Tomorrow is the time of year where all Australians take stock of the world around them and ponder our nation’s place in the world and our current good fortune (flood crises notwithstanding)…or at least it should be.
Instead we are presented with this jingoistic orgy of Australian flag branded merchandising and nationalistic triumphalism that is so far from the perceived Aussie nature it’s completely unrecognisable.
The final straw for me was, believe it or not, an ad for Woolworths. As well as the gormless front man spruiking the regular rip-offs we could expect to find, he then rattled off a massive list of flag brand items covering the full gamut of useless objects. Seriously, I fully expected to find flag branded condoms and maxi-pads.
Couple this with the now common sight of Aussie flags stuck to car windows, usually in pairs and usually accompanied by a “Fuck off we’re full” bumper sticker, and you really start to wonder.
Why do we suddenly have this heavily Americanised version of flag-based patriotism foisted off on us, accompanied by its handmaiden the triumphal exceptionalism i.e. we’re the best in the world?
Why can’t we go back to the good old days, where Australia Day was just viewed as the first of many public holidays in the year and we treated it with the good natured, apathetic acknowledgement it deserved?
To mind the only good thing about Australia Day at the moment is Sam Kekovich…you know it makes sense.
Living in Brisbane, you get to all sorts of wild weather this time of year…I just have to cast my mind back to November 2008 to remember the horrific storm that blew over then and caused untold damage.
The recent flood crisis has raised that to a whole other level, but this time it sort of crept up on us.
I remember being on leave over the Christmas break and being pissed off the weather was so crap…2 or 3 clear days in the whole 2 weeks and pissing down rain for the rest of it. I didn’t think much of it and simply dreaded the end of my break and the start of work once more. I do remember driving past the small creek that runs past the bottom of my street and was amazed that it was about 1.5 metres from overflowing…I’d never seen it that high before. Then the penny dropped – with the constant rain over the past several months the ground was completely saturated and it was all running off straight into the watercourses. Again, I didn’t think much off it because I thought that a couple of days without rain would sort it out and we’d be back to the rest of the shitty summer.
Then the footage of the Toowoomba flash flood was shown and it all became a bit more real. Like most people, it never occurred to me that all this rain would ever cause flooding, particularly when we were on water restrictions not 18 months ago. So we were back at work discussing the Toowoomba flood and how terrible it was, when it became a concern that the river itself might flood. At 10:00 on the Tuesday the management of my office building advised everyone to evacuate the cars from the basement car park (we’re on Eagle St right on the river). Then at 11:30 the evacuation sirens went off throughout the building and we were advised to go home.
There was a mad rush for the lifts…not exactly a speedy process when you’re on the 34th floor…but a few of us adventurous types elected to take the stairs. At that point public transport was still functioning so I was able to get home with a minimum of fuss and then switched on the box to see what was happening.
From that point onwards it all became a bit surreal and didn’t quite sink in. My suburb in the north west was untouched, despite the creek at the end of the street so we stayed glued to the box and watched the tragedy unfold over the next several days. We ran through the gamut of emotions and here are some of my thoughts of how things unfolded.
- Government response. The government response on all levels has been nothing short of spectacular. Campbell Newman has been efficiency himself with his warnings of what was forthcoming and organisation of the recovery. Shows what he can do when there’s no tunnels involved huh? Anna Bligh has been a revelation. In a complete contrast to her usual spin-centric utterances, she has been forthright and up front with the public, telling them what they can expect nad how to prepare for it. Her dedication and emotion in those 2 hourly press conferences showed how leadership should be. It was also notable that the PM came up to show her support but was happy to take a back seat to Anna and let her steer the proceedings…a sign of class. The only blight from the political arena came from…you guessed it Tony fucking Abbott. His media bite when the floods first hit started out OK, but he soon couldn’t help himself. After explicitly stating that he wasn’t going to bring politics into it, he then said he would be going up and keeping an eye on the government to make sure they spent the recovery money wisely!! The guy is completely clueless and an emotional vacuum. If he lacks the common decency to keep politics out of a disaster of this scale he shouldn’t be allowed within bulls roar of the PMship.
- Media coverage. By and large the coverage from the media has been excellent…but then we all know they love a disaster. They don’t have to think about what to run and they can tug on all the heartstrings they like. They put out all the relevant information in a timely manner and really did keep us informed as to what was happening. The only blight was the ridiculously insular Canberra press gallery. When the PM gave her first press conference about the flood, what was the first question asked by the mouth breathers? That’s right…will this affect the return to surplus. Are they fucking kidding me? There’s people dead and missing, with the third largest city in the country basically offline, and this dickhead wants to know about the budget? I hope to god they out this bloke and he gets his arse kicked from her to eternity.
- Volunteers. The willingness of the people of Brisbane and other areas to volunteer to help has been nothing short of spectacular. The images of the massive queues to register has been mind boggling, so much that it was a shock to hear that people had actually been turned away.
- Survivor guilt. Well not so much survivor as people unaffected guilt. Even though it is completely illogical, you can’t help but feel guilty when your home has been untouched and you see all the images of the people who have lost everything. Of course you donate money and goods, but it adds even more to the guilt when you don’t join the volunteering effort. I have a very bad back and as such would not be capable of 4 hours of manual labour, so we didn’t volunteer. Of course this doesn’t help rationalise it any and you still feel bad, but you can’t help feeling that you’ve let people down.
Well those are my thoughts on the recent disaster. Anyone have anything else to add?