My place. Wednesday, 7.46pm
After a week of rain, today began as a shiny jewel, the sun glinting off droplets still hanging from leaf and gutter, still hanging in from yesterday’s deluge.
Yeah, it was a beautiful day. I rose from the bed, stretched in the sun, drank a glass of really fresh water, made coffee from local beans… a perfect day.
Then it all went wrong.
I turned on the radio and listened to the news. Oh dear.
Some bloke was talking about drug-testing people on unemployment benefits. I knew he was a politician even before the interviewer said so, because he spoke in that fake, disingenuous, deceitful, smug and arrogant way that politicians use when they trying to convince people they’re sincere. Plus he said ‘jobs’. A lot.
Drug-testing unemployed people is to help them, the pollie explained.
Metaphorically, the sun went behind a cloud and my coffee curdled. I shouldn’t let it affect me, but how did we end up with a bunch of coward liars peddling themselves as leaders, snouts in the trough, creating issues where there are none so as to avoid the real challenges Australia is facing and the real electoral responsibilities they have. Why are they beating up on unemployed people while rich scammers get taxpayer-funded subsidies?
‘Maybe, you should drug-test politicians before they collect their pay,’ I say back to the radio. Uselessly.
Why don’t I just turn off the radio? you ask. Or change the channel? Or put something funky on the turntable? Or just enjoy the natural sounds of a day preening itself in sunlight?
Yes, I could do that, but I need to know what’s happening in the world, even if it is depressing and makes me angry. That sounds weird, I know. Why subject myself to the awful news, when I’m in a paradise lit by a washed sun, perfumed by freshly ground coffee?
I once asked Bob Brown this question. (Yes, I’m name-dropping. But it’s the only name-drop I have. Unless you know Barry the Bum…) I’d met Bob a few times when he was fighting against environmental catastrophes perpetrated by government. (Jobs, jobs, jobs.) He always had a smile on his face – which seemed odd given that he knew more about the dreadful state of environmental affairs than just about anyone else. But he was happy. How could this be?
He reckoned that there are two ways you can go: You can go into denial, isolate yourself from what’s happening in the bigger picture and party like it’s 1999 – or you can embrace the awful reality and fight against injustice.
Surely the first would lead to a happier life, I said.
Depends on who you are. Denial wasn’t for him, Bob said. Denial works two ways. Not only are you shielded from the bad, you are also shielded from the good. You may not have to endure hearing some dick prattle on about drug-testing the unemployed, but you also can’t let yourself fully enjoy the beauty of the world around you because it may bring up the sadness of the world’s suffering, a sadness you’ve worked hard to deny.
If you acknowledge the sadness, the beauty can be appreciated in all its passing glory.
I feel the sun on my face. The coffee smells good. The world is a beautiful world, despite the political/industrial complex that threatens it, and today is a sparkling gem despite the radio where a pollie is now bleating that cutting tax rates for rich people actually benefits poor people.
As Barry the Bum once said to me while picking up a cigarette from the footpath outisde Centrelink, ‘Sure, times are tough, but this durrie has hardly been touched!’