We survived the year, and it was another bad one. But the reason why things keep getting worse, lies with we critics. If we truly want change, we’re going to have to change.
As an Editor of a news publication, I have the honour of never being able to hop off the news cycle. It possesses the same vibe as its gym-bound cousin: much pedalling, very little forward motion. Those who live on Twitter, or feed in the troughs below news articles will understand that 2018 hasn’t been that different than the one before. This year was a series of awful things done by those in power, miraculously outdoing the awful things done by the same people in the year before. The only grim signpost of time passing is the same time-based end-of-year memes that depict a babyfaced actor in one panel, and his ragged contemporary in the other.
Lol, totes us, right?
At the end of the year, you tend to ponder on how things will be different in the next. On the last afternoon of 2018, the individual seems to have less and less power, quietly pinched by our companies, or groups, or governments. Our very identities are at risk with our puzzled inaction enabling the legalisation of our ailments shared on online, or our faces kept in some mystery database for our future benefit.
As a collective, it’s fair to say that we Australians have earned our basement-level international prestige. We’ve supplanted 2017’s vintage of divisive popularity contests, ineligible politicians and gutter journalism with outright apathy, collective scorn over Manus, and the soft coup (and many hats) of David Brent/ScoMo/TrumpLite. Here is a man who proudly stopped the boats. He was happy about that fact, as were the New York Times, who spotted it and painted it across their front page. For some Australians, at least those I personally know, 2018 was a constant exercise of quietly staring at your feet in abject embarrassment.
We even lost that buff Kangaroo. It was the absolute worst.
Once an island to escape to, we’re now something to avoid. In Monopoly parlance, we’re probably Old Kent Road, or some other low-rent dive situated next to the train stations, or worse, the square that forces you to calculate tax percentages for fun. The true signpost of international shame is the measures one takes when representing the continent abroad. Much like the travelling Americans of days gone, who pretended to be Canadian because it is “easier”, we too have been forced into the lazily claiming of another citizenship when pressed. I did it when I recently travelled to Germany, a pro-tip I pinched off another obviously Australian tourist who did so when they were cornered in a bar, dragged into pleasant small-talk by virtue of the strange vowels of our accent.
New Zealand, we were from New Zealand. Yeah, that was our PM taking her kid to the UN general assembly. Yeah, she apologised to the family of a woman murdered, even if we didn’t find the killer yet. Shez pretty choice, eh bro.
We’re not particularly liked, and we’ve earned that. There’s only so many times we can claim that that wasn’t us, and we didn’t put that racist on Sky News, but enough of us motivated that decision. I’m not totally blaming us, mind, but in a year where a half-century of hate was brought to an end by Dennis Rodman, I think we could have done a lot better.
But, we’ve reached another year, and tonight we’ll be getting silly with our people. Woo, party! But what have we really achieved? We might be salved by the cooling ointment of possibility, with the election around the corner, things will soon be different; but that is just big person denial. What if that doesn’t work out? The crack of the fireworks tonight should not remind us of the old acquaintance we forgot, but rather the older headlines we got angry at and let go. You see, the fuck-ups that come from the top are our responsibility too. It keeps happening, because we allow it to. We have limited attention for any one issue, as there’s so much to rail against: the outrageous murder of women, Adani, the AAB bill, unchecked political expenses, robo-debt, the growing gap between the 1% and the rest of us, the housing market, negative gearing, the rise of white extremism, the threat of terrorism, race, gender, religion; the fact that we’re all paying more and getting less.
The subtext that plays underneath it all, is the assumption of the bottom. At some point, we’ll hit the floor and bounce back up. But that does not exist. The passing of the year (or indeed, government) is not a puddle in Loudres that absolves us of our sins, nor is it a pair of ruby-sparkled slippers that upon being clicked returns us to the sepia familiarity of Kansas and the feeling that the previous adventure was all just some crazy dream.
The above represents a lot of problems. Many marches to attend, a lot of articles to respond to, and huge amounts of time donated to make the smallest change. It’s difficult, as we’re working longer, our biological clocks are ticking, and we’re trying to save money in the cackling face of Uber Everything.
We’re the Veruca Salt of social change, we want it immediately, and we care not for the steps to it.
Perhaps the lesson for all of us is to remain angry, but focus it. Perhaps simplicity is the key here. Let us borrow from the rise of the preening effeminate oligarch of 2018, Fortnite, where the exceedingly simple was developed into a polished megabeast, and subsequently marched over the landscape. Maybe all we need to do is build up.
By ways of an example, the addled of Paris forced change enduring blackened eyes and peppered faces applied by those above them. Theirs was a simple push. They wore one colour, they fought Macron’s tax, and they trashed the city they love. It was a balled fist that was easy to understand. Tax bad, people good.
It’s an extreme example, sure. But in the last three years, we’ve reverted to default. We’ve cast off the previous year as “the absolute worst” while simultaneously assuming that the next one will better. It’s moronic, as a hope without a plan is a wish. The fact that each year is progressively getting worse is both not a fluke, and not beyond altering.
The people who make life difficult, are people. We’re simple folk, really. 2019 can be different, if we’re willing to change, and change our approach.
So, get drunk tonight. Have fun. Bang that person you shouldn’t. Happy New Year, roll out the barrel.
Rest up, because tomorrow is ours. If we want it to be.