Friday, 27 November 2015

'Australia' is not my home

Home is a space where I feel safe
Home is a space where I can relax
In the broader Australian society
I don’t feel at home

It feels like a place that is
Full of intolerance, hatred
A place in which the people
Apparently cannot see
Beyond the black and white

The rat race
The quick-firing over media
No time for deeper critical discussion
Thinking - ‘what’s that’?
Privilege - ‘what’s that’?
This is not my home

Instead I occupy a ‘ghetto’
This ghetto that I call home
This is my ‘bubble of awesome*
Where I can talk about
All manner of topics in depth
Where I can learn, share
Where I can deepen my understandings of the world
Where I can feel safe
Where I can be fully me
Whoever that might be at any given moment
Safe for the good, the bad
And all that’s in between

Some of us reach out beyond this bubble
Trying to make the world a safer place for all
Knowing that we can return home
To recoup, to be welcomed and to be celebrated

* I first heard this phrase used by a friend who called her new rural home 'The Bubble of Awesome'.

This prose was inspired when listening to Glen Anderson perform his song ‘Stop the Boats’ at a house concert on 21 November 2015.

I recall feeling like I didn’t feel like mainstream Australia was my home from my early 20s when John Howard was elected as Prime Minister, but this especially peaked when the so-called ‘Children Overboard Affair’ was being discussed in the media in October 2001. I was on the tram travelling to University of Melbourne listening to local ABC radio (774 on the AM band) and John Faine was taking calls from people who were all spewing disgust about ‘boat people’. I felt sick and so alone. Seeking to find a place to find some saner voices, I switched stations to Triple R, a radio station that I’d listened to for the last few years, and found myself listening to Tony Biggs’ program ‘On the Blower’ which is (still airing), a current affairs and talk-back program.

Biggs and the callers were expressing doubt about what had been reported to have occurred, sadness and compassion for the refugees, and disgust about the way mainstream Australians and the politicians were responding to this particular incident.

I was due to renew my Triple R subscription, so as soon as I arrived at Uni I went into the Law Library (located in the original sandstone building at the time) and wrote a letter about how I felt, when I switched over to Triple R after being so upset listening to mainstream media. This was published in the next edition of the Triple R magazine.

Since 2007, I’ve connected with what feels like my ‘bubble of awesome’ in terms of a community that feels like my home, some members of whom feel like my family. I am so honoured to be a part of this community. Sometimes I may take it for granted that broader society thinks like we do, but then I get a rude shock when something happens, or when a public figure says something, that that I judge to be to be reprehensible and is supported by commentators in the media.

I forget that I am living ‘on a cutting edge’ (not originally my assessment of our ‘bubble of awesome’, but one that I agree with) in so many ways. When I am reminded of this, I feel both sad, (sometimes) angry, and glad. Sad because there are so many people in broader society who suffer because of bigotry. Sometimes angry because bigotry and ignorance is practically championed in this country. Glad because I have this community of which I’ve been a part for about 8 years now.

One final point I’d like to make in this particular discussion for now is that, I am aware that I have a tendency towards intellectual snobbery, but I don’t fully believe that I am superior to others who have differing attitudes, beliefs or opinions. I also know that I’m not the only one to be an intellectual snob, but being aware of it, checking my privilege (in this case usually to do with how much higher education I’ve attained) before I comment on something that I consider to be ridiculous or abhorrent is a part of my process. I do struggle with an intolerance of bigotry.

However, I also believe in a society where each individual has the right to be supported to attain the best that they can be, and (perhaps naively) believe that we as a species are capable of being good, kind and compassionate towards others and the world around us. Ultimately, I wish that people would take the time to reflect, to learn, and to understand the world we share, from multiple perspectives. Then perhaps as a species we wouldn’t be liable to bigotry, intolerance and committing acts of violence (in all its forms) against the world.

Written on the 22 November 2015.

Addendum, Friday 27 November 2015: I'm aware of the 'Five Geek Social Fallacies' discourse, and I'm not implying that everyone who I count as a part of the 'bubble of awesome' is flawless, gets along, or can even feel the same way I do about each person I feel safe and comfortable to be myself with. I just thought it was worth acknowledging this discourse.