Give your vote to an asylum seeker

What if you gave your vote to someone who doesn’t get to have one?

As we all probably know by now, the Australian federal election is coming up on September 14. If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty cheesed off with the current state of Australian politics. If the rising rate of informal and donkey voting is anything to go by, a lot of us don’t care anymore, or can’t find a candidate for whom it is worth voting. I personally haven’t voted since the 2004 Federal Election, and have claimed a religious exemption each time (you can read why here).

But I was hanging out today with a young guy from Zimbabwe who is seeking asylum in Australia – let’s call him Larry (that’s not his real name, just for privacy reasons).  We were talking about how in Zimbabwe, elections have been rigged for years, with Mugabe and other powerbrokers basically threatening or killing any opposition. At least here in Australia, he said, no one dies because they oppose the government of the day. It might not be pretty politics, but at least no one gets shot for their ideas. In Zimbabwe, he said, when a leader is knifed in the back, they’re literally knifed in the back. Here, he said, there’s peaceful politics.

As I listened to him talk, it struck me that Larry is more invested in the current state of Australian politics than I am. Partly that’s because he’s come from a place where politics is depressingly different, but it’s also partly because not only is he vulnerable in this land, but he’s completely disenfranchised from the system that will decide his fate, and the many tens of thousands of others in similar positions.

And then I thought: what if I gave Larry my vote?

So I asked him: if you could vote, who would you vote for? He told me, and gave a deeply insightful answer as to why. And then I told him I would vote for them on his behalf.

And then I thought: what if a whole bunch of people gave their votes to asylum seekers? We could, in some small way, give a whole lot of very vulnerable people a way to have their say about Australian politics.

So, here are some reasons why you should give your vote to an asylum seeker (if you have more, add your own in the comments):

1. If there’s a more marginalised, disenfranchised group in Australia, I don’t know what it is. I mean, the Australian mainland doesn’t even exist for these people. They have no power over their fate (hence the rates of suicide, self harm, etc in detention centres), and they can be locked up for years for doing nothing other than seeking a safe place to live. Even when they’re let out of detention they’re not allowed to work, or do many of the things we take for granted. Why not give them something that enfranchises them within the system even if just a little bit?

2. It means you’ll have to go and meet an actual asylum seeker. I did think about having a database or something that some asylum seeker advocate could put together that people could access like a gift registry, but that would mean people could do this exercise from a distance, without actually getting to hang out with a real person. There are plenty of ways you can meet people – including going to visit people in detention (it’s likely there’s one near you).

3. This teeny bit of enfranchisement will likely pay dividends for years to come, as they inevitably receive citizenship (statistically speaking, it’s highly likely they will) and want to invest more deeply in the political system. They would already have some investment in their new country’s system, and know a bit about it if they didn’t already.

4. Asylum seekers are often intelligent and insightful, but have always had incredible life experience that has grown wisdom in them. Why wouldn’t you want engaged, wise people voting?

Obviously you can’t literally have an asylum seeker go into the little cardboard booth for you (although it would be really cool if they could), but you can ask them how they would vote and then vote that way. It might not be the way you’d vote anyway, or it might be – but the point is that the system has to in some way acknowledge and enact their will, rather than an already enfranchised person’s.

This shouldn’t replace asylum seeker advocacy inside or outside the system – goodness knows we need a massive shift all over the country, at all levels on this issue. But this would be a small way for the system to be forced to acknowledge that these people exist, and have wills and intentions, and often better thought out ideas than the rest of us have.

P.S. If you don’t want to do this for an asylum seeker, do it for a child instead. After all, they have more investment in the future than the older folks who get to vote.

