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Emily Tyrrell reflects on our current predicament and questions whether, as a nation, we can truly turn to our leadership at the moment.
Summer in Sydney regularly feels like a dream. The feeling of driving through your suburb, singing to songs everyone knows the words to, cackling to in jokes and the taste of a Calippo constantly numbing the end of your tongue. And though Christmas leftovers don’t hang around long, sunburns peel and the allure of the beach is trumped by the safety of the aircon – we usually have a few fleeting moments of relief. We stop, bathe in the summer whilst it lasts, and know that we’ll be back to routine soon.
This year, there is no relief in sight. We spluttered through a summer of ash, and blocks of land, now only home to rubble, are yet to be cleared.
Australia has now been thrown into the panic of COVID-19. With the NSW Government announcing strict new social distancing rules in the past week, it looks like any sense of routine has been thrown out the window.
Australia is facing crisis after crisis. It’s getting hard to cope.
As a nation, we’re not always perfect. Sydney summers do mean struggling to get a car park anywhere near the beach, and being constantly, unexplainably sticky. But it’s the glimpses at greatness that we do get that make the country worthwhile. And of course, all of this is much bigger than just a good holiday.
There have been nation defining moments in the past few years that have reminded us how good this country is. I am reminded by the yes vote for marriage equality. And because in that fleeting moment, I could see the unity that Ausralians are capable of – I know that in times of what seems like rigid prejudice, this country will continue to work towards equality, towards being one, unified nation. I’ve rejoiced in those moments, and so I know that even in trying times, they will come again.
But right now, there seems to be no relief in sight. We were in the tumult of the fires, then floods, and, now, we’re fighting to flatten the curve. Everything is uncertain, and all we can do is binge watch TV.
In times where there seems to be nothing to rely on, the nation usually turns to a leader. We turn to the people we trust to make sense of all of this mess. Instead, the last few weeks has seen contradictory messages, once delivered then revoked, mispronounced, and confused. We tune in to every news broadcast we can, just to see if anything has changed – only to be told that an ‘essential worker’ is any person who has a job.
There isn’t any glimpse of greatness. I don’t think we’ll look back at this time and applaud what it meant for our country. We’re separated, scared, and the manic messaging coming from our TV screens contains no catchphrase that lasts longer than a meme. We won’t be looking back at this as a moment of pride.
But should we really expect anything more from a Government that was elected on the platform of a ‘fear of change’? The Liberal Party literally campaigned on business as usual, and now that chaos is rampant – is it any wonder that their messaging has fallen to bits? Maybe the nation did feel like the ‘Quiet Australians’ at the polls, but it’s hard to say that we’re united under any banner that Scomo is holding any longer. Instead, we tend to find more community with the locals who refused to shake his hand in Cobargo.
It’s relentless. Every month of this year has fractured our sense of who we are, as one Australian nation.
What I fear is that the streets we know, the anthem we sing, will all become foreign too. We’ll be in a perpetual state of confusion – not sure of who we are as a community, as our leaders are left mouths gaping. We’re all watching the same nightmare, and we’re all speechless.
So how do we find this common language again? How do we begin to rebuild a way of talking about our nation? What’s the rally cry?
I don’t know, myself. But asking questions is at least one way to fill in the silence.