BLOG: Representative Politics?
My morning commute isn’t always a smooth or a pleasant journey. I jump on the 96 tram route that winds its way through the Northern suburbs of Melbourne, stopping at regular intersections to collect hoards of city workers. It’s hot, cramped and very often delayed in its snaking journey from Coburg to the CBD.
But what consistently impresses me, is that despite the often chaotic, claustrophobic and delayed circumstances, generosity is everywhere. As people file to the exits, most dutifully make way despite the discomfort of pressing themselves against other commuters, the elderly and those with special needs are almost always found a seat, and confused tourists are regularly greeted with kind and patient advice.
This paradigm is reflected everywhere – you can bet that the bloke in front of me at the supermarket will be kind to the teenager scanning his groceries. If I drop my wallet, I feel confident that the family behind me will call out and return it. If I smile at you, you’ll probably smile back.
Obviously there are exceptions, but on the most part, Australians are kind to each other and revere generosity as an essential element of our national identity.
And that’s why it is remarkable to me, that this basic, almost taken for granted component of our Australian character stops well short of our politics.
As of now, thousands of refugees whose only crime was to flee persecution from their unsafe homes are currently locked away on foreign soil with no trial or process in sight.
Many members of the LGBTI community are denied the human right to marry the person that they love.
One of Australia’s largest ever coal ports has been given the go ahead just off the Great Barrier Reef; early projections estimate 3 million cubic tonnes will be dredged.
Indigenous Australians are still not recognised in the Australian Constitution, the most recent federal budget just slashed a foreign aid allocation that was mostly targeted at poverty alleviation.
The temptation is to disassociate our politics from our personalities and our policies from our people, as if to treat each other and our environment uncompromisingly is some sort of harsh but necessary evil. Rubbish.
No wonder young people are feeling despondent about politics.
It’s nearly impossible to reconcile why we would pull over to help the lady whose car has broken down, but won’t extend the same courtesy and shelter to a Sri Lankan family who are looking down the barrel of a civil war.
Young Australians, indeed all Australians, are kind and generous by nature. It’s about time our politics reflected as much.
— Olly Tripodi