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Byron Shire
September 28, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: My Town and The Great Divide

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I’m hoping our mountain returns.

For me there is no greater sense of home than on the drive into Mullumbimby. I face the mountain, she shows herself to me, and then on my approach she slips away, and then she’s back – like mother earth playing peek-a-boo. This hide and reveal is a portent of the magic of a community that can’t be easily articulated. A community of diverse opinions that manages to live harmoniously together. Or did. COVID-19 has ripped our rainbow flag in two. Our beliefs have been polarised to such an extent that there no longer is a middle ground. Our tolerance of each other has faded. Our mountain of goodwill has gone.

I realised, while walking the beach this morning, how deeply this has affected me. I feel this overwhelming grief – like something I loved has broken. There is a disharmony in my community I have never felt before. I see it when a man in his seventies screams at a 16-year-old retail assistant about his sovereign rights not to wear a mask or to QR code check-in. When a mask-wearing midwife is yelled at for being a sheeple outside the IGA. And when I can no longer go to the cafe I have frequented for the past 15 years because the staff aren’t wearing masks and are playing know-your-rights anti-mask material rather than music. When did we start trying to indoctrinate each other?

A chasm has opened up and we stand on two sides; those who believe we are in a worldwide pandemic, and those who believe it is a conspiracy. I have seen the videos, watched the links, sat in on chat groups in silent disbelief. I sit in horror and I wonder about the most frightening conspiracy of all. Thanks to the social media we can now create cults without compounds.

Who makes these videos that expound conspiracies? Whose interests do these narratives serve? Do those who consume these videos know it’s the far right’s play to exploit the pandemic, and fear of vaccination, as an attempt to promote extremist ideology? It’s blooding ordinary people into extremist discourse. It’s leading them to Capitol Hill. 

There has been a disturbing evangelism amongst those who feel they have found ‘the truth’ i.e – that Bill Gates is the architect of a 5G microchipping depopulating future of artificial intelligence, where martial law will ensure we are all vaccinated (chipped), otherwise they’ll come door knocking to take our kids… or something along those lines. 

It sounds like the script for a florid psychosis. Except this psychosis is socially activated. It is spread with the same degree of contagion as the virus, but with social media as the vector. Like covid, it also affects the vulnerable, and it can be fatal. I am left wondering; do we still care about the same things? How can this breathless conspiracy theory eclipse climate justice, or black deaths in custody, or the rape and murder of women? I don’t understand the outrage against masks, when there is so little outrage about true loss of life and liberty. Wearing a mask is not the same as dying in custody.

How do we find middle ground where there is none? Extremist ideology offers no space for challenge, no space for conversation. Science becomes the enemy. Any suggestion that popular information has been discredited is dismissed as all part of the corruption of the ‘truth’ by ‘the mainstream’. It is a circular logic with no way out. 

The people who subscribe to this narrative are not strangers to me. Some are friends. People I love. I receive their links and YouTube clips and open them in sadness. I can’t respond. I feel despair. Forget the YouTube forecasts of world domination, the worst is already happening. The far right have already taken so many hostage to their paranoid hysteria, and we can’t do a fucking thing. 

In writing this I’ll be called a sheep or accused of not being ‘a critical thinker’. It’s what cult’s do. They stay inside a circular logic that disallows actual questioning. 

It makes me sad that so many are living in true fear. That this far-fetched dystopian nightmare is what some see as their reality now. It is the end-of-world doomsday ideology that comes knocking on your social media door to raise the alarm.

When I walk the streets of my town I feel this. I feel the divide. I watch the masked mingle with the ‘medically exempt’. There’s an unspoken agitation. A sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’. My town is no longer a place of love and acceptance. It is not a place of compassion and kindness. There is an undercurrent of distrust, suspicion and potential violence.

We are being taken.

I find myself nostalgic for the sense of community we had during the bushfires; When we didn’t need to have our house on fire to know that others were at risk. When we acted in the interests of keeping each other safe. When we worked together, when, as a community, we showed who we were. There was no conspiracy that divided us. We stood together, here, at the base of our mountain.

I’m hoping our mountain returns.

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  1. You’re sad because your time is over. Forever. Your “causes” are fading into history and so, you’re feeling adrift, alone and powerless. This gives me so much pleasure.

    • Roger Collins – a perfect demonstration of all the hate and irrationality that worries Mandy and the rest of us. I wish you peace in your fact-free existence.

    • Apparently the delta variant insures that deniers like you will repay your karmic debt shortly. We need to discuss it, I can just wait it out. Sadly the health care workers are burdened with having to take care of you, it would be great if you could just leave a note that since the whole thing is a hoax, no one need care for you once you are afflicted.

      Thanks for your attention to this matter.

  2. Thank you Mandy for articulating the despair many of us feel around this great divide that is tearing our community apart.
    I just continue to try and love all regardless of ideologies. I refuse to loose friends over differences of opinion. But I feel the separation and it hurts 🙁

  3. Pandemic madness. Thank you for your very thoughtful article Mandy. The ideological divide is socially palpable…beyond the ‘them and us’…It really frightens me to see the younger people so entrenched in the belief systems of ‘conspiracies’ which are designed to also affect them mentally and physically.
    As an Elder I wander with my mask. I have had conversations with shop staff and younger folk about the great dangers of not wearing masks and the implementation harsh legal penalties that are now socially operative.
    Hostility arises. I was told to leave a shop by a younger person. Then a Shop Manager. I was not aggressive I was concerned and caring but hit a brick wall on both occasions. I left the shop both times with the mark of Lucifer on my forehead!
    We can only continue doing the right thing. Surely the TV images of thousands of coffins in Third World Countries has NOT BEEN STAGED to support Conspiracies? Sanity please.

