A view from Paris

There’ll be plenty of places and times for comment on the election result. I received this viewpoint, which went to a number of newsgroups, so I thought I’d reproduce it here.

I don’t agree with all the views expressed – especially the overly positive view of what the Labor Party offered, but it does indicate well what is now at risk of being permanently lost. That some of these values may be permanently gone from the mainstream of Australian politics is a daunting prospect.

It was with shock and disbelief that I first read the election results. I hadn’t been present for the election campaign. When I boarded the plane for my new life in Europe I was convinced that Labor was going to win. That the slow pervasion and weakening of Australian institutions – the High Court, the Industrial relations tribunal, our Federal system of government- would be halted. Would be corrected. That justice would be restored at last to the education system, to the health system. That the weak, the poor, the marginalised would have their rightful opportunities restored to them. That the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor could be minimised. That security could be restored to the Australian workplace, the rights for the most vulnerable would be restored. That the desperate, tortured refugees would finally find the compassion they need and deserve in policy and amongst the community.

That the Government would finally acknowledge the terrible crimes it committed against Indigenous Australians. Would apologise. Would attempt reconciliation. That Australian community would experience a renaissance. That self-interest would be replaced, even slightly, by community interest. That concern for the unemployed or the disenfranchised would for a few seconds replace concerns about investments, renovation plans or Australian Idol.Labor had obviously superior policies that worked towards these noble goals. Superior, properly costed policies that would deliver financial security and economic growth. Superior policies that would enhance our international standing, enhance our rapport with our neighbours, enhance our autonomy, enhance our safety. Policies recognised and recommended as superior by the (very unbiased) Australian Treasury, Australian Department of Defence and Trade, Australian and International Ambassadors. Policies easily defended against the cheap lies and fear mongering of the Government, desperately clinging to power by any means. Spreading lies and buying votes.

Labor gave a vision. Labor gave the truth. Labor played an honest game. The Government lied and fought and bribed its way to re-election. Bribes financed by the taxes of the Australian people. I thought the Australian people would recognise this. Maybe I was just too idealistic.Maybe that was just a pipe dream. But if we don’t have dreams, what to we have? If we don’t have hopes, or ideals, we have nothing. “Reach for your dreams, for as you dream, so shall you achieve.” I dreamed of moving to the city of lights and of love, to open my mind and challenge my soul, my heart.

Negotiating a new life, alone, out of my comfort zone: familiar faces, places, sounds, languages left behind on the other side of the world. Leaving the people I love and cherish, leaving a dream job, burgeoning career and financial comfort to chase a romantic notion of self-enlightenment and self fulfilment. For nearly a year I slaved toward this dream. There were so many nights when I returned home from my 3 and a half hour return trip to work so weary I could barely walk up the stairs. Countless nights where I sacrificed sleep to navigate the mountain of immigration papers. Countless nights where I cried myself to sleep to escape my mental and physical exhaustion with tears.

But I kept working towards this dream. Throwing myself into it with passion. And it payed off. I achieved it. This first month has been one long exhilarating, at times overwhelming delight. The horizon here glitters with unknown possibilities, further pleasures. It is, so far, the most worthwhile decision I’ve made.Just as I devoted countless hours and mountains of energy to pursuing my Parisian dream, I also devoted my countless time and energy to pursuing this second dream, restoring social justice, electing an alternative government. I even began working for the alternative party; the Labor party. Countless hours have been spent- both at work and in my own time – writing speeches, creating flyers and banners, debating, letterboxing, campaigning. And dreaming… dreaming of the glorious day that Howard would lose office. I was certain that this second dream was also about to be realised. And there were thousands who shared my passion for the realisation of this dream.After the shock of the election results came devastation and gloom. Gloom that deepened following a phone call home later that evening, as my parents read me the Sunday morning papers. As the recounted the campaign of fear and lies. As I realised the defeat was even worse than I had ever anticipated.

Senate control accompanying Lower House control. This gloom has settled in the pit of my stomach, churning and churning. My mind is also agitated. Every few seconds I think of another misfortunate that will eventuate as a result of Howard’s re-election. The destruction of the student union movement, of student support services and of campus culture with the abolition of compulsory student unionism. (A bill strongly condemned by all the state Liberal party’s I might add). The further erosion of workers rights, and destabilisation of job security, resulting from Howard’s love of casual labour and hatred of unions. The edification of a two-tiered education system, which could very well see my sisters priced out of a decent university education.

The accelerated perversion of Medicare, created by Labor to deliver free or affordable health care to all, into a hollowed carcass barely capable of delivering care, leaving the majority of Australians – unable to afford hefty private insurance – with no choice but to suffer years of pain, whist those with thicker wallets use tax-payer funded beds in private hospitals for faster treatment. Correcting these problems would have been difficult, after 8 years of Howard’s cunning manipulation. After another three years, or more, it will be near impossible. I thought that the Australian public would have realised what was at stake. They didn’t. I thought they would recognise Howard’s election propaganda for what it was. Bullshit fear mongering. They didn’t. I thought they would kick him out of office for his continued lying. They didn’t.

Why? I don’t know. Perhaps they prefer the devil they know. Perhaps they really don’t give a shit. Perhaps they couldn’t think beyond their own backyard, their own self-interest. They neglected to think of the community, and the community will suffer the consequences.There was no slumber or tears to provide respite from these thoughts or the pain in my gut. Tears often fail to arrive when I most want them. Like when I farewelled my family at the airport. Likewise, when I most wanted to escape from the sombre reality into the haven of dreams and unconsciousness, sleep eluded me. Herbal teas, Panadol. No result. For the first time since I left Australia, I took sleeping tablets to beckon slumber. They also failed.

I watched with dry, weary eyes as the pale light of dawn overwhelmed the amber glow of the Parisian night sky. With tired ears I listened as Paris woke to a drizzly Sunday morning. As hungry infants cried for their mother’s breast, as market vendors rattled through the streets with their goods to set up their stalls at the end of the street. As students and loves giggled as they journeyed home after the first metro of the morning after a night of dancing or passion. As the dogs began their lonely morning chorus. Still no tears. Still no sleep. So I write instead.For those reading this that do not share my political views – and I know that among my friends and relatives there are several that do not share my vision of community and justice and fairness – please do not tell me. The election result has ripped a gaping, bleeding hole into my faith in the Australian people and my hopes for Australia’s future. Gloating over the results, or criticising my feelings would be like kicking me, hard, in the gut. It would do nothing but increase the pain and disillusion I’m already feeling. Leave me to nurse my broken ideals and despair in this city of beauty, love, light and open horizons.

Thank you,

Sincerely the Ideologue in Paris.

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1 Comment

  1. If this person really feels this way because 46% of people voted for howard and 38% the oppo (or 52 -48 in 2PP) then the problem is clearly with them, not the Howard Government. What extreme drivel. Australia is still what an individual makes of it. One’s whole life in tatters because howard got in instead of latham? Come on …

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