There's not much hope around today. Specifically, neither major party seems to want to own that word.
Normally, incumbents trumpet how good things are now, while challengers campaign on the hope that things might be better. Hope is for outsiders and the oppressed.
Here and now, though, both parties are working on the assumption that Australians are clinging to the familiar. Whatever problems Australians have - housing affordability, climate change, inequality, racial prejudice - they'd rather have those problems than the disruptions that would be involved in trying to fix them. Where there's little tolerance for change, there's not much place for hope.
Where there's no place for hope, the space tends to fill up with a dull defensiveness that's almost indistinguishable from despair.
Let's raise the flag of hope, shall we?
It's not as if the universe is in a mood to let us doze through the decade. I mean, I'm not conventionally religious, but looking at the fires and the floods and the plagues and the war, it's hard not to feel that somebody's trying to get our attention. A nation that prioritises house prices over every other indicator- and an electorate that elevates the preservation of negative gearing over any other ideological, social, or economic philosophy - is surely tempting fate with a big "KICK ME" sign. And fate, let's face it, is easily tempted.
It's not as if there aren't people out there offering alternative visions either, particularly in the community sector. I'm organising a Communities in Control conference in Melbourne in May to hammer their ideas into the discourse - just in time for a new (or renewed) government.
If you're working in the community sector, you really need a charging station to get you through another year, and that's what Communities in Control provides. Advocates and educators and economists and environmentalists and journalists will be lining up to send up flares. Look up! Look out! Look around!
From a range of perspectives, the single view that prevails in the sector is that yes, there are alternatives. We're not condemned to re-enact our past errors in a hellish stasis, standing up to our chins in sewage whispering to each other "Don't make waves. Don't make waves."
Those who don't learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Many of us, for example, want to put COVID behind us, saying "We all just want to get back to the way things were. Back when we could do things. Back when we could go out."
No. What the people who come to our conference want is for it not to have all been in vain.
All that sacrifice, all that responsibility, all that we gave up in enduring those hardships, in holding ourselves together through those deprivations, in guarding our country from inconceivable numbers of avoidable deaths - we want that to have all been worthwhile.
If it was all for nothing, if we just retrace our steps to the way it was before, if we learn nothing, if we don't use this opportunity to work out how to be better, how to love more, how to fix inequality, we will not be free. We will be locked once more into the mindless mechanisms that have twisted our lives and restricted our thinking for so long.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our basic assumptions and reset our goals. We can front up to inequality and injustice, climate change and corruption, and we can say, "We beat COVID. We can beat you."
We want what the people who came through our mother's and grandmother's struggles wanted.
Australia (and its community sector) needs to be restructured from the ground up, all the way to the stars.
We want a land fit for heroes to live in. That's what hope has to offer us. Let's create waves.
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