    • Well, if, as they say, the naysayers DONT watch msm then they do not see the reality of what CAN happen here too, like in Indonesia right now, a hospital system in total collapse. And in the US child deaths to delta, and child numbers in ICU, not seen before in the duration of covid 19. That’s the horror I don’t wish on anyone. I am concerned for the innocent children of the deluded freedumb fighters, they are at the mercy of parental delusion.

      • What about the innocent healthy happy children who’s parents aren’t doing thorough research and are signing them up without informed consent to take experimental injections that are still in trial phases until 2023 and having their kids lives ruined because they’re 12 years old being rushed to the emergency room because they’ve suffered an adverse reaction such as Myocarditis which has ruined the rest of their lives?????? And the parents have to live with that guilt forever.


        what about the children in the US who’s parents get their kid an experimental injection at McDonald’s so they get a free happy meal afterwards????

        THEY are the kids I would be worried about.

        You worry about your kids and let the informed parents worry about their kids.

        • Mina, where do you get the information that these vaccinations are ‘experimental’? The first recorded use of a vaccine was in the 16th century in China, and Edward Jenner used a vaccine successfully in 1796. You also seem to be using the word ‘informed’ to mean ‘agrees with me’.
          I really hope you and your kids are safe and well, but I fear they won’t be.

          • Hi Tony,
            And all the others who deny that this vaccine is experimental, I got the information from the horse’s mouth:
            “I am of the opinion that people have the right to decide whether to accept vaccines or not, especially since these are experimental vaccines … My concern is I know there are risks but we don’t have access to the data … We don’t really have the information we need to make a reasonable decision.” — Dr. Robert Malone, “Inventor of mRNA Interviewed About Injection Dangers“

  4. On the way home from my favourite Byron pub I had a trip or two from the door to the drivers door.
    I drove and when It hit that road I felt like I was home coming into Mullum. The mountain faces me and it is before me going up the hill then going down I feel something else coming up inside me. The Mountain is up then down and the sideways. It moves. I had to stop as that mountain was playing hide and seek with me …. uhhh, I felt sick. I stopped the car to gather my breathe and opened the drivers door to chunder it all out onto the highway.

  5. Your well chosen words were very brave Mandy . Thank you for such a sad but accurate summary of what has become of mullumbimby ( and in fact much of this shire) . Eventually the herd will not reach herd immunity ,we are fast on the way to herd stupidity . Most of the op shops will close as the elderly volunteers will decide they have had enough , I am surprised they haven’t already .

  6. Maybe we need another bush fire. Well something that can unify us. It’s even affecting politics, this cultish rabid fervour, where Mandy and Swiv have been crossed off the ballot list in the the minds of the maskless, for articulating sanity and reason in the face of the looming likelihood this invisible menace could come knocking at the gateway to Mullum. The disconnect we see and feel in our streets is no doubt tearing families apart behind closed doors. I am thankful the frothing at the mouth has not entered into my family hearth, I would hate it if it ever did. Imagine what the fracture in relationships will look like if covid does come here. I have seen it in my US friends’ posts. A friend who is very covid aware has just brought her 15yr old daughter home from hospital where she was in isolation in ICU with 24hr oxygen and drugs like Remdesivir which is common in hospitals there. The daughter contracted covid delta when at the dad’s house, a dad who was not as mindful of measures. How is this going to play out? The law says he can have his daughter, the mother may not want her to go again, the states have different rules, the issues of keeping the kids home from school, or not, have fractured families, and already split families have even greater disharmony, especially when State borders are crossed adding to the war of choices. It’s likely there is a lot of societal breakdown over there with all this. Meanwhile, the mask debate rages in our one horse town which is lost in its entitled bubble.

  7. Dear Mandy
    I left Mullumbimby 3 years ago with happy memories but a feeling that the town was on the brink.
    Them and us…..

    Male vs female
    Poor vs rich
    Melbournites vs locals
    Left wing vs right wing
    Nudist vs clothed
    Vegan vs meat eaters

    The town I knew and served as a health worker for 20 years was becoming a rapidly fractured community.
    The pandemic has not caused this only exacerbated this trend.
    Personally I blame anti social media.
    Particularly community Facebook
    Where all the nastiness and hatred for others who are different to us can be broadcasted to large audiences without repercussions and infiltrate susceptible minds.

    Whats the solution?
    Personally this disease of intolerance will stop spreading when people can no longer post hatred online anonymously.
    Unlike the people who can be named and have reputations ruined with the click of a mouse.
    Conspiracy theories need oxygen to survive , just like hate breeding hate so too fear breeds fear.
    If you take away a persons ablity to post crack pot theories online anonymously
    Or namelessly post hatred towards others online
    Then we would see a change very quickly .
    There will always be differences especially in mullum..but anti social media amplifys and entrenches those differences and slowly but inextricably turns us all into little bigots.

  8. Mandy states that “ it’s the far right’s play to exploit the pandemic, and fear of vaccination, as an attempt to promote extremist ideology.” That is utter rubbish! That’s just her attempt to quash the argument, and falsely label all non-mask dissenters as racists, fascists and Nazis.

      • Dear Mandy,
        Since practically all of the MSM has been singing non-stop from the same corporate and government songsheet and unfortunately that includes our ABC. For the last 30 years Newscorp has pillioried the independence of ABC and they have won.
        Quarantine is when you restrict the movement of sick people.
        Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people.
        Stupidity is when you can’t tell the difference.
        Australia and all the other so-called western democracies have evolved into technocratic dictatorships. Apparently you seem unable to see this, but I can because I lived for a time in a dictatorship before I escaped to Australia. But now, where can I go? Antartica?

    • Absolutely agree. I commented to Mandy, given she’s entering the political ‘cult’ she might like to re-think left and right, but she removed my comments. Its her page and she has the right to do that but it had never occurred to me that she would quash debate. Meanwhile Her sermon on the mountain contributes to the divisiveness she claims to abhor.