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Of wallets, poetry, and leaving the church

I put this article aimed at challenging preachers to tell the truth about Afghanistan up on a Baptist Ministers egroup, and my friend Chris responded with this story. It’s so beautiful I think it needs a wider readership, so here it is:

I always wondered why my paternal Grandfather, who died when I was a boy, never really went to church much. He was a Baptist, as was his father and grandfather before him all the way back to the great patriarch Rev John Turner who brought out his small Particular Baptist congregation to Melbourne in 1852. My Grandpa’s name was Roy, and he was more involved in the Fitzroy Football Club than he was in his Baptist Church. I asked my Dad about this and he told me that his Father was a man with a strong social conscience and that he never really felt that the church gave voice to his own concerns about important social issues. I wondered about this for some years. I wondered what my Grandfather’s social concerns might have been. I was sure they would have been many and varied but I was naturally curious. Not long before my own Father died he gave me Roy’s old wallet. It is made of Pig Skin with R.H. TURNER stamped on the front in gold leaf. It was given to Roy by his work mates when he retired from GMH years ago. It has a gold pen inserted in it with a note pad, change pocket and a slip for notes. It also has a pocket containing a small fold for stamps. While looking it over I pulled the stamp fold out of the pocket and a small newspaper clipping slipped out into my hand. It was poetry…
I know not by what master
minds are moved
Brave pawns who march
wherever they are sent,
Nor how by Christian leaders
is approved
Each new appeal to war’s
arbitrament.
But this I know: in graves
today there lie
Inspired by platitude of
voice and pen,
Who in great trust went out
to fight and die,
Uncounted hosts of gallant
cheated men.
What then of marble, ceno-
taph or shrine
If some new lie should cheat
your child and mine?

I asked Dad whether he had put it there and he hadn’t. There was no indication of the author. Roy had put it there and had given me a tiny window into why he wasn’t that interested in church. Even as I write it today I have the same sense of being moved by it as I had when I first read it. My Grandpa was a man who valued truth and gospel from the pulpit. For him there was no place for false nationalistic jingoism in the life of the church and so, because of his great faith, he removed himself from it.  I am of course inspired by Roy’s faith and I like to think that my own social conscience is grounded in his. I had always wondered where it had come from. I am not a radical, nor a revolutionary by nature, but I do hope that I will always have the courage to preach the gospel as costly peace and reconciliation.
Chris.

Amen.

how bizarre, how bizarre

I opened our front door yesterday evening to find this parked on the nature strip next to our house:

toilet 1

My theory is the toilet is a rabid environmentalist and has chained itself to the tree in order to stop it being chopped down by a thoughtless and uncaring council.

Here it is relative to our house:

toilet 2

Seriously though, I have no idea why it’s there. There was no warning of an impending toilet. No notice from the council that a toilet would soon be making an appearance on my nature strip. There is no construction going on around here, and there are public toilets just a half a block away at Nandos. Why oh why is there a portable toilet chained to the tree next to our house?

Best/most creative theory (is it realistic to stipulate ‘no toilet humour’?) wins a prize.

the wit and wisdom of sesame street (or, why I like children’s television)

Gordon: Where’d you get that shopping cart full of cookies Cookie Monster?
Cookie Monster: Me won poetry contest.
Gordon: You wrote a poem? Can we hear it?
Cookie Monster: Me was going to call it “Ode to Cookie” but me not know what ‘ode’ is. So me just call it “Cookie”. * ahem *

Cookie.
Cookie.
Cookie…

Schmookie.

Big Bird (slowly, thoughtfully): I like it. It has a surprise ending.

my family history obsession

I’ve always been a little curious to know what our family history is, and have had various attempts at tracking things down at various times, but nothing really substantial; until a few weeks ago. Can’t say why it’s suddenly become a burning issue for me because I don’t know; the book I’m reading (Who Will Roll Away The Stone? by Ched Myers) talks a lot about heritage and the unconscious ways it affects us, but I came across that after this obsession began. Maybe it’s a sense of rootlessness, or a search for who I am, or to be part of a larger, ongoing narrative; maybe it’s to have a good story to tell at dinner parties. Probably elements of all of them. Whatever began or fuelled it, here’s what I’ve found:

I only researched the Moyle line, because as you can imagine, once you get past your grandparents, you’re muliplying family lines exponentially, so you could end up with (potentially) hundreds and thousands of lines of descent. So I picked one, the most obvious starting place: my name.

To cut a long story short, I managed to find enough information through my grandfather to link up with a Moyle family genealogist who has about 15 Moyle family genealogies. He found where we fit, on a tree that dates back to 1536. Pretty cool I reckon. So here’s the summary, for those who actually read the genealogies at the start of Matthew and Luke (minus the begatting):

John Moyle (b. 1536) was the father of Henry Moyle (b. 1568)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1594)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1632)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1661)
who was the father of Stephen Moyle (b. 1706)
who was the father of Stephen Moyle (b. 1731)
who was the father of James Moyle (b. 1763)
who was the father of William Moyle (b.1810)
who was the father of William Moyle (b. 1838)
who was the father of William James Thomas Moyle (b.1868)
who was the father of William Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Eric Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Keith Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Simon James Moyle (b. 1977). that’s me.

