Raising a voice

Late last night I was looking for something to watch before I went to sleep. You know the vibe. I had a copy of V for Vendetta on a USB and sat down to watch that for the first time since it came out.

I remember well the day I went to a cinema on Sydney’s north shore to watch it with a mate. We came out of it arguing. He thought it was silly or unrealistic or some such. I had enjoyed it. A few days before we’d argued over another movie, Nicole Kidman in Birth, in which she falls in love with a kid who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. Now I had thought that silly, and not particularly well done, and had disparaged it in robust terms. My mate had been moved by it. I remember the conversations on both occasions getting quite heated, one of the tells being that he’d call me by my name in a voice my father might have used when I was 8 years old. We drove to his place in silence after that, and agreed I think not to talk about it again.

And so last night was the first time since then I’d seen V.

I liked it the first time for the clever wordplay. I know it seems paradoxical, but I think people are often put off by what they think as too clever wordplay. Me, I love it. Quite beyond that though the movie appealed to that independent and subversive streak in me. I’m a great believer in civil disobedience for the right cause. Dissent is more than just my right as a human being, it’s a necessary part of a healthy society. And I believe strongly that people should stand for what they believe in, and refuse to be cowed or co-erced into positions of vulnerability.

Back then the movie had some parallels to the current affairs of the time – the war on terror was in full swing, the anti-muslim rhetoric was amping up, and in places around the world many of the liberties we had taken for granted were being watered or constrained in the name of national security. In most of the west we had governments telling us they were doing it for our own good, leave it to us.

Times have moved on, but a movie such as this resonates much more strongly now for me – as an Australian – than it did then. That’s a surprise in many ways, and very disturbing at the same time.

We have a terrible government. They’re technically terrible, so incompetent as to be laughable just about, until you think about it and begin to cry. They can barely put a foot right, and while their hard-line ideology is much to blame, the simple fact of the matter is that there’s not a huge amount of talent on the LNP front bench. They’re just not very smart. Unfortunately they’re running the show, and the consequences now and for generations to come may be disastrous. I have great fear on that front, that they may do things that cannot be undone. I tweeted the other day that:

With this govt I feel like a homeowner who’s left my keys with some houso’s. Not sure what I’ll come home to, but know it’s bad.

There’s some tongue in cheek in that, but also a lot of truth. Potentially they could ruin this country.

They’re terrible in a more fundamental way as well. I’ve gone on and on about our – their – treatment of asylum seekers, which has now descended to a depraved level. No doubt we have a morally bankrupt government in that regard, and no surprise that some of them claim to be good christians – there’s no more morally bankrupt than a good christian using his faith to justify evil acts. As part of all that we’ve gone the path of demonising these people, many of whom happen to be muslim. With a complicit media the front pages of the tabloids, and at least one broadsheet, have carried the message of the government in crude terms.

At the same time they have tried to make it ok to racially abuse someone, at the same time now as trying to constrain our rights as citizens – evidence the data retention policy announced last week (bungled, as usual). They refuse to allow same-sex marriage, they deny climate change and repeal the (successful) measures to minimise carbon emissions. University students are hit, as are the unemployed and the poor, not to mention the sick. It now seems likely that the Department of Human Services – which manage the unemployed and those needing help – will be privatised, with all the concomitant issues in doing that. And watch out Medicare.

This is not my Australia. It becomes less my Australia with every passing day. My fear is that if we continue along this path that the Australia of my youth will be a relic of a sentimental past. I’m concerned that the drift towards a less compassionate, more controlling government, will in time make us a society stripped of our rights and fearfully in the thrall of a paternalistic government.

In that sense then V resonated very strongly with me last night. In fact many of the events portrayed we have experienced here. In the movie they were the triggers for the government cracking down for our ‘own good’. One thing leads to another. As we have now the ‘government’ portrayed in V was deeply conservative, sneering of ethnic groups, repressive of those deemed to be non-conventional, and very strong on the national ethic. Just last week we got sold Team Australia by our government.

We can laugh about a lot of these things now. We should be so grateful that the government is so incompetent, and so so little respected. In that sense it is easy to dismiss many of the things said as being the ramblings of an incoherent polity. It can easily change though, which is why I wish Mr Invisible, Bill Shorten, would pipe up. The fact of the matter is that Abbott is in power, and no matter how clumsy his government is they still have the power to enact measures we will all regret. We can laugh, but he’s got his hands on the wheel. What makes it more dangerous is that he has the Murdoch papers to do his bidding and cheer him along. They can shape and divert public opinion. They can coerce us into accepting things we would never have 5 years ago. That’s already the case. The government may be a joke, but it’s a dangerous government and should not be taken lightly.

I was roused last night watching V. I’m not about to bomb parliament house – things have not reached that stage. It’s time though for people to speak out, and that includes me. We can’t sit idly by while these things continue to happen. Fortunately there are many who think as I do. There are many decent people as disturbed at the state of the nation as I am. Organisations like GetUp! have gained more prominence in the wake of a government like this, and they’ve activated the power of the people in support of many worthy causes. Good Australians are making their voices heard. And though the media in this country is a virtual lost cause, our saving grace – as in most parts of the world – is the growing voice of the individual expressed in blogs like this, and on Twitter. It’s like a virtual guerilla movement of independent thought, analysis, and information sharing. I get pissed off about many things today, but despite all it’s critics social media is now pretty well the only place you’ll get news in its raw form. It’s our voice now, unfettered and largely altruistic,  myriad views and opinions and voices that ultimately hold the bastards to account, and to some degree of honesty. Without it we’d be in deep shit.


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