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Awards and unawards

01/12/2013

I’ve got a bit of news about awards – some good, some bad.

First the excellent news.

I have worked on and off with the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) for about fifteen years.

Headed up by the indefatigable Wiradjuri Elder, Ray Jackson, ISJA is a tireless advocate against racism and for the rights of not only Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders but also refugees, prisoners, the mentally ill and anyone else who suffers persecution in contemporary Australia. In particular ISJA offers what support it can to the traumatised families of those who die in police or prison custody, despite the fact that victims of killings by police and prison officers never receive justice in this country.
Ray Jackson
ISJA is not popular with Australian governments – perhaps because they are the main perpetrators of the persecution ISJA fights against. Despite all the excellent work ISJA was doing rehabilitating young indigenous people who had been diverted from the prison system, about ten years ago the NSW government cut off their very modest funding and shut down the program, leaving skilled case workers out of work and troubled youths with no-one to turn to.

Needless to say ISJA has received no formal recognition from white Australia, though Ray is greatly respected by indigenous people right across the country.

However this week ISJA was awarded the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme (National Consultative Committee on Human Rights) for its work with the families of death in custody victims.

Ray Jackson is a very modest man, not given to self promotion, but it must be very encouraging to him that his work has now received such prestigious international recognition even as Australian authorities and the media continue to ignore or vilify him. Unfortunately he is not as young and healthy as he once was so he will be sending fellow ISJA founding member, Don Clark, to Paris where he will receive the award in person from French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

But now it’s time to blow my own horn.

In the past week or so I have received blogging awards from two Pakistani bloggers.

The first award came from Yasmeen Sana Baloch at Twinkling Star, quickly followed by another from Fahaad Humayun at The Special One.

I am not usually one for awards but I greatly respect both of these bloggers and so accept the awards in the spirit in which they were offered. I will be making individual posts acknowledging them later in the week.

Finally the bad news.

In September I received a blogging award from Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate. At the time I received it I was a follower of his blog because of its inspiring messages and general goodwill.

However in recent months he has been using his blog to call for the ‘maximum penalty of human law’ to be applied against a fourteen year old boy who has been accused – but not tried or convicted – of the horrendous rape-murder of Massachusetts school teacher Colleen Ritzer. His most recent post attacked those who disagreed with him, using the word ‘humanitarian’ as if it were an insult. Presumably he sees himself as an inhumanitarian.

Needless to say, trying to whip up a public lynch mob mentality against a disturbed child is not something that sits well with me. I would prefer not to receive any recognition from someone who uses the blogosphere for such base purposes.

So I have informed Mr Shenai-Khatkhate I am handing back his award.

Like so many before him, Mr Shenai-Khatkhate has suggested that because I am an anarchist who objects to capital punishment and the prison system I must be in favour of letting people who have committed criminal offences go free without penalty.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For almost twenty years I have been involved in restorative justice initiatives such as justice conferencing which seek to involve the victims and affected community in determining the best response to criminal offending.

The harm done by serious crime can never be fully redressed, but restorative justice attempts to repair the damage it does to victims, offenders and the community rather than adding to it with alienation, hatred and vengeance.

Conferencing is modeled on several indigenous justice systems and works by bringing victims, offenders and community members together to work out how to deal with the unique circumstances of each particular offence. Ideally a consensus is reached as to what restitution, rehabilitation and penalties are most appropriate to help victims recover, protect the community from further offences and bring the offender back into the mainstream of society as a contributing member instead of spending many thousands of dollars warehousing him with other offenders as punishment.

It doesn’t always work, though it does nowhere near as much harm as what passes for justice administered by our legal systems. Even when it does work it is rare for everyone to be completely satisfied with the outcome. However what it often does is bring home to the offender the real human cost of his offending behaviour. It also allows the victims and wider community to recognise the basic humanity of the offender instead of seeing him as some kind of caged animal without remorse or feelings.

Recognising the humanity of someone who has wronged you is the first step towards forgiveness. Ultimately it is only through forgiveness that victims will ever find closure.

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From → autobiography

10 Comments
  1. Thanks Cabrogal, for explaining your side. I did not mean to attack anyone including the murder suspect. I am, just like many others, totally shocked with the brutality in the senseless murder of an inspirational young teacher, who was truly a gift to our society.

    That being said, I can see now where and why you must have got offended. I respect your feelings, and I will remove those posts, if you like. I know that ultimately truth triumphs, and God ensures the proper justice, more effectively than humans can.

    You may or may not continue to keep the awards I gave you. I believe that we are seeing the two sides (i.e. victim’s side and accused’s side) which are inherently opposite, and we have the same noble intention of helping the society. I would therefore respectfully request to refrain from attacking each others personally, and treat each other with dignity and respect.

