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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Be the change

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‘There’s no time for crying, we have work to do.’ These were the words sung by Mavis Staples – she’s 79 and she still believes in change. I wonder how as black woman pushing up against decades of oppression she’s maintained her hope, her belief in human capacity for good. In a world where many of us feel engulfed by hopelessness, it’s these Mavis moments that can reinstate belief.

Of course when she sings it I start crying, which is ironic because she’s right: it’s self-indulgent; better to do something. Like if I went home and cried about the washing up it won’t get me as far as actually doing it. Or smashing the dishes and telling everyone to fucking do it themselves.

I went straightaway and bought a refillable water bottle. Doesn’t feel life changing, but maybe somewhere for a turtle in the Pacific Ocean it is. I have been contemplating the politics of change. Society can no longer dismiss ‘dirty hippies’ chained to trees. Or angry vegans protesting impacts of meat production. Or lefties saying NO to Adani and to coal.

They’re right. Everyone knows it. Government knows it. Investors know it. It’s just there’s so much vested interest they won’t stop. The human race is in denial.

It’s no surprise there’s a rise in suicide; our generalised lack of care for the planet and the future of those who come next has become a normalised mindset. We’re killing the future and then wondering why suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 24–44. We have to change. Every person. Every country.

I’ve always hated the mantra ‘change must come from within’. It’s the perfect rationalisation for lazy radicals with yoga mats and no intention of any action except long tantric love-making sessions with a few of their best mates. But the other day it dawned on me. Maybe it’s true. Change must come from within; it’s what we change in ourselves that will impact on the world the most: because changing who we are and what we care about is the ONLY way to change our behaviour, and until we change our behaviour, nothing changes. So here’s your 10-point personal change plan to change the planet… meditate on this and then get cracking.

1. Stop believing that you are going to be rescued. It really is up to you. This ‘someone else will do it for me’ has made you dependent on the system.

2. Discover your competence. In order to change you have to be open to developing new skills. You need to be able to do real stuff. With your actual hands. Like could you grow your own food? What’s stopping you?

3. Stop being avoidant. Get engaged. Not to another person – in your community. Put your hand up. Take responsibility.

4. Stop wanting shit you don’t need. This is key. You might need to work out why you need so much stupid shit in your human hole – it’s not your right. And it doesn’t work anyway. People with lots of stuff just have bigger holes. Just look at Rupert Murdoch. He’s a black hole.

5. You’re not an individual. That’s an illusion. For fully fledged consumerist trickle-down capitalism to work they had to sell you that first. Start thinking of yourself as part of a community. Kind of like a lego block, you’re meaningless until you’re connected.

6. It’s your fault. Well, it’s going to be. Don’t get stuck in the blame cycle, just sit a minute with the shame of your own ignorance, dependence, and general incompetence. Own it. Move on. Find your inner caveman/woman.

7. You have to give a shit. Your not giving a shit is so incredibly self-indulgent you just have to stop. You see ‘not giving a shit’ is a mindset people use for doing whatever they want without care for consequence. Anyway, why do you think you are so important you have the right to not give a shit? It’s not about you. Shape up, shithead, and start sorting your rubbish – let’s start with where you get your ideas, your values, and whom you vote for. Make informed decisions – use information rather than beliefs.

8. Develop compassion. This is one I have to work on too. When it comes to compassion the human race needs a six-pack. Start practising on people you hate. For some people that might mean practising on me.

9. Believe. It just seems pointless not to. If we die in a cataclysmic climate-change event, saying ‘I told you it wouldn’t help’ to your mate at the Solar Start Up doesn’t make you a winner. You’ll be dead too. And your kids. And your kids’ kids’ kids’ kids.

10. Act. Just do it, dickhead. It’s not that hard. Remember when you had something to do and you couldn’t be fucked so you put it off and worried about it and made up excuses and bargained and faked illness? Then you just did the thing you had to do? Pretty much the same process here.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well it’s going to take our world village to raise a change. Real, systemic, economic, social, lasting change. Don’t wait for government to do it for you. They won’t. It really is up to you. The revolution starts now. Except we’re not burning buildings. We’re burning mindsets.

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  1. Spot on. Mandy. It’s almost the third decade of the 21st Century and business as usual ie back to the 1950s, white picket-fence white bread Australia, business as usual just ain’t going to work! Get acquainted folks with the atmospheric C02 levels measured at Hawaii’s Mt Mauna Loa, and the Keeling Curve. Then start to wonder why today’s teens and young adults are shit scared about the future.

  2. Bulls eye, Mandy! Point 7… We’ve got to give a shit & flatten the ego
    for starters. Untarnished information works wonders. Point 8… that’s
    the toughest. Compassion! Who’s ‘got it’? Often it’s our ‘opposite’.
    Why’s that? We don’t understand them. We won’t try either because
    there’s this feeling ‘the other’ somehow knows us. Quite often you
    can see it in their eyes. We can be twins without being identical.
    A true kinship often follows ‘opposites’. Point 9 & 10… Believe & Act
    on the truly known Global problems along with the local fear. Stand
    your ground & others will too. Share & repair the mess we’re in… &
    quit thinking you are the ‘only victim’. Tomorrow’s already begun.
    Go, tackle it!

  3. what about being nice – to yourself and the people around you?

    it seems that being a front page news article is more important than just a humble and diligent member of society. It may sound weak but all the tree-hugging vegans in the world won’t make one iota of difference to the world if no-one wants to live in it while it is full of arseholes and whining prats.

  4. Youre right Mandy. For some time ive been feeling a tad guilty when my air conditioner has been going flat chat then i drive my 6 cylinder Prado to the next climate change rally

  5. At Mullum’s Rally I thanked Bob Brown for all he was doing with
    the Stop Adani programme. What a concept it is to take a Convoy
    to the people – especially those who believe abuse is an Aussie
    OK – & attempt, graciously, to turn their thinking around. That’s
    quiet power in action especially when the odds of North Qld.
    are against you. [Yes – the odds are risky. I was born there.]
    Bob’s a gracious, caring man. A fine role model for ‘Be The

  6. I am a lego block
    I am a leg o block
    I am a lego bock
    I a m a legob lock

    I’m starting to get it, Mandy, where do I send your cheque?


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