Jumping the queue for toffee apples

In a baffling moment of collective electoral insanity, the Australian voting public installs certified maniac Mad Jack McFadden as its leader. McFadden embarks upon a series of grossly irresponsible economic gambles, all of which miraculously pay off, ushering in a golden age of national prosperity. Flying high on the winds of public opinion, he calls a constitutional referendum and uses a cleverly worded proposition to trick the nation into granting him absolute and interminable power.

 

Inspired by Australia’s example, countries around the world throw out their standing governments and elect the maddest available candidates to positions of unassailable authority. The new Supreme Overlord of England takes policy advice from his prize winning roses. The Head Coach of the United States runs the country from a 45 year old high school football playbook. The Optimus Prime Minister of Canada is a sentient big-rig.

 

After four years of global harmony through unstable leadership, something snaps. Around the world, without warning, leaders begin to turn on their people, revealing the full extent of their madness and introducing rafts of draconian legislation to ban all manner of seemingly harmless activities and objects. In Australia, MacFadden bans toffee apples because they make his hands sticky. He bans Humpty Dumpty because of a perverse sexual subtext understood only by him. After watching Footloose one night, and identifying with the wrong set of characters, he wakes up the following morning and bans dancing.

 

Over the following decades, the world turns on its head. Former superpowers crumble, and new ones come to the fore. Sweden, who retained its sensible government amidst the global trend towards madness, emerges as a new world power. English loses its position of dominance and Swedish becomes the new international language of commerce and culture.

 

The world is a different place. You’re a civil engineer overseeing tenuously funded public works programs in Sydney. In your spare time, you run an underground dance studio. For the last 10 years, you’ve taught the forbidden freedom of dance in a sound proofed basement beneath your garage. You dream of one day moving to Sweden, where artistic liberty is guaranteed, and the toffee apples are second to none. But Sweden’s immigration laws are among the strictest in the world. Your chances are slim, and you know it.

 

Then, one day, an anonymous tip-off brings you and your dance school to the attention of the state’s secret police, who are tasked with stamping out the scourge of dance by any means necessary.

 

Fearing for your life, you must flee the country. But your fugitive status prevents you from leaving by conventional means. You have no choice but to retain the services of an illegal people smuggler.

 

In the dead of night, you and your family slip out of a remote regional port aboard a barely seaworthy fishing boat crowded with seventy five other people. Some of them are running for their lives like you. Some of them just really like toffee apples.

 

You’re heading for Sweden, where, if you’re lucky enough to be granted asylum status, you will be free to teach almost any dance with absolute impunity (the Lambada is still forbidden, even in liberal Sweden).

 

The journey is long and arduous. You see many terrible things. After months and months of unspeakable horror, you find yourself in a Swedish detention centre, where you live like a prisoner for more than a year while the authorities proccess your asylum claim.

 

After much unnecessary beuracracy, Sweden grants you asylum and releases you into the community. The community does not like you one little bit.

 

You try to find work building hospitals, but your Australian engineering qualifications aren’t recognised by Swedish employers. Everybody knows that the laws of physics are different in the northern hemisphere. Why else would the water go down the plug-hole the other way?

 

You eventually find work driving a taxi. You’re overqualified but a job is a job. You work hard, and you try to fit in, but you soon discover that the general public’s attitude towards refugees is loaded with contradictions.

 

When you were unemployed, you were a drain on society. Now that you have a job, you stole it from a local.

 

When you live in a neighbourhood with other Australian migrants, you’re being insular. When you move into a primarily Swedish neighbourhood, you’re driving down the property values.

 

When you speak English in public, you’re refusing to assimilate. When you speak Swedish in public, you sound like the chef from the Muppets and are ridiculed accordingly.

 

Your cooking smells funny. Your music is annoying. More likely than not you’re a terrorist. Why don’t you just go back to where you came from? What’s that? Because they’ll kill you? That’s bullshit. You’re just jumping the queue for toffee apples.

 

 ***

 

By undeserved accident of birth, I get to live in a country with more wealth, more opportunities, and a higher standard of living than most other countries in the world. I didn’t have to argue my case for acceptance into this country. I never have to justify the value that I add to its society. I’m lucky enough to live here because I was lucky enough to be born here and that’s all there is to that. I think this makes it difficult for me to appreciate what it’s like for those who, by equally undeserved accidents of birth, are forced to live in countries with less wealth, less opportunities, and much, much lower standards of living than mine. I think it’s hard for people like me to understand what it would be like to want to leave your country, and to have to argue for your place in another, where people who have never had to justify their own presence vehemently object to yours.

 

Try to imagine a world where your country is in turmoil. Oppressed and poor, you catch occasional glimpses of other lands where the luxuries, freedoms and opportunities that you lack are available in relative abundance. Wouldn’t you prefer to live in one of those lands? Now what would you do to get there?

One Response to 'Jumping the queue for toffee apples'

  1. Glenn Murray says:

    And the crazy thing is, ‘boat people’ account for only 7.6% of illegal immigrants. The rest come by plane (13 times as many!). Of 58,400 illegal immigrants, only 4,446 came by boat. The rest came by plane, and there are more from the United States (5080) and Britain (3610) alone than came by boat. And that doesn’t even include all the illegals who fly in and are caught in the first two weeks. Another 200,000 or so!!!

    Plus, nearly all ‘boat people’ are found to have genuine refugee status (ie. they have a genuine reason to fear persecution in their own country). The same is not true of those who fly in.

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