      • Yes, I thoroughly agree. If you are seeking a middle ground and an inclusive debate, why only give one side of the story? I have been saddened and shocked by the diviseness I am witnessing amongst families. Many ‘middle grounders’ who are not yelling their personal beliefs from their soap boxes but simply wanting to not be exiled from their families by having a different view. But their family members are calling them crazy and refusing to talk to them for make their own choices about what to inject or not inject into their bodies. A scinece based view that says we don’t know the long term effects of a specific vaccine until it’s been in use for a LONG TIME (it’s actually not rocket science). Blindly accepting that everything the government does is benevolent and agenda-free is just as naive as believing the microchipping conspiracy theory. I have heard a number of “mainstream” doctors (yes, AMA registered GPs) express serious concerns about the experimental vaccine (as per Theo’s post above) and personally told me to ‘avoid it like the plague’. I completely respect people’s choice to wear a mask. And I equally respect people’s right to not wear one. I am disappointed that your article Mandy is fuelling the divise debate rather than broadening the middle ground.

    • I’ve stop reading Mandy but noticed there were fifty comments so gave it look………. agree with Gavin…….. shallow Mandy follows the ABC and hasn’t a clue.

  9. Thing is though when these people get sick with Covid when it finally arrives, they expect the hospital staff to look after them at their own risk in the middle of the night. The cleaners to clean after them etc etc.

    Should be interesting because it will come here in the next 12 months as the vaccination rate comes up and the govt finally lets the brakes off.

    • Hi Simon, as a healthcare worker I have wondered this same thing. America is now calling this a pandemic of the unvaccinated where over 99% of hospital admissions are in unvaccinated individuals.
      I believe vaccination should remain a choice but I wonder if those who choose it will also choose NOT to seek medical attention for themselves if they are one of the unlucky who do get VERY sick when SARS-coV 2 develops into Covid-19.

  10. Mullum was already a seething mess of us vs them, long before Covid came along.

    What everyone seems to be missing is that the divide has been deliberately engineered, over time, just like the Wuhan lab pathogen.

    Stop labelling those questioning the accepted narrative as far-right and conspiracy theorists. These people are awake to the bigger picture. You would do well to wake up too, before it’s too late.

    • We should wake up to your “thinking” now, or else what Jac? Sounds like some kind of threat. Is that your only solution to a dispute or difference of opinion about matters such as this? Your tone says alot about you.

    • Hi Jac,
      Yes, I agree the divide and rule is the motto of empire builders since ancient times and labelling is one of their methods. Since the Whitlam coup of 1975 all parties vied with each other to sell the neo-liberal economic agenda to the voters by first getting our governments into debt and then demanding payback time by selling public assets paid for by taxpayers over more than a hundred years for a song to the corporations and their financiers who now rule the roost. Amen.

  11. when I was a kid i wanted to be a hippie, it symbolised freedom and good sense and love and a break from the path of normality to a better future…. now? they’re a pack of rabid fascist clowns who don’t realise what they’ve turned into, and i avoid them like the plague they want to foist upon us…

  12. Right and Left are curious subdivisions of an earlier age. You are now a politician and the Greens have been supporting the pro-vaccine position for many years. COVID-19 is just an adjustment. Until we have a balance of reporting and include the atrocious side-effects and deaths conspicuously ignored and the safe protocol that has been used overseas for over a year with Ivermectin, Vitamin C and D and supplements the pro-vaccine people do not have an open argument. They are in a self-made bubble and this only encourages the extreme theories that sit outside that bubble. Openly engage with the doctors of VitC4COVID and the FLCCC. These aren’t fringe groups, they are doctors with a different method and point of view. The people directing this current one-stop shop catastrophe are laboratory technicians looking for somewhere to direct the new GM technology.

  13. Get a grip people.
    It isn’t a virus segregating us, it’s our useless politicians. They’re the ones fuelling the past 18 months of mainstream FEAR, unlawfully closing borders, withholding families from celebrating weddings and funerals, stopping people seeing loved ones before they die, withholding people access to life saving medical treatment, stopping people from earning an income because they’re deemed “inessential” and THE LIST GOES ON…….

    People have every damn right to refuse masks, refuse temperature checks, refuse experimental injections that are still in trial phases until 2023.

    People ought to stand up for their unalienable rights. the politicians are stripping us of our freedoms and liberties. Our ANZAC soldiers would be rolling over in their graves at how easily you’ve all given up the country, freedoms and liberties they fought and died for and allowed this regime (“government”) to go rogue against the people.

    Stop blaming each other and vilifying each other, it’s the globalist elites and the bought out politicians influenced by foreign corporations who’ve sold out this country from underneath us and turned everyone against each other because while we are all divided they can conquer us and roll out these totalitarian agendas.

    • There’s a big difference between vaccinations and wearing face masks. Helping to control the spread of a pandemic is fighting for our country and the vulnerable who can’t wear masks or who may die more easily due to medical reasons. It’s not the government recommending face masks, it’s the public health professionals who’ve spent their lives dedicated to the science of population health. The government has been bought out by the fossil fuel industry, not mask manufacturers. Fighting for action against pollution from car/truck fumes and coal power stations is a better cause than worrying about having to wear a face mask indoors for a week or two. Our rights to clean air and a healthy planet are breached every day.

    • The Anzac soldiers were vaccinated when they signed up and didn’t complain about it because they were interested in the welfare of their fellows.They certainly wouldn’t want you speaking on their behalf.

  14. THE CONTEMPORARY / The Pacific Landscape [Stefanie Bennett]

    ( ‘Yet the word is true, plucked by a path where human vision went’ : Judith Wright )

    This contemporary. This whatever
    you want to call it.
    This small capital “i” prefers
    things that don’t have
    a stamp of grandness upon them.

    I’m an embosser, by habit.
    Antiquated antique thoughts arouse
    all that’s grounded in me.
    Someone once said – “there’s too much
    earth in your mouth.” I agree.

    I choose to dig my way
    beneath sunsets.
    Never would I suggest the tide
    change its course; real grandeur
    need not shout a reason to be.

