We all know what sort of nation we think we are: hard workers, lovers of freedom, brave, strong, healthy, committed to honesty, courage and a ‘fair go’. Right? Something like that, right?
But what do you think we look like to the rest of the world?
How about this to the fugitives, the refugees, the oppressed, the desperate: picture a poster, with a tall sun-bronzed Aussie standing in the foreground, smiling broadly and saying ‘Come to us, all you in need, all you oppressed and persecuted, come to us!’ and in the background a typical prison wall with guard towers and razor wire and guards with guns and perhaps a chute sticking out of the side of the wall drawn in that cartoon way, showing people being shovelled down the chute into the waiting arms (?) of the guards and persecutors of known human rights abusing countries such as Malaya and perhaps another chute on the other side sending people pell mell right back to where they came from.
How about that? Can you picture that? That’d be just about how we are currently seen. If it is not then it definitely IS the picture we are currently trying to project. Without doubt.
And my question is: why don’t we just have it drawn and publish it? Why screw about? Just get a good cartoonist and get it drawn and publish it all around the world.
The fugitives, the oppressed, the desperate and needy of the world would soon get the idea.
Next: how about those people up to their knees in blood and guts and shells and bullets and crippled kids and mums and dads, broken families and destroyed homes – the ‘freedom fighters’, the people, of Libya.
We sanctimoniously say we’re on the side of the citizens and against Gaddafi but what do we actually do? Nothing.
What should we do?
We should do as Peter Coleman says in the Spectator (21 May) – we should recognise the Transitional National Council in Benghazi as the legitimate interim government of Libya. That’s what we should do. As France and Italy have done. And Qatar and Gambia.
And once we’ve recognised a government then we could respond to that Government’s calls for help. We could send soldiers.
And that’s probably why we don’t do it. Because we don’t want to be asked for soldiers. Because we don’t want to send them. Because we don’t want Australia boys dying in Libya.
Well, that sounds fine. Except Australian soldiers would probably far rather fight on the side of the citizens in Libya than on the side of the foreigner in Afghanistan.
And, at bottom, it is simply a case of doing the right thing.
Which this country seems to be in a great hurry to forget.