Meanwhile in Australia

One thing I have to admit, COVID-19 and our various other crises make this July less intolerable than usual. No, let me take that back. It’s not less intolerable than usual. But…

July is Canberra’s bad month. Pretty outside and ugly inside. Cold, and boring, and it lasts forever.

This year, the whole year has been full of stress. One minute we’re scared of bushfires, the next hail. Another we’ve having to deal with truly abysmal government decisions and mass sackings from university in a town that’s mostly government and university. And then there’s COVID-19.

We know we’re not alone and that there’s not a place in the world that’s having a good 2020. That really doesn’t help. Canberra is a city that looks outward more than most and when we see what’s happening to refugees and how other people hurt, we cry. As a city we’re centre-left, and centre-left is particularly good at crying when other people hurt. Sometimes centre-left finds solutions, and sometimes it adds to the problems, and sometimes it huddles in a corner and says “I can’t cope someone else will have to.” Some of us are centre-right, which is pretty much the same. Different bigotries and groups of friends, mainly. We have a few far right people who I avoid because they hate me for existing (being Jewish is a thing, after all) and a few far left people who I avoid because they personally blame me for everything that’s ever happened in the Middle East. A far left Australian (not from Canberra, thankfully) whose father was a Nazi, blamed me for everything currently happening in the Middle East. That was a moment. A very Australian moment. We talked pleasantly for about fifteen minutes and when I got away from that person I stayed away.

Australia has its own bigotry and handles it in its own way. There are some people we’re really cruel to and some people we’re mildly annoyed that they exist (that’s the category I belong to, why I often describe myself as off-white), some people we distrust for a generation then generously welcome, and some people who have never seen any of this happen and tell those of us who’ve been through it that we should stop making our lives up.

OK, so it’s still July. In July I get really angry about racism, because it’s the bleak month in Canberra. COVID-19 has meant I’ve dealt with less racism. A safer smaller world… except it isn’t. I’ve been lucky. Others haven’t.

I find this very sad.

Normally the ads for snow packages start in Canberra about now. Some of them are there, but they’re muted. It’s a really good snow season, too. Instead of talking about snow, today everyone’s realised what I noticed three days ago. The current wave of infections in New South Wales started in Western Sydney and are following two different roads to Canberra. We are going to lose our precious bubble any day now.

I will lay odds that me watching the virus spill along the major highways and reach Canberra again is the reason I’m so fractured tonight. This July is not worse than June and probably won’t be worse than August. It’s not the bleak gem en solitaire it normally is.

The first set of ads for the snow (let me get back to the snow, I like snow) had warnings that skiing is fine as long as people keep social distance, but the usual drunken binges after skiing would have some restrictions. Also, that people who just want to go to the snow for a day to make snow angels and throw snowballs should rethink. I don’t know if this is still the case, but skiing can be regulated more than children having fun.

Our big controversy this week related to that. Our prime minister cancelled two sitting weeks for Parliament because it wasn’t safe. He said, same day (maybe even same press conference – I didn’t check on that) that going to school today would be perfectly safe. School term began today and Morrison is scared for himself, but not for everyone’s children. His mind is a mystery to me.

Also, when the rest of us are living on Zoom, why not have distance-sitting? The Speaker would have a lot of fun getting a staffer to unmute the person who has the floor.

Me, I’ll volunteer for that one. I’d have a lot of fun waiting for fifteen seconds before unmuting pollies who never say anything wise and seeing if those extra seconds make them think. I could graph thoughtfulness in speech, for normal speech and for this, more measured speech.

This is a social experiment that needs to be tried. It would have to wait until August, because Parliament was never going to sit in July, but I’m willing to wait until Parliament’s original date of early August.After all, July in Canberra is still July in Canberra.



Meanwhile in Australia — 4 Comments

  1. Why do I find it strangely comforting that the rest of the world is just as messed up as the U.S?

    All of the accumulated stress of 2020 seems to feed people’s tiny character flaws, that normally make them interesting, and make them into major obsessions that grind away at everyone’s nerves.

    I wish they would all just shut up and breathe deeply for a few minutes.

    We’ve stopped watching the news except for the local weather.

  2. Wow, Gillian, life just gets more “interesting” by the minute! I love getting your perspective from the other side of the globe and opposite seasons. But it sounds like the political idiocy is pretty much the same as here in the U.S. Hang in there!

    • We have a bad PM – but the state leaders have been much better on all the crisis stuff. I guess this is the same as the US, except that we’re very lucky in having fewer states and leaning significantly further to the left than you overall. But yes, the problematic pollies all belong together.