The Two Ends of the Power Cord

Monday 17 March 2014

I was one of the estimated 30,000 Melburnians who Marched in March over the weekend from the State Library to Parliament House to register a vote of no confidence in the current government.  I am very proud to have done so. 

It was a messy hodgepodge of people and placards, some of which I was in favour of and others which I wasn't.  That's how it goes, I guess, in a democracy – a loud mix of voices, some contradictory, which can feel uncomfortable and not entirely safe.

This might sound ridiculous in the face of internet trolls, the NSA, city bashings, Kyle Sandilands, reality TV, familial incest, Russia, the US and China sticking out their chests and the Abbott Government, but I really don't believe that humanity has reached anywhere near its highest potential.  We march slowly, slowly forward into unity in diversity, greater compassion and equality, a space where we can all feel safer and freer to express our humanity.  But it's an uncomfortable march – it requires us to not only speak truth to power, but also to own our own shit after a fashion, to own the bits that we don't like about ourselves.

Now, just in case I possibly give the impression of being a preachy Girl Guide with her entire shit together talking about love, rainbows and unity, to dispel that misconception I will share a couple of home truths about myself as well, helpfully highlighted in bold.

Anyway, I never made it to Girl Guides.  I distinctly remember as a 10 year old dancing as a Brownie around a plastic mushroom with my fellow Junjarins and thinking, “What a bloody load of cods this is.”

It's the hardest of hard work to understand your cultural place in history, to see the shadows and blind spots that others in 500 years' time will be able to see very clearly.  But as evidenced on the weekend, there are some spots that come into focus and beam like beacons – unfair distribution of power and wealth which shows up in the way previous governments on both sides have treated refugees, the way those in power are increasingly treating us. 

I like one Bryan Adams song and love another one.

And yet while it's right to march and voice your opinion and empower yourself, it's a victim's stance to believe that all of the power lies in the hands of the powerful.  After all, hard as it is to believe, they are human as well.  I try to put myself in their position and imagine how all of us would appear to them.  The mob has never been pretty and for all of our moves forward into tolerance and diversity we are still just as intolerant and hateful and despising and dualistic in our thinking as we've ever been when it comes to those who we believe are wrong.  If I was a politician, I would be scared of us.  And as much as I would hate to imagine it, I would be swept along in the fear and revolt that formed in me in response to that and, swept along with the revolting political machine would find myself where most politicians find themselves, toeing the line and stifling my idealism and speaking lies and bullshit.

On the train on the way to the march I saw an Anglo guy sitting with an Asian woman and my initial thought until I rejected it was that he had probably spent money to have her sitting next to him with her hand entwined in his hair.

Power is a corrupter, as we all know.  Like money, I imagine there doesn't ever quite seem to be enough of it.  It doesn’t fill up the hole of insecurity like we imagine it might.  It seems that within Maslow's hierarchy of needs, more than enough of both money and power starts to rot and decay us from the inside.

We all know that pretty well, and for most of us it's why we were marching on the weekend.

When I was a teenager I used to call Aboriginal people boongs and not think twice about what I was saying.

I didn’t stay for any of the speeches at the march because quite frankly I was starving and my feet were killing me and my energy had run out.  So perhaps my view is a little more glowing than of those who did stay because I left with lovely action-ey feelings of marching in spotty rain with thousands of people in unity.  I didn't end up listening to individual people with individual views who might have appeared to some to be hijacking the whole event for their own ends.  I don’t know.  I didn’t hear any of that – I was eating a footlong flatbread Seafood Sensation at Subway and dreaming beautiful thoughts of the potential of humanity.

Beautiful ideas about humanity are so much easier to handle than the messy blobs of it that show up in our lives, after all, with their own ideas and how to go about achieving them and the defensiveness that flares up within our selves in response.  Perhaps that's why ideas that seem so wonderful fall to poo when wielded in the hands of people on behalf of other people.

Perhaps that's what will stand out so starkly in 500 years' time – what control freaks we were when we thought we weren't.  Our beautiful ideas always end up falling into the stink of control because those filth out there don't know how to do them properly so we in here need to enforce the parameters with which they do them.  It's not only powerful people who do this stuff.

I sometimes expect people with depression and anxiety to “snap out of it” if I happen to be having a good run of not experiencing those things myself.  I suffer from those demons myself and have been clinically depressed in the past.

I do not think that we are very good at putting our ideas out there into the world and letting them be.  We are micromanagers and control freaks.  We do not trust each other, not one bit.  And sometimes we won't give each other an inch without a fight, either.  We have been so easily divided and conquered by those at the top for so many millennia that we too easily fight amongst ourselves for the spoils they leave us, and whenever our egos are threatened by someone who thinks differently than us. 

Maybe this is partially what keeps us weak and the powerful strong.  Maybe the work of correcting the imbalance rests more with us than we think it does.  Maybe our actions in our own lives to those of us who we consider our enemies is about loving them, as some carpenter dude said once and others have said before and after him.  Maybe our actions there affect the greater whole in ways we can't quite understand in our cause and effect reasoning.  After all, we live in an era when the unified field of consciousness has moved from the realms of fancy into the realms of science as a reality we can stand on.  On more levels than the mushy Hallmark one, we really are one.

