Gripes. I have many. I find my list of “things with which I take issue” expanding with my age, but with age I have discovered that venting about those acts/attitudes/events that disgust and confound me can help to crystallise my views and, hopefully, move me forward with purpose.
On this occasion, dear reader, I invite you to be my sounding board — if you choose to read on…
First, I’d like to talk about marriage equality because next month the Australian Government plans to conduct a $122 million opinion poll about it. Because, really, who can trust those other polls showing rising support for marriage equality.
Yes, the Government is choosing to spend a shedload of money on a postal vote instead of other worthy causes (education, health, environmental reparation, domestic violence support services, to name but a few), in spite of our politicians already possessing powers to return the Marriage Act to what it was before John Howard had his way with it in 2004.
Let us not forget that, back in 1997, Malcolm Turnbull himself said:
“The voluntary postal voting method … is likely to ensure that not only will a minority of Australians vote, but also that large sections of the community will be disfranchised.”
Why put us and our LGBTQI+ friends through this? As a non-binding, voluntary postal survey that won’t have the protections afforded to AEC-run elections, it is not a credible process — and it’s a process that invites fear-based misinformation and targeted abuse. There is also uncertainty as to whether this highly conservative and ostensibly Christian government will follow through with a change in law, or what this change may look like, even if the survey returns a result in favour of marriage equality.
But, if a survey must indeed be had, why are we not being asked our opinions on other issues with arguably greater direct effects on our lives — such as whether or not Australia should follow the US into nuclear war, settle asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru, or amend politicians’ entitlements?
The Government’s choice to pay homage to one set of obligations (ANZUS Treaty) while ignoring others (Geneva Convention; their job) is disingenuous — as is the selective application of “Christian” values to decisions involving all Australians. I can not understand why a secular government is foisting their particular version of Christianity onto a nation clearly moving away from organised religion.
If we are a Christian nation [news flash: we’re not and, it seems, we never were], why is our Government not following through with the full set of values it apparently espouses? Why does it not give more regard to our most vulnerable community groups (eg. first people, young people, students, single parents, older people) instead of judging and penalising them at every opportunity? And why perpetuate the atrocities in our detention centres for juvenile offenders and people fleeing persecution?
“If only Christians fought like this for refugees … Or what about crossing the floor for the poor, the homeless, for battered wives and illiterate Aboriginal kids. No. What excites these Christian warriors is beating up on gays. I’ve watched it all my life.”
I must have missed the memo that said one category of human is worth more than another, or that it’s now a good and “Christian” act to deny others basic rights because of one’s own beliefs and privilege.
This is not an attack on Christians, and I am aware many Christian groups support marriage equality. I merely question the narrow brand of “Christian” mores demonstrated by those pulling the strings behind our formerly progressive Prime Minister. Unlike the lie of voodoo economics, institutional discrimination has a trickle-down effect — to our neighbours, our schools, our children — and it degrades us.
My passion about these issues stems partly from the current Government’s constant alignment with corporations and external powers. Historically, for example, Australia has taken policy cues from the UK and, more recently, the US, with marriage equality as a notable exception. Now it appears that America is looking to us for pointers on public healthcare and immigration policy. This circular relationship of mutual back-patting risks not only insularity but corruption.
A recent interview about American stereotypes resonated with me, particularly the line —
“Look after yourself, and God looks after everybody.”
— because it seems to me that, while many Australians might also follow this individualistic creed, our far right “Christian” parliamentarians most certainly do. They forget that even God (if he/she exists) requires a vessel to work through. To fail to serve others in need, is to lose our moral compass, to go against central tenets of not only Christianity [ref. Matthew 25:45. Actually, just read the whole sheep and goats story] but also the humanism on which our very society is built. The moment we think our view is the only valid perspective, that we’re better humans than anyone else, we begin to oppress others.
Our elected representatives will continue to do as they see fit, which is not necessarily a representative view. To me, they appear to be out of step with humanity and compassion, values at the core of my world view. On this, I feel tiny, unheard, and hamstrung. Sure, I can write letters and sign petitions, have meetings, attend rallies, contribute to food drives. But these small acts don’t seem enough and, while they can connect likeminded souls, they don’t feel especially effective.
Our only chance to bring change is for a critical mass to speak up. Even then, our voices may be ignored or lost. But they will know we care, and they will know we are standing up to be counted. How we do this most effectively…I just don’t know. Maybe turning the tide with a nonsensical postal vote is a start.
Please remember, friends, that tyranny does not begin with violence, and we have seen plenty of that in recent times. It begins with a twisting of values, and complicit others — good people who do not speak out against persecution and, in doing so, inadvertently help the poison along.
Keeping society humming as it is promises a certain level of comfort. It’s the devil we know. But the world is changing, and enshrinement of our prejudices won’t make this a better place for us or our children. And I have to ask: are our collective decisions and actions feeding the legacy we want to pass on?