    So – there’s mud on my boot-soles
    and aquatic sap in my eye.
    My birthmark is mammalia
    and I’m moon-struck
    not by cosmonauts
    but winged common courtiers of sky.

    Exotic inquisitors damn inheritances.
    Cut the throats of flowers. Speak
    the machine’s monologue
    and program what’s known as
    an inspirational hour.

    To play second-fiddle, I submit,
    is as fine as the wood
    weathered to time. I breathe
    through its resonance
    my own elemental sound.

    Meantime, this contemporary belongs
    to no man. No man.

  15. It is not always the case that I agree with you , but this is one time that I do .

    The Conspiracy Theories used to be the property of RWNJ’s , exclusively .

    Nowadays it is the property of both extremes of the political spectrum .

    Ignorance without manners is the new standard .

  16. I do believe you do experience “mother earth playing peek-a-boo”,
    An instance of this is that you have failed to notice that our beloved Aquarius Rainbow flag has long ago, been purloined, and now stands as a bastion to polarise, nature or Lgbt etc. The tolerance inherent in the Aquarius foundation has worked against us, and I fear Roger Collins may have a point _ the past is a different country and we have tolerated it’s demise.
    We must now acknowledge we are living in “this far-fetched dystopian nightmare” Trump WAS elected president and this country has happily been invading our neighbours and killing them in the quest for “peace”.
    Self delusion has enabled many to cocoon themselves in a bubble of self-satisfaction but “peek-a-boo” Here’s reality again.
    Cheers, G”)

  17. Thanks Mandy. Brave. My best friend of 20 years sent the following message from Mullum when I told her I’d had the vaccine, ‘ Don’t call. Don’t come round.’ Sad.

    • Thats shocking – how strange. So sorry that happened Tony. I expected it would be the other way round (if at all) with people who were not getting vaccinated shunned. Incomprehensible

  18. Thanks Mandy. It’s all about ‘freedom’. Unfortunately the so called Freedom movement don’t seem to acknowledge or tolerate the freedom of people (like me) who use their freedom of choice to understand that facts about COVID and take it seriously. I have the freedom to choose to understand the reasons behind the NSW health directives and have therefore chosen to wear a mask and to use the QR codes. I have made a choice to understand the science behind vaccine development and have chosen to get the vaccine. I chose to take my health and the health and wellbeing of my community seriously. That’s freedom. I expect that freedom to be respected, or at the least, tolerated.

  19. Dear Mandy
    I moved to the rainbow region in 2002 , my 3 kids grew up here, I’ve followed your articles over the years and I had the privelige of seeing it change as I worked overseas and returned each time over the years, looking in. Change is inevitable. Sujay hit the nail on the head about social media (ironic the Bill Gates argument) Our diversity was once a strength to be celebrated and provided cohesion. After being “home” for the last 2 years of lockdown i felt disillusioned disappointed and sad to what it has become , a friend characterized it as Burgious Kuta, youch. I too left back over seas , 2 of my 3 kids also left albeit with fond memories of a time and place that provided connection and memories that is now exploded into self orientated entitlement lacking in empathy and compassion. I lost friends, old long friends, I upset people, more than once. I vowed I would never be one of those “well it’s not like the old days anymore is it” Will I return ? Maybe but not anytime soon, and here’s the thing the region has always been a good social lead indicator for the rest of the country Our division invites invites unwelcome authority (aChina) . Good article, well done and nicely articulated. Ps Woolies was the beginning of the end in my humble opinion.

  20. Dear Mandy, thank you so much for your courageous and intelligent words. Yes grief at the coming death of our sense of community and the popping of the magic bubble that used to be Byron shire.

    • I think the fact that it’s a so called ‘magic bubble’ is the reason people are able to be so utterly myopic. (Janey the following is not directed at you 🙂 ) As someone who grew up in the area, I believe the magic bubble needs to be burst. It is so easy to consume and regurgitate paranoid, fear mongering rhetoric in such an echo chamber where one isn’t confronted with the enormous health challenges that most of the world faces. I have just returned a few days ago from living in Jakarta, where co-morbidities and poor health are the norm. I personally know of at least 15 dead parents/aunts and uncles of friends as well as friends in their 40’s. My friends niece died from dengue because the hospitals were full, a 4 year old.. my boss was an anti mask/vaxxer. she brought covid home to her partner and guess what? He died. He was only 52 and not mullum healthy, but healthy. Isn’t the point that we are trying to protect the vulnerable? Byron shire has its fair share of social inequities but honestly a town of mostly white relatively healthy hippies demanding their freedoms is just about the most disturbing thing I’ve witnessed. Even when the indo government was trying to deny that covid had arrived there, the sense of collective care was immediately felt. Mask wearing was adopted quickly by the people and considered the most minor temporary infringement to ones rights. Why? Because their aunties and uncles, cousins and friends were sick and dying. No one is suggesting forced vaccinations. I too would protest that. Sorry but yall look barking mad.

  21. The problem with social meadia is the amount of bullshill touted by those that are full of cultish veve and know fuck all.
    Living in the UK with 98 deaths from covid yesterday and peeking 50,000 new cases a day, having been in lockdow of some type continuously since pretty much March last year with a few weeks of respite – currently in respite since Monday 19th July – we are living in the thick of the pandemic.
    I’ve misd Birthday’s Funerals, and my own sons not been able to celebrate his Engagement. Hopefully when they paln to Marry in 14 moths time we can have a normal wedding.
    Yet I have family in Australia who refuse to have the vaccine because of spurious reasons, religious and downright fear. Only 2 of 4 siblings are vaccinated.
    In the UK my entire family are vaccinated but we can still not have proper gatherings for fear of the Anti maskers, antiVaxxers, Anti establishmenters, and then we have stupid idiotic “celebrity” journalists being Stupid Cnnt sprouting vitriol and refusing to follow Australian rules – I’m surprise Australia let her in, normally you wont’ let parasites in.
    I blame the social media companies for allowing disinformation to run riot, unchecked, unverified and sprouting absoulte bullshite from down the rabbit hole.
    The science is there to help, to cure, to save and to innocculate us from bad organismas but unfortunately in the AniVaxx capital of Australia it does not surprise me.
    I just wish the people talking unscientific crap are held to public srutiny sooner so innocent lives can be prevented from dying.
    Embrace the scinece, trust the vaccines with proven records, Pfizer, AstraZenica not the 50% ones from up “North”, and be part of the revival, renewal and restart.

