Down every street, loungeroom and boudoir, battlelines have been drawn. We’ve all been thrown into a war that has no foreseeable end, one where no prisoners are taken.
2019 is a year of many divisive entanglements.
A year of war; combatants strictly kept on opposite sides of the bomb line by religion, political station, by year of birth. Hand-to-hand combat, battles fought over suburban strongholds, claim the ownership of property, where the young but inferior assault the entrenched financial positions of their parents, seeking to hurl themselves at the barbed wired of debt for the chance of climbing over it.
In the religious realm, those who fly the flag of white Australia have attached bayonets, looking to quash the threat they see – the great coloured horde washing over the barracks they’ve built, scuttling the navy that sits freshly washed in their driveways. In the political realm, the warriors of the empire have found the top step of the parapet, holding their captured portfolios in one hand, raised aloft, turning their virgin pages crimson, each tortured slash made to provoke a response from the enemy, while those in the opposite trench return fire with four letter words and promises of vengeance when the whistle blows, signalling the time to climb out of their defensive positions and into the polling booth.
All of that rages on, but there’s a meta-conflict that plays high above the shattered streets of home, one that moves beyond the drawn-out battle lines aforementioned, a conflict that we all shoulder arms to – atheists, donkey voters and tweeners alike. The battle to be heard. The battle to show off your bulge. The My way massacre. Put simply: the silent, clued-in majority versus the ill-informed, loud minority – on any given topic.
I belong to the former, which is slightly ironic as I hack Op-Eds for a living, but when there’s an opportunity to thrust a bayonet constructed of my own two cents into the throat of someone, be it at a dinner party, on a Twitter thread or Facebook soirée, I choose not to.
There are two main reasons why:
1) I’m no expert on the subject at hand to offer anything groundbreaking, and
2) The enemy does not understand me. Stepping into the meat grinder is never worth it.
Those who fly the flag opposite believe in the opposite. Their personal artillery booms over the conversational no man’s land, loosed in the belief that they deserve to pull the trigger. Both schools of thought are right, both also wrong, for all it does is merely raise the volume of the front, and what we’re left with is:
We all have our own battlefield tale to tell, and this is mine. I was at the house of a close friend. As close friends whose relationships were forged on dance floors and the bottoms of bottles, politics had ne’er enter the conversation – not until our fish and chip joviality was interrupted by a newsflash in the background that told of an asylum seeker on Manus who, in order to draw attention to the issue, set himself afire.
My friend’s solution to the problem was to “burn them all.”
She didn’t see the asylum seekers as people, they were just a mass problem to be solved – with a match, as it were. Now, I could have swung the arms off my shoulder and referred to the Charter of the United Nations (which I didn’t know); stated the importance of offering asylum (of which I had an idea); what they’d have been through (of which I had no idea); how our nation was built on immigration (second-hand anecdotes; I could only relate back to me); or how the Coalition had made a promise, and Manus was symbolic of them breaking it (which wouldn’t matter, because I don’t think it’d matter to her – nor whether it was indeed true or if I’d have just been repeating what I’d heard).
I did know, however, that what she had said was wrong. I just couldn’t articulate a way to make her see it. An educational puzzle that is fun, but also doesn’t come off as condescending isn’t on the shelves. This issue is for all ages 3-99. Even if I had, what would be won? Best case scenario would probably take the form a placating “yeah, maybe” or the more likely “why are we talking about this?” fired from behind the barbed wire of preconceptions. It wouldn’t cause either of us to drop arms. If she capitulated, I’d still be armed, and my flag would simply sail in the marble floor of her mortgage.
So, I just shook my head. She laughed, stating “That’s why you love me.”
True, but I feel how we handled that battle was a mistake. I assume that she still feels the same way now as she did then, and I still feel enough disgust in someone I see as family to anonymously shame her in an article.
Looking past what my friend represents – the cliché of white middle Australia – fuck off, we’re full – I don’t think she really believes what she claimed. The question I suppose it should be is “why?” Instead of provoking reactions to find out “how” their weapons work, perhaps we should ask them why they picked them up in the first place.
Looking past the propaganda of what my friend represents – the cliché of white middle Australia – fuck off, we’re full – I don’t think she really believes what she claimed, but, likewise, she probably castigated me to a third party later for taking the moral high ground, looking down on her instead of seeing her on the same level.
This conflict is a macro example of this war. It is one of attrition. Inches of unheralded understanding and personal concessions gained, wins that look insignificant on the larger map, dwarfed by the larger, easier to read body counts.
As it stands, the rules of engagement are clear: consorting with the enemy is treason, which colours our thinking. I see myself as the majority but I’m not entirely sure if that is true. I live more in hope than anything. Hope that the people who have done enough research to speak logically on a topic outnumber those who haven’t. However, the other side could well think the same.
Maybe we’re not so different.
The question I suppose it should be, when we throw ourselves at the chattering machine gun of disagreement, is “why?”
We’ve already discovered “how” their weapons work and what ammunition they feed into it.
It’s entirely probable that we all signed up for the front because it sounded good to us at the time…we were swept up in what everyone else was doing, cut short out education to wield the rustiest blade in the name of what we were told was right by those we looked up to, and therefore didn’t question.
While pushing for a total armistice is overly ambitious, perhaps we can clamour out of our defensive fortifications, march into conversational no man’s land and kick the verbal football around in the name of understanding for one evening.