One of the most painful things, I think, about this entire budget situation is that awful fear that this is what Australians want. That they really would put the budget ahead of people’s livelihoods. That they would rather spend huge sums of money locking up refugees in cruel conditions than allow them to be processed more cheaply and humanely in Australia. That they actually do think that certain people are so undeserving that they should receive no help at all.
In other words, I’m afraid that many people really did vote for this government on purpose and in full knowledge of what they were likely to do.
I find this heartbreaking.
There is reason to hope that my pessimism is excessive. Opnion polls suggest that the Australian public do, in fact, find this budget unfair and are (at least currently) inclined to punish the government for it.
And there is hope to be found in the number of people who turned out to the rallies on the weekend – ten thousand people in Melbourne alone, and that on three days notice.
I can’t stop reading about this stuff. And I still have letters to write. But I think, both for me and for a lot of people I know, and perhaps for you, too, there is a point at which you have to give yourself a mental break. You have to look at something that doesn’t make you want to cry.
Maintaining one’s rage is important – but it’s also exhausting.
So today, I want to write about some of the people who are helping restore my faith in my fellow Australians just now. Not politicians, just people who are going about their lives in ways that I, personally, find inspiring. I’ll be back to writing letters tomorrow, have no fear, but just now, I want to contemplate the fact that there *are* people in this country – many people, even – who are full of intelligence and compassion and are doing what they can, no matter how small their circle, to make the world a better place.
People like my friend R, who, when she found that her health issues limited her ability to participate in political action, used the internet to set up a group designed to “provide support and respite at actions to marginalised and vulnerable people so they will feel empowered to come protest.” Pretty awesome, don’t you think?
People like A, the minister at the main church I sing at, who was one of the organisers of the rally to welcome refugees, who attends budget protests, and who spent yesterday in a prayer vigil at Bill Shorten’s office as part of the Love Makes A Way movement. They and the group sitting-in at Tony Abbott’s office were both eventually removed by police. The group intends to continue with their non-violent direct action until both major parties commit to releasing the 1023 children in detention. I suspect that this will take a long time. And I suspect that they will keep on going back, no matter how long it takes.
People like my sister in law, T, who has the most amazing passion for the environment and expresses it in this incredibly welcoming, inclusive, non-judgmental way that invites collaboration. One of the things she does (and I hope I’m describing this properly) is work with farmers to help them figure out how to manage their environmental impact while still being able to farm in a way that is functional and works economically. I love the way she can combine her drive to make the world a better place with so much practicality and willingness to meet people half way.
People like my colleagues, who are honestly one of the most amazing groups of people anyone could work with – not just intelligent, but thoughtful and generous. Their support during my Living Below the Line Challenge was incredible – and the number of them who have expressed discomfort that medical research (the field they work in) is getting funding while everything else is getting cut is a timely reminder that there are people in Australia who have the imagination and compassion to consider how policies will affect people who are not like them. (Also, they are probably going to cure cancer, which I think we can all agree is a very good thing, too.)
People like my little brother, who is far more cynical about the political process than I will ever let myself be, but who also does pro-bono work with asylum seekers whose cases require legal aid.
People like my friend F, with whom I have almost nothing in common politically, but who actually does really useful development work with micro-loans and helping people set up self-supporting businesses in Tunisia.
People like M, who writes what I think of as a ‘real’ political blog – she is incredibly engaged with and knowledgeable about the political process, and has an absolute gift for breaking it down into something that makes sense for the rest of us.
People like J, and R, and E, and all the other people who have told me this week that they’ve never written to a politician before but that they are going to do so now, even though they find the idea totally intimidating, because they don’t want to see their country become a harsher, less generous place.
And this is only the beginning of a list, really. I haven’t included any politicians on this list, though in fact there are some who inspire me quite a bit. I haven’t included anyone I don’t know personally, in fact, because otherwise one just ends up with a litany of amazing charities and causes, which are pleasing to know about, but which misses the point. And I’m fairly sure I have missed lots and lots of people who I should have mentioned above, even so.
One of the best things about going to the rally this weekend was looking around me and being reminded that there are plenty of Australians out there who want to make our country more just, more compassionate, more generous.
But I don’t even have to look as far as that to find people who care – people who inspire me.
I doubt that you do, either.
So, just to cheer us all up a bit, let’s have a little party in the comments to this post celebrating the people around us who give us hope in life. We can write our letters again tomorrow, but let’s give ourselves a little break today, and remember that we are not alone.