There’s been a wealth of introspection in the past few days from media outlets who all predicted the wrong result for the Australian election. ‘How did they all get it so wrong’ is a phrase that’s been bandied about, as if the same outlets have forgotten entirely about a certain American election in 2016 that followed a similar trajectory. While there’s a lot to digest about the prospect of another three years of inaction on the climate emergency we find ourselves in – lest we forget the fact that our Prime Minister once elevated a chunk of coal high on the floor of Parliament as if it were his own personal Academy Award – there’s also very little than can be gained by wondering how we ended up where we did.
Sure, we could ask, was it the franking credits? (All the while still googling about what exactly are franking credits?) Or, whether those soon-to-be-out-of-work-regardless-of-what-party-got-in miners in northern Queensland were merely voting out of self-interest so that the Adani mine would get built (or is it dug?), and they had a theoretical job to move into? (They won’t, as Adani has already said that they’d import employees from India, who in turn will be replaced by robots; the lucky souls that they are.) Or, maybe it was people who were protest voting because this party is no better than that party and really they’re exactly the same so what’s the point of voting anyhow so I’ll just put a dick on my paper and be done with it, #democracysausage? (This played a major role in it, given that Clive Palmer essentially paid $60 million to get the ability to demand the LNP to approve a massive coal mine. Wasn’t life much better when Big Kev was the Queensland export that spruiked stuff with obnoxious catch phrases?) We could ask about why people have become disconnected with politics, and all we’d be able to do would be to point wildly at everything til our faces turn blue and we collapse from the rapidly increasing amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but then that’s as idiotic as asking who your parents voted for. (Don’t do it folks, it’s only going to make the next family dinner more awkward.)
All those questions are valid, but they’re self-sacrificing and relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things. For left-leaning folks, life is a constant mire of anger and aggression – you’re fucking pissed at the state of the world, and your outlets for that anger are restricted to yelling at people online, crying in bed, and asking your cat why they won’t love you as you try and pat them as they run away terrified. But, you often live in a bubble of noise that mildly cannibalises itself every so often. If you’re left leaning, then you sure as fuck need to have been a left leaning person for the entirety of your life, having never made a mistake or strayed from the path of progressiveness. And, if you’re someone who intends to run for a politics in some capacity, you best live your life like a saint and ensure that your digital footprint is free from off colour jokes that aged as poorly and as quickly as Kevin Spacey’s cat film Nine Lives did.
Yeah, this’ll sound like ‘oh poor me’, because dammit, it is ‘oh poor me’, but when you’re a left leaning person, your life becomes a constant battle against literally everything else. It’s a constant contradiction where your mere existence is enough to warrant a raised eyebrow. ‘If you’re so concerned about the earth, then why don’t you just kill yourself?’ is a phrase I’ve seen pushed around the internet from time to time in response to vegan activists, and sure, that’s a fair question – after all, every single one of us consumes things on a daily basis that drain the earth’s resources, putting further strain on the world at large. And believe you me, given my mental health and having lived with depression and anxiety for quite some time now, in my darkest moments I’ve considered about how much better off the planet would be without me in it. (I haven’t come to an exact answer to this, but the narrative I lean on is that nobody would be able to care for my dogs in the way that I do, so I better stick around to make sure they are loved in the way only I can provide.)
Over the past decade and change, there’s been a continued, gradual demonization of all things left leaning. For as long as I can remember, the term ‘tree hugger’ was always one to be scoffed at – you can be anything in life, just don’t ever be a filthy, stinky, kombucha drinking tree hugger. Go and be a coal miner before you ever become a mother loving, pet patting, anti-cow tipping, tree hugger. The antagonism delivered at ‘greenies’ (another term that’s been co-opted as a slur by the right) is often presented in a way that suggests that ‘greenies’ hate people. That’s not entirely true (well, at least in my case, my introversion is the reason I hate people, not the fact that I kinda want the only planet I’ll ever live on to be safe and ok to continue going).
‘Why do you want to take peoples jobs away from them!’ is often yelled at those who present clean energy ideologies into the world, hoping that someone with half a brain will catch it and actually do something with it. I’d always wondered what it would have been like to be a driver of a horse-drawn carriage, right at the time when cars were becoming a thing, and now I know. Except, I wonder if people at that age were yelling at the car drivers saying ‘why do you hate horses’ and ‘why do you want to put horses out of work’. (I have many reasons why horses should be out of work, but this is not the article for them, and all I have to say is, they know why they should be out of work).
Innovation breeds success, and if there’s one thing that can be taken from capitalism, it’s that success (so we’re often told) breeds employment. When one of the circular arguments that festered during the election campaign spawned meme after idiotic meme gathered traction, I couldn’t help but groan with indigestion over how moronic it all was. Sure, it was an election campaign, and it’s only natural to be turned off all food when you’re engaging in said election campaign, but the argument that the Labor party was ‘gunna steal yer utes’ and ‘replace them with electric cars’ was bandied about with vigour from the right-leaning media, well, I couldn’t help but check if I still had any codeine left in the cupboard to help drown out the madness (I did not, shame). Now’s not the time to argue the benefits of setting very attainable goals for clean energy outcomes in the future, but when the Liberal party was already spruiking the idea of trying to have more electric vehicles in Australia, and then they argued against that idea because Labor also came up with the idea, well, it shows you how idiotic politics can really be. After all, the Liberal party killed the car industry, and here both sides were, presenting an idea that could actually revive the industry, and in turn, create jobs. (‘But you filthy unwashed lefties hate jobs!’ Yeah, and we also hate how prevalent hummus has become too.) (To be clear, I love jobs, and I love hummus. I want more of both please.)
Here I am, engaging in a favourite left-leaning past time: getting distracted. See, with so many things to be angry about, it’s hard to focus your attention. Do you get angry about the increasing amount of slavery that’s existing in the world? Or, maybe you should get angry at the rise of displaced people around the world, which in turn has created the largest humanitarian refugee crisis the world has ever seen? Or, maybe you should get angry about the rising attacks on women’s rights and quite literally everything to do with their body? Or, you should get angry about the fact that the sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road will become irrelevant very soon as the minutes tick down on the twelve year clock to stop the climate emergency we find ourselves in? Or, maybe you should be angry about the fact that some filmmakers who were documenting penguins in a remote area in the middle of nowhere created a ramp to intervene with fate when the penguins were trapped in a ravine, almost certainly bound to die a slow, painful death? (No, don’t be angry at that one. Penguins lived, and unless you suffer from sphenisciphobia, then be happy that penguins lived.)
What I’m getting at is that it’s pretty fucking exhausting being justifiably angry all the time. Selectively, it’s easy to point out why anyone in their logical mind should be angry and upset about each of these things occurring. Logically, you can break down the reasoning as to why everyone should be concerned about this, that, and the other. But, by merely presenting a clear and rational argument why refugees need to be given asylum, or why slavery needs to be fought, or why women’s rights need to respected and entrenched in law, or that clean energy needs to be established, is such a progressive, radical concept, that you’re tagged as insane or illogical for wanting to do any of these things.
I was born into a world where there was already discussions taking place about the thing that was then known as climate change. It wasn’t an emergency in the 1980’s, and throughout the 1990’s it was still not an emergency, but the discussion was being had. I recall watching Werner Herzog’s film Lessons of Darkness at, of all places, Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. I recall watching the plumes of oil spewing up from the earth like a child who horrendously failed the Warhead challenge, and thinking, good thing that’ll be sorted by the time I’m older. Optimism is sweet when you’re a kid, but it seems that not even the youth of today are able to hold onto optimism as something to cherish, given the amount of kids who have protested around the world for action on this climate emergency.