When will we understand?
Our gulags need be canned!
When will we open the doors?
And release the prisoners of wars!
When will we try to seek?
To raise our voice and speak!
When will we find the truth?
Hidden by lies uncouth!
When will we acknowledge our race?
Has to answer a criminal case!
When will we open our eyes?
To the damage, we cause with our lies!
When will we finally believe?
All people equally grieve!
When will we seek to strive?
To have love – our hearts – to drive!
Not today, not here, not now
Till we make compassion a vow!
When there is nothing left to defend,
Only then, will all of this end!
… (continued thoughts) …
I first saw the actual photo of this child in the wee hours this morning, as I was finishing off another article. Confronted by it, I wrote the poem above completing it around two in the morning, as I could not sleep. Having in some manner expressed my feelings I eventually crashed to bed. I woke as my son as usual jumped into our bedroom, begrudging his enthusiasm for being awake and alive. The image of this boy a few years older than my son haunted me. Once my son was at school, I began to explore his story. The image had gone viral and the reactions diverse. Some understandable and others are perplexing.
One reaction, which I have only recently become educated about, appears to be one of regarding it as “emotional porn” or “clickbait” and that somehow just mentioning it or how it makes us feel or what his death represents, dehumanises the boy. I would have thought it was exactly the opposite. It is the tragedy, the senselessness, and the horror of this, that humanises him in a way that we have not done, for thousands of refugees who died before this little boy.
I admit to having difficulties getting my head around this idea, so I am quoting someone else to try to get a sense of it and understand the objectionableness. It’s the use of the image of the boy as “a tool for others to use to promote or condemn anything“. (I am quoting here) We use images, stories, allegories from innumerable sources joyful, sad, uplifting and tragic to “promote or condemn” everything. How else do we as human beings address issues, build relationships between ideas, talk about life if not to illustrate it with our experiences, images, fears, loves, gut-wrenching retelling (in this case)? It is people’s visceral reaction to these pictures and the lobbying it generated that have induced Britain to announce intent to admit thousands of Syrian refugees into their country. It’s how we communicate as human beings. Why is this off-limits? How does this fail to give “regard to him as a human being“?
I tried to draw a parallel with the way our news services regularly show no regard for privacy to families in various breakdowns, calamities and dramas, in what the media benignly calls “public interest“. Perhaps it is the perspective revealed from our society’s turgid appetite for virtual reality shows and the manufactured breakdowns within them because it brings out the ugly underside of humanity. I understand why someone might object to these. These aspects of human behaviour, example and imagery that rarely have outcomes or influences that might elicit higher morality, compassion, an end to bullying, violence, war and oppression, that this story will. In fact, the former example seems to bring to the surface the racism, bullying and dysfunctional responses. This story is entirely about our regard for him as a human being and the tragedy of it all. Perhaps, although, it is all a matter of personal psychology. People who are genuinely altruistic react to such images and want to engage with it.
Personalities who aren’t altruistic, want to put it aside, out of sight and avoid being confronted with it. Then there are folks who are incapable of understanding emotional reactions at all. Which is a good segue to the official opinion of our prime minister, Tony Abbott? The political discourse is eclipsing human emotional response as Abbott attempts to twist this into fitting his agenda of “Stopping the Boats”. He sees its use as an instrument of political justification. Now there is someone who “uses this child’s image without regard to him as a human being”. (I am quoting again here) Social media has been understandably hostile to this suggestion.
Aylan’s image is becoming one of those seminal images like that of little Kim Phúc from the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam running naked amidst other fleeing villages. It changed a nation’s attitude to the Vietnam War. Already the British government is reacting. Abbott and company seem unable to respond similarly. So aside from them, the rest of us are human, parents, grandparents and many of us capable of emotion and altruism. We must be the conscience, our leadership isn’t capable of, and rise to embrace this for the sake of the “Aylans” that will otherwise wash to shore. If only to bring about the sort of change the very scared little girl, Kim once did for America. While there is little we can to for Aylan or his family, Aylan’s death can have the power of life for thousands of Syrian refugees and given Brittan’s reaction, he already has.
In regards to Abdullah Kurdi, the father of Aylan as a human being and in regards to the feelings and rights of his family, he at least knows his son will be remembered and honoured. This tragedy, although, does not end here. Abdullah Kurdi has discontinued his efforts to go to Europe. He has lost both his children and his wife. He simply wants to take his family’s bodies back into the danger-zone he left to bury his family in Kobani. He also has stated he wants to stay there now, after having spent so much time and effort fleeing from there. I don’t think he cares anymore if he lives or dies by returning there. Some might think his returning there is suicidal and he probably would agree. In fact, were I him, and I had lost what he has lost, I would probably thank the first I.S. fighter I encountered in his troubled land, who put a gun to my head.
It has been nearly half a decade since I wrote this and still, Australian’s continue to mistreat refugees escaping from the horrors from which young Aylan and his family fled. His image touched the world, yet the refugee situation has worsened. In the two years, that followed 8,500 people drowned in the Mediterranean, 1,150, were children “. In October of 2019, Reuters announced “More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the United Nations said on Tuesday.” And what of the memory and impact of Aylan? I have only this illustration to say everything I need to.