re respected and liked and active and involved in your local community and mosque/temple all of which means everything to you. Your country is not suffering war or conflict; and life, although a struggle, is basically stable and peaceful.

In fact, you recently managed to save enough money to become the first household in your street to buy a TV! A luxury: this television set, you regularly invite your neighbours and friends to watch it with you.

Now you are exposed to images and programs about life in really wealthy countries. You become fascinated with TV from the West. Over and over you watch documentaries and programs and reality shows depicting the wonderful, wealthy, easy, fantastic, awesome  lives led by people in the West. In particular, shows from Australia (which is obviously by far the most advanced, progressive and wealthy country in the whole world) catch your eye. Soon, you become obsessed with the lifestyles these filthy rich “Aussies” lead. Slowly you start to become resentful. 'Why should they have it so easy while I have to work my butt off to feed my family? They have everything! Unlimited food, clean water, free health care, all the latest technology: iPads, iPhones, computers, cars for everyone, broadband internet, by the gods: swimming pools in the backyards! They even get paid welfare and child support for doing absolutely nothing! I want all that too & more!!'

One day you've had enough of your humble but peaceful existence. You decide on a whim to pack up you meagre belongings, say farewell to all the friends and family you’ve known and loved all your life, take your spouse and kids and start a dangerous, uncertain 9000 km overland trek at a cost of $20000 you borrowed off a loan shark in the faint hope of one day getting to Australia. All of because of what you’ve seen on The Block, Neighbours and Masterchef: The Professionals! (But of course you don’t know any better. According to the real experts: the Aussie shock-jocks, you’re from a poor, non-Christian country, so by definition you’re envious, materialistic, backwards, uncaring, possibly harbouring terrorist inclinations and, being so new to TV; apparently also unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.) Friends and family? Community? Peace and stability? You can stuff all that up yours mate! You want to get stinking, filthy rich or better yet, become a lazy Aussie dole bludger! Who cares about mates and mom and pop.

So, you will give up everything you’ve ever loved and known, trekking a long and often dangerous journey to first reach Indonesia/Malaysia, an unwelcoming country, where you will have no support, no rights, the certainty of constant official harassment; where you won't be able to work and your kids won't be able to go to school. You will have to try and struggle and survive that nightmare for maybe years while you slowly organise with a corrupt people smuggler to get your precious family whom you love onto a small, leaky, overcrowded boat for a journey of 30-40 days that may or may not sink on the way, killing you all, to what may or may not turn out to be Australia.

All this harrowing effort, danger and uncertainty! Just so that you can get to Australia to live a life of "luxury" bludging on the dole that pays you $250 a week (plus RA) so you can sit on your ugly old couch donated by the Salvos, in your cramped, chilly rent-subsidised flat in a bleak back street in St. Albans or Springvale; your friends and family thousands of miles away while you watch more Masterchef Australia and Dancing With Stars and open another tinny of VB paid for by Centrelink.

Think about it seriously for a minute. How realistic is any of  this really? Could you ever even remotely see yourself in such shoes? I doubt it. That’s because it is all pure fantasy and total crap. Yet this is the myth of the economic migrant boat person we are constantly being fed by a xenophobic, wilfully ignorant narrow minded "mainstream" media. As utterly ridiculous as it all sounds this is honestly what Alan Jones and The Daily Telegraph want us to believe about why most boat people make their arduous and perilous way to this country.

it’s time we were reminded of the truth.

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