Who ARE the people smugglers? WHERE are they? How is it that they are not being prosecuted? They can’t possibly be so hidden that no one can find them and charge them with illegally dealing with human cargo.
Is the world so corrupt that people turn a blind eye to these activities?
I have read two reports about the life-jackets being sold (SOLD!) to asylum seekers by people smugglers, with many of these ‘life-jackets’ being utter fakes.
The fake jackets soak up water instead of being buoyant. They actually ensure that anyone (adult or child) who falls into water will surely drown.
Who is manufacturing these FAKE life-jackets? Surely these people can be found and stopped from producing these death garments. (It must be a factory).
What about the legitimate life-jacket manufacturers…why aren’t they ‘kicking up a stink’ and challenging the fake producers for making fake life-jackets - often using the authentic makers' logos and designs.
How is all this dreadful stuff happening, while many, many people are wholly aware of the deceit and cruelty occurring on such a wide scale?
Am I so naïve that I can’t see how human beings can do this to other human beings?
Meanwhile, ‘our’ PM Malcolm Turnbull and his side-kick, dead-eyes Dutton are pulling wool over other nations’ eyes by stressing what a wonderful and humane plan Australia has to deal with asylum seekers.
Yes, that’s right…secure them in off-shore hell-holes and leave them to rot and go insane, under the false claim that this is the way to stop asylum seekers from drowning at sea.
I hang my head in shame!
I have been reading ‘Inside Story’, journalist Peter Lloyd’s tale of his time spent in a Singapore jail. Towards the end of the book he talks about ways of coping, including the wisdom of the Dalai Lama. He writes, “all around the world, amongst different faiths & cultures, the Dolly (Lloyd’s affectionate Aussie name for the DL) is adored because he represents our better angels”.
Our better angels?
I have heard this phrase before and wonder about its origins.
I had an idea that it was first used by Abraham Lincoln in an important address. I did some research (now called ‘Googling’!) and discovered that it was indeed in Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, delivered on Monday, March 4, 1861, as part of his taking of the oath of office for his first term.
In his address he made an impassioned plea about ‘We must not be enemies’..
And went on ‘…The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
But, it seems that Lincoln was not the first to use the phrase and further Googling reveals that “my better angel” has been in use since the very late sixteenth century
What’s more, in 1841, Charles Dickens had used “our better angels” in his novel “Barnaby Rudge….’the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.’
So, twenty years before Lincoln’s address, Charles Dickens used the phrase. Was Abraham Lincoln a reader of Dickens?
And yet, what does it mean?
There is a 2011 book by Steven Pinker, entitled ‘The Better Angels of our Nature’, where he talks about how the ways of the present world are far better than the world of the past. Which is very encouraging and perhaps indicates how our ‘better angels’ are working.
I was going to write that I’m not sure what or who my better angels are, before I realised that I’m more than ‘not sure’; I simply don’t know what my better angels are…or who is my better angel – or even know what the words mean.
I assume it is a feeling, or a knowledge or an emotion more than an actual being.
How are we to operate and behave using our better angels as (perhaps) against our bad angels or our worse – or worst – angels?
Does this idea lead us back to the eternal questions about empathy and compassion towards others? Or does it not have anything to do with others, but is more of a connection between us and simple decency? Perhaps that’s it.
And, what about our good angels, or our best angels? Is there a reason that we talk about our better angels, apart from the simple fact that it possibly sounds better (better!) than our ‘good’ or ‘best’ angels?
What are they better than?
When Steven Pinker writes on the subject, in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, he seems to be suggesting that we, as humans, are behaving better now than in the past.
I have to admit I have not read his entire book, but that’s the impression I have gained. I quote (again, from my research agent, Google): ‘….he argues that violence in the world has declined both in the long run and in the short run and suggests explanations as to why this has occurred..’
One review states that Pinker’s book talks of human nature, and ‘.provides a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.’
Well, that’s positive news.
And is it all related to ‘our better angels’?
Is the ‘better angel’ idea really just about morality?
(Morality, definition = ‘principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour’)
That would seem to be a sensible interpretation.
Are our better angels just our reminders of decency?
Ending on a lighter note on the origin & meaning – and how we access our better angels – or who, or what they are…writing all this angel stuff has made my brain start singing an old song from way back in 1963, about ‘My Special Angel’ (Bobby Vinton)
Here’s the last verse:
‘You are my special angel
I'll have my special angel
Here to watch over me.’
Oh, wouldn’t that be nice? To have our own ‘special angel?
Then we wouldn’t have to worry about doing the right thing as we would have our own special (or better) angel permanently watching over us…and hopefully guiding us through the minefield of EMPATHY, COMPASSION and MORALITY.
