Sunday, 29 January 2012

Stupidty Rules Part 6

Last time I checked, it was OK to protest in Australia. It's actually supposed to be one of the reasons why living in a 'great democracy' like ours is so cool. If we don't like something, we have the right to grab some like minded friends, hit the streets and make some noise about it.

A bunch of people did this last Thursday and now there's all kinds of criticism for it, and a bunch of stuff floating around the inter-ether from people who support their motives but not their methods, saying that they 'fell for the trap' or 'the bait was set' or they 'walked into it'.

Walked into what exactly?

There was shouting and some banging on the windows, but other than that... I may have missed it, but no sign of weapons or explosions or threats of violence. What I saw was a Prime Minister who had every chance to address a small but energetic crowd and say something like 'I support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts to achieve equality with non-Aboriginal people in terms of life expectancy, job opportunity and criminal justice issues. I recognise the important symbolic nature of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in working towards this outcome.'

40 or so words, nasally delivered or otherwise, but nothing particularly special. A crowd mollified, perhaps proud that its justifiable social justice concerns had been recognised. Reconcilliation in action, live and broadcast around the world. The only person needing to rush from the building would be an embarrassed Tony Abbott.

No hoo haa, no over-excited police officers shoving people in the chest, no missing shoes and no photos of Prime Ministers in extremis. And no ongoing outrage, either from the flag burners or, and let's be honest here now schools back, the idiots on breakfast radio who will be attempting to bolster their rating points with yet more jingoistic populism disguised as impartial opinion.

Instead of the issues that need to be addressed, the protest - and the official over-reaction to the protest - has become the issue. I remember when thousands marched, when slogans were chanted and banners were unfurled. It was part of our democratic right to do it then, and it's part of our democratic right to do it now. Let's stop having hissy fits and selling newspapers because of one small fracas. I'd be less cynical if some, just some, of those news headlines dealt with a few of the issues the protesters were - so rightly - concerned about.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Stupidity Rules Part 5

In many ways, January is to the New Year what Sunday is to the week. There's more lying around and reading and dozing and quality time with the children than usual. Undeniably, however, just as you're at your most relaxed, you realise that with some of those activities comes... thoughts. You try to stop the sneaky rascals as they begin to swell around the synapses like protesters who have just found the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are sipping mineral water in a restaurant just a hundred metres down the road.

Without a massive pre-emptive strike (deciding to go for a run, mow the lawn, drag the fam down to the park/beach/seafood diner), however, once the groups of ideas begin to coalesce, they start to gain critical mass, a consciousness and a life force of their own. Once this happens you have two choices. You can (belatedly) attempt to summon your own form of personal headspace security detail to force your ideas back where they came from (hormones full of over eager capsicum spraying testosterone loaded police officers), with usually futile results - or you can actually listen to what they have to say.

Sometimes, even though they're loud and pushy and a tad rowdy, their message is still important. Because here's something I've learned in the half century or so I've walked the planet, and that is you can't ignore these things forever. There's whole theories on how diseases form because of self-repression. I think it's the same with nations. If you've attempted to stamp down on something for over 200 years without success, I'd say there's a fair bit of pressure building up somewhere. You can release measured and approved quantities in the form of a restricted and 'autonomous' representative bodies here, hold the occasional Royal Commission there, let off some steam occasionally with a sanctioned display of culture at significant national events, but sooner or later unless you actually do something, it's gonna blow.

At some stage you must honestly deal with the situation. On an individual level there are many folk among us who fail to listen to their own interior messages. A lot of addictions and lifestyle issues go initially un-recognised, and are then ignored, by those who have them. Hell, I think we all do it to some extent. But we have to address them eventually, before something radical happens, if we're to grow, become healthier, wiser, do better for our children. Only then can we really find catharsis and emerge, blinking, into the sunlight of February with a whole new direction for the remainder of the year ahead of us.

While analogies don't always hold true, I think that looking at this one on a national level does suggest there is a lesson for us. Despite images of the worried suddenly mono-shod Ms Gillard being securitied away, the real story is the need for an Australian protest movement that has now existed in one symbolic form for 40 years, although in actuality it's 224 years - plus one day. Until a true form of federal introspection takes place, the bubbles will still be there, the pressure under the skin will continue to build, the danger of explosions, large and small, metaphorical and actual, will continue.

Someone, sometime, is eventually going to have to address the issue. It's called leadership.