unless you are living under a rock, you are probably aware of the devestation of the floods being wrought in queensland. i am not a queenslander, by any stretch of the imagination, but my father has retired up there (he is halfway between maryborough and gympie, cut off, inundated with cane toads but otherwise dry) and my sister has lived in brisvegas for quite a few years now. just before we went to america, she moved to a new flat in ryan st west end. this was her street yesterday:
(credit to Guilio Saggin at abc news online for the photo). her flat is up that rise a bit and then up on stilts with about 8ft clearance so shes pretty safe, but even so she stacked everything up as high as she could, put her stuff in the car, and got the hell out of dodge. lucky she had somewhere high and dry to go but some of her friends have not been so lucky, including the owners of the local roller derby skate store. the owners are now home and car less, and if youre a derby fan any kind of help would be appreciated.
meanwhile, i just want to have a little rant about some of the stuff i see going on in australia at a time like this, and i dont want to diminish from the horror of what people are experiencing by doing so. the fear in my sisters voice yesterday was real, as were my own feelings of helplessness and anxiety for her. and the thought of all those pets with nowhere to go, of the rspca having to evacuate, of all the wildlife dead and lost, the clean up that people must now endure. it brings tears to even my cynical eyes. but i cant help but get a little bit political. maybe its a bad idea but im going to say it anyway. i will at least try and be brief!
firstly, there is this morbid fascination with all things disaster these days. the media hover like vultures, going over and over things in minute detail, thriving on it, taking pleasure in it. the commerical networks are particularly bad in this regard, all credit to abc for just trying to give people as much information as possible. but even so, the endlessness of it is overwhelming. and oh! the short term memory! i know its horrible when things happen to people you know in your own backyard, but i cant help but think how little coverage the pakistan floods got in comparison. thousands died and there are millions of people still homeless there, a nation devestated. we are so lucky to have the services we have, and the resources to help. what happens to our perspective at times like this? and this culture of conspicious grief, that we all go into some kind of mourning, as though we are the ones who lost homes and relatives and pets and livelihoods. empathy is all well and good but taking it personally seems to be taking it a bit too far.
and secondly, what the hell happens to history? have we been in drought so long that we forget what happens when the rain hits the north of this continent? or are we really that dumb, really that short sighted, that it never even occured to us? a few years ago i taught a subject called ‘australian studies’ and we read a fantastic piece by jay arthur, an excerpt from her book called ‘the default country”. it explains how australian ‘settlement’ (or invasion) was based on an idea of what was ‘normal’ or ‘good’ country as perceived by the english, and how australia, as it was, was therefore deemed ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘harsh’ country. this way of thinking has shaped how we live and farm here, with this relentless arrogance, this belief that we can somehow make it like ‘home’ if we put up enough fences, dam enough rivers, irrigate enough deserts. how we use words like ‘dead’ for a dry river bed. how we fail to see what our indigenous people, what native animals, have always seen, that we do not have 4 neat seasons in a year here, and cycles of wet and dry can be 20 or more years longer, and we might therefore plan accordingly. but no. lets all rush off to market in a hand basket and wonder how we got there.
i spent a large part of my childhood on a farm. i watched with amusement my step fathers attempts to control nature with pipes and pumps and dams and chemicals. it was of course futile. it will always be futile. yes the floods are a disaster, but only because we persist in living on flood plains and on river banks, with the arrogance of the white man who refuses to listen to the people who were here first, and refuses to learn from their own history. i dont say this to lay blame, natural ‘disasters’ arent exactly anyones fault, but we do need to ask some serious questions about our management of resources in this country, and how we chose to live in this environment.
its horrible whats happened to the people in queensland, and in northern nsw, and now down into victoria as well. it will continue to be horrible while we refuse to learn the lessons this country, and our own history, has to teach.
right. getting off that soapbox now. im off to put my money where my mouth is.