  22. I join the Chorus to THANK YOU Mandy for your ongoing bravery & may I say…. defiant voice of reason. I used to think that social media & a touch of the button online link to knowledge/science and the international community would benefit us all, I was wrong. This technology as wonderful as much of it is , has allowed all the looney /nutbag conspiracy theorists take the stage & actually influence those that don’t do their homework & search for the truth. Here’s a hint…buy the Saturday Paper please. Mandy remember you are NOT ALONE , many of us completely agree with your concern / insights & the wisdom you continue to share.

  23. An excellent article. You do the Echo justice and it warms the cockles of my heart it does. Death to covid! May we treat the next pandemic with more respect…. if something like Hendra mutates to be more contagious this sort of insanity could be the end of us all.

  24. What a fantastic, beautifully expressed and poignant article about the craziness of our times. My daughter, aged 16, is in the front line of attacks for the anti-mask brigade at her work. My wife is also under constant attack in her workplace, as she serves her community. That is not okay! Protest if you must, but direct your concern to the police, the council, the government, not your fellow community members. As Mandy stated, there are other more pressing causes. Every year in Australia, over 5700 die from air pollution caused by cars, vans, trucks, and the coal industry. Smoke from wood heaters, increases asthma, reduces lung function and increases cardiovascular disease. Where’s the rage about these issues? Where’s the concern for our vulnerable community members choking on the smoke coming from peoples’ chimneys and exhaust pipes? Protest if you must, but consider that 609,000 people have died in the US from COVID-19. If Australia followed a similar course by not wearing masks, not locking down, not believing the science or the statistics, we would have had over 46.000 deaths (based on US death rates, corrected for our population size). With the current exacerbation of COVID -19 (Delta strain) across Australia, we could still reach this morbid milestone. Protest if you must, but allow others to protect themselves and the vulnerable without being attacked by your belief system. It’s not a crime to believe the science, the maths or the public health experts. It is a crime to abuse others.

    Based on COVID-19 deaths in the US, if Australia had followed a similar path, we

    [Journal Environmental Research, 2021]. Despite these facts, Victoria is about to introduce a tax on clean air by introducing an electric vehicle (EV) road tax. I wrote to the Vic premier, noting my opposition to this tax, but did not get a reply. I wrote to the NSW premier and received a response that at this stage they will not be introducing this tax. We need to pressure the Victorian government to dump this ridiculous tax. We need incentives to take up EVs so that we can breath clean air and reduce associated deaths. I prefer the Australia Institute suggestion of a 1% levy on Fossil Fuel exporters (National Climate Disaster Fund). Make the polluters pay for climate change mitigation, not the people trying to help by purchasing EVs. The 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus has now been certified with a driving range of 647 kilometres. So ‘weekend getaways’ are not at risk from EVs as suggested by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The biggest challenge to EV uptake is affordability. Therefore, a tax on EVs is completely illogical.

  25. Thank you Mandy for standing up and being counted on this subject, unlike your fellow Greens such as the part-time local MP Tamara Smith. She continues to hide away in Ballina (and Sydney), saying nothing and doing even less. The only reason people vote for her is that she does and says nothing so that people can project whatever fantasy they like onto her (like “she’s such a hard worker”, “she does so much for this region”). I wish you were standing as our state member Mandy. At least we’d see and hear you more than every 4 years when you want our vote.

  26. Thanks, Mandy, for your thoughts and a dose of intelligence!

    The (anti)social media have so much to answer for! Too many people will believe almost anything that gives them a (false) sense of security and control, and conspiracy theories fill that need for such logic-challenged fools.

    Unfortunately, one cannot educate against stupidity.

    Because so many Mullum businesses now display their stupid anti-mask signs I’ve taken most of my shopping elsewhere, despite Mullum’s proximity to my home. That’s approximately $10K annually lost to Mullum businesses’ income. My miserable $10K might not be considerable on its own, but multiply that by the number of people now shopping elsewhere and the town’s economy – that god touted by so many as essential above all else – will go down Mullum’s already over-taxed sewers.

  27. I understand that many people don’t trust government…. For many It is the same as people who have experienced domestic violence…. Brad Hazard, NSW health minister was in an abusive relationship with our whole district…. He tried with violence and threats of violence to force coal seam gas mining onto us…. How do you trust someone who has abused you physically and psychologically in the past… this abusive relationship extends to other members of governments…. We are very aware that governments have lied to us, stolen our money, and perpetuated acts of violence on us….. we also know that pharmaceutical companies have lied and falsified drug trials and done some pretty dreadful things…. I see many of the “ conspiracy theorists” as victims, abuse survivors ….. so just as I would not punish a victim of domestic abuse for being hyper vigilant, I feel these other victims of systemic abuse need to be cut some slack and be treated kindly and with compassion

    • I’m with you, Cameron. It is totally understandable that people feel distrust of government (especially the Libs and Nats who have had destructive power in this country for far too long), for sure. Your comment re’ Hazzard is spot-on. But that people are distrustful of all parties (Greens etc) and even the good ol’ ABC, man that really gets me down. Thank you Mandy for speaking your heart, and many of our hearts. This does hurt and it’s being compounded by many factors. And as my son in his early 20s has said to me a couple of times now … maybe humans don’t deserve to survive the virus, given what we’re doing to the Earth. That’s the bit that really hurts and messes with my mind. I care about my life and my loved ones and everyone’s lives and so of course I stick with mask and handwashing and whatever else is needed. But looking at the mess we’re in, not just with the pandemic but in so many other ways, especially environmentally … can’t help but think that maybe my son is right and that this virus is the Earth’s way of trying to deal with the virus that humanity is …

