In my recent conversations with colleagues on my preferred social media platform, Twitter, I note a change – or at least, an emerging narrative, on asylum seekers, and by implication, on all persons who have sought to immigrate to this country over the years.
The proposition is that by denigrating asylum seekers, we also denigrate, by association and implication, all persons and their descendants, who have left their homeland to come to this country.
By the politics of distraction, political discourse has created a narrative to depict asylum seekers as “undesirables”. They are “illegal”; they are not refugees but economic migrants; they are Muslim; they do not integrate; they only want our welfare; it is a burden on the taxpayer; we have homeless and unemployed; they run mosques and private schools so as to promulgate their hateful attitude to western society”.
Psychoanalytically speaking, a society evolves along the same trajectory as an individual person.
We evolve from the thought patterns and behaviours of our past. We attend school to learn about others; to learn skills and develop talents; learn to communicate in order to understand the experience of others.
We seek counselling, either formal or informal, we undergo psychoanalysis or cognitive behaviour therapy; we participate in consciousness raising through groups; we read the thoughts of others in books and learn from them; we participate in social media.
Many of us who have been raised according to the strict regimes of religion such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam, even while drawing comfort and identity from them, have grown up to reject those teachings as being an impediment to psychological functioning in a secular society.
It’s important to remember that Australia is a secular society. Our constitution defines it as such.
In section 116 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, we find that the Commonwealth is not to legislate in respect of religion:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
It is a simple clause, but very powerful in its effects.
While immigrants to this country live their lives in exile from their country of birth, and all that is their heritage, they bear children and raise and educate them in their host society. They build businesses, create wealth, consume goods, share cultural practice and grow old, some never seeing nr living in their place of birth ever again.
As they struggle to learn a new language to whatever proficiency their experience permits them, they may forget, or lose touch with, their first language, thus falling in to a situation where they have little proficiency in both.
Grandparents cannot communicate with their grandchildren and grandchildren cannot communicate with their grandparents.
Yet, all this happens in silence. To suffer in silence is truly the experience of many immigrants and their children who are aware of their parents suffering, as they observe them in daily life or accompany them to the doctors’ rooms or the lawyer’s office.
It is one of the reasons that children of immigrants enter a professional life.
It is a common thing for children to grow up to meet the needs of their parents. The child of immigrants who have experienced injustice in their lives may train to be a lawyer. The child of parents who suffered ill health will become a nurse or doctor. A child whose parents suffered psychologically may become a psychoanalyst or psychologist. A child of parents who suffered illiteracy may become a teacher. A child of parents who suffered poverty may establish a business.
The point is, that people evolve. That is all. And as people evolve, so does society evolve.
Immigrants have shown their capacity for personal and material evolution, and one can be sure that, psychoanalytically speaking, so will all immigrants to this country including asylum seekers, whatever beliefs they may hold on arrival.
While it may be said that immigrants of the Muslim faith do not integrate, this assertion contradicts the evidence. Indeed, they may well be glad to be free from those religious constraints in a secular society such as ours, and will, to the best of their ability and experience, be grateful to the host country that provides a new life, and a new way of life, for them and their children.
That is how evolution works.
There are nine fundamental human needs to which we have evolved as human beings. They are: Permanence; Protection; Participation; Understanding; Affection; Creation; Leisure; Identity and Freedom.
Immigrants, whether asylum seekers or not, as human beings, seek to meet those needs, as we all do. Australia’s history shows that immigrants have created this country and will continue to do so.
There is nothing to be afraid of.