Reflections on Hope

Here it is, Sunday 31 May 2020. The last six months have been testing for everyone, worldwide. Most years in this lucky country of Australia where most of us are free from war and famine, I have friends or acquaintances noting around the start of a new year what short of year it has been – good or bad. Last New Year several of my friends said that 2019 was their “annis horribilis.” Looking back on the last six months I feel safe to say 2020 is going to be that way for most of us and to varying degrees. Too many friends and acquaintances have lost homes and livelihoods.

Emotionally, I suspect most of us have been on a bit of a roller coaster – some on steeper curves and swirls than others. I, like many, have had to get on top of Zoom and then help out friends after a writer friend of mine gave me a start (thanks Laura!). Also, again I’m lucky because, being retired, being home everyday was not unusual. What I missed most were my grand-kids, hugs and face to face time with friends.

Technology certainly made this lockdown easier. Facetime and Zoom were useful and the mobile phone calls were much more than usual. But there is nothing like seeing people you care about in the flesh, shaking their hand, hugging. That physical presence and touching was something I missed more than anything.

Personally, between the events in the USA where racism is being stoked by it’s leader and people dying of Covid-19 because of political indifference, Europe where things started out a bit late, now in the less well-off countries where there is little people can do to avoid the epidemic, I’ve had to stop reading each news item. Even here in Australia, where we have an opportunity to make a real change and lead the way in world events on climate and economic change that is desperately required, we have a government that is still in the grip of the coal and big business lobby. Yet they managed the Covid-19 with quick response and some success. They are able, just not willing if it is not in their interest.

I watched a move with Ethan Hawk called “First Reformed,” in which he plays a pastor who is confronted by the precarious state of the Earth when ministering to a parishioner. His reactions to that and to facing his own mortality, made me think. The concerns outlined in the script are those that are increasingly with us today – pollution of the seas, death and extinction of many species and deadly weather events. And this was made in 2017. Now we add pandemic to the list.

It is true to say that I have been on the verge of depression. The feeling that there are these huge issues that MUST be addressed and yet here I am, along with many, many others, knowing this needs to be done and seeing those who CAN do something, so focused on their own wealth and well-being instead.

I can understand when people opt out. It’s too hard. I’m only one person and I don’t make an iota of difference. Then you see the African Americans rioting for rights they should have had all along, which were given and are now being ignored and taken away. They’ve lived as second class citizens in their own country for hundreds of years. It’s too much to have the white President egging on hate. No wonder they are taking to the streets. They have been left no choice if they are to survive.

So maybe we, the silent majority in Australia, should take to the streets – join in peaceful protest now that we can congregate even in small numbers. But who will organise this? Do I have the energy left to do it? Probably not, to my eternal disappointment. I endlessly hope that is someone out there with the energy, like Greta Thunberg, will get up and start a movement here in Oz. I will go out and stand on street corners, in front of council or parliament buildings with signs and protest. I will subscribe to civil disobedience and take the consequences. But I have no idea of how to begin setting this up nor do I have the personality and drive to make it a success. I know my limitations unfortunately.

I remember the Vietnam protests in the 70’s and how successful the moratorium was. It was spearheaded by Jim Cairns, a charismatic politician of the left, as well as high profile journalists and musicians across Australia. We need another to rally behind so we can again lead the way in climate action, environmental protection and human rights.

I believe the “silent majority” in Australia are waiting for a real leader. But there is no-one brave enough or committed enough to put their head above the parapet, to take a stand that the average Australian can rally behind.

After six months of disasters with more in our future, with extinction of species in Australia reaching beyond crisis point, with the Great Barrier Reef dying, with a severe economic downturn and depression in our very near future, our current processes and so-called leaders are incapable of doing the right thing. They make photo ops to make themselves look good then pander the the coal and gas lobby.

I hope beyond hope, that there is someone out there who is willing, and more importantly, able, to stand up and be seen: to lead in the Earth’s time of need here in Australia. The Climate Council and Emergency Leaders for Bushfire Response are working hard to achieve a positive result. There are people out there. But we don’t have a focal point … yet.