This is where I stand

I was shocked and angered to see the casual murder of George Floyd, the chilling mockery of the protest stance of ‘taking a knee’. From that moment the United States erupted. I am, of course, looking from the outside and don’t pretend to understand the broad outlines much less any finer details of the protests.

However, I do understand that a great wrong has been committed, not just this instance, but many, many times over. I understand the demands for justice and the demands to create a world where racism cannot rear its head. My heart soars when I see so many people marching together to demand change. (I also worry about the spread of the coronavirus, but let’s put that to one side.)

I found Ryan Holiday‘s latest article to be very profound.

“I’ll say it again: Not being extrajudicially murdered is not a privilege, it’s not an “exception,” it’s more than a tragedy. To try to categorize it as those things is to woefully fail to describe the injustice that is being done in modern America (and elsewhere). Callous indifference to suffering by the authorities towards minorities or the poor or the voiceless is not just a lamentable fact of modern life, it’s an active crime. “

In this post Jeff, from On the Fence Voters, writes another powerful piece. It ends with a list of about 30 things that, because of his privileged white skin, he can do while African Americans have been killed doing. Simple, daily things like shopping at Walmart, reading a book in a car or go jogging.

Of course no one can predict where this is going, and how it will end. We can see that this maelstrom this perfect storm of events creates will alter the world. To me there are some small indications that it is going to be wider and stronger than just the current protests.

For instance, bus drivers in Minneapolis refused to be commandeered by the police to take arrested protestors to police stations. Hundreds of unionists ~ teachers, postal workers, health workers, hotel workers ~ have signed a petition pledging that they will not assist the police during the protests.

As an Etsy seller I received a strongly worded letter from the CEO, Josh Silverman. Part of it read:

“We stand against police brutality in all forms.

We stand against a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets Black Americans.

We stand against the widespread disenfranchisement of Black and Brown communities whose voices are silenced at the polls.”

In Australia Channel 10, a TV station not known for its progressive stance, displayed this statement on air:

‘We stand in solidarity with our black colleagues, storytellers and viewers in Australia and the world because #BlackLivesMatter.’

In Australia we cannot be smuggly complaisant either.

Racism and social injustice exists here. White Australia was built on the dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples. We can’t say “Black lives matter in the USA” and ignore the black lives here that are being lost and abused. 432 Indigenous people have died in custody since 1991. There have been very few charges laid against officers involved in those deaths, and never a successful homicide prosecution. 432. We are far more familiar with the names of African Americans who died than we are with the names of our fellow Australians.

The deaths are the tip of systematic racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Looking at any marker ~ life expectancy, education results, housing, employment, incarceration, etc, etc ~ you see that there is a marked difference between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous.

Change is not easy, but there are some points from which we can start.

  • Firstly, move Australia Day from January 26th to a date that is less traumatic to Indigenous Australians.
  • Secondly, let’s have a proper response to the Uluru statement from the Heart. It is a beautiful, thoughtful document, a document that should be prominent in all places. How powerful is this statement:

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

The Statement has three key elements for change ~ enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Constitution, the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreements with Australian Governments and the Commission will also oversea a process of truth telling about colonisation. You can read more about it here.

This year has been such a tumultuous one. In Australia there has been searing drought, horrendous bushfires, floods and then the pandemic. For me the turmoil actually began six months earlier with my partner needing medical care. It is no wonder that we are all reeling, wondering how much more there is to absorb and how much more we can take.

However, let’s not loose sight of the incredible generosity and courage shown in every one of these happenings ~ from truck loads of hay to drought-stricken areas to millions of dollars donated from all parts of the world; from fire fighters to hospital workers risking their lives to protect others. In the protests we see hundreds of thousands coming together as well as the individual acts of courage where a person is protecting another from the police. And of course, the big one, the shut down the world endured to help save the lives of people more vulnerable than themselves, and often at high personal cost.

I do love a good quote, and this one from Howard Zinn is one of the best. I will leave the ending up to him:

”To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.
It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty,
but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.
If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
If we remember those times and places — and there are so many —
where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way,
we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents,
and to live now as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Melbourne Odds and Ends

They say “Cut back!” We say “Fight Back!”

Last month our conservative Liberal Party Government, lead by Tony Abbott, brought down a horror budget. Think of anyone who is vulnerable ~ disabled people, people who are unemployed, single parents, low income earners, students etc etc ~ and this budget has hit them hard. It has cut funding to schools and hospitals across the country. There are attacks to Medicare, the ABC and SBS, universities and apprentice funding. These are attacks that will flow on to those who are working. No prize though for guessing which department had a 6% increase to its budget ~ Defence, of course.

However, people are not taking this lying down. Yesterday there was a protest called by the union movement, rallying workers from a wide range of industries.

Australia has a very proud tradition of union action, and unions have been very supportive of social issues, as well as purely industrial ones. Union membership has dropped over the last few decades, but maybe action like this will encourage new members to see that unions are organisations that fight for rights at work, as well as in the wider world.

The crowd was estimated to be about 30,000 and it was exciting to be amongst so many others.

I love the banners and signs that people carry. (Wave your mouse over the photo for more information about the photo.)

Some photos from the march itself. While you look, imagine all those people chanting slogans like:

“They say Cut Back! We say Fight Back!”

“What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!”

“The workers united will never be defeated!”

I hope that this is the beginning of a fight against the budget, a fight that involves the union movement. This march tells me that people are angry about the budget and that they are prepared to loose a day’s pay to let Abbott and Hockey know. There is momentum there to be built on.

Not everyone was a burly construction worker!

And lastly, I had to take this photo. The comment “Latte drinking, left-wing tossers” is often thrown to disparage those who are perceived to be all talk and no action. Well, here is another version of “Latte drinking, left-wing tossers”!


Odds and Ends

National Day of Climate Action – be seen, be heard!

I always enjoy reading Meek’s blog. It is thought provoking and interesting, not to mention witty!

Like her, climate change is a subject dear to my heart, as it should be to every body on the planet. To be frank, it scares and depresses me.

So I am reblogging Meek’s articulate thoughts. She mentions the Climate Change Rallies that took place on the weekend. Unfortunately I couldn’t go because I had to work on Sunday morning. The posts on Meek’s blog following this one give her impressions of the day.

National Day of Climate Action – be seen, be heard!.

Melbourne Odds and Ends

Burger Off

Tecoma is a small town in the Dandenong Ranges, the hills on the edge of Melbourne. It has a population of only 2085.

In 2011, McDonald’s lodged a planning application with the local Council for a 24 hour outlet with drive through in Tecoma. This application was met with a record number of 1,170 written objections from residents, raising concerns relating to traffic, litter, noise, crime, impact on existing local businesses, its position opposite a primary school and kindergarten, the development not befitting the character of the Hills, the demolition of the historic Hazel Vale Dairy building which currently resides at the proposed site, and so on.

On October 11th 2011, local Councillors met and voted on the proposed development. 650 local residents attended to hear the decision and once again voice their objections. The Shire of Yarra Ranges Council UNANIMOUSLY rejected the proposal. The McDonald’s Corporation then took their application to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) for review. On October 10th 2012, VCAT overruled Yarra Ranges Council’s decision, deeming the overwhelming objections of the local community as “irrelevant“, and granted McDonald’s planning permission for this highly inappropriate and unwelcome development.

Do we need another McDonalds?

(Photo from the Burger Off website)

There has been a fantastic protest against the development. And I really hope they are successful.

Want to know more?

Burger Off’s website

No McDonalds in the Dandenongs Facebook page