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June 22, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: May the Lord Open

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Earlier this year, I was one of the many hooked on The Handmaid’s Tale. There was something weirdly compelling about this dystopian take on life; where humans have lost agency in a society controlled by extremist rule. The Handmaid’s Tale is about the totalitarian power of governance over a population. The series always left me tingling with fear, imagining what it must be like to live a life without freedom. It’s not real, but it felt real. History shows us how quickly this can happen, but from the comfort of my bed with my doona of democracy it was hard to believe that a population would allow such complete subjugation without protest.

That same feeling I had watching The Handmaid’s Tale has settled on me and it hasn’t left. 2020 has turned out to be the most surreal year of our collective lives. A pandemic has hit, it has devastated our ageing population and caused the rest of the population to lose agency – very quickly, for their ‘protection’. I had never considered the profound impact of such an exceptional circumstance; what it means for those in lockdown who are living in a State of Emergency. In a State of Emergency none of the existing rights of a democracy – like the right to gather in protest, or to speak out against the government, exist. This is a new and sudden landscape of law and enforced compliance.

What happened in Melbourne on the weekend has left me feeling conflicted. I am not a conspiracist. To date I have supported the disease control measures. I understand how, without the availability of adequate treatments, wearing masks, distancing and lockdown are possibly our only tools in controlling the rampant spread of this coronavirus.

But I’m starting to wonder, at what cost? Governments focus on economic outcomes as the key measure of how to mitigate disaster and manage its impact. But I think there’s a measure missing. A social measure of our collective wellbeing. A check on the eradication of our agency. I worry that the impact on the mental health of a population in extended periods of lockdown may be enduring. In prison, solitary confinement is the most extreme form of control within corporal punishment. It is used to break people. When an entire population is forced into isolation, it’s going to do the same. Are we going to come out of this pandemic a broken population?

There have never been more rules. Rules that are implemented in the blink of an eye, rules that limit our movement, rules that prescribe some behaviours and prohibit others. Rules that close our borders. Rules that have shut bureaucratic hearts, that have seen new born babies die because of inflexible adherence. I thought the rules were there to save lives, not to end them. Rules that see a pregnant mum arrested in her pyjamas, in front of her children, for posting about a Freedom March on Facebook. This footage is frightening. I do not have to agree with a person’s position to defend their right to express it. This is not a country I recognise.

The Rules have become The Way. State leaders, whose names I previously never knew now step forward to enact paternalistic territorialism to protect their patch, blurring the greater good with their future election interests. Our once united Australia has become factionalised through border control. It’s possible to consider Australia as no longer being one nation but a series of autonomous states and territories.

This is a time for considered governance. Totalitarian and heavy-handed measures use fear to control the many, but will tip others into extremism. This is why lunatics in the US fight for the right to bear arms. We have to be careful not to trigger that mindset. Our government is elected to serve us, not incarcerate us for speaking out. That is not the country where we live. This is a true democratic dilemma; where the choice is between pandemic management incumbent with loss of freedom versus freedom with a rampant virus.

I long for the day we can open our homes, our streets, our shops, our venues and our borders again.

In lieu of the government doing it, I guess it’s back to the oft-repeated refrain from The Handmaid’s Tale: ‘May the Lord Open’.

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  1. We are taking a close look into that governance where
    a government ‘elected to serve us’ is pushing buttons
    in order to button-us-up. The ever changing laws made
    ‘on the run’ change in the blink of an eye. It’s difficult to
    believe that our designers fully understand themselves
    let alone us. I watch the ‘inter-play’; it’s alarming. The
    state-break-away is a runaway. I guess I do want to
    feel that the Vic premier is doing what needs to be
    done. Like many others I see [& know] our police force
    don’t follow the rules they arrest us for while football
    gets a green light to play ball & thus help out the QLD
    election chances. All too crooked to solve, Mandy.
    The aged & their carers are cornered by red tape. It’s
    sick & insidious however we view the situation. The
    Handmaid’s Tale? You got it.

