Yes, this sucks. But we can’t afford to despair

If, like me, you live life on the progressive side of politics – or perhaps even if you live on the conservative side but nonetheless view climate change as an emergency, and see racism, poverty, and xenophobia as serious issues – you probably spent the evening staring at the election results in growing horror.

(Honestly, I felt so nauseated after a couple of hours that I switched off the coverage and stuck in our Keating! The Musical DVD. I mean, I figure I did absolutely everything I could to make a difference in this election – I could skip the aftermath with a clear conscience.)

And look, it really is pretty awful. The Coalition is not going to do a single positive thing about climate change, and we now have another three years of people on Newstart living below the poverty line and being harassed by robodebts and programs that are designed to punish rather than help, and people who need the NDIS being unable access it. We will have three more years of cruelty to refugees and three more years of cuts to the ABC, while Murdoch gets free rein over our media.

Also… we have just shown both major parties that running a scare campaign with basically no policies wins over running a policy-driven campaign. And that’s really depressing, because it means we’ve just taught Labor not to bother running on policy.

I’m not going to sit here and try to say that it’s all going to be fine, that we need to stay positive, that it’s alright. A significant proportion of or population voted out of fear or ignorance or just a lack of empathy or imagination, and we are all going to suffer for it, and it’s OK to feel stunned and angry and sickened and upset and depressed. The future looks pretty scary right now, and we need to come to terms with that.

We need to take time to grieve, and to be angry, and to be numb, and to do whatever we need to do to find a way to accept the reality we now find ourselves in.

And, honestly, that’s going to take time. I mean, I’m white, I’m mostly straight, I’m employed and reasonably financially secure, and I’m healthy. I’m several steps away from being directly impacted by most of the government’s awfulness, and I’m still terrified and deeply sad about the direction we are moving in. I can only imagine how people more marginalised than me must be feeling right now.

So I think step one for all of us right now is to grieve as we need to. That doesn’t mean we can’t do other things later – that we shouldn’t find our own ways to fight for what is needed, to protect our friends who are more vulnerable than us, to move forward so that there is still something left to preserve by the time we reach the next election.

But we don’t necessarily have to do all of that right now. And we definitely don’t have to feel guilty about not doing *everything* right now. If you need it, this is me giving you permission to take the time to rest and to find a way to be OK. You can’t fight the good fight when you are desperately wounded. Give yourself time to heal.

Because it’s  going to be a hard three years, and I need you to survive it, OK? Whoever you are, if you are reading this, you are needed, and you are wanted and you deserve to be OK. No matter what the government may say. So step one is definitely doing what you can to make that happen. Hang out with friends, read something fun and escapist, throw yourself into work, go for a bike ride, join a community choir – whatever works for you. Take care of yourself. Please.

Step two… step two is for when you are feeling less fragile. But when you get there, step two is to find the thing that you care about and the thing you can do. Maybe that thing is volunteering or donating money. Maybe it is being a good friend to someone who needs that. Maybe it’s raising the next generation, or maybe it’s joining a political party and taking the fight to them.

(Step Three is recognising that there is only so much that you, personally, can do, and doing that much, and not feeling guilty about not doing all the other things. I’m still working on step three, to be honest.)

For me? I’m going to sleep for four hours and then get up and try to enjoy Eurovision. And then I’m going to have another nap, and avoid news coverage and social media for a bit.

But step two for me is definitely going to include writing to my local member and anyone else in the ALP who I can think of and thank them for running a positive, policy-driven campaign. I don’t know if we’ll see another campaign like that after the way this one failed, but positive behaviour should be rewarded, and this much I can do.

Please take care of yourselves.

(And who knows… maybe the early votes will save us. But I have to admit, I’m not optimistic at this point.)

Edited to add: I wrote a post on self-care a few years ago.  It has belatedly occurred to me that it might be worth linking to from this post.  So here it is!

24 thoughts on “Yes, this sucks. But we can’t afford to despair

  1. Thank you, Cate. Yours were the first comforting words that I read. Right from “Yes, this sucks”.
    I voted Green as usual. When Penny Wong leans towards, or outright critisizes the Greens on the grounds of being too pure or simplistic and not being a party of government, I do get annoyed with her.
    But despite the disappointment she felt she took it up to Arthur Sinodinos on the climate. So she did both things: got snarky with the Greens but also did not backdown on climate, and told Sinodinos that the LNP will just have to be accountable for this, regardless of the election result.

