Direct Structural Harm – Matt McDaniel

This past week in class we spent a lot of time looking at health risk caused indirectly by the structures around somebody. A dam constructed by the government increases poverty in the area, lack of education causes poorer choices, perceived lack of options make people do things that they should know better than to do. These are all examples of structure causing an indirect increase in risk. There are worse things happening in the world.

Right now in Australia, there’s a major uproar. The high court has upheld a law that allows Australia to send refugees from other cultures to an offshore internment camp. Men, women, and children. Right now, a five year old boy undergoing medical and psychological treatment for a rape inflicted on him in this camp, is due to be returned to the very place his rape happened. What, then, do we do to prevent risk when it is directly inflicted by the structure? What is the obligation of other Australians in helping the refugees avoid this harm?


This is a picture of the living conditions at the camp. Courtesy: The Guardian

The Anglican Church in Australia is reaching out to offer sanctuary to these refugees, but there is debate as to whether the government will recognize that right. Australian citizens are sending letters to their representatives, to local and world press corps, and to people in power across the world, trying to find some alternative to these people being placed into a hellish prison camp. As for Americans, most of us are completely unaware of this travesty. There has been virtually no reporting of it in the news and even people versed in global politics have heard little about it. I specifically spoke to a professor at UC who teaches Political Science including comparative politics and international relations. He is always very proud of knowing about things happening in the world as they happen and when I spoke to him he had still not heard anything about what is happening.

What is our responsibility toward the health of these refugees?  As fellow human beings, I feel that we have a responsibility to one another and must always be considered as a part of the structure that influences their health risks. Traveling to Australia to protest is outside of our means, and our lower level politicians have little influence. All we can do is raise awareness, try to bring this into an international level of discussion. We can look for word in Australian papers and share the links on Facebook, we can tweet to politicians and ambassadors and hope they notice, and we can write blogs to try to bring this to the attention of our peers and hope for the best.

As part of the structure, that seems like the very least we can do.


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