Yes, sorry to get all patriarchal, but the Moyle name was only passed down through the male side. I have the wives details too but that would be twice as much to type out.

William Moyle (b. 1838) was the one who came out to Australia from Cornwall with his sister Charity, during the gold rush, sometime in the late 1850’s, early 1860’s. A tin miner in Cornwall, he probably came here (along with thousands of other Cornish) to strike it rich in the goldmines. He was married in 1866 in the All Saints Anglican Church in Sandhurst (Bendigo) to Sarah Jane Barnes (also from Cornwall), and they had 11 children, two of whom died around age 2, probably from a bout of diorrhea that was killing many infants around that time.

So yesterday I made the trip to Bendigo to track down William’s grave and any others I could find. There it was, no tombstone, just a mound of shale rock and dirt with a gravesite number. Judging by his gravesite, I daresay his goldmining was not overly successful; but then, only the rich could afford headstones or an aboveground structure. Nearby were buried his two children (Emily Ethel and Thomas Burgan Moyle) who died young, both in the same grave, again with no headstone. How heartbreaking to lose your children at that age. Interestingly, they gave their next boy the same name (Thomas Burgan) as the one who had just died. I don’t know if that’s a beautiful tribute or just creepy; maybe a little of both.

Then I went to the former All Saints Anglican Church in Sandhurst where William and Sarah were married. It’s undergone a number of changes since 1866, not surprisingly (it’s now called “View Hill” and is home to a progressive Anglican congregation), but a lot of it is still intact, including the original pipe organ. It was once the crowning glory of Bendigo, the largest and most impressive church building in the district for many years. The history of it can be found here.

I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of all there is to know about these people, but I’m particularly intrigued by William and Sarah, and their motivations and experiences in starting a new life out in the colonies. This was a three to four month voyage with every chance of dying on the way, either of sickness or shipwreck, so you’d need to be sure. Not to mention leaving hundreds, maybe thousands of years of family history in Cornwall behind when it’s all you or your family has ever known, to go to a place you’ve only heard vaguely about, with little chance of ever returning. It’s these kinds of stories I would love to be able to track down, or just little facts about them or their life together. An insight into what lies beneath the fact that I am a fifth generation Australian.

But more on what that means another time; I’m still thinking about it.

bald is the new hair

so I’ve shaved my head and I like it a lot. in fact, in a completely unrelated incident, I was researching my family history (Moyle history to be precise) and it turns out that Moyle is a Cornish name meaning ‘bald’. how deliciously coincidental.

nonetheless, here are some FAQs about my head; and I mean FAQs, because most of these have been asked at least 5-10 times:

1. Is it cold?
Yes it is cold sometimes, particularly at night. Maybe this wasn’t the time of year to inaugurate this change in hairstyle, but at least I’ll be ready for summer. It actually took my body about a week to adjust, going hot and cold every 5 minutes until it found an equilibrium.

2. Why did you shave it?
Let’s dispell some myths right here: no, I am not becoming a monk (it’s too hard with a wife and kid) and no, I am not going through some kind of late 20’s crisis. I had long hair, I decided to get it cut, I didn’t want to pay for a haircut so I used my clippers, then was curious as to what I’d look like with no hair at all. I figured the only way to know was to try it, and I liked what I saw: so I kept it. I wish I had a more exciting story than that, but I don’t. However, I am taking submissions if you’d like to make one up for me to tell people.

3. How does it feel?
Other than cold? Well actually most of the time it feels like sandpaper because with the exception of the hour after shaving it, it’s usually got a small degree of regrowth. That makes putting t-shirts on over my head extremely difficult, with the resistance. I wish my facial hair would grow as thick and as fast, but it doesn’t.

4. How long do you intend to keep it?
As long as I like it like this. Indefinitely. I think it looks as good as any other hairstyle I’ve had.

Besides, if it’s good enough for moby, ed kowalcyk and michael stipe, it’s good enough for me.