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Why we need to get behind Victoria

Riding home around the harbour I could see rowers scything gracefully through the water, a tug boat chugging happily along, a pair of ancient canoeists carefully plotting their way around the point at Blackwattle Bay. I was feeling particularly happy with the world. I’d had one of those teaching days that can make it the most rewarding profession on earth. Topped off by the sight of two girls literally skipping into class to begin rehearsing the piece they were working on.

Then the news from Victoria came through my headphones. The shattering news that 700 odd people had tested positive for Covid, double figure deaths including a 30 year old. It was devastating and I felt very self indulgent.

There is something terribly unfair about what is happening to Victorians. As much as some people have tried to suggest the contrary, there is no rhyme or reason to this. Not the scale of it.

There has been a mistake. A stuff up of epic proportions. There is no denying that the whole quarantine situation at the Stamford Plaza was the result of dreadful planning and even worse application. Hiring 18 year olds with no training to handle security was asking for trouble. And trouble is what they got.

A lot of people are pointing the finger and looking for a scapegoat. They want heads to roll. There is an inquiry underway and no doubt someone will be held to account. Some are trying to sheet the blame home to Daniel Andrews and Brett Sutton, as if they were personally responsible for hiring security on What’s App. These people are trying desperately to make political capital from this tragedy. And it is a tragedy.

The scale of this virus’ impact cannot be underestimated. As much as it’s a tired old metaphor, it is war. We are at war with Covid.

This brings to mind other wars we have been engaged in. Wars when we have had victories and defeats. Most famously Gallipoli. Our most magnificent defeat. The tragedy that many believe was the moment we became a unified nation.

This begs the question. Did people at home carp about the errors of judgement that led to a landing that resulted in a terrible massacre of Australian and other Allied troops? Were politicians of the day seeking out what political capital they could make out of the top brass stuffing up? Were the newspapers of the day full of vitriolic attacks on the government? No. They weren’t. And if they were, they would have been howled down and probably charged with treason.

Seen in this light, the way some people are aiming their sights on Daniel Andrews could be regarded as nothing short of treasonous. Trying to take advantage of a bewildering situation that has wreaked havoc on a whole city and had serious ramifications for the rest of the country reflects very poorly on where we are as a society and culture.

When we should be united in putting the shoulder to the wheel against a common foe, we are as “a house divided against itself”.

Facing an existential threat to the world as we know it, many politicians and commentators have chosen this moment as an opportunity to sow seeds of discontent instead of encouraging unity. By their example they have “let slip the dogs of war” on social media and given licence for social media trolls to spew out with every ounce of bile they can muster. They have given tacit support to those trying to skip borders or ignoring the medical advice or imagining they are somehow immune to a virus that is indiscriminate and deadly.

There was a time when leaders, and I’m not just talking about political leaders, acted with the interests of the community at heart and put self interest to one side. That was how Germany was defeated in World War 2. The British didn’t survive the Blitz by bickering amongst themselves. They joined arms and refused to buckle against an onslaught that for long periods wreaked unimaginable devastation and appeared unstoppable.

This is what we need now. This is what Victorians, in particular, need. They need to know we are behind them every inch of the way. They need to know that, whatever it takes, we will be with them in this fight. They need to know we share their pain.

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© 2020 by Ned Manning.