Every so often I make a comment on social media and am intrigued by the responses I get from people who share my Samoan and Pasifika heritage, grew up on the same streets as me in Otara and sat next to me in pews at church. Having had similar experiences at school, church and state housing, I’m always a little taken by how we now reflect on the world. I think it’s a great thing that after years of living in this country, people are able to express very diverse views of the world.
So over the weekend just gone our little family thought it would be good to spend a couple of hours on the final weekend of the school holidays rallying in solidarity with refugees around the world who continue to be displaced and are fleeing for their lives. As a family we’re still feeling the sting of the recent deportation of a family man and dad back to Tuvalu after a number of community meetings and attempts to get residency.
So it came as a surprise to me after some posts on social media that my very own ‘shared experiences’ “friends” commented (publicly although mostly privately) that NZ had more pressing issues internally to attend to, rather than open its doors to refugees: like poverty, the housing crisis and more jobs. Motivated by the impression that if we aren’t feeding, housing or employing our own, then refugees will only thwart current attempts.
Yet we have a government that gives hundreds of millions to bail out finance companies, gives more millions in loans to struggling media outlets, yet more millions for a referendum on a flying symbol and another million to host a prince for a week who attends dress up parties wearing a swastika. For that kind of money we could have had a wide reaching schools breakfast programme, maintained the warm up home insulation programme, increased our social housing stock and created a whole lot more jobs. Instead, as someone commented on my post – It’s not a case of one or the other akin to opportunity cost in an open market system. Nor is it a case of one before the other. We have enough resource to achieve these goals alongside each other.
I’ve had a gutsful of the biased media reports that tell us these refugees will only promulgate Muslim ideals, become an economic burden and in the Pacific instance, shouldn’t be here anyway because they’re here illegally. These reports are highly prejudiced but in my opinion are driven by a deep-rooted fear. The fear of not knowing, understanding or empathising with people, values or aspirations that are different. It’s that very fear that fuels a neo-colonial view of the world – a value propagated by mainstream news media. The challenge for my own ‘shared experiences’ “friends”, but moreso for NZ as a nation, is whether we succumb to that popular discourse and heed the hype.