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!

Victorian State Election 2018: Meet the Aussie Battlers Part 2-3 – now with added xenophobia and a bait-and-switch


So remember how last week I wrote about the Aussie Battlers and really couldn’t get a read on them, because on the one hand, they had an alarming number of Australian flags all over the place, and a party leader who was so fair dinkum that he was waltzing not just with Matilda, but also with the jumbuck and probably the squatter and the billabong too – and on the other hand, they had all sorts of well-meaning, but poorly-written and somewhat misguided policies about homelessness?

Well, sometime in the last week, they redesigned their whole website, removed almost all the Australian flags, got rid of all their policies, and wrote new ones. Which are terrible.

And I was about to go and read them and tell you all about them, but guess what?  They’ve changed their policies again since last night – changed them completely, as far as I can tell.  Unfortunately, I only glanced at them briefly, planning to tackle them today.  Equally unfortunately, this all happened too fast for the Wayback machine to archive them.  But fortunately for us, the Age did a piece on them on Thursday, when the second round of policies were still in place, so you don’t just have to take my word for it that they were there.  Also, I did find one screenshot of one of their policies on Twitter.

For those who find that writing too small to read comfortably, it says:

Immigrants: Violent crimes, multiple crimes, no age restriction. One-way ticket to where you came from. Any further offence from your immediate family, and the family gets a one-way ticket.  The parents understanding this risk will soon rein in their wayward kids!

Incidentally, if you think that this is maybe a little racist but contains the seeds of a good idea, consider how that’s going to pan out for anyone reporting domestic violence.  Or how helpful this kind of legislation is for for child abusers: ‘You’d better keep this a secret, or it will be your fault if we all get sent back…’

The Age also reported that

Only 30 per cent of students at public schools could come from “non-English speaking backgrounds” in a bid to “eliminate educational deficits generated by lack of proficiency in English language”.

Also, they described the Safe Schools Program as ‘pro-pedophilia’ and ‘grooming’.

So what does the current suite of policies look like?

Basically sane, if slightly to the right of centre. I’m honestly not sure what value there is in analysing them, since the most generous possible interpretation of this party is that it is deeply confused and can’t make up its mind about its policies from one day to the next.  There is no reason to believe that these policies will still be the same tomorrow or on election day, or that any elected representatives will follow them if they are.

And frankly, I’m not inclined to be generous.  This looks to me like a bait-and-switch.  Draw people in (and potentially recruit people to help the party get above-the-line representation) by looking harmless, then show their true colours, then get worried about the backlash and change again?  This does not look like a party with integrity, frankly.

But just in case you want to know what they stand for this weekend, there are seven policies.

On child abuse – they are concerned about institutional child sex trafficking, want mandatory prison for child rape, whistle-blower protection for victims, and a public child sex offender register.  Safe Schools is no longer mentioned.

On country transport – this hasn’t changed materially from their first policy.  They want more of it.

On depression – banks need to have counsellors on staff ‘to share the file with the collections department if the person in hardship displays symptoms of depression or self harm and advised they are experiences mental health difficulties.’.  And they want care plans not to have capped appointments.

On environment – they want to protect the environment, have more humane farming methods, reduce pollution, etc.

On healthier foods more affordable – they want more humane farming methods, free range eggs, and no more rapid growth hormone.

On Our firearms regulations are ok – our firearms regulations are ok.

On VEAC must be stopped – they want to keep state forests open to the public.  And they are into recreational fossicking, which I think they stole from the Country Party.  This is their longest policy, if you care.  I don’t, because I don’t believe anything they say any more.

Look, at this point, I can’t think of any reason why you would vote for this mob.  They clearly have no consistent policy on anything (except possibly shuttle buses for country towns, so I guess if that’s your pet issue, go for it?).  Walter Mikac has done some admirable work on gun control and on the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, and might deserve your vote on but I have no idea what he is thinking associating himself with this rubbish.

Frankly, at this point the Aussie Battlers look as crooked as hell. I don’t generally say outright that you shouldn’t vote for someone, but seriously, don’t vote for this lot.  You don’t know where they’ve been.  Or where they will go next.

PS – and if you do happen to have screenshots of what they were doing earlier this week, please share them.  I’d really like to know what they were up to before they got spooked by the media attention.