The quiet Australians - silent but deadly

17 November 2019
Can someone please tell the ABC that they're supposed to be broadcasting wall to wall leftist propaganda? Because right now they seem to be taking the "there are fine people on both sides" approach. Case in point being this week when they ran an article on the "quiet Australians" Scott Morrison praised for his victory at the Federal Election earlier this year. These are the people, we are told, who are hard working, dedicated to their families, and just too damn busy getting on with their lives to get involved in the messy business of politics. And they love Scott Morrison cause he's just like them, a hard working family man who doesn't have time to worry about the state of the nation.

Scott Morrison basks in the adoration of people who don't care about him. His "daggy dad" persona crafted by the media plays well with the apolitical; they neither care nor really know what he's actually doing. Several of the ABC's quiet Australians expressed concerns about the economy, but can't make the connection that an economy predicated on everyone selling houses to each other and reliance on the dying fossil fuel industry will inevitably start to crumble. They don't expect Morrison to be leading the quest for solutions such as research and investment, advanced manufacturing, changes to property laws and secure employment. Scott Morrison is like them - too busy with church, sports, and family to worry about trying to fix the country. The facts don't matter; it's the vibe of the thing.

But Scott Morrison needs to do his job, the job for which he's the highest paid politician in the developed world, and these quiet Australians need to make him by ending their apathy and actually paying attention to what's going on in that world. Otherwise we're all in a whole heap of trouble. When getting involved in politics is seen as the indulgent hobby of privileged people with too much time on their hands, it makes it too easy for governments to get away with doing terrible things, or nothing at all.

The media, and Morrison, know what they're doing in painting the "quiet Australians" as the virtuous-but-silent majority. By framing the outer suburban and regional, hardworking, family oriented and apolitical Australians as good, it's left unsaid that the inner city, socially aware Australians are bad; presumably not working, too devoted to their own causes to care about family, squawking and carrying on about things that don't really matter. Shut up, us noisy Australians are told. No one cares.

One of the aforementioned quiet ones said they get their say at the ballot box. But if you're not paying attention outside of the election media cycle, how can you make an informed decision? If politicians make promises, you'll believe them. If they break those promises, you won't know. And if they do terrible things - or fail to do anything at all about terrible threats - you'll have no idea, and when you see people protesting the terror, will say to yourself these time wasting mongrels need to get a job. It all seems a bit theoretical until something politicians do affects your family. Then you care. Even if you don't know where to direct your anger. On an NDIS user forum I frequent, in a discussion over access to services, someone complained about people bringing up politics. More reasoned heads pointed out that everything is politics. Whether you qualify for NDIS funding, how long it takes your application to be approved, whether you can get a support worker every day that you need one or just twice a week - all political decisions. But if you dismiss the whole notion of politics as not applying to your life, you can't see that.

It can be difficult to follow politics. Politicians about to make terrible changes that will devastate lives rarely call a press conference when they do it. I read the SMH, the Guardian, and independent media; as a queer disabled woman I closely follow news that affects our communities (we are all self involved). But I missed the news that, from 20 March 2020, the government is ending the Centrelink Sickness Allowance payment. Sickness Allowance, which paid the equivalent of the grossly inadequate Newstart payment to people who were employed but unable to work for a period due to illness or injury, was an inadequate stopgap in a system that makes it almost impossible to apply for the disability support pension. But it was there, in its limited usefulness, and now, it's going; though Centrelink assures us that you may be able to receive Jobseeker allowance instead. So, if you have a job, but can't do it because you're ill or injured, our government wants you to look for a job. This is just more stupid, petty meanness from the government, and the government snuck it in through the Welfare Reform Act 2018 which I wasn't paying enough attention to.

The pro-Morrison media wants to make sure you don't know think too much politics. As bushfires rage across NSW here's the Sunday Telegraph for 17 November: 

So I get that it's hard, but everyone has a duty to at least try. How do we get the quiet Australians to focus on what's going on in the world? The first thing they'd probably say is they just don't have the time. But someone is watching all that sport and reality television and playing all those video games. Someone is following the Royals closely enough to see a drop in support for an Australian republic based off the Kate and Wills effect. I know that keeping a close eye on what Canberra is doing is a lot less relaxing after a long day at work than watching The Bachelor, and the lack of solutions to the issues we face is a lot more depressing.

But it's not exactly much fun for those of us who've been plugging away at this for years. That's the point; for us noisy Australians, there's a lot of things we could be doing that are more fun than attending marches and organising boycotts. We do it because we see that we don't have a choice. Neither should they. Indifference in the face of oppression is taking the side of the oppressors. The quiet Australians might well sneer at this. "Oppression? In Australia? Don't make me laugh, you should go to Saudi Arabia if you think you're being oppressed" (followed by the usual offer to drive you to the airport. I think if any of us "inner city elite" need a lift to the airport, just tell a quiet Australian you're leaving the country cause you can't take it any more and see if any of them actually follow through. You don't have to tell them you're coming back, because loving a country can mean staying to try to make it better, not leaving). But they can afford to sneer, not having to face the racism, the injustices faced by Indigenous Australians, poverty, illness, homophobia, homelessness or violence faced by so many of their fellow citizens, all unbeknownst to them:

Indifference manifests itself in ignorance, silence and acceptance. Turning our backs to the injustices suffered by the marginalized, vulnerable, and victimized in our local communities and around the world is a weak and heartless admission that the status quo is just fine with us when it doesn’t affect our lives directly — at least not yet. And that’s a very big “yet” because unchecked turmoil can arrive anytime at our doorsteps regardless of who we think we are.
So start them off small. If you know any of these I just don't care types, get them paying attention by opening up a chat about something non controversial, like the government wasting taxpayer money on ridiculous grants in marginal seats, that we can all agree is terrible, and use it to segue into a conversation about how politicians can only get away with this because people aren't paying attention. Then tell them how Job Network is a scam lining the pockets of providers whilst doing nothing for the unemployed, or that Aboriginal parents don't have their children taken into state care at such high numbers cause they're worse parents than non-Indigenous families, but because they're targeted by child protection authorities. Introduce your quiet Australian friends to some independent media sites. Explain how the most important issues are the ones that sometimes get the least attention, that just because an proposal about electric cars is the most important thing to the media doesn't mean it's the most important to the party. (Heck, if you can get these quiet Australians mad that they've been lied to and determined to seek out the truth for themselves, you've won).

Some of the quiet Australians would no doubt say "fine, I still don't care". Well, it's a free country, for some of its inhabitants anyway, and you can't force people.  What can you tell the kind of person that would decide they don't care about the environment to spite climate change protestors? So they can keep their apathy, but not their haloes; there's nothing virtuous about not giving a shit about anyone who isn't you. The rest of us aren't out protesting cause we've nothing better to do. We're protesting because this is the most important thing we need to do. And there's a big difference between being nice and being good.


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