    It is certainly not my concern here to defend Labor. These are really just a few thoughts without any real point, apart from expressing my disappointment and frustration with last night’s result. It was too painful: when it was announced that Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten were possibly going to speak, I switched off.

  2. Thank you Catherine for all you did prior to the election particularly your blog explaining all the ratbag senate parties, a truly selfless task to research them and save us time and effort. Most importantly I feel you shielded us from from the worst but probably exposed yourself to some pretty scary ideas.
    Today’s article is so helpful to all of us who are feeling shocked and sad and worried about the future. People like you give me hope. Thank you so much.

  3. Yes it hurts – and it hurt even more to see Bill Shorten regretting that he could not be leader to do more for Australia because Morrison just seemed surprised to win – which really sucked that he could do a crap campaign and still win.

    However I think one more thing to do is to be kind to those who voted for Scott Morrison. I know people who did and who were scared of Labour getting in. We all have our own pressure points and I think it is important to keep talking to everyone not just those who speak our side of politics so we don’t get into the British Brexit divide which just seems awful.

    But I also so thank you for all your work, Catherine, and maintain the rage! The pendulum will swing back to the left – I just wish I knew when.

    • A good point. Though I think that’s asking a lot (too much?) of people who are going to be directly affected by the Morrison’s government policies to be kind and understanding of people who voted for those policies. And there was some very Trump-esque gloating on Twitter last night that just made my heart sink.

      I ageee that we need to keep communications open – but I think that’s probably a job for those of us who are not so directly affected. And the trick will be figuring out how to do it usefully. (And when, for that matter. I know that I’m still far too upset to go there – the people I know who would have voted liberal are also likely to take any sign of emotion in an argument as proof that I’m just irrational about the whole thing and can therefore be dismissed, and then I will probably say something entirely unforgivable…)

    • I’d also add that this result really makes me even more keen on Max Dicks’ idea about city-to-country exchange programs and vice versa – the rural/city divide is real, and if done well, that strikes me as a very constructive way to start addressing it.

  4. Thanks again for the thoughtful and hopefull message. Sad that Labor continues to rule out a coalition with the Greens, it may be their only way back into government for a while.
    Looking at the rest of the West, hard right seems to be the flavour of the decade.

    • I know, I wish they would stop wasting their energy fighting each other and address the real enemy. As for the rest, I fear you are correct, and it’s terrifying.

      Also, if we could stop viewing science and evidence as left-wing values which the right must reject, that would be a fine start on a lot of levels. (I mean, it probably wouldn’t help with the racism/nationalism, but on the other hand, I do think the results of climate change and the associated drought, job losses and refugees are kind of driving the urge to blame someone for our problems, so then again, it might…)

      • I feel like I went to sleep and woke up in some different universe, where most of us had taken the wrong pill and slipped back into divisive tribalism and a liking for quacks and horoscopes. I have a few friends in the USA who are more stunned than we are at what’s happened to their country. Quite a few of them comparing it to 1930’s Germany.
        Perhaps this is what happens at the end of empire, and late capitalism? Sometimes I just want to wrap my son in a cocoon and put him somewhere safe for a few hundred years.
        So, how do we build hope in depressing circumstances? I haven’t got much else to do.

        • I wish I knew. I mean, I say nice wise-sounding things here, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t been able to look at any actual election numbers without wanting to throw up.

          I think it’s important to hold on to our loved ones right now, and make sure that we and they are doing as OK as possible. And time spent with loved ones is hopefully good for us, too.

          I think… not immersing oneself in politics and social media is also important. I don’t mean that we should shut ourselves up in our happy places and ignore what’s going on, but I think I might try to revert to making sure I take one action a week – a letter, a donation, a blog post, something meaningful and volunteerish or community building, something – and then giving myself permission to ignore politics for the rest of that week, because I just can’t be doing this full time and not drive myself into depression.

          This is a marathon, not a sprint. Though there will be sprints within it, I think.

          (And I, personally, am doing a lot of angry ‘why did you let this happen’ praying, as well as praying that Morrison will have a change of heart, because I need to express my anger somehow, and I’m pretty sure that God is big enough to cope with me yelling at him. Also, you never know, maybe Morrison will suddenly remember that serving the poor is a fairly fundamental element of Christianity. I mean, I don’t think I believe in miracles, but it doesn’t hurt to make suggestions.)

