Today, a Swedish student named Elin stopped an asylum seeker from being deported. We might celebrate her stand, but in reality, it changes nothing.



By now you’ve heard of Elin Ersson, the Swedish student who took literally took a stand, ultimately stopping an asylum seeker from being deported on the flight she was on. Right now, she is being lauded a hero on the internet. She is, but she’s a very macro example of one. Yes, she did something and yes, she enforced change, but it was in a small way, as the asylum seeker is still going to be deported. While she personally took a stand, it means nothing in the greater scheme of things, unless the same thing happens in perpetuity on every flight the asylum seeker is scheduled on. Which is a great thing to hope for, but also extremely naive.



Dont get me wrong, Ersson’s words are titanic: “I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight,” she says. “I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane…I am doing what I can to save a person’s life. As long as a person is standing up the pilot cannot take off. All I want to do is stop the deportation and then I will comply with the rules here. This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime.”

It stands as a great example to share and paint our social media walls with ambition, you could even label it as clickbait activism. An easily understandable moment to share with your circle, all in the hope that change is just around the corner. We’re all activists and agents for change in every way, but possess no real method in how to do it. We’re hoping for the best. A hope without a plan is a wish.



The internet is a place of zero attention. We’re listening, but not for long. Elin’s moment was a great one, one probably already slipped into the ether. You could even take the fuselage of the plane as a microcosm of the issue writ large. I’d imagine that while some listened, there was an equal number of those who just turned the volume up on their telephones. Give the people the power to rise up, and they’ll probably recline.

I don’t want to be cynical here, but my generation was one of protest, and we know the truth of it. Small moments like today are easily forgotten. I’ve been protesting environmental issues for most of my life, one emboldened by the fact that is the right thing to do. In 2018, the Reef is dead, the Territory is fracked and a large slice of Queensland is now a mine. We failed, because the small moments were seldom built on. We failed, because we have no power. We failed, because we didn’t have anything to cling to beyond anger.

Another example is the vandalism of the Opera House in 2006. We remember the act, but the message slips. I had to Google it. The large red lettering “No War” is a primary example of this fragmental optimism. It was a great moment of resistance, one that forced the populace to agree before shuffling on with our lives. We might have thought it was great, and indeed that the people who did that were great, because we don’t like war, but as it stands, we’re still in the Middle East.

Don’t get me wrong, standing up is important, but you need something to reach for. One asylum seeker is a symbol, not a method. A chorus of worldwide support of the internet can be ignored.



Back to Elin. The crown awarded by the internet is a bright one, but it’s made of paper. Tomorrow I fear she’ll be yesterday’s hero. What she needs to do is find some important, or become someone important. Someone who can point at not only the situation, but also to plan to enact that change.

I hope she does.



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