Saturday, May 9, 2015

You couldn't blame Indonesia if it invaded Australia, if only to shut us up.

The fourth most populous nation, the globe's largest Muslim country, sitting above the planet's greatest pack of over-privileged hypocrites constantly telling them how to run their overflowing democracy.

Imagine we had 250 million people living here on a quarter of the landmass? And 23 million beer-swilling, bacon-chomping fatsos with nothing better to do than sleepwalk through Bunnings looking down their noses at you?

Is the death penalty barbaric? Of course, but why does that only become evident when it involves Aussies? As Human Rights Watch's deputy director in Asia, Phil Robertson, told the ABC "the fact Australia wakes up and starts making noise when Australians are on death row is noticed around the region".

You bet it is. As is our double standard on spying, global warming, live cattle exports, religious tolerance and foreign aid. I'm surprised we haven't told Asia to cut rice consumption so we can get cheaper rice milk on our friggin' organic bircher.

"Oi! Giss a hand catching them people smugglers and terrorists," we say, then when those shifty Indos want help collaring heroin traffickers and punish them in exactly the same way they have since 1973, we lose our shit.

The Project won't be doing grave pieces to camera nor newspapers writing editorials in two weeks' time about the moral bankruptcy of Thailand executing people. Or Malaysia, Singapore, India and Japan, let alone the USA and China (all of whom have the death penalty). 

"When everybody else is in trouble you don't say anything, but when Australian citizens are on death row, then all of a sudden you're vocal? It's frankly not a principled narrative," said Robertson.

Moral superiority feels so good. Pity our robust Kantian concern for the rights of the individual dissolves into utilitarian pragmatism when jailing refugees and their children.

Life is cheap, but we know that. Otherwise we'd not be so comfortable flouting international law on the treatment of asylum seekers. So let's rephrase: Others' lives are cheap, not ours. That's our dirty Aussie secret and it makes us all the more pathetic grasping for moral authority on the world stage.

At least we've finally accepted Aussies with names like Chan and Sukumaran are our kin as much as Barlows, Chambers or Corby. Start treating those without an Aussie passport the same way, maybe the world might start listening to us. Sam de Brito Sydney Morning Herald comment section


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