There are some very big subjects that our lives centre around right now in Australia. I don’t want to talk about them. They’re full of difficulty and emotion and… it’s exhausting even thinking about them, to be honest.
I can’t ignore them. I can however, introduce a few of them briefly and not get involved. I can distance myself from the emotions.
That’s the thing. We’re all living these things every day. I am thankful every day that we’re a far more complex country than we appear, for there is a lot more to Australia than the mess that rules the newsways.
Let me give you a list of ten of the most important newsish things, for I like lists of ten.
1. Bushfires. Millions of hectares up in flames over several states. No rain in sight, A heatwave (possibly a record heatwave) coming up. Federal government support only promised the day after the Prime Minister himself discovered through personal experience that the smoke from outside tripped smoke alarms inside buildings. While no link has been proven between him promising a small amount of money that had been approved two years previously and this event, there’s a euphony in combining them. Anyhow, it’s scary and mostly the Prime Minister gives his thoughts and prayers. He’s religious and thoughts and prayers mean a lot to him. Australia as a whole is less so and we’d rather have help. That religious bit leads to …
2. Legislation that was knocked down and come back up again that would lead to it being fine to discriminate ‘because my religion tells me so.” This would affect so many aspects of life, and could cause significant problems between the different religions and even different branches of the same religions who have faith-based rules that conflict with each other… and that potentially conflict with our secular legislative system. There are reasons for Church and State be kept separate and this government finds joy in ignoring every one of those reasons.
3. We are still hurting refugees. Vilely. What do I mean by hurting? Concentrations camps. Refusal to give medical help to the seriously ill. So many things. Every single opinion poll I’ve seen says that Australians do not want refugees to be hurt at all, much less in these ways and yet it is being done in our name. Of course we’re ashamed. And angry. Not as angry as we are about …
4. Climate change. Every day most Australians try to reduce our carbon footprint. We recycle and reduce use of plastics and lecture each other and… all you have to do is read the world news to discover that our government doesn’t do what we do. In fact, they do the precise opposite and support mining and only just (this week) admitted that climate change is a thing. This week, when the east coast is burning. Which brings me to…
5. I’ve yet to see an announcement that millions of hectares of land on fire and several cities so smoky that it’s dangerous to go out (Canberra is one of these, on and off) is a national disaster. This is another reason why ‘thoughts and prayers’ are not well-regarded right now. Most of the people saving lives are volunteers and they’re being told by the Prime Minister that they’re doing it for enjoyment. So it’s news that there isn’t constant declaration of national disaster this month.
6. My corner of news is also about Christmas. Sales are poor this year. Partly it’s because we don’t know what we need for this non-disaster. Although we know we need water, so we talk about private dams and hoarded waterways. The lassitude about holidays this year is partly because some of us can’t go shopping because of smoke or plan holidays if we can’t drive to the beach. The main road across the mountains to the beach from Canberra is closed, which affects every single Canberran with a beach place for summer… and summer holidays loom. Slow sales are also partly (no-one knows how much) because a whole bunch of really stupid retailers decided to take the “Black Friday” designation from the US post-Thanksgiving sale and to apply it literally here. I know a lot of people who are avoiding any shop that did that.
Every single one of these people has been badly affected by bushfires here. “Black Friday” refers to a particular bushfire. 13 January 1939. 75% of the State of Victoria was covered by smoke. 71 people died. The timing of the “Black Friday” sales hurt in particular, for people were watching to see if they had to leave their homes and run for safety that day and most days since.
7. The other big thing is sport. I’m sure there’s something important happening in the sporting world apart from us winning a Test against New Zealand. There will be cricket throughout summer and it’s always nice when we win, and on the very hot days when there’s nothing else, those long slow matches keep us sane, in our own way. My big question is whether I should talk about cricket one day, here?
8. The NZ volcano killed several Australians. I looked at the first lot of pictures and recognised faces. I don’t know if anyone’s ready to talk about this yet. I’m certainly not.
9. Australia’s ongoing battle with racism has moments of newsworthiness every day. They can range from an angry sportsperson being rude about people who don’t fit his personal religious guidelines to a new meme emerging from Macdonald’s refusal to accept racism expressed by a store owner. A franchisee was disenfranchised, to the country’s great satisfaction.
10. Royal stuff. We’re a bit addicted. I admit this. This means that recent scandals have been well and truly fretted over and it’s easy to find people with opinions on the future of the royal family. There is an actual political concern given the series of current events, for the Queen is our official ruler.
Some days, I wish we had a president. Today, I just wish we had less bad news. Australia is living through a very strange December.