How handy that would be!
Quite some years ago, when I was composing a book on eulogy writing, I included some excerpts from eulogies given for famous people. I chose fragments from eulogies for the likes of Princess Diana, Ghandi, Stanley Kubrick, the Queen Mother and Ronnie Barker. But perhaps my favourite inclusion was from the 2000 eulogy delivered by Justin Trudeau at the funeral of his father, Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s 15th Prime Minister.
I loved the words the (then) 28 year-old Justin spoke (you can find it in entirety on You Tube).
Here are the snippets that I quoted in my book:
“......but more than anything, to me, he was dad.
And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.
We knew we were the luckiest kids in the world. And we had done nothing to actually deserve it.
It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to..............
(At the ending)......................But he won’t be coming back any more. It’s all up to us, all of us, now,
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
He has kept his promises and earned his sleep.*
Je t’aime Papa.”
And now, Canada has this (slightly older now) young man as its Prime Minister.
I have to say that I, as an Australian, am exceedingly envious of the Canadians for their good fortune in having such a Prime Minister.
Justin’s father, Pierre, was Canada’s leader for 15 years and according to history, and the fact that he remained in the position for so long, the indications are that he was a fair and honest politician, with an emphasis on respect and tolerance towards everyone.
Now, I am not a Canadian. Nor have I ever even been to Canada, but the political climate there certainly seems a lot different from the mean, money grubbing attitude of our Australian politicians; the sucking dry of the vulnerable in our communities and the cruelty towards asylum seekers - and the pandering to big business and bigger corporations alongside the neglect of climate change matters …I could go on….
So, I’ll watch the young Mr Trudeau and follow the progress of Canada and see if my jealousy is justified as I compare him and his parliament to what we have here.
Sorry to be all political…but it’s impossible to ignore the awfulness of Australian politics at the moment!
And, please take a look at Justin Trudeau’s tribute to his father (on YouTube) – and be impressed.
*adapted from the last verse of poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, by Robert Frost
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
It seems a weak attitude to claim to have ‘compassion fatigue’. It’s more like just a feeling of utter hopelessness.
My attitude to the injustices of offshore refugee detention camps - and my incomprehension and sadness at the horrors of murderous conflicts persisting interminably in the world is not all that is tugging at my compassion and empathy.
There is also the horror perpetrated by Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
There’s South Sudan, Yemen, Turkey, Burundi…and on it goes.
And, what’s going on in the South China Sea??
Other situations, such as the facts that, today, 663 million people over our world are still denied access to clean water and 946 million people do not have proper sanitation.
AND……..We have enough food in the world to feed everyone and yet there are currently 750 million people going to bed hungry each night. That’s 1 in 9 people.
And climate change - and the fact that some Australians don’t believe it’s happening (sigh!)…GLOBAL WARMING IS HAPPENING…and still we (we?) are planning to activate new coal mines!!!!
And, what about this: UK is showing us up on SOLAR POWER, of all things.
Yep, you read that right. When it comes to large-scale solar production, rainy old UK is ranked No.3 in the world – while sunny Australia No.20. WTF?
Then there are the some more ‘local’ worries, such as: In Qld, since 2013, 1,000,000 hectares of trees have been cleared. The stronger tree protection laws we needed to help save the Great Barrier Reef have just been voted down by the Queensland Parliament.
On Aug 22 another young girl was abused and died in foster care.
And….. an elderly man was 'abused and tormented' in an aged care facility and reports show assaults on the elderly in nursing homes are increasing.
And, even animals are begging for attention and help, with petitions about dolphins needing freedom (instead of being kept in resort pools) and sheep and cattle are being mistreated in the live export trade.
Even chickens need compassionate people to put an end to the terrible treatment in battery farming.
And there’s more and more - and more - to worry about…
But it becomes overwhelming and, as much as I sign petitions and share facts on Face Book and Twitter and even occasionally send emails to politicians, it is more than taking my time; it is sapping my ‘empathy energy’ and getting me nowhere. AND it is not making a speck of difference.
Moral and ethical approaches to so many situations do not appear to be in the realm of most current parliaments – nor sizeable sections of our community.
To make a positive difference in any of these dilemmas is way beyond my capabilities - and I must accept that!
I have a need to step back for a while…to recharge my compassion gland and see if it’s still worth writing about the need for empathy and understanding.
Meanwhile…I’ve been for a drive …and then a walk… and found these geese to talk to.
They were cordial and totally non judgemental; being in their presence was a delight.
After that walk I felt more at peace about stopping worrying about the world and what it is becoming.
As we finished our talk, the geese proceeded to gently eat grass in such a relaxed manner I wondered if perhaps we should all take advice from the animals.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.