“It’s all right, don’t worry. Forget it, forget it. Relax.” – John Howard immediately after someone threw a shoe at him.
Was there ever a more potent summary of the state of our politics? The state of the empire?
Here, the man responsible for involving this country in two intractable, disastrous wars that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, traumatised hundreds of thousands more and destroyed the infrastructure and culture of two countries, this man wants to reassure us that all is well.
“It’s all right, don’t worry.” Don’t worry that we destroyed two whole countries. Don’t worry that scores of your countrymen are dead, you probably didn’t know them anyway. Don’t worry that billions of your taxpayer dollars have been spent on these military adventures. It’s all right. You’re ok.
Don’t worry that one hundred thousand Australians still go homeless every night, don’t worry that many First Australians live in abject poverty while white men choke on their own wealth. They’re not in front of you…just buy a new tv, a new kitchen, a more comfortable life.
There were no weapons of mass destruction, and we destroyed a country finding out. “Forget it, forget it.” Every nation that has invaded Afghanistan has been soundly defeated. “Forget it, forget it.” This country was founded on killing its native population almost to extinction, and still remains stolen land. “Forget it, forget it.”
Forget the past, forget history, just concentrate on the glorious (hypothetical) future we’re telling you about! A future when everything will be ok…because we say so.
“Relax.” The U.S. president immediately after the worst terrorist attack in that nation’s history: “Relax…Go shopping.” Anaesthetise yourself on comfort. Relax, ignore the pain: it will go away if you don’t pay attention to it. Whatever you do, just relax. Ignore what’s happening in that country all the way over there. Ignore the military takeover of indigenous communities…we know what we’re doing, so just relax. Don’t get all upset about these things, it’s bad for your blood pressure. Relax.
The voice of the establishment; the voice of those who never bear the brunt of their own policies; the voice of calm reassurance that everything is ok. “Peace, peace,” they cry, when there is no peace. The manicured violence of privilege.
Well I say, whatever the hell you do, don’t relax. Weep, mourn, grieve, rage, wail. Refuse the anaesthetising voice of empire. Feel the injustice, feel the guilt, feel the anger.
But don’t leave it there. Transform that grief into energising love. Transform the hatred into determined nonviolent resistance. Transform despair into hopeful acts of imagination.
Most of all, begin to see with new eyes; hear with new ears. Remember. Be aware. Join the struggle for life.