I was recently cleaning out cupboards and came across some of my old notebooks. I flicked through the pages, remembering how I used to plough through these A4 books writing out copious thoughts, copying quotes from books I loved, sometimes recipes that I thought I might make (rarely happened), and cutting and pasted articles that resonated with me.
Of course, I’ve now discovered I can save these articles and quotes electronically. I can write to my heart’s content via a keyboard or on my phone (and even, sometimes, dictate them with varying degrees of accuracy), and share my own and other’s thoughts with sometimes excessive abandon on a range of different media. Oh, and I can save / bookmark way too many ‘things to come back to at a later stage’. Sometimes I wonder if the old way was better? But that’s a post for another day …
Anyway, rediscovering these notebooks was like stepping back in time – it felt like a different me that I was reading about. I wonder what I’d written? A lot of good and bad incidents and feeling were poured onto the pages, and quite a few issues were written about over and over, until I managed to untangle them a bit more. One of the items I came across was a photocopy of a letter I’d written in a fit of anger on the evening of the 2004 federal election.
It was sad to see that, although the quality of my writing has improved (I think), and certainly my ability to capture an image capture (got to love the photocopying skills), the issues I wrote about still resonate.
Because my copy is probably not legible now, I’ll pull out a couple of sections:
‘I thought the 2004 election would be one based on values … that we would look towards fundamental issues such as equality, fairness, compassion, that we would be comforted by the long term economic prosperity that this country has enjoyed – prosperity largely due to world economic forces‘ rather than anything the government had generated.
I’d also written, with a bit of over the top emotion and piousness that I attribute to knowing I was a few months from bringing our first child into the world (and I WANT a perfect world for my child – self interest, much? Anyway …)
‘the moral heart of this nation is broken … and I fear it will remain broken and maligned for many years to come. I just hope that not too much damage is caused as a result’.
Since this time, we’ve had the hope and disappointment of Kevin Rudd as the leader of the Government, the struggles of Julia Gillard in the faces of those who’d elevated her too high (and couldn’t cope with a Prime Minister who wasn’t infallible) and the contrast with those who were only too eager to tear her down. We’ve had Tony Abbott (moving on from this period quickly), and now Malcolm Turnbull, who has either changed or has been compromised by agreements made to gain the Prime Ministership. And we have another election looming. We’ve seen a public losing its faith in political parties of all persuasions, the rise (sometimes for a short time only), of the individual politician, and we’ve seen inequality, in so many areas, become even more entrenched.
And – in my view – we’ve seen a growing divide between ‘looking out for ourselves’ – and a sort of ‘dismissive’ or shallow response to the issues we purport to care about.
I see it over and over in terms of housing – ever increasingly seen as primarily an investment decision, with a secondary function as a home (sometimes that’s not a consideration at all). I know it’s naive (and also not feasible) to ignore the fact that housing involves costs, and sacrifices, and has always been the biggest financial commitment for most Australians. But when communities are breaking down because there is so much construction occurring, less and less people stay in a area long enough to build relationships (or even more, that increasing numbers of houses and apartments are not even occupied), well, I think that’s a sign the pendulum has swung too far. But it’s not just housing – it flows through to decisions about holidays, schooling, cars, how we feel about taxes, how consistent we are in the products we purchase, and so on. Again, a post for another day.
The counterpoint is that we are constantly encouraged to be concerned about ‘all’ the issues. We ‘like’ and maybe sign on-line petitions against the wrong doing in the world (often environmental, big business, or poor treatment of the marginalised), we make donations, but don’t necessarily follow up what’s happened as a result. When ‘everything’ is an issue, it’s too hard to focus and make an effective change. Most people have stretched themselves too much to truly care about anything properly.
So what should we be doing? I don’t really know – at the moment, I think a good start is to identify the problems. And with an election coming up, we need to recognise the implications of these problems and keep them on the agenda. Plus we need to realise (if we haven’t already), that politicians on their own are not going to solve the problems we need to address. And so an increasing number of us need to step up and take a more active role in coming up with, and delivering, solutions.
This is something I am keen to continue to pursue – especially as it plays out in our cities, suburbs and regional / rural areas. After all, maybe a urban planning background can provide some benefits after all! And let’s hope that in another twelve years, I am not looking back and thinking ‘ah well, nothing has changed’.
I would love to know your thoughts – suggestions about how to strengthen and care for each other (even – especially – the people we don’t notice and who can slip through the net).