    I wish to close this chapter, and move on with respect for you and the good work that you are doing.

    Thanks for your understanding.

    Best Regards.

    Like

    • Thank you for the politeness and generosity of spirit you display in your replies. In doing so you are setting a better example of the principles underlying restorative justice than do I.

      However I disagree that I am not seeing the victims’ side of things, except inasmuch as I have never had the experience of a loved one suffering such a horrendous crime so I can never really see their side. I also disagree that the victims and offenders sides are inherently opposite. Both have been through something truly horrendous. What else could drive a child to commit such an act? If he did so at all, that is. I have seen equally horrendous scenarios made up by prosecutors and repeated by the media without any basis in fact. Perhaps you are familiar with the Azaria Chamberlain case, dramatised in the Meryl Streep movie ‘Evil Angels’. A friend of mine was also tried and falsely convicted of the only terrorist attack ever carried out on Australian soil in a case that was pure concoction by police and prosecutors. It is high profile, horrifying cases like these that are most likely to lead to wrongful conviction due to police and prosecutor malfeasance.

      Paradoxically the offender is the best hope the victims have to come to terms with this tragedy and visa versa. The state will neither forgive nor offer repentance. All it can do is punish.

      I do not wish to dictate to others what they post on their blog but if you wish to edit your posts on this topic to clarify anything you may not have meant to imply I for one would be pleased to have helped you to improve your means of expression.

      Like

      • Thanks Cabrogal. My intent in blogging, since its start a year ago, was to enhance positivity and optimism, via inspirational thoughts, in otherwise negative world filled with too much pessimism around. It was never to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings. The murder of this young teacher touched my heart, and I wrote a few posts, not realizing that it can upset someone somewhere in the world. It’s hurtful to see that happen. This is truly my first experience of dealing with upset or offended reader. I knew it was inevitable during the process of expressing one’ views. I also disagree and often get offended by views expressed by others, and yet I respect their views, because their views are really the truth for them, in light of their experiences, upbringing and frame of reference…..something that I may not be able to see or know, let alone understand. Hence it’s better to live and let live, and treat others with respect and dignity, especially when one disagrees in principles.

        I did see your side, and with respect to your feelings, I have removed those posts (rather than editing the matter that I wrote believing it to be the truth.)

        As a side-note, this bitter experience I perceive as the Godsend sign for me to rethink about blogging, and perhaps to bid a goodbye to blogosphere.

        My thanks to you for all our interactions in the past, and most importantly, for your honesty about what you believe in. Keep up the good work, and let’s part on respectful terms.

        Good day, Mate.

        Like

        • It is your decision of course Deo, though personally I think it would be tragic were you to give up two amazingly successful blogs so soon after your first anniversary.

          There is well in excess of ten thousand followers and probably many thousands of other readers who would be disappointed were you to do so.

          But having so many readers who you don’t personally know also carries great moral responsibility. A responsibility the mainstream media almost universally fails to meet.

          I hope you will continue to blog but that you will reflect carefully on the effect your words can have on people who come to your site looking for guidance and inspiration. Not just those you might offend – offending people is a fact of existence as I know all too well – but on those who might look to you for guidance on the best way to approach various life situations.

          It’s not the grumpy old men like me you need to be mindful of but those easily influenced and confused.

          Like

        • Thanks Cabrogal, for your excellent and thoughtful advice that I appreciate. You have made very good points in regards to the great moral responsibility that bloggers and writers must always keep in mind. I do like your guidance, and consider it as the best outcome (for me, most definitely) that emerged out of our differences in viewpoints (or disagreements, if you will). Interestingly, it’s always the chaos and darkness that gives birth to a bright star. Thanks a lot for your thoughtfulness and patience. It’s noteworthy indeed!

          Make a great day!

          Like

  2. Cabrogal- with respect to your feelings and after understanding where you are coming from, I will remove the posts in a moment. Hope it clears the matter. Thanks.

    Like

  3. Rexie permalink

    Made my heart so happy reading about Ray Jackson. You must be so lucky to work with him Cabrogal. Apparently sandalwood suffuses its fragrance into everything around it that has the capacity to absorb it. I am sure Ray suffused into you the ardour of doing great deeds and living and standing up for justice whatever may come.

    Like

  4. actually your decision to give him the award back is correct and not agreeing him with on this issue too but its his blog and his opinion and his followers. blogs are for publicity. if we dont want world to read what we think then we can write on a diary so why not let every one write what they want. i know you are going to kill me or feel like it but i am happy that 14 year old boy had the nerves to do a rape. commendable.

    Like

    • Anonymous permalink

      Wow! It’s shocking & shameless that a rapist murderer is commendable role model to you

      Like

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