I went to brunch OTB the other day. That’s slang for ‘over the bridge’, an othering word that I feel is necessary, because when I cross that bridge I know I’m entering a completely different social bubble. The trek to the far-off lands of the North Shore involves sitting in slowly moving slug of traffic on Military Road, and being surrounded by expensive shops and sleek virginal 4WDs. The best part of this shlep to visit family is when all that concrete eventually gives way to an aquamarine sheet of brilliance as you approach the Spit Bridge.
I simultaneously love and dread these visits. I love them because I get to see family, and walk down a dirt track in between mansions that leads to a tiny bay, which is almost always deserted. I love them because I get to see my baby niece, whose head feels like a fluffy duck, and I get to laugh at all their ridiculously skittish purebred dogs lose their shit. I loathe them because I know there will inevitably be at least a few minutes where my blood will be boiling with rage. Like when I had glitter on my face after attending Mardis Gras the night before, and my uncle asked: “don’t tell me you’re a lesbian as well as a pinko?” Or like when I tried to get these people who are both related to me and purchasers of Porsches for their adolescent children, to donate money when I did Shave for a Cure, and they refused. The reason? I would look ugly with short hair.
The date of this particularly enraging brunch was Sunday the 16th of March, the morning before I was planning to protest with all the other people in our city who wanted to express a vote of no confidence in the Abbott government.
My aunt sat us non-beach dwellers facing the water, with a view of $200,000 weekend toy boats zooming across Hunters Bay. A particularly opulent one had anchored while my uncle explained to me that most refugees are rich and seeking to make more money in Australia. You could make out the tiny party of bronzed figures sitting on the nose of the boat, champagne flutes in hand.
“The majority of refugees go to another country before they try to come to Australia. If they want to come here and they are genuine refugees, they should go to the Refugee Centre and apply to get here from there,” he said as he speared bacon and slow-roasted tomatoes.
Oh yeah, why don’t people fleeing persecution just walk up to their friendly neighbourhood ‘Refugee Centre’? Because they are usually in countries with no legislation pertaining to refugees, because they live in constant fear of being deported, maybe because their passports are for countries that have deteriorated to the point of not even being considered a state any more. Or maybe because some countries don’t accept nearly as many refugees as they could take, so applying via the rigmarole of bureaucracy would be a waste of time anyway.
“Australians aren’t racist, they just want to stop people drowning due to a bad border policy.”
Yeah, that explains all those Fuck Off, We’re Full bumper stickers. That explains systematic discrimination of First Australians. That explains the huge differences between the quality of life for non-indigenous and indigenous Australians.
“You’re obviously at the extreme end of the left side of the political spectrum, and I’m at the right. But I think we can agree that the common ground here is that we want to stop people drowning while they come here. And Abbott has done that, he’s stopped the boats.”
First of all, some of what I believe may correspond to what is ‘leftish’, if you really want to only see the world in black and white polarities. But I mostly I see it has having the most vague and basic sense of empathy, of being able to put myself in someone elses’ shoes, or remembering the ‘doing unto others’ spiel delivered by my kindergarten teacher. But if you replace ‘compassionate’ with ‘leftist’, I guess you feel like less of a terrible person for supporting a monstrosity like Manus Island. And if you can believe that you’re actually morally high and dry because you want to stop people drowning at sea, why do you propose the alternative as indefinite detention and off-shore processing? How can you truly think that is a morally robust alternative, to send people to places where detainees eat glass and sew their eyelids shut?
Secondly, just because we can both agree that large, leaky and dangerous boats crammed full of desperate people sinking is a bad thing, it doesn’t mean the solution is to stop them with a military operation that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison called ‘Operation Sovereign Murder’. I suppose what my uncle believes is that it is ultimately less cruel to stop boats if they are going to result in people drowning, despite horrific reports of off-shore processing centres. But Tony Abbott has rejected calls for the Navy to release photos or videos to show exactly what has happened during operations to intercept asylum seekers. Without that transparency in the face of allegations of mistreatment of asylum seekers by Australian Navy personnel, how can he be sure that people are being treated with any modicum of decency?
I did go to that march, and I’m not sure how effective it will be as an anti-Abbott measure for a lot of reasons. There was a ubiquity of tutus and hateful slurs that may take away from the movement’s legitimacy. There were also also people from all walks of life with an array of reasons to march that day, and I think that such a broad cross-section represents a wide discontent as well as the potential for difficulty in organized anti-Abbott mobilisation.
If anything it was just really awesome walking down the road on Broadway with peaceful and healthily super angry people. Also all the signs expressing the myriad of ways that Tony Abbott has been a mean person and all around utter twat basket. See, even I can’t not blurt out some obscenity when I talk about this person. Maybe it’s a genius political strategy: be such a quintessential dickhead that you make people lose their cool and spout uncontrollable diatribes easily dismissed because of their quotient of swear words.
Our Prime Minister failed arguing with a bunch of (admittedly awesome) Year 9 students, what on earth is he doing governing a country?
March in March may have been a motley crew, and we may have been under-reported or have had the weirdos magnified by mainstream media, but at least tens of thousands of Australians expressed their dissatisfaction with an ultimately incompetent and unfeeling government. It’s not about identifying with socialism, environmentalism, or feminism, or any other ‘ism’. It’s about understanding that if you want to be Prime Minister, you need to listen to the people you’re supposed to represent. Not everyone wants your Catholic silver spoon shoved down their throats, Mr Abbott.