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Winning the race against fear

LAST week was AUSTCARE Refugee Week. People were encouraged to be aware of the suffering and oppression experienced by millions of people throughout the world and to learn from the rich diversities of different human cultures.

In the past two years, Australia’s quota for refugee intake as part of its humanitarian program (12,000) has not been filled.

It seems to me that labelling people who have been tortured, imprisoned unfairly without rights as “economic refugees” is a way of us blocking out their immense suffering. We use an elaborate system of desensitisation and addictions (money, entertain-ment, brand names) – readily supplied to us by the corporate advertising machine – so we can dull and distract ourselves from being fully human.

I also wonder how much this has to do with race and fear. White people in Australia, and through-out the world, are still very much conditioned to fear dark-coloured skin.

Pretending that racism doesn’t exist only increases this fear. It is sad that white people feel so separate from the majority of the world’s people whose skin isn’t as pink as ours.

Perhaps it is fear that closes us from deeply learning about other cultures.

Fear of having to self reflect upon our own lives, to re-evaluate where we have been and where we are going.

We “tolerate” diversity up to a point, but how deeply are we prepared to listen? When indigen-ous communities tell us that we are poisoning the land, do we listen?

Do we even realise what they are telling us, in their soft, gentle ways? No, it is much easier to subconsciously believe that we know it all, that indigenous communities are inferior to us and that we need to help them.

As one indigenous person in Australia has said: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time ... but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”.

n Rodney Vlais is a social analyst involved with several non-profit organis-ations.

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