  2. Mandy just for the record I LOVE YOU…BUT …BUT Dan Andrews I believe ,is doing a GREAT job under horrendous circumstances. DAN IS CONSIDERING HUMAN HEALTH BEFORE PROFIT. With the first & second World Wars many privileges were restricted or prohibited…this is another national emergency. THE FEDS HAVE BEEN AGGRESSIVE & BLOODY MINDED SO MUCH FOR A NATIONAL PLAN & UNITY ???? If you weaken & reduce restrictions on movement there WILL BE A THIRD WAVE IN Victoria, that’s a fact. This will cause MORE economic hardship not less. More deaths & chaos impacts hugely on the community & actually causes more decline in economic incomes & stability. WE should have done what NZ did months ago…go hard and get back to normal quicker. IF THE VIRUS KEEPS SPREADING WE CAN NOT DO EFFECTIVE TRACING, MEDICAL EXPERTS HAVE TOLD US THIS…..WITH MASSIVE INFECTIONS THE TRACING TECHNOLOGY CAN NOT FUNCTION, meaning too many people to trace and the system collapses..It has only functioned relatively well with a relative number of cases to trace. The Fed Govt app has apparently been pretty useless ?? DON’T THINK WE DON’T LIVE IN AN AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEM UNDER THIS GOVT…JUST LOOK AT THE ABC JOURNOS OR THE CASE OF WITNESS K & COLLEARY RE THE BUGGING OF East Timor PARLIAMENTARY OFFICES.

  3. Yes. Good on you Mandy for speaking OUT. We are witnessing /participating in , a Constitutional crisis and viewpoint is all important. Let freedon reign .The constitutional lawyer on Q and A the other night was spelling it out very clearly.
    From the viewpoint of a couple of hundred years ago when the flag was planted and the terra nullius lie told ,to now presents an interesting viewpoint. This governing circus which we are witnessing is actually and by its own law which is upheld finally I the British High Court, ILLEGAL. It seems to me that the way through would be to
    1.either dismantle the state’s and govern majorly from a community grass roots place with the indigenous led community councils or to allow all states to govern autonomously in a sink or swim way. (Maybe W.A. will suceed first. Just thinking about a possible options ……other than the one we have , where we acknowledged the true communities and custodianship of country /countries and still are One Country. Is this where the far left and the far right meet. ? THANKS for your courage and thought provoking comments. I am glad it is still legal to think outside the square. Josephine Beams MJO.

  4. Mandy, you’re allowed to feel conflicted by the optics in Victoria because there‘s a consistency in this with the values that seem inherent in your commentary. What I’m finding amusing are the howls of outrage from the law and order right. It’s seems for this crew the police can’t come down hard enough on law breakers – unless they are undermining Dan Andrews.

    I think though, to say that we have lost the right to protest, or criticise the government, is an overstatement. I reckon what we’ve lost is the right to do these things in situations that are counter to the public health measures – and public health measures designed to get daily infection rates down from the 700s are pretty important to defend. And what are the ‘freedom’ marchers protesting about? Is it against initiatives and leadership that many (looks like the majority) feel they have a right to expect their government/s, in a health crisis, will see as their duty to implement to protect them.

    If Victorians had lost their right to criticise the government their gaols would be groaning with Liberal Party members and other Melbourne socialites.

    I don’t know what the pregnant mum wrote and whether or not it broke the law. That’s to be decided elsewhere. Freedom of expression must be defended but many of us have also resisted the right wing libertarian view that this gives carte blanche. You and I, and millions of other women, have also experienced pregnancy and motherhood (many grandmotherhood). While chivalry is sometimes touching and seductive, I’ve always resisted suggestions that these circumstances somehow impaired by capacity for critical analysis and taking responsibility. I have felt really conflicted about so much commentary that seems to hint that pregnancy imposes some level of infirmity, disability or other vulnerability. This reasoning has been used for centuries to keep women in their place. It wasn’t called ‘confinement’ for nothing.

  5. Is there something in the software now that removes the paragraphing from these posts? Can it get fixed as it’s horrible?

    Or is it to discourage the verbose like me?

  6. Hi Mandy, to me what you are saying speaks of how we don’t trust our politicians and their motives. They say it’s to do with our health but our experience tells us to beware. What are their real motives? Hmm…

  7. … yeah – this stuff about “freedom”…
    Let’s compare ourselves to refugees in detention, or to North Koreans, Tibetans, Uighurs etc., and the list continues. Our changed situation is temporary. Theirs probably isn’t.
    Now try to imagine what it would be like to be them.
    I can’t help feeling that Australians complaining about their lack of “freedom” at the moment sound like spoilt brats having tantrums.


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