an immigration narrative or three

I saw Elysium on the weekend. It’s not very subtle. It’s so not very subtle that I’m not even going to talk about its blatant immigration narrative, its poverty porn of brown people and brown spaces and deserts, its third world despair as represented by Matt Damon (MATT DAMON).

(My short review: Gosh, there were some interesting ideas presented! Completely wasted, totally pointless, Jodie Foster chewing on the scenery and despite it being the only believable white future I’ve ever seen it was boring and kind of offensive.)

Also I’m sick with the death cold I picked up on the flight home from Singapore, which I still haven’t shaken, so today you’re getting links on immigration and immigration narratives. You love it, I know you do.

My favourite post about Elysium is I renounce my Elysium Citizenship by J Lamb. It is a super excellent post about privilege, representation, and boring boring narratives that seek to interrogate but merely reinforce.

Blomkamp offers this antiseptic, conformist Whiteness as the celestial haven all the darker nations covet; lush green grass tickles the bare toes of towheaded human gazelles who play and laugh and smile because their lives demand no other purpose. Watch as a statuesque beauty drops her theatrical red robe to lie upon what appears to be a personal tanning bed; you learn it’s actually a miracle machine that can cure cancer in seconds. Horror paralyzes. This manicured playground for Teutonic supermodels and corporate overlords gives life everlasting to a Whiteness so privileged it never need die. Earth’s cautionary tales spend the entire film gripped by a feral desperation to emigrate to this orbital nirvana; the entire movie posits a world where no person of color wants anything less than Elysian citizenship. Ask yourself how this morality play ends.
Many good liberal folk applauded this film, and considered Elysium a warning against American xenophobia and isolationism. We have so much, why can’t we share? But the Elysium immigration metaphor characterizes the darker nations as eternally broken, and always wanting.

Anyway, but that’s the USA! Australia has a totally different immigration narrative from that.

I exist because of immigration. Don’t many of us? I exist because of illegal immigration. I exist because my grandmother escaped the Chinese mainland, swam to Hong Kong as a child, and made her way on a boat to Malaysia. I don’t know anything more about that, because here’s one of the things about asylum seeking: when your circumstances are such that a seven year old child has to swim away from the only home she’s ever known, you tend to lose your grasp on your past and your family history. My family history starts in Malaysia, where my family worked and stressed and lived, and continues here to me (I wrote a thesis on illegal flows of migration in and around China in 2005, which is hilariously not the same). I can’t imagine a world where I would deny someone the chance to run away and start again, whatever the situation they’re having to leave; let alone when they’re a refugee from persecution.

Which is why this article at the Hoopla BLOWS MY MIND: Immigrants Against Immigration.

Candidate for the Eastern Melbourne seat of Chisholm, Liberal candidate and former Vietnamese refugee, John Nguyen (below) shares my mother’s sentiments. He came by boat, yet pledges to stop the boats.
Nguyen says his family came to Australia the “right way”, because they sought asylum in Malaysia which is the first country they arrived in.
They were later processed and brought to Australia. But now, Nguyen wants the integrity of our borders upheld.
This baffled me. I wanted to know more.
So I visited ethnic hubs across western Sydney approaching shopkeepers, mums and couples dining at cafes and simply asked: “Do you think we should end immigration and stop the boats?”


And for your reference: Asylum Seekers: Where Australia Stands.

Okay good. PS I would break up with my own parents if they felt we should limit asylum seekers, given how few we accept as it is.

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