1. We got planetary awareness
When Galileo said that the Earth went around the Sun, not the other way around, priests tortured him.
Even now, it’s still hard to get that this big old world is a speck of dust in the universe, and it’s just as hard to get that eight billion of us living our tiny lives on Earth’s surface could have collectively changed the behaviour of the entire planet, dramatically, over the course of a couple of hundred years.
But we have. We didn’t mean to fuck it up, but that’s exactly what we did. We invented machines that converted energy that was lying around doing nothing into energy we found useful; for example burning petrol to keep 1,200,000,000 vehicles in motion as of this year.
And we made chemicals that kill bugs and weeds, and others that help plants grow, and we have sprayed these chemicals over vast areas of land to grow crops to feed animals so we can eat them.
Only a very few people understood 200 years ago that these fuels and (later) fertilisers, once they pass through a car or a cow, become airborne in the form of carbon dioxide and/or methane. And all those carbon molecules in the atmosphere enlarge a blanket of gas that every year allows less of the sun’s heat to bounce off the Earth and back into space.
The heat accumulating under the carbon blanket is now creating disasters all over the globe, and it will get worse every day unless we can stop it.
An awareness that we are members of an ecosystem on a relatively small planet has been beyond our collective consciousness – until now. But now that houses are burning down and coastlines are eroding all over the planet, that awareness is spreading like, well, like wildfire.
That’s the good news, being spread most effectively by teenagers. The bad is that we have just a few decades to think together, and act together to save our species, which will require some huge failed projects to be abandoned; such as most religion, wars, private property, profit-hoarding, and male domination, for starters.
2. America got stripped naked, at last
In 2010, WikiLeaks published documents and videos they had received from secret sources inside the US government. These words and images showed us what a million privileged people already knew from their libraries and billions of others knew in their gut: that the American military, shielded by propaganda dressing invasions up as democracy, had routinely committed appalling crimes against humanity – including its own citizens – in pursuit of its real agenda, which was the spread of raw and rampant capitalism.
Africans for example, knew that dictators had half of their countries’ wealth hidden in banks in Switzerland, but WikiLeaks showed them the bank statements, the receipts, and the contempt with which those dictators viewed their people.
We all knew that emperors and warlords were just men, but Julian Assange pulled their pants down in the new global public arena, the Internet, which is why the American elite will kill him or imprison him for life for the crime of saying the unspeakable.
The people who leaked the secrets, primarily Chelsea Manning (previously Bradley Manning), were themselves Americans, but it was perhaps necessary that an almost-American outsider like Julian would be the one to pull down Uncle Sam’s pants.
3. The patriarchy pulled down its own pants
The women’s movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the peace movement, environmentalism, and the rest of the movements seeking to replace the exhausted cultures of the post Second World War world, all knew that the patriarchy and its rules were a plague on the planet.
Tarana Banks started the #MeToo movement in 2006 and it reached another tipping point in 2017. What #MeToo did was call out men who were pulling down their own pants and using their patriarchal power and privilege to violate women physically and in every other way.
When he saw 2017 Golden Globe award-winning women espousing #MeToo-ism from the podium, Stephen Bannon – the brain behind Trump’s rise to power – saw #MeToo’s true meaning. ‘Women are gonna take charge… the anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo ten thousand years of recorded history,’ he screamed at the television, and for good measure – ‘If you rolled out a guillotine, they’d chop off every set of balls in the room.’ This is Steve’s worst nightmare, and so it is for Trump, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, and all their truck nuts mates (https://tinyurl.com/trucknuts-com).
Putting men in charge of everything has achieved many great things, and, ultimately and spectacularly, it also has failed.
4. At last, Australia’s past is bursting out of its red-dirt grave
When Europeans invaded Australia 230 years ago, armed with the latest deadly weapons, they ignored the rights of the people who had been on this continent for 60,000 years or more. In fact, they enslaved them and killed them in numbers only now being counted.
As the 2010s have staggered to the finish line, the tipping point has been reached, such that Indigenous Australians can no longer be ignored or killed at the whim of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic branch of the patriarchy.
The Aboriginal community has had resistors who fought the Euro-Australians with weapons, some who pleaded with them for mercy, some who argued and even won an argument or two in court. And some white fellas saw the injustice and called it out.
But in 2017 the Uluru statement from the heart emerged as a definitive challenge, asking white fellas to walk with them, the black fellas. This time they’re not gonna take ‘No’ for an answer, and they will get a voice, recognition, and compensation perhaps, even atonement, whatever today’s rump of the patriarchy does or says.
Somewhere in all of the above are flickering fires of positive change – and yes that’s a terrible metaphor to use when half the country is on fire, but that’s the kind of world we are in right now. Time is no longer on anyone’s side.
Tomorrow we start another spin around the Sun and another decade. Every day, more kids get it, that they can’t allow the big Boys’ Club to own the Big Stuff one more decade.
♦ Phillip Frazer does existential accounting at coorabellridge.com.