The poisonous pessimism of political Australia
In the current political climate, finding our humanity has never been more important.
The morning cacophony of birdsong hangs in the air as thousands of eucalyptus leaves shimmy in the wind like some ancient musical instrument. I sit on the deck as steam rises from the rim of my coffee cup, transfixed as the sun slowly illuminates the distant ridgelines, one after the other after the other. Whether it be the local park, the overgrown backyard or a vast wilderness: the comforting elements of natural surroundings have the ability to remind us of our very human existence.
Upon return to the modern world I submit to the barrage from all sides. Flyers arrive in the mail declaring the horrors of current governments. Political advertisements about the plight of nurses in public hospitals are broadcast on the TV. Morning radio is polluted with hours upon hours of journalists probing important questions to the people who are tasked with representing us. These questions – the important ones at least – are very rarely addressed meaningfully.
There is a deep rooted and poisonous pessimism in Australian politics. The continuing deterioration of the Australian political landscape seems to be stuck in a race to the bottom. When an extremely well produced documentary about the Rudd and Gillard years is called The Killing Season, surely there is cause for concern. When many of our current politicians are reduced to making personal attacks on one another for political advantage, surely there is cause for concern. When I hear a politician claim – on radio – that the refugees we illegally imprison in offshore gaols would remain there but be treated with “compassion” under their government, surely there is a deep and profound cause for concern in this country.
The summer has passed and now I find myself thrust back into the cycle of current affairs – although admittedly somewhat less involved than before. Of late, I have felt as if I am perched upon a seesaw. The seesaw slowly shifts my outlook and perspective from positivity to cynicism, from hope to what feels like despair –as I’m sure many of you can relate to. But, as we are constantly jolted up and down on this seesaw we have to remember something that is of vital importance: that positivity and optimism can spread like wildfire. A shitty morning at work can be magically reversed by its infectious nature; a funny joke, a silly comment, a simple smile. Good, well-meaning deeds always triumph.
I've always had an interest in politics but as I write this in 2016 I have realised – much to my dismay – that my happiness seems to have become inversely proportional to my awareness of the current Australian political squabble. The less I know, the better. But I truly believe in the power of the democratic process – particularly for us younger generations. Even though the Daily Telegraph called us ferals, we stood up and told the Liberal government that paying $100,000 for a degree is not fair. We have the benefit of being able to protest peacefully about our views, and we need to make sure we retain it into the future. We are the agents of change and it is us who should be keeping Turnbull, Shorten, Di Natale and the rest on their toes at all times. Come July 2 we should all exercise our democratic right as Australian citizens to influence the outcome of this election. Admittedly, a lot of us (including me) have probably got some work to do in aligning our values and beliefs with how familiar we are with the various platforms and policies of the various parties – but we’ve gotta start somewhere! The fact is that the pollies are running scared and they are all too aware of the power of the youth vote. We need to make sure they don’t forget it.
Your vote is not irrelevant and it is not useless. We live in a country where we are lucky enough to have a (fairly) just system. It is not without its flaws, but it is better than many. When it is all over and the last vote has been counted, we can’t be despondent. Regardless of who moves into Kirribilli and tells Tame Impala to turn the music down again, we must not let cynicism and negativity overcome us. When the people in power make decisions we do not agree with, we owe it to ourselves and the world to make it known that that these people do not represent our beliefs. Australians are good people, generous people. As individuals and communities we are welcoming and accepting and kind and humble. Media outlets and politicians may try to tell us otherwise but I believe, in the end, that if we really listen we can hear that truth.
Many of our politicians lie. Many break their most important promises. Many continue to hold power and influence while grave abuses of human rights take place under their watch. Sadly, this seems to have become what is expected of them. But this is what’s important: we as the younger generations have to stand up and tell those who claim to represent us that we are much, much better than this. The people who hold power and influence in this country know, as well as we do, that certain things happening in this country are wrong. We must use the tools of love and understanding to remind them; for love paralyses hate and understanding shatters division.
We only have to look at everyday Australians that band together in times of adversity. We see the strength and resilience of our communities when they band together. When towns burn to the ground or floods ravage entire regions we see people go above and beyond for people they’ve never even met. We see the triumph of love. We see the love and understanding for families and friends and neighbours, but also unconditional love for complete strangers. The lines upon which some may try to divide us – race, sexuality, religion, age, gender – are obliterated. These lines of division crumble against the weight of humanity. It is inspiring and it is humbling and we – the young people of this wonderful country – must never forget the power of it.
When the barrage of political advertisements and discussion of the budget deficit for the 495th time becomes all too much, take a break from it for a while - seek refuge in what makes you happy. Read a book, watch a film that makes you laugh or brings you to tears, go for a walk while the sun paints a breathtaking picture at dusk. Remind yourself of your own humanity, and the humanity of those around you – friends and strangers alike. Don’t let the pessimism of current Australian politics drag you into the world of cynicism and despair, because nothing good will ever come of it.