The Lucky Country
We have it pretty bloody good here, but has it lead to complacency?
I'm gonna go right ahead and put myself in a very specific demographic box. I'm a white Australian male, 24 years of age, with a very middle class background. While every individual, family group and community has its issues and problems in life, I'm pretty sure my demographic would have faced significantly less of these than nearly everyone else. Let me be clear - I'm talking about those issues that actually affect the way I live my day-to-day life. Which means I'm pretty bloody lucky, as it goes.
Speaking of lucky, how many times have you heard the phrase "the lucky country"? What image of Australian society or culture does it conjure up in your mind? The lucky country seems an apt description of my upbringing and experience so far, but it doesn't necessarily apply to everyone. The inherent problem is that people that are blessed with this fantastic accrual of 'luck' tend to fall into a state of comfort that causes stagnation and a tendency to assume the status quo is exactly that; the status quo. Because the majority of us grew up in a country that hasn't been bombed to smithereens, or been ruled by a tyrannical maniac, we forget that there are still vitally important moral quandaries at our doorstep. We mostly look past the fact that our economic prosperity is largely based on the unsustainable process of digging giant holes in the ground; that higher education is more about making money than investing in the future minds of Australia; that asylum seekers fleeing the most dire situations are treated so incomprehensibly badly; that "Islamophobia" is actually a thing; or that there exists a vast and persistent disparity in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (to name just a few).
Admittedly, since Tony Abbott accended to the position of fearless leader and proceeded to knight Prince Philip, the youth of Australia in particular have become increasingly disenfranchised (and hence, less comfortable) with the current state of things. People are starting to take to the streets again, as they should. In saying that, after being in attendance at a few of the marches myself, I almost felt as though some people were there more for the Instagram photo op than for the purpose of actively critiquing the decisions of government or business in Australia.
After living in Barcelona for six months in 2013, I observed how strikes and street protests are effectively considered a way of life. Yeah sure, Australia doesn't come close to rivalling Spain in terms of deep-rooted political and social predicaments that result from antiquated political and social systems, but there's always room for improvement. And if I compare youth and student activism before and after my time in Spain, the frequency of significant actions and demonstrations has surely increased - which is also good, but more can be done.
So if we're all too comfortable what are we meant to do about it? The thing that's worked best for me has been to get the hell outta Australia and see the world - a concept known to some as travel. And let me be clear here - when I say travel, I'm not referring to the two weeks you spent at the full moon party in Thailand drinking till your kidneys collapsed. I'm referring to the type of travel that betters your understanding of other political and social arrangements. The type that allows you to dissect other social and political structures with the end game of scrutinising systems of our own that promote undesirable or unjust outcomes. Then, we can decide what works well, why it works well and consider if implementing in Australia would be effective.
Sure, maybe travel isn't for everyone, but I challenge anyone to argue that travel hinders understanding of the world and its people. It provides an unparalleled and somewhat removed perspective on our own social, cultural and political systems and practices.
The point I'm trying to make here is we can stay comfortable. We can have nice things. We can go to music festivals and eat breakfast in nice cafes and enjoy ourselves without feeling guilty about all the shit that goes on in the world on a daily basis. We can do all these things and challenge the status quo at the same time. We can use this wonderful safety net we've been gifted to help people that aren't comfortable. Like all those people on Nauru who aren't queue jumpers but people fleeing situations that are so fucked up that I'll probably never come close to comprehending. Like all the Indigenous people living in remote communities in Western Australia who thought the era of dispossession was finally over. Like Australian Muslims who are hesitant to get on the train to work for fear of being abused and victimised for their choice of religion.
So if you're as lucky as I am, I suggest trying to channel some of that luck into an avenue that might benefit someone less comfortable than yourself. Get out and see the world - or at the very least a different part of this vastly diverse and interesting country of ours. These experiences will force you to realise that actions - even the most basic and seemingly insignificant, those to which you didn't even give a second thought - they matter. It may not seem like it, but they will affect someone - I guarantee it.