crocodile tears, or rant #1

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.

k xx

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About DrK

researcher, knitter, dog lover View all posts by DrK

17 responses to “crocodile tears, or rant #1

  • Bells

    i’m with you on the vulturing, as you know. Because my father in law is visiting we basically watched more of the coverage last night than I was really comfortable with. the result was that I went to bed heavy hearted, even depressed, and had nightmares and tossed and turned all night.

    That’s beyond empathy. That’s unhealthy. I’m looking away now – providing support, but no more picking over the bones of their loss. Did you read that some people are driving around areas with their kids looking at the lost houses? A great family day out. Not.

    I am very glad that your dad and sister are going to be ok, although the impact on the area is going to touch them too, even if their homes are saved.

  • Tam

    Notwithstanding the disaster that it is, news is pretty hypocritical to cover this 24/7 when, as you say, Pakistan barely got a mention.

    Like Rita Skeeter says, news “exists to sell itself”.

  • Bells

    you know, the other thing that upsets me about this kind of coverage is the excessive focus on ‘community spirit in times of crisis.’ I’d like to see a lot more talk about this in times of lesser difficulty.

    • drkknits

      oh yes, the great australian mateship spirit. cos they dont have that in other countries. other people arent as resilient or strong as we are. yawn. and good point about community spirit ALL the time. what a novel idea.

  • gidgetknits

    Being my old hometown, with family scattered about near rivers and in flooding towns… a nervous few days! But I grew up hearing about the ’74 flood and was raised to think of that when deciding where to live. Old Queenslanders were built with floods, hurricanes and heat in mind. In my old neighbourhood, the Queenslanders stand high over the river, not down on the river bank. I think there still is a level of common sense… it just sometimes gets lost in the dramatics of contemporary news coverage and certain city planning decisions. And I completely agree about ‘community spirit’. We don’t hear about things like the sisters down my road who can be seen taking a bowl of soup over the elderly lady with a cold, but that spirit is out there all the time, everywhere. We just can’t rely on the news to tell us about it.

  • 2paw

    It is so terrible but I have Flood overload, it is on all the time, and there is nothing I can actually do, except donate, and so then I feel all sad and more upset than I should be. And the reporters, they are indeed vultures. Yesterday the floods were even on the TV at the hospital and so I sat there and watched while the studio announcer made the reporter at the evacuation centre find poor people to talk to, and then bade her scan the centre to show us what it was like, and ‘not to mind if it was messy’. What????
    My sister lives below Brisbane, and seems OK, but my friends in Emerald were totally flooded out.
    You are right, some people have never come to terms with the way our country is, especially on The Mainland: a country of droughts and flooding rain. Tasmania is a bit more Europe-ified in its climate.

  • justthreadtwiddling

    My own soapbox gets used when I see how long it is taking for us to help our southern states to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. I get angry at the monies that have been wasted, scammed and stolen. Many people across the world dig deep in their pockets when tragedies like storms, earthquakes, floods and fires occur. For every person who tries to help there is another trying to profit. I don’t have a solution, so I’ll shut up now.

  • Rose Red

    I can’t believe how almost all the networks are showing flood “news” all day and night. There can’t be that much more to report. I have avoided it, for the reasons you’ve mentioned. I just watch the regular news time news on the ABC because that’s enough. I don’t want to somehow ghoulishly participate in the misery of others. I am very glad that your dad and sissy are ok, and I am very sad that people have died (along with countless animals and livestock) and that people have lost houses and possessions, but 24/7 “news” coverage isn’t going to change what has happened. Very nicely put.

  • jennifer

    I couldn’t agree more with you, but can never find the way to express it.

  • donna lee

    I felt that way on 9/11 when the towers fell. I had to turn off the television and walk away. It didn’t mean i didn’t care or that I wasn’t affected. I cared deeply and the images made me sick with anxiety and worry for those involved.

    I feel the same way about the flood footage both in Queensland and Brazil. It’s horrific and I worry about the next few weeks and the clean up and the food shortage and the disease……the worries can be endless and I end up feeling helpless.

    So, I’ll follow your lead and put my money where my feelings are and pay attention but not all day every day.

  • Sarah

    Very well expressed Dr K

  • Annie

    Well said DrK. And to add to it. Where was the help and endless media coverage of the recent floods in The Rock, Henty, Culcairn and more recent Wagga. And where are the support/charity/give money to the people – in these flooded towns, afterall some suffered the same. I was in those towns over new year and except for a few tell tale signs you would not know that they were flooded in last couple of months. Water is water no matter where it floods the results are the same. The media has a lot to answer for in the way they cover things.

  • Emma

    Completely agree with you about the media. When the reporting shifted from providing information about which towns/suburbs were at risk of flooding to seemingly deliberately making those displaced by the floods cry, I stopped watching and reading. It’s unnecessary and, I’d argue, harmful to those trying to recover from the floods.

    Am glad that your sister and father are safe.

  • Ailsa

    I’m very glad N and your dad are safe.

    And as usual you have raised some very true and interesting points about our society. I would have liked to have been in your australian studies class.

    (also VERY interesting that you’ve mentioned this particlar text, because in a lot of ways the novel ‘the secret river’ is thematically similar to what you say about fighting the land to be something it will never be. I loved that book.)

  • shellauw

    Oh bravo and well said. Very, very, well said. So relieved your family is alright.

  • Olivia

    I agree, when something like this happens I always want details details details for a little while, then suddenly I need to stop, when I realise that I’ve got enough information and now am just consuming ‘newstainment’. I think we all have a little rubbernecker in us – it’s human nature to be curious.

    Mainly I wanted to comment because I love your phrase ‘rush off to market in a hand basket’. Just perfect.

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