I have engaged quite happily when at get-togethers with friends in talking about whoever isn't there even though I hate it when other people gossip about me.

When we truly believe this and know this, we might not need to march.  But if we do, we will not be able to walk past the homeless guy and pretend he's not there while we're doing it.  And we won't ignore the red traffic lights either just because we can, forcing the unfortunate cars finding themselves in the city at that time to bank themselves up and beep.

I once gave someone a blowjob in my car in the street. 

When we marched round the corner from Swanston Street onto Bourke Street, there was a young woman and a homeless guy. 

I vacuum four times a year tops.

The homeless guy sat with a cardboard sign and a couple of bags surrounding him and downcast eyes as we all marched past him.  We really are one.

I walked past the homeless guy myself.

I used to go to school with a guy who was quite obviously not very clever.  I knew this but I was very insecure.  I used to say things in front of my other classmates to make myself look better and to make him look even stupider.  His response was always a goofy smile.  I guess that is its own  punishment.

The young woman was playing Auld Lang Syne on the erdu.  A traditional Scottish poem, played by a Chinese woman, on the streets of Melbourne.  It seemed a fitting, beautiful accompaniment for a walk where people from one of the most multicultural countries on the earth were marching partially against the treatment of those who seek asylum here. 

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, yes, we really are one.


  1. First, based on these photos, I can't BELIEVE how much Melbourne looks like Portland. Like, I could almost forget it is halfway around the world. Weird.

    Second, good on you for taking action! I think you have spoken a lot of truth here, and I only wish we could find the right mix of unity and action to make something really change. But instead we argue amongst ourselves about how to best survive being members of the proletariat.

    1. I get the feeling that maybe Melbourne and Portland should be sister cities. At the moment it's Boston. I think that we should both put proposals to our respective countries that Portland is a much better choice and that we will be available to do the research to double-check that it's so. :)

      Perhaps we are moving towards the right mix of unity and action. It does feel like we are in a swirly birth period so who knows what will have been achieved when the smoke clears? That is mixing metaphors somewhat, isn't it? I don't imagine too many births include smoke.

      Maybe as more and more of us realise the constraints we'll break out of them. Do you believe personally that more and more people are understanding this? I do but I don't have any way of quanitfying that.

    2. Interestingly enough, Portland was almost called "Boston". It came down to a coin toss in 1845. See, the universe just got the wrong "Boston".

  2. We're all hypocrites, it's part of the human condition. The good bit is where we can see it and at least have a wry smile and try to be betterer. Good on you for going. I so wanted to go here in Perth but knew my energy levels would never be up to it.

    1. I like the wry smile bit. Nothing like a bit of humour and lightness when facing the more yicky parts of the human condition, eh? :)

      My friend d-ribose got me to the march, kept me marching and then helped me to not crash the next day. It was gratifying to be able to go.

  3. We all have a passion to fight for something. For what we believe in. However big or small.
    Not everyone will march the same march. But, we will always find those who feel the same flame burning about the things we believe in.
    People need a cause. It's what makes us human.
    And that's OK. But we need to remember that not everyone will see our beliefs as right and true as we do.
    And that's OK too, because they have their own causes.

    No one's perfect. But most of us need to heed the call for injustice.
    It gives us hope.
    And, tells the bastards of the world that we're not taking their shit without a bloody good fight.

    1. I like that - there's that unity in diversity again. All with our own passions and causes. Be nice if we could see a little more respect for the beliefs that are different to our own. We seem to have become kneejerk reactionaries to those which we don't subscribe to. I don't really like it much in myself ... but geez, I really despise it in other people.

      Haha. Why are gooberly things we do ourselves so much more repulsive when we see them in others? I guess it's easier to see them when they're projected outwards. We're funny creatures, aren't we?

  4. Gooberly? You used gooberly in a sentence. Awesome. Ah yes the dualism thing again, and damn the carpenter for mentioning the loving the bad guys thing what the hell did he have to go and say that. That just wrecks the old us vs them paradigm, white hats vs black hats thing. I still really suck at it, mention our current pm and I'm as likely to turn to coin your phrase, gooberly, as the next guy.

    I wonder about what is needed for change to occur, like real substantive change...I listened to a radio program on CBC this afternoon while doing my route, about degrowth communities springing up in Europe, kind of like libertarian left communes I guess. Interesting. What if we all just started taking care of each other and just ignored the talking heads until they could play nicely in the sandbox.
    Maybe their power comes from our participation in the game. What if they held and election and no one came??? Talk about speaking truth to power, that would echo off the walls.

    1. Is gooberly not an oft-used term? I do quite like it - it's quite descriptive isn't it :)

      Yes, I still suck at it too. It's like a war between one part of us and another part of us constantly, isn't it. And that dualistic stuff is ingrained to start with and then ground in to boot :)

      I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you say about maybe if we just start taking care of each other then their power will diminish. I think there is something so valuable in approaching it that way. It takes our power back somehow rather than leaving us feeling victimised (power in a good way, not in a lording-it-over way).

      I hope the election that no one comes to is televised. But then do the camerapersons count? :P


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