  28. Can you not see you are also contributing to the divide? You seek compassion from people with a differing POV, whilst giving no compassion in return. The people who choose not to wear a mask, choose not to get vaccinated, and who do not want their movements tracked by a government app are motivated by the same reasons you are to do the opposite: they fear what will come next. If you could understand why people feel the way they do, perhaps you will realise we have much more in common with our neighbours with differing views than you realise. You’re labelling people as conspiracy theorists just bc they don’t see things as you do- it’s interesting you think people are brainwashed, when that’s exactly how the other side views you. We are all a reflection of one another, perhaps employing a bit of compassion for others and seeking to understand will help bring the community back together- your article is a tool to further divide. Be the change you wish to see.

    • Amber I have watched hours and hours of videos. Followed links. Been lectured by people on the dangers. These are not reasonable nor credible sources. They generate fear and division. Martial law? My children being taken? Being chipped and controlled by Bill Gates? I have been quiet and watched it without comment. Then seeing 16 year olds abused by customers, having our elderly volunteers at Byron Vinnies have to close the store because of the abuse of people not wearing masks? I’m sorry, but something has to be said. This is not reasonable behaviour. You may choose not to vaccinate. But in the time of an airborne virus that our medical system would be ill equipped to deal with if it were to hit, its such a small ask to wear a mask. Make your own. Natural fibres. Do it for the well being of others. Try putting your personal needs second to the needs of your commuity. No one loves wearing a mask. We do it out of care. It’s sad that so many make it about themselves. It should be about our community. In a priveleged country like ours you won’t be tracked by your own hand made mask. We are all well aware of how you feel. We’ve heard it for 18 months now. Perhaps its time you heard how other people are feeling? I speak for a great many people in the community. Be kind. Be respectful. Don’t abuse kids in retail or the elderly or anyone. And do your bit to protect our vulnerable. How can that be a government plot?

      • “Try putting your personal needs second to the needs of your community”

        When big pharma lose their legal indemnity for the benefit of those left injured in the community.

        When patents are waived and profits become second to the needs of community.

        When secret State Govt health advice becomes transparent for the community to see.

        Then, and only then, you can talk about community.

        Until then, your guilt tripping down the Pharmocracy play book path.

    • We would have at least 46,000 deaths by now in Australia if we followed the direction of people who deny the science of public health in the midst of a pandemic. The calculation is based on US death rates and population size, adjusted to Australia’s population size. It’s a feasible estimation of what could have (and still could occur) in Australia. Have a look at the death rates in Indonesia, the US and other places where the public health measures have been inadequate. It’s a disaster. And then my 16-year-old daughter gets abused by customers in her weekend job because some won’t wear a mask. And my wife’s community service job has become a nightmare because of the same reason. The narcissistic, rude and delusional people that attack our kids and others for wearing masks or insisting that patrons do, according to the policies of the organisation they work for, are harming people through the stress it causes. This is abusive behaviour and needs to stop. Protest respectfully if you must.

  29. The divide is between the television programming watchers and those who don’t. Ignorance is also a choice in the information age.

  30. Dear Mandy. What stop you from showing your love and going and support your favorite cafe? They don’t wear mask and so what? will you wear one once you will drink you favorite drink? Just show up and keep living the love and freedom and care and everything you value no matter what!!!! Be the love in action!
    Love only love…

    • Over 600,000 deaths have occurred in the US because they didn’t follow world’s best public health practice. Were the policies that led to these deaths acts of love? There are thousands of Australians alive today because of the acts of love of those who wore masks, followed the public health advice, sacrificed their comfort for others. That’s love in action.

      According to Nobel Laureate Professor and immunologist Peter Doherty, most of the current US deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated. Professor Doherty also stated the vaccinated are protected from severe illness, but can still pass on the virus. Therefore, once Australia opens up, the virus will spread quickly, and the unvaccinated will have a high chance of severe illness or death.

      The current Delta strain virus outbreak will spread like wildfire in this region if people don’t wear masks, don’t get tested when sick and don’t follow other public health advice. Those who are not vaccinated will be more vulnerable than ever – and the Delta strain appears to also be dangerous in younger people, so age is no longer a reason for complacency. In this region, the waiting list to get the Pfizer vaccine is several months. If the virus hits, there’s going to be a mass rush to get the vaccine, but no way to get it. Maybe Professor Doherty is wrong, let’s hope so.

  31. Excellent piece . I stand with you Mandy and feel the same sense of sadness and loss.
    Divide and conquer tactics !
    It’s seems to be a world wide trend , I am witnessing the same thing in Germany. polarisation, it’s seems so strange to me to see the conspiracy theorists marching along side the extreme right ….
    I ask myself to what end ?

  32. Mandy chooses not to question what is really going on. She chooses not to notice that our freedoms are being taken away. Her message is simple.. OBEY.
    She is a classic Useful Idiot.

    • Mandy has made it clear her stance on following public health advice has come through her own independent and considered research. She is clearly well informed, articulate and intelligent. And the research overwhelmingly supports her position. It’s fine if your independent research has come to a different stance. Perhaps you are more intelligent and more astute in your critical analysis of the facts. Or perhaps you are not. But according to my research, letting the Delta strain run wild in Australia is not a reasonable proposition, given the massive death rates around the world, far far worse than the flu. Amnesty International recently reported that over 17,000 health workers (nurses, doctors and others) have died from COVID-19. The only reason we can dabble with the idea of a cafe with no masks – so free and liberating – is because of the sacrifices we’ve taken in lock downs, social distancing, mask wearing, contract track and tracing etc. The sacrifices of my friends and family in Melbourne, in their fifth lockdown, are why we have had a largely unaffected COVID-19 experience in the Northern Rivers. Protest, take a stance, but play the ball not the woman, man, child.

