Crackdowns on journalism, offshore detention, discrimination enshrined in law. The world is starting to recognise Australia’s awfulness, and I believe it is time that we do too.
There’s a contrived exchange in the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom where a curmudgeonly news anchor fields a moronic question from a patriotic student. The student wants to know what makes America the best country in the world. Sorkin, placing the ball on his own tee, spews forth the reality about America, in that their self-love made them blind to this truth that is so obvious to everyone else.
I’ve realised that this mindset has caught a flight and landed here, the other land of opportunity, sun and self-love. Last year, I wondered loudly what the bloody hell we were doing as journalists were bundled into the back of a paddy wagon seems not outside the norm, with their arrest showcasing the insanity of Adani to an international audience, and the lengths the powerful are going to protect it.
We’ve had the opposition of an oft-criticised government capitulate, promising to make sure that criticism is set to be friendly, as the angry voices are best left to the populace on a medium that can be muted and curated. This morning, we’ve had Pauline Hanson for breakfast, as yet again her point of view was pursued by major networks. For reference, here she is wearing a burqa in parliament, illustrating the nuanced discussion they’re willing to pay her for.
Last year was the sixth anniversary of offshore detention, a date marked by the government claiming that offshore detention doesn’t exist, and all problems exist because of Labor policy from many moons gone. To that end, he’s roundly rejected New Zealand’s calls to house those remaining, whilst simultaneously disrespecting Jacinda Arndern, heralding PNG’s James Marape as the first guest of note under his stewardship.
All that happened over the space of the last 48 hours. These repeated shots to the national psyche have left us punch-drunk, concussed, desperately swirling around, looking for the nearest foreign national to loudly claim that we’re not all like that. We have white people vowing to climb Uluru before the ban, ignoring the wishes of those who own the land, and a promise to wind back of the marriage equality vote to allow us to discriminate in the name of religion, while those same religions abusing the trust of their future victims, a fact that is seemingly fine in the eyes of the Prime Minister. This was all before the country literally set itself afire and our PM pissed off on sabbatical. The problem is that we’re not hearing about these stories, as our press is either being controlled, manipulated or gagged outright. Hideously, an international pandemic has paused the above legislation thrust onto our plate, but I can naturally assume we’re on a momentary pause.
This hasn’t happened overnight. The national delusion has been part of our formative education. I was told that I was lucky to be born here. I absolutely agree, but I don’t have the same pride I once did, and I find myself offering blanket apologies to those who discover I’m from that land down under.
Perhaps it’s time we analyse what we’ve been taught, and what has been handed down. A precursor to our PM’s favourite aphorism “How good is Australia?” is the evocation of the “lucky country”. Journalist Donald Horne coined the term back in 1964 as a criticism, pointing out our luck, and our inability to doing anything meaningful with it, due to political impotence, and personal inactivity.
Since then, we’ve mashed that negative into a positive and didn’t give it much thought.
In the eyes of the world, our luck has run out. We need to recognise the expanse of our awfulness, and not hide behind the golden soil and wealth for toil we love to elevate.