Message from Nobody, 2016 (or: ‘He’s at it again’) 19/12/2016
Xmas may be a time for reflection. I am just a little inspired by the old queen’s birthday message each year – a repetitive, spin-doctored piece of elder wisdom. And I am optimistic or deluded enough to believe that the individual, the nobody if you will, remains important. ‘I think and I blog, therefore I am’. Democracy has arguably been improved by the internet, even if the rapid daily news cycle, social media and fake news present challenges to our leaders.
Disasters and horrors large and small fill the news. As individuals, we go about our lives, play and work (like it or not), enjoy our wins and suffer our losses. To continue the ‘suppository of all wisdom’ series recently reactivated by a populist politician, 2016 has been “anus horribilis” , with plenty of evidence of evil and madness in the world: feeling, even if remotely, the horror of Syria and the almost palpable impotence of western powers; the insane outcome of elections in the country that’s said to lead the free world – though not, if ever, morally; the genocidal belligerence and moral vacuum shared by great non-western powers; the march of climate change – can it be halted?
But there’s much to inspire hope: the oratory of Barak Obama; being a supporter of organizations that are trying to improve life on earth; wonderful individuals – I think of activist academics and thinkers like Naomi Klein, Jared Diamond and our own Tim Flannery and Joe Camilleri, who continue to write and speak with clarity and elegance, teaching us about the world and offering hope; other individuals like the Victorian woman who lost her hands and feet to septicaemia yet helped by scientists and engineers faces up to life with dignity and even humour. Just living and working in multicultural Oz makes me feel that most people are basically good and can live together, helping each other; that differences of culture and religion are more fascinating than problematic, that our common humanity should get us through; that indigenous Australians despite huge challenges are slowly moving forward out of the mess that colonization made. Advances in health care post the Human Genome Project continue to astound. And consider people fleeing to Oz from persecution, seeking safety and a better life, and often succeeding despite the appalling treatment meted out in our name. What a shameful ‘rite of passage’ we created and are slowly dismantling!
Climate change, and the dangerous technologies that worsen it, remain the biggest challenge to the whole ‘human project’, an enormous self-inflicted wound that may destroy human culture just as it is ending the history of less destructive species. Can we mitigate greed, suspicion and national self-interest to the point of turning it around? Many fine minds and groups, and a few leaders, are applying themselves to the problem – yet the task at hand is huge. What can any of us do, other than reduce our own carbon footprints? Well, we can demand of our elected representatives that they ditch coal and fracking, support renewable energy, make Oz a leader again, not a laggard and saboteur. If we do just one political act this year, maybe we could do that: find out who our own state and federal pollies are and send them that message, ask them what they themselves will do?
Throughout the Cold War, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists used to publish the doomsday Clock to show how close we were drawing to nuclear apocalypse. I understand they have restarted it in response to failure to control nuclear weapons. There should also be a Climate Clock, ticking down to midnight. Just now I think it would show about 2353, but it can be turned back – of course it can! It’s over to us, as Tim Flannery said.