Relax: A response to John Howard’s appearance on Q&A

“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.

6 thoughts on “Relax: A response to John Howard’s appearance on Q&A

    • Thanks to you too Pete. What a storm your action created…to think people are more upset at a shoe thrower than the man responsible for involving this country in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. What a world. Blessings to you. Many of us have been doing antiwar direct action for years now, from Howard’s era to the present day. We have much work still to do.

      “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the children of God, and our sisters and brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. Although I do not agree necessarily with the “war” I feel John Howard was right. You came across as stressed and agitated, which did not help the argument or the point nor the rant above

    • My point I guess, Sara, is that it’s only too easy for those in positions of privilege to be “relaxed”. When you have bodyguards and hang out with the rich and famous, you’re protected from any real suffering, let alone the consequences (in this case, the destruction of two countries and hundreds of thousands of lives) of your actions. It says a lot that John Howard apparently feels nothing about being responsible for this. It shows an absence of a heart, of any humanity.

      So perhaps in the face of what’s actually gone on, feeling “stressed and agitated” is a much more human, humane, compassionate response. Cool, calm and collected might be helpful for theoretical debate about esoteric details, but not in the face of real suffering.

      What do you reckon?

  2. Very much disagree. John Howard looked threatened and it is a natural protective response to calm the attacker down. The comments were a verbal assault and so is shoe throwing.

    Did it make a point about the war no. It just brought up a point in the media “shoes thrown at John Howard “. Not why it was done.

    A calmer debate would have gotten the point across alot better rather than ranting and pelting objects at somebody. If we say that us what is being done by the troops then I say two wrings do not make a right and do not stoop to their level.

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