The hollow man exposed

It’s raining today. It’s only light rain, but it’s been falling on and off for the last few hours. It’s been a dry year and rain is always welcome in Melbourne, but it’s really needed to the east of here, and in heavier doses.

After the horrors of yesterday, any weather relief is welcome for the firefighters. There are still many communities under threat, and loss of property is widespread. I heard it was raining in Canberra today (after their hottest day on record yesterday), and it seems the more moderate weather conditions will prevail over the fires in the east of the state, and over the border. It will come as some relief, but it’s a long way from what is needed.

It’s a strange time. There was heavy smoke from the fires on Thursday, and since to varying degrees. We’ve been subjected to the eerie lighting that often comes with bushfires, and fiery sunsets. There have been fires on the outskirts of Melbourne, but we’ve been largely untouched. Life might almost be normal except there’s not a soul here that isn’t caught up in the unfolding catastrophes.

I find it difficult. I watched the cricket yesterday, but I was continually checking the news on the fires, either on the ABC or twitter. I reckon I’d have done that every five minutes. The pleasure of the game was much diluted because of that. Regardless of what Morrison says, it’s times like these you get a true perspective.

It seems incomprehensible that I could be sitting there safe and sound while at every moment the fires consume the land and property. In Victoria alone, there’ve been a thousand firies fighting the blazes. There’ve given up their time, and many of them have lost their properties and there on day and night and I’m sitting there watching the cricket.

Every day I have tears in my eyes, and not just once but 10-12 times a day – with every news report I read or see, every development.

I’m inspired by the resilience of the people on the ground. It’s a terrible time but – with notable exceptions – this has brought out the best in our community. It breaks me up every time, and it has restored much of the faith I’ve bled in the last nine months. People are good when they’re allowed to be. They’re strong and generous and decent. It’s such a cliche, but it’s true – this is the best of us.

We’ve had thousands of people displaced by these fires, many of them stranded and requiring rescue. No complaints anywhere. Everyone looking out for each other. It’s a terrible experience but there’s no time for self-pity. We’re all in it together.

The community response, in general, has been incredible and heartwarming. Stories of Sikh and Muslim communities travelling to affected areas to cook and provide food for firies and refugees. Homes being thrown open to take in those who have lost their own home. Shops giving away food and supplies to those who need it. And hundreds – if not thousands – who have donated food and supplies to the effort. To top it all off has been the donations made to the relief effort not just here in Oz, but across the world.

Then there are the firefighters. Most of them are volunteers. Many of them have been fighting fires for months now. These are people you work with and see in the street. They’re normal folk with a strong sense of duty. They fight on, getting little rest, facing horrendous conditions against an implacable foe. Their lives are at threat. As I said, there’s many who have lost their own homes in the fight. And yet they go on. I’m humbled by them.

I don’t know if they’re fighting a losing battle, but they won’t give in. These are terrible fires though, and that adds to the drama and the emotion of it. We’ve had terrible fires before, but generally they’ve been contained and extinguished within a few days. Even Black Saturday, when 173 people died, all the damage was within a devastating period of time. These fires haven’t stopped though, and listening to one of the CFA commanders yesterday he reckons we’ve got another eight weeks of this. Remember – we’ve yet to hit the peak of summer.

It almost feels as if we’re doing battle with a malevolent spirit. It feels – to me at least – like a battle between virtue and cruel indifference.

For all the good, there is also a woeful tale to tell – the Australian government.

I’ve complained about them before today. I’ve been complaining about them for years really, and much of their response hasn’t surprised me all that much. It’s a terrible government led by a shallow and opportunistic mediocrity. There’s more, though, and the latest even surprised me.

At long last yesterday, the government announced that the ADF would be drafted in to take an active role in the fight and that firefighting aircraft would be brought in from abroad (finally). It was very late – a month ago, and much of the damage inflicted might have been prevented – but at least it was happening. Morrison attempted to portray himself as the man in control, and in doing so had no shame in throwing the NSW government under the bus by suggesting they hadn’t sought the assistance he was providing. I’m not a fan of Gladys, but unlike Smoko at least she’s turned up every day and tirelessly did all she could in the effort – but she was expendable.

Then it became very clear that the government’s motivation wasn’t the welfare of the people or even doing the right thing. No, this was all about damage repair and saving some political skin, and maybe even gaining some advantage out of a horrendous situation.

Within minutes of the announcement, they’d released an ad onto social media extolling their efforts, as if it was they who had taken control of the situation. To compound it the music chosen for the ad was upbeat and cheery at a time when large swathes of the country were on fire, people were homeless, and some perished. But wait, this wasn’t an announcement but a paid political ad for the Liberal party complete – I kid you not – with a link to donate money to the party.

It was obscene, and goes to show how absolutely out of touch the PMO is with the sentiment of the nation – and how morally bankrupt Morrison is. I’ve always believed that his first priority as PM was to seek political advantage, and everything, including the Australian people, came second to that (at best). This stripped it bare, though. This, transparently, was all about him. He’d recognised he was in deep shit and tried to extricate himself in the most clumsy and tone-deaf fashion imaginable. Not surprisingly, the world came down on him, including vicious words from measured and moderate commentators. I can’t bear the sight of him. As a human being, he’s a disgrace. As prime minister, he’s a coward and a traitor.

I think my views are shared by many. In the last 24 hours more bitter and violent reactions to Morrison have made it to air. I find this unusual. TV news is generally conservative in this regard, but I guess they’re read the tea leaves and assessed the mood of the nation, even if the PMO hasn’t. To make it worse, it’s the firies now spouting vitriol, calling him fucking useless, and worse, and another – a seemingly mild-mannered middle-aged woman in the RFS – urging him to stand out. This was his fault. That’s what half the country thinks.

I don’t think he can recover from this. His only chance would be a mea culpa, pleading some forgiveness. That’s not in his nature though, and with so much of the country afire I don’t the nation is in a forgiving mood. (Don’t rule out a spread in a Woman’s magazine in the next few months looking to humanise him and explain his inner/secret torment/pain).

The Australian public have finally seen Morrison for what he is – a weak, ineffectual human being without scruple or humility. Basically, a scumbag.

In the meantime, the fires continue.

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