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Comfort in Distressing Times

Sunday, November 06, 2016

At a time when many of us feel we have lost our bearings there are few certainties we can rely on to give us comfort.

The prospect of a Trump Presidency is not only deeply disturbing, it is also deeply unsettling. No one believed that American Democracy was an exemplar of the democratic process. Democracy has always been flawed. It was flawed in its birthplace in C5th Athens when only male citizens were eligible to participate in it. Its principles have been bastardised by corruption and capitalism but it has remained something we can hold on to even if has thrown up some very dodgy characters.

Now we see American Democracy reduced to a caricature of itself. We stare in disbelief as a misogynistic, racist, cartoon figure  stands on the precipice of becoming the most powerful man in the world.

We might have mocked Reagan but no one is mocking Trump any more. He threatens to dismantle everything we have fought for. We mocked John Howard’s stated goal to return us to the comfort of the 1950’s. As if his vision of a mum at home raising a family of sunny, freckle faced children protected from the world at large by a white picket fence was any more than an anachronistic fantasy?

Now we stare in disbelief as a potential President of the USA seriously proposes to literally put a fence across the Mexican border.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.

At home we reel in horror at stories of abuse in detention centres that bring to mind the concentration camps that our fathers gave their lives to liberate. Stories out of Naru and Manus have us questioning who we are and what we have become. It is not only shameful, it undermines everything we believed in about ourselves as an open, egalitarian society. It makes it very hard to be proud to be Australian.

In fact, we’re not even sure what that means any more. I was raised to believe my role in life was to do all in my power to improve the world around me. To fight for equal rights for all. It was a no brainer. It now seems the country of my birth has totally abandoned this seemingly immutable principle.

Educational reform in the shape of the Gonski Report that outlined a pathway to an equitable public education system has been dumped by politicians who have no interest in a “fair go for all”.

When the Tent Embassy was established on the lawns of Parliament House we believed this was the beginning of the end of our systematic abuse of Indigenous Australia. All these years later we have failed our First Peoples so dismally that many Indigenous Australians live in third world conditions that remain incomprehensibly shameful.

Our children have no hope of attaining the Australian Dream of owning their own homes. The rich have got richer and the poor have got the picture. The Lucky Country doesn’t care about the Unlucky. You’re lucky if you’re white, rich, male and born in Australia. You’re very unlucky if you’re not.

Who can believe that the country that championed gender equality in the C19th has revealed itself to be openly, even proudly, sexist?

Not only is the government’s failure to deliver a free vote on marriage equality a nod in the direction of a group of men with far right ideals it is a betrayal of the egalitarian ethos many of us were raised to believe in.

As for our miserable failure to deal with Climate Change, it is simply staggering that a country like ours, with its extraordinary natural resources should be so behind the pack when it comes to developing renewable energy. This from the country that had the resourcefulness to develop the once revolutionary Snowy Mountains scheme. A testament to how low we have stooped, of course is that the Snowy scheme, one of our most shining achievements, was built on the back of refugees.

We have sunk to unimaginable lows and it is deeply depressing.

And so it was that I turned on the TV (with the sound down and the ABC radio on, of course) to the strange comfort of Test Cricket. It was reassuring. It was also heartening. The make up of the South African team would have been inconceivable thirty years ago. That, at least, is something to hold on to.

There is nothing logical about Test cricket, that is one of its attractions. A game that can take five days and end without a result and still be deeply satisfying seems to be just that tonic we need in a world of instant gratification. It has principles and rules that resist the march of time. It is a lot about nothing very much. It requires patience and contemplation. It is a welcome relief.

It is also the only place I want to see a picket fence

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