Trying make sense of the impending execution of two of the Bali 9, Tanya Levin realises that part of the problem is that Aussies simply don’t want to be told “No, you can’t do that.”


Here’s the thing.

I’ve read all the defences of the Chan/Sukumaran case. I wanted to find some logic that would dismiss my simplistic morality on it, but I’ve pretty much come up empty.

There is the argument that the Indonesians ask for clemency for their own citizens in similar circumstances, but that doesn’t change the original situation. It’s not about the death penalty. Australians are not worried about unfair death or there’d be vigils for all the health inadequacies in our own country, including for the inmates in our jails. They face alarming premature death statistics, and most of them have not been convicted of charges anywhere near the gravity of the Bali Nine.

The only imperative I am urged by the defenders to employ is compassion. Well, guess what? I’ve got this condition called compassion fatigue. I can only care so much about so many things.

Sue me.

There are Aboriginal people in jail and kids in detention, over whom I lose way more sleep.

There are many other reasons my heart is cold. I have nothing personal against these men; they took a risk and it failed. It’s great that they have found their joy in God and art. In my opinion, the last thing this world needs is more pastors or artists, but it goes beyond that. This week I read a blogger’s stance that these two have evolved into the kind of people we all want to be: good people. No. A big no.

You wonder why my compassion is exhausted.

We know that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent in the USA, where its meting out is based on class, race, wealth and politics. Keep in mind that many of those on death row are convicted of crimes of passion, not pre-meditated profits, thus it is never clear who will and who won’t merit execution.

It could not have been clearer in Bali that day. Do “this” (traffic in drugs) and this (the death penalty) will happen. That’s why drugs are expensive…because of these risks. That’s why these guys did it and thought nothing of taking seven other people with them. And that’s because Australians have always known that they can get away with anything. As kids they get notes from Mum to take to school. At uni, there were “Special Consideration” forms. When they get a job, the Australian work ethic known as “the sickie” is justified by a medical certificate. If it’s too hard, there’s stress leave, and unfair dismissal and all kinds of legitimate tools that Aussies know will grant them forgiveness, rather than permission, if they get caught.

An Australian dies every nine days in Bali, with drugs or alcohol fuelling many of the accidents. We don’t know how to behave overseas. We drink stuff, and jump off things and think we’re funny. We’re not. We’re accidents waiting to happen, because we think the rules don’t apply to us.

I want our kids to know that if it says DO NOT TOUCH, that they don’t touch. Could be an electrical fault.

That if it says DO NOT DIVE, they won’t.

It’s critical that our kids believe that if the sign says, “TRAFFIC DRUGS IN OUR COUNTRY AND WE WILL KILL YOU”, that these people aren’t mucking around. That there aren’t always exits. That “sorry” isn’t always enough.

The media’s inch-by-inch coverage of this saga has indelibly inked these men in this generation’s memories.

Whether or not the execution goes through, the lesson has been learned.

It’s an urgent one we need them to get right now.



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