The problem with protesters marginalising less liberal, less middle-class, ESL subjectivities when speaking on behalf of Australia, or on behalf of asylum seekers, when they argue against what our government is doing is that they are failing to do any work to undo the idea that “other” is some sort of interchangeable, homogenous group that we are able to direct and control.
As long as non-“Australian” subjectivities are denied their full humanity and full agency then there is nothing stopping the government from cutting off those most vulnerable and fencing them up indefinitely. Human rights only matter when they are chosen to matter by those in power and in that sense a bunch of liberal, middle-class whites demanding freedom for refugees is still an exercise in imperialist power granted by our incredibly dark colonial history.
The asylum seeker problem is a broader problem about Australian nationalism as a whole. Until the white settler-coloniser is de-centred as the voice of this nation then we will continue to prioritise white sovereignty and dehumanise others on behalf of the “greater good” of the nation. The asylum seeker problem is a chance to fight for a pluralistic voice for this nation. It’s a chance to make the contradictions, hypocrisies and violences that are the foundation of the benevolent face of this nation clear.
written by Hannah Arendt, Total Domination.