Thursday, April 28, 2011

To be or not to be... a refugee

I have been calling myself an earthquake refugee for months now. To me, it succinctly explains my current predicament - through no fault of my own I cannot live where I want to... my own home. Even though I currently live a mere 400 metres from the home that I own, I am still a refugee within my own city, forced to flee my home due to earthquake damage initially sustained in September.

In this morning's Press, a correspondent has taken issue with the use of the word refugee to describe local residents who will be living in soon-to-be-constructed temporary accommodation villages. She defines refugees as those who are fleeing 'from danger, from something like war or persecution'. I would argue that the word refugee applies to anyone who has been forced to move due to circumstances beyond their control.
an iconic (former) home in Redcliffs

People flee many different kinds of danger - volcanic eruptions, famine, political or religious persecution, war, homophobia, rising sea levels - but the common factor is this: none of them/us would have left our homes had we not been (or felt) forced to go. None of Shakeytown's earthquake refugees are where we want to be right now... sure, I'm still living in the same city but I am not home. My home is on a lean, slated for demolition and unsafe to live in. It's not my fault - I didn't ask these earthquakes to damage my home and force me to leave - I have been involuntarily displaced by a natural disaster and I am now a refugee.
back of High St shops (CBD)

The letter-writer claims that using the word refugee is offensive and upsetting a lot of elderly people. Today's old folk have lived through world wars and times of extended hardship - and a few thousand earthquakes over the last 8 months - I sure hope they can learn to deal with the use of the word refugee. Like munted, it has now entered the local vernacular. Perhaps they should treat it like silt - deal with it and dump it.

Me, I'm an earthquake refugee. It's a badge I wear, not with pride, but with some kind of dubious honour at least, sharing the rocky road of recovery towards 'home' with many others just like me. Some will travel further, and stay away for longer, but ultimately return home... even if that home, and that hometown, is a whole lot different than it used to be.
 former site of Ascot TV, Sydenham

High St, looking towards the central city

an Opawa church

what some of us are now calling Shag Pile
(formerly/officially known as Shag Rock)

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