    • Oh Vincent. This whole ‘we know the truth’ is at the heart of a very devisive alt right strategy- its sad so many are sucked in. The real conspiracy is that you are being played by your own narrative. Lets talk again in 2 years – thats if the military haven’t come in to take you to Bill Gates mind control camp.

      • I agree with Annette ….somewhere along the line the “alt-right” has met up with the “alt-left” to create this mass psychosis. Keep playing your tiny violin Mandy, I’m sure it’s helping.

    • Vincent, what amazes me is this constant refrain directed at people, including me, who have spent their lives (some long like mine) questioning everything, protesting, defying authority when necessitated by injustice and with absolutely nothing meek or subservient about us. We do not believe everything we hear and read in the msm nor from the government, religions or other mainstream institutions.

      But we don’t believe every unsubstantiated claim on YouTube, social media or agenda-driven websites either just because they have that tantalising attraction of going totally against the general consensus of the world’s scientists and medicos. That don’t make ‘em automatically right either.

      I can imagine the myriad responses that will suggest that mainstream scientists are all in the grip of Big Pharma, the government or some other powerful influence. Some truth there certainly but they are also the ones who work in the institutions with the traditions of scientific method and have the backing to work in properly equipped labs – with microscopes and all – to actually do some credible research upon which to base their theories.

      Now I think Mandy has more than a few neurones to rub together and it’s rather breathtaking arrogance to call her a “Useful Idiot” because she doesn’t share your world view.

    • What is a useful idiot? That’s a contradiction in terms! Make up your mind…is she useful, or an idiot? How can someone be both?

  33. Mandy, I wonder if you will be wearing your mask as you take your walk down at the beach this morning?
    Will you now sacrifice your intake of fresh salty air for duty?

    Sadly, I find this article is the most divisive piece you have ever written… it was a very depressing read… and appears so politically driven.

    The NSW Government now state that you need a printed medical exemption with you at all times if you choose not to wear a mask.

    • Sorry Tashi – I don’t follow your logic. What part of carrying a piece of paper makes you part of a cult? Don’t you carry your drivers licence around or your passport when you travel overseas. Are they also cultish activities?

    • Tasha we don’t need to wear a mask on the beach unless we want to – just where you are sharing your exhalation particles with others in higher risk situations. For the short time this is necessary I’m happy to do this just in case it does help protect others – more than the wearer we are advised.

      But tell me, do you object to needing an exemption to park in a disabled parking spot and displaying it in the car? No doubt some of you do. I’ll park where I 🤬 like!

  34. heard stupidity has been simmering in the region for decades, most of these people have low self-esteem, but the generous folk of the region have always reached out to these people, and embraced them with parental open-arms… this has unfortunately, reinforced their existing selfish behavior.

    its a bit like teenagers, who after being nurtured their whole lives, biting back at their parents, as they step out into the world, blissfully unaware of the complexities of that world. these are the children the region has fostered and raised!

  35. Good on you , Mandy. To extend a backhanded compliment , i think your social commentary is better than your comedy act. (I always disliked the way you bagged Ballina , for instance.) Anti-social media has a lot to answer for but it won’t. To those that have lost friends and lovers in this sad debate – my sympathies. May you connect with other more reasonable people , even if it’s by that rotten Facebook. Meanwhile , i hope those who refuse to wear a mask and refuse vaccination won’t expect free Medicare treatment from their g.p.’s or hospital should they get the virus, especially since they claim logic is on their side. The instance of the 70+ man yelling at the 16 year old retail worker is appalling. I’m one of the dreaded Boomer cohort same age as that old bloke and remember the manners we were taught to follow. I’m also an old hippy and maintain today’s equivalent aren’t hippies at all – they’re unthinking selfish ferals. (I notice they’re a lot wealthier than we were back in the day. Mum and Dad money ? They can’t all be dealers , lol.) Finally , and sadly , the bullshit isn’t confined to Byron Shire – it’s (almost) as bad here in Bellingen. I was the Mullumbimby milko. in the early 2000’s and have very fond memories . Sadly , i won’t be back.

    • I’m sure all the old folk felt exactly the same about hippies when you were one! It’s age. You become nostalgic about a ‘rosy’ past and don’t try to understand the young people that come after you.

  36. I have never been quite ‘main stream’, never have been a conspiracy theorist type either but definitely ‘alternative ‘ enough to ruffle some feathers in my life. But these people are just nuts. That feels mean to say but honestly, majority of covid conspiracy theorists are emotionally or mentally imbalanced in some way and this shows throughout their life choices . They are now harassing the average person trying to follow the rules and get on with this so it can end with their twenty hours a day ‘research’ and proof. Try reminding them that they recently were *convinced* that Donald Trump was going to arrest Biden and half of Hollywood on inauguration day. We told them it wasn’t going to happen, they laughed at our ‘naïveté’ .
    These are some gullible people who don’t posses the ability to see patterns in their own erroneous belief system. They don’t learn from mistakes or gain humility and discernment. They may be wonderful kind people in their own way but they are not stable and unfortunately given the world situation they are no longer ‘harmless’ . They want to save the world, have the ‘i told you so’ moment they’ve craved all their lives. They want to feel special and they are willing to let vulnerable people die for it. Sounds like every villain in every movie ever made to me! And the irony ? They are a primary cause for covid’s continuing uprise and the rules and lockdowns they so object to. Crazy people taking years off everyone’s lives.

  37. Freedom is a powerful word that really comes from the heart & it cannot & will not
    harm you. Mandy & those who care for all the people ‘by the people’ is what this is all
    about. None of us believe our politicians are great leaders – they are not. We do
    our best to hold them responsible for their ‘pork-pie lies’ & will continue to do so
    regardless. There is no need to lose friends due to deliberating who’s ‘a foe’. That
    is an ‘extreme Right’ call that’s totally out of tune; an insult none of us feel the need
    of. Freedom’s been hard done by, here. Most of us are not unlike any other.

