I spent the majority of this week with teary eyes and a heavy, but incredibly full and grateful, heart. I spent this week working with a room of incredible artists using real, verbatim stories from refugee and asylum seeker participants to make an immersive piece of theatre. This piece will be produced next year, but we worked together this past week to test out some ideas and to show some key partners what we have in mind for the final product. The point of this project is to shift the conversation and to contribute positively to the narrative in this country. A narrative that is straight up wrong and insulting.
This week I’ve learnt many things, but mostly I’ve learned that people who are aggressive with their opinions about refugees and asylum seekers have never met any one who identifies with that title. They’ve never heard the stories I’ve heard this week, and that in itself is the problem. Because if they knew the stories I now know then the gates that hold their naivety in check would flood open with the greatest waves of compassion and they would act. I know this to be true, in fact, as we had an adolescent audience come and watch our small showing and the feedback we received was overwhelming, one of these young men told one of our actors something to the effect of…
“All I knew about refugees was what I heard on the news. That they were here to take our jobs and that. That boat people were bad. But that’s so wrong. After today my opinion has changed. I know better now.”
Yeah, buddy, you do. You don’t just know better, you just know, you know more. You have perspective and now you can make up your own mind. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know.
That feels like greatest knowing of them all, that we must seek down stories, perspective, understanding like our lives depend on it. Because lives, real human lives, depend on it. And if we, who are able to, don’t give a shit about them, then nothing is going to change, and they will die.
I think we don’t talk enough about what it means to be a global citizen. For me, what is at it’s core is quite simply to not behave like a dick. For others that may be defined by living with grace. Either way, we need to do better. Behave better. We need to speak up and stop tolerating the things we cannot see, or that we claim to not know enough about.
Your knowledge is actually your power.
This week I became friends with a young man, an asylum seeker, whose journey to be in Australia is worthy of a film that would include persecution, jungle mis-adventures, leaky boats, four different countries, detention centres, an Australian meat works and hope. So much hope that it glitters from the very core of this man and being around him makes you better. One of the hopes this young man has is for a shift in Australian politics so that one day he will be granted the right to vote. When he told me this it was as though he was speaking of far-off distant treasures. This is one of his very real dreams; to vote. I have so much political apathy right now because I get lost in frustrating campaigns that don’t really align with my views and feeling an overwhelming sense of first world hopelessness. But I need to care. I owe it to my friend. He does contribute to making our community better already, but all he wants is to contribute even more. And we let him down. Repeatedly. Because of a political narrative that demonizes him for his very human desire to feel safe, for wanting his family to be safe. That’s as simple as this narrative needs to be. If you met my friend, if you talked to him for a moment, if you looked into his eyes as he talked to you about his very few, but very full, years on the planet then you would be better too, and you’d also understand why my heart feels equal measures of full and broken.
Broken that compassionately we’ve lost our way. Oh my, have we lost our way. It feels broken when I think about how my friend must feel as he waits for news and change and positive messages and navigates racism and misunderstanding when he’s already been through so much. But i’m also grateful, grateful that through some bizarre personal passions and weird events my tiny little life I can contribute in some way that may do good. That may have some kind of lasting impact. That may mean some kid will go home and teach their parents to be better. That one day this country won’t look the way it does. That one day we won’t collectively be giant dicks. Yeah, that’s what I hope. Cause it takes a village, ya’ll.