          Anyway. Stay well. I’m thinking of you, and your son, and I hope you can find a way to hope.


          • Thanks! My son’s 22, and a much better man than I ever was. I’m considering dropping out of FB for a week or so, so many other Christians crowing about ScoMo being elected, going so far as to call it a miracle. I suggested a real miracle would have been a change of our country’s heart.
            As I love to argue, it’s probably better I step out, although I’ve had some wonderful supporting comments and PMs from both believers and atheists.
            As for yelling at God – have a look at the psalms of David and the psalms of lamentation – lot’s of complaining/yelling going on there! Keep your chin up. It’s the best way to keep your head out of the poo.

            • Oh, indeed, there is plenty of precedent! I think your Facebook break sounds like a smart idea. I’d be getting so frustrated and angry in your shoes, and it’s hard to argue kindly and usefully in those circumstances.

            • (Ooh, also, speaking of the Psalms, have you run across Robert Alter’s translations of the various books of the Old Testament? One of my theologian friends put me onto them, and they are amazing. Alter is a scholar of Hebrew, and he absolutely loves the language and wants you to love it too, so he does his best to make the English of his translations capture the feel of the Hebrew – internal rhymes, plays on words, repeated words, numbers of stresses per line, and so forth – and when he can’t, he explains to you in very detailed footnotes what the Hebrew is like, and also why he made the translation choices he did and what Jewish theologians have said about the text over the years. You can read Alter’s translation of Psalm 23 here, to get a feel for his work. Really recommend his work if you are into theology.)

              • I think Robert Alter may have been one of the guests on Pete Enns’ The Bible For Normal People podcast (which I strongly recommend!). I have a pile of recent book purchases looking at me sadly that I really should get to first! Apparently just buying books isn’t all that’s required.
                I can’t really understand how someone can be a follower of the Way and not be involved in thinking about God stuff (trying to eliminate ‘special’ words from my vocabulary to improve communication). So yes, I’ve been into theology for over 40 years now. When did that happen?!

  5. Hi Cate,
    Just wanted to say thank you. I’m a new reader, who found you in the dying days of the campaign, when I was trying to figure out which of the minor parties were the least horrible. Your writing is wonderful, and was incredibly helpful. A disappointing outcome, but I take heart that my electorate seems to care about the same human rights as I do.

  6. Just a thought, admittedly based on a sample size of one (me) but perhaps not so unrepresentative in the current climate: I wanted to vote for the minor parties but was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, and more importantly, the confusion of their policies. In desperation, after much trawling through web sites trying to make sense of the smaller parties policies, I was forced to revert to voting ALP in both houses as it was the only party I thought I understood tolerably well, even if I didn’t agree with their luke-warm stance on climate action and mining. We need more sites like yours to summarise and clarify the platforms of minor parties before each election. Or better still, make the larger parties conform to reality and the will of the people!

    • Oh, I hear you. That’s why I run this site – I want it at least to be *possible* for voters to know what they are voting for. And frankly, voting for a not-quite-ideal party that you are at least sure about beats voting for a party that sounds good but you know nothing concrete about any day for the week.

      I was kind of fond of the policy held by one independent that parties should be required to create and cost their policies by a week before the election, and would then have to stick to them thereafter if voted in… though this doesn’t really allow for the reality of minority governments, oppositional Senates – or emergencies, for that matter.

  7. Thank you Cate for your fabulous run down of the lesser known candidates in the Senate – it was really helpful for me to allocate my preferences to some of those ungrouped independents. (Yep, I’m a bellow the liner).
    Thanks you also for your great idea to write to those candidates who tried to represent the interests of the planet, our youth, those less fortunate than the middle class, who aimed to grow employment and the national economy on clean energy industries.
    I will also start writing to my local member. Judging by the number of letters he wrote to me over the last month he is probably very keen to receive letters from me in return. I shall be asking, that as a trusted member of the new government that he persuades the cabinet to develop policies to really address climate change: one that is worthy of Green, Labor and (pro action on climate change) Independents’ support.
    Thanks again, love your work 😉

    • Thank you, Virginia, for your determination, and for giving me a good laugh with your comment about how eager your local member must be to receive your correspondence! I admit, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this week, and comments like yours help a lot.

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