Politics and empathy
What fun it is to live in Australia.
I was trying hard to NOT write about current political shenanigans, but politics has been taking over the airwaves lately. And not for any good reasons.
I suppose one could call it ‘dirty politics’.
The behaviour of several people, supposedly in power, has been nothing short of disgusting.
Of those found wanting (for want of a better expression) there have been two staffers sacked, two ministers on leave – (‘dealing’ with their mental and physical health, after being accused of awful behaviour) - and another member ‘stepping down’: That is, stepping down - to have counselling.
Heaven only knows how many more will be chased out of the woodwork and exposed as unworthy of office. We hold our breaths as to what might emerge this week.
Meanwhile, I have a suggestion – a possible cure?
Instead of ‘mental health breaks’ or ‘clinical counselling’ sessions or courses in empathy training (!), can we send our politicians – or at least the ones suspected of questionable behaviour – can we send them out bush? And I mean absolutely out in the bush.
They need to get right down to basics; basic survival, out in the natural world. Or, in our First Nation’s people’s expression, to spend time ‘on country’.
Forget about artificial counselling and courses in cushy hotel rooms and clinical facilities – or whatever. Get them out and about where few other humans can be seen or contacted.
Remove the iPhones. Give them minimal packs with meagre food rations and minimal clothing. Supply a swag and possibly one companion and/or Indigenous guide. Let them walk through sandy deserts and stride through the edges of rough ocean waves, at all times of the day and night, in all weather. Some time to think. Walk into forests and see the wildlife.
No minders or photographers present.
Then, after having absorbed some genuine nature, introduce them to the brave, industrious, empathy-laden folk who reside in bushfire ravaged communities.
It is here that they will find true grit. Here they’ll see community spirit and meet decent people who know what it’s like to help their fellow man.
These country people have the skills and EMPATHY to know how to feed and clothe their neighbours; they build sheds for free, and organise tool sharing for those who have lost their work tools and cannot afford to replace them. Whole communities supported in every way – by their own community.
These country people who have survived horrors, understand EMPATHY - and it shows.
There is no need for expensive counsellors and psychologists in soft and comfortable surroundings.
The place to find and understand empathy is out in the real world, where real people dwell.
John Denver was on to something, when he sang, “I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly”. ('Rocky Mountain High'… John Denver 1972)
Get out there with eagles in the sky - and friendly goats who need a head scratch and kids who love their dogs and donkeys, and where people talk with honesty and care.
Get hands dirty.
In place of the absurd ‘empathy training’, each of those empathy-lacking and decency-lacking politicians need to be regularly forced into a life less comfortable, with less self-obsession – and less money and fewer perks, to discover what life is all about – outside that bloody destructive ‘Canberra Bubble’.
I vote the Prime Minister to be first to go.
Progress, little by little...
When I was a very young teacher, my Prep class children used rolled up old woollen socks (brought from home) to wipe their little chalkboards clean.
We later progressed to real chalkboard dusters for cleaning.
It was often messy work. Thirty-or-so busy little people writing and drawing on chalkboards…with words and pictures appearing at a merry pace. But, after the ‘work’ was all erased, the classroom would be in a fog of swirling chalk dust. It wasn’t very pleasant but that’s how we rolled – back in the day!
Then hooray! Dustless chalk was invented and there was less dust resulting in less need to constantly bang those dusters clean on the outside wall of the school building.
Then, the next wonder was the introduction of the whiteboard. Firstly, only for the teacher, who had a large one on which to write and draw and demonstrate.
Soon, along came small individual whiteboards for the children to use.
The only drawback for both teacher and pupils was the occasional misuse of the wrong marker.
Oops! When a more permanent marker (that looked suspiciously like a whiteboard marker) was used by mistake, it took a lot of scrubbing and wiping and half a bottle of metho to return it to its whiteboard-y whiteness. (Ultimately, someone invented whiteboard cleaner).
Also, there were times when a marker or an eraser was put down in the wrong place and couldn’t be found.
BUT, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention and progress in the right direction has once again happened.
The invention of a whiteboard marker that fits into the back of a whiteboard eraser that possesses a hidden magnet to conveniently store it on the whiteboard is the ultimate classroom (or maybe boardroom?) tool.
But I suspect even that will soon be found to be lacking in some aspect or other – and, of course, I guess there will soon be no need to use whiteboards at all, as everything will be achieved using an electronic screen…
What a long way we have come in just one lifetime.
A Young Man and The Sea.
I am on a grassy hilltop, looking down on a beautiful sea. It is too far and too steep for me to clamber down to the waves, so I just look and take it in as a gentle breeze cools the warm day.
I have been walking for a while around the top of Smoky Cape Beach. I look and find a seat to rest on.
Carved into the back of this strongly built and very handsome wooden bench seat is a name, ‘Joachim’ and dates, ‘1989 – 2014’.
It takes me by surprise, and I have the urge to run my fingers over and over the lettering. As I do so, I gaze at the scene below and strangely feel a presence. I keep tracing the carving and a sensation of peace comes over me.
Who was Joachim? At only 25 years of age, he was far too young to die.
Was he a surfer? Did he take one too many risks in waves like those I see below me?
Or was he just a young person who had a passion for the sea? Or this place?
He must have been well loved, for someone to have erected this substantial memorial.
I hope he had a life that was full of wonder. I hope his life was adventurous and full of beauty.
I find my mind turning to the words of Don Marquis from “The Lesson of the Moth”:
“…it is better to be happy for a moment and be burned up with beauty than to live a long time and be bored all the while…”
I hope that’s how Joachim’s life was.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.