  38. People like Vincent have trouble triangulating the facts of relatively harmless “new age” beliefs and the very harmful marketing guff of the far right. Come on guys step back and think critically!

  39. Maybe all these conspiracy theory believers are actually faking it and they just want Byron Shire to get such a bad rep as one big lunatic asylum that property values will zoom southwards and there’ll be lots of affordable housing. (How’s that for a conspiracy theory!)

  40. Interesting reading. But I have finally worked it all out. Clive Palmer wants all you hippies out so he can mine whatever is under the earth in Mullim.

  41. Hi Mandy,

    It’s taken me a few days to process what you’ve expressed here. It’s also sent me into a bit of a spiral, actually – as I feel the same way. This beautiful town now feels somewhat ‘unsafe’ for me in these times. I share your grief.

    However, I feel really strongly that the tone of this post alienates me – both as a community member and as a (potential) voter.

    I’ve a huge amount of vaccine injury in my family – and this system gives no fucks about us. It is mandated that to be a member of the ’system’ and have access to the benefits of government services (education, health care, child benefits payments etc) – kids must be vaccinated. But there is NOTHING to support them when the system fails them and things go wrong. NDIS is a joke, a living hell.

    We are not all crazy conspiracy theorists – but real people who have had really bad things happen, and are now living out their lives with the consequences of those things.

    I think a lot of folks around here know this, can see this, and can be forgiven for being cautious.

    What I’d like to hear from you is, will you support a ‘hard line’ on C-19 vaccination? Will you support a, so-called, passport that ordinary folks will need to show to prove their ‘vaccine status’ in order to access everyday services like visiting cafes, clubs, pubs and the like (as is being implemented in the UK and being spoken of by South Australian MPs here in Australia).

    Will you speak up for us, too?

    How do you plan to lead the integration of the divide you speak of – because until leaders do this, the ‘conspiracy theorists’ and the ’sheeple’ will continue to entrench deeper and deeper grooves between that will be more challenging to bridge a time goes on.

    I, too, am deeply saddened and grief-stricken by what I’m seeing – but equally, I’m terrified that I’ll need to create an ‘off grid’ life if this jab becomes mandatory. Not because I’m an extremist, but because my family knows the consequences of what is possible when things go horribly wrong.

    Best regards,

  42. Mandy – There is no divide unless you create one ..
    Your mind is where such things occur .. not the heart
    The heart only knows love and the true law ..
    I am surprised at this article and at your words …
    Mandy -are you working on becoming a member to represent the People ?
    How can you do this when you have already created divide and separation and placed people into quadrants determining their worth ?

  43. Love will always win in the end. Those of us who remain present and manifest love and positivity in our every day life, refuse to give in to fear and treat each other with respect and kindness will be a light for the world. Remain present and give each other the gift of kindness. The breath is the key to health and happiness.

  44. Mmm the human race is definitely in a mess in every area of our existence
    We are all to blame for where we are at today,if you mess with nature the way we do then it’s going to come back to bite you at some stage
    In the bigger picture it doesn’t matter if ur for or against the conspiracy theories,pro vaccines or anti vaccines we are all going to end up in the same place as climate change will get us before any number of viruses will.
    We can only try to bypass natural selection for so long but realistically we shouldn’t be always aiming to do so,it goes against our own survival in the long run.
    Its going to take more than love and empathy to save the human race,we are the victims of our own intelligence bearing in mind intelligence doesn’t negate stupidity.

  45. thank you mandy… for a word of sanity in an age of unreason…. the fear is getting to all people and ripping the veneer of society away… the wise will look inside themseves…. the foolish never do

  46. Hey… the UK’s Boris, now back in hiding, has a lot to answer. So too, those who
    took to the streets [Trump’s trumpets] on the weekend looking & sounding like
    flim-flam arsonists all wearing their Saturday’s best… USA repos no less. How
    about we learn to be our original selves all over again. If the heart hurts, learn
    from that. We are all in this together. Read Mandy’s article again.

  47. It’s all very sad. We must honour and respect oneanother for their own beliefs. Not divide even further. Understanding numbers is so important right now. Not one positive covid case for a year in the whole of northern rivers region up until 25th July 2021 , but recently hearing of numerous Reactions such a stroke and paralysis and deaths from the vaccination in our community is much more heartbreaking . You do the math. Take care everyone.

  48. Just look at who benefits … Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer, and military man Campbell Newman (my friend predicts he’s going into federal politics). State actors like Russia. Aussie government and fossil fuels mob. It’s the rise of fascism.

    They bait for clicks.

    Alan Jones is shameful.

    • no one is benefiting as a result of the pandemic, and jones, is just the gnome at the bottom of the garden, your anger should be directed at whoever decided to pick him up, and bring him into the house!

  49. I was in Mullum about 4 years ago for a little while. I was travelling the country at the time doing pavement art. Some of you may remember but, no matter. I’m deeply saddened at this rift in a community that I found so open and welcoming. I hope the wound heals. And soon. Maybe a place to start is to stop with the labels. I dunno…

  50. a general anxiety afflicts us. ratcheted up by the 24/7 news cycle. doom scrolling an insatiable pass-time. Darwin, where I’m holed up, is v different. riven by a racial divide, but people are friendly and helpful. Mullum is a tad a vanilla anachronism. and is the response due to the nature of the catastrophes. Bushfires a sharp shock, plague a brooding anxiety? only thing for it, be our own hero. dare to be courageous. be calm, be kind. Dark days will end.

  51. It’s funny how you froot loops don’t believe that doctors. Scientists. Politicians and others in authority cannot be subborned to commit grave acts against people yet that is exactly what happened when the Nazis were in power and exterminating millions of Jews. Homosexuals gypsies and other undesirable elements in Europe


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