Our climate apocalypse, kids in cages, Boris Johnson steering Brexit. Many people are wondering what we did to deserve such a bleak set of circumstances. Well, let me tell you.
A recent tweet from former Federal Labor MP for Bendigo Steve Gibbons had a picture of Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson all side by side with the emphatic comment written above: “What in the world did we do to deserve this!”
I wrote a piece not long ago talking about one element of this. We’re in dire straits with the environment, in part, because we allowed it to happen. We mocked anyone with any semblance of care for environmental or animal welfare matters.
We also didn’t hold our political parties to a higher standard. We just accepted their decline into laziness, their slide into whatever it is they’ve become now. Our fury should have been greater when Kevin Rudd said that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.” This is a man from an ostensibly left-leaning party, and we didn’t want to rock the boat because after a decade of John Howard’s Liberal Party we didn’t want to put a dampener on the Prime Minister that finally apologised to the First Nations peoples.
There should have been no containing our rage when we discovered the conditions in the overseas concentrations camps in which we keep refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, but people like Peter Dutton relied on our complacency. People are now setting themselves on fire.
Where we are now is the logical endgame of a complacent left-wing in the face of an increasingly incensed and puritanical right-wing. We allowed parties, most notably right-leaning parties, to play on our fear. Once they got in, they dismantled healthcare in Canada. They removed penalty rates from workers in Australia. They banned women’s access to vital healthcare in the United States.
Too many good people passed by and did nothing. Baby Boomers—and a shocking and unforgivable number of my fellow Millennials—voted for the Liberal Party because they want Franking Credits, lower taxes (despite needing and wanting public services), and an increased desire to live in some idealised past that never really existed unless you were a straight, white, Christian male.
Healthcare, food, access to clean water—which has been compromised by coal seam gas (CSG) mining—and education are not being seen as rights which every human deserves. We got selfish and lost sight of the concept of “planting a tree you won’t sit in the shade of”. CSG mining is still being phrased as a “debate” when it is demonstrably a bad idea that has the potential to destroy land and water and, in some areas, can cause earthquakes.
Despite our increasing secularism—the story of which is, of course, much more complex than that—religious zealots like Morrison, as well as those who court the votes of very religious people, like Trump, are coming increasingly into power. Things that were unimaginable years ago—JFK was the first Catholic president; they made Jimmy Carter sell his peanut farm; George W Bush was considered the bar for poorly spoken politicians—have now been trampled into dust by seemingly invincible tyrants of scandal. Johnson and Trump are swirling in tornadoes of their own making, whereas Morrison seems to pass most of his scandals off onto another.
What did we do to deserve this? We’ve never cared enough about what we were doing. Climate change denialists in parliament probably believe that a catastrophic event is coming—war or weather or whathaveyou–but that we’ll be able to defend ourselves from it, given that we’re a “first world” nation, protected by wealth and whiteness. It’s those other countries, the ones that have all the people with different races, creeds and religions that we like to stick in camps, those countries will bear the brunt of our malfeasance. And we’ll tweet and cry and wail, and still, we won’t really care because we’re safe in our little bubbles.
Looking after the world is hard and expensive. Pumping out cheap plastic conveniences is so much easier, more fun. Even if we weren’t eating a credit card’s worth of plastic every week, wouldn’t it be worth cutting down on non-biodegradable materials anyway? Just in case? Or maybe cutting down on logging, and dragnet fishing, and meat intake, and increasing our conservation efforts.
The real question Steve Gibbons should have tweeted out is: “What didn’t we do to deserve this?”