In 1996, Pauline Hanson made her first maiden speech in parliament. In it, Hanson used the horrifying and caustic line: ‘I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians’. This caused walkouts from fellow MPs, and brought about condemnation from then Prime Minister John Howard. As a twelve year old kid in primary school, I had little to no concept of what she was talking about. While this is no excuse at all, I was bullied a lot in both primary school and high school, and in turn, found myself retaliating by bullying some of the Asian students. At the time I didn’t think that I was bullying them, and often thought of them as my friends, but looking back I know that is far from the truth.

There is no more powerful fire than fear itself, and when the flames of fear are stoked and encouraged – as they were, and have been with Pauline Hanson and her ilk with alarming regularity in media – they cause spot fires in places that are unexpected. In 1996, that was me, someone who (I want to say, even though it feels like more of an excuse than anything else) didn’t know better. I recall saying that I agreed with Pauline Hanson, and when I had my first opportunity to vote in 2004, I voted for John Howard. Sure, in reflection it was the lesser of two evils (with Howard’s opponent being Mark Latham, a man who has now shown himself to be a bed fellow to Pauline Hanson), but the politically savvy me of the now is still disturbed that I would ever have done such a thing. And, I’m even more disturbed by what I said back in the years of Hanson’s first round in parliament. I hope I’ve been able to distance myself from these remarks, leading a life that works against every element of what makes Pauline Hanson, Pauline Hanson.

But this could have been avoided through better societal awareness of what amplifying someone like Pauline Hanson does to society. 1996 was a greatly different time than 2019. After all, most of us spent our time asking what the fuck Izzy was. The media amplification Pauline Hanson’s speech worked hand in hand with her aims. Yes, a lot of the reaction was negative, with widespread damnation for what she had said, but the aggressive nature of her words outgrew the condemnation, fostering a life of their own. If I had someone to explain what her words meant, why she was saying them, and most importantly, why they were wrong, then maybe I wouldn’t have had that horribly racist part of my life. I look back and I see how easily I could have fallen down the path of right-to-far right leaning beliefs, and I shudder.

Then, I look at Pauline Hanson’s 2016 Senate speech, where she one upped herself and doubled down on the racist, far right rhetoric, throwing in a greatly unwelcome heaping of Islamophobia into the mix with the line: ‘Now we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.’ There’s a clear correlation with Hanson’s speech here, and the one time One Nation party member and genuine Nazi, Fraser Anning, who utilised the term ‘final solution’ in his speech in the Senate. And in turn, there is a clear correlation between Hanson, Anning, and the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch.

When people are losing their lives because of being partially influenced by the words of politicians, it’s clear that we are in desperate times. This is not an isolated situation, with the words of Donald Trump being utilised to further stoke bullying against minority groups. In this powerful article on Teen Vogue, Asma Uddin talks about the effects of bullying from Donald Trump and his followers:

One Muslim mother of a bullied 7-year-old boy told Teen Voguethat last year the bullying was so bad her son said he no longer wanted to live. She said one student challenged others to make him cry, and said another student took up the challenge and stabbed her son with a pencil. “When he cried, they would all laugh. They would cut his lunch line telling him he doesn’t need to eat since he is fat. … He was threatened by a girl that she would break his pinky finger if he tattled about them.”    

It’s Time We Talk About the “Trump Effect” On Kids – Asma Uddin – Teen Vogue

This is terrifying. I keep searching for a different word other than terrifying to use in this piece, but terrifying is the most apt. I’m shaken by what is happening politically around the world. There is a realm of politicians around the world who witness the value in fear mongering, recognising that the fear of ‘the other’ is a vote getter, and that alone is horrifying to witness play out on a grand scale. If only the fear of no planet was enough to replace the xenophobic mania driving politics today.

As with eco-anxiety, political anxiety is on the rise. Every vote is sacred, and every vote feels like a fight for the rights of many. When evidence already exists showing that the actions of different politicians can cause devastating, harmful effects on different groups around the world (the rampant removal of reproductive rights for women in America being one of the most harmful and, you guessed it, terrifying), it becomes clear that every election cycle is to be treated like a battle. If you weren’t already engaged with international politics, then you really should be. It doesn’t take much to realise how the actions of Donald Trump and co. can affect the world at large, but to help colour your picture for you, take a dive into this article about how Trump’s abortion policies are changing the world of women internationally. It’s sobering stuff.

I made a decision a long time ago that children were not in my future. It’s as much an ecological decision as it is an ethical decision. Under the current political regime in the world, I cannot ethically bring a child into this world. If I struggle with my own mental illness, and grapple with the idea of how to move forward ethically and safely in the world on a daily basis, then I would struggle even more in trying to raise a child in this world. I have no idea what this world will look like in five years, let alone ten years. I live with eco-anxiety and political anxiety daily, on top of plain old vanilla anxiety. I can only imagine how the youth of today are dealing with the same anxieties. The right to vote is not theirs yet, and yet the future they will inherit is eternally in flux.

I don’t know how to move forward in this world. I don’t know how to break the taboo of talking about politics. I don’t know how assuage my own fears, let alone the fears that other people have about the state of the world. And, most importantly, I don’t know how this planet will combat this climate emergency as a united force. I want to rely on hope, I want to have the reliance that ‘something positive will happen’, but the truth is:

I’m terrified.