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Everything New is Old Again

by Lesley Mellor

We watched the fireworks shooting to the stars, then falling in multi-coloured showers over the Bridge. We welcomed in the new millenium with hope. What could be worse than the last hundred years? Nothing like all those atrocities could ever happen again. History’s gruesome lessons had been learnt, or so we thought. But we were wrong. Only two years new and we’re old again. I don’t care if I’m called ‘a bleeding heart’, there’s an awful lot to bleed about. We have a non-elected Sheriff, a self-appointed, saviour of an insane world, that’s been bought like a whore, not for peanuts but oil. Why are we still shocked about the Machiavallian workings of the American government? Surely after Watergate, Vietnam, Allende, Cambodia, Regan’s contra deals, in fact America’s subterfuge dealings in the whole of Central America, one would think that we had become immune to new revelations of what that government is capable of. And those are the things we know about, what we are ignorant of doesn’t bear thinking about.

After September 11 we all said the world would never be the same again, and it will not. The biggest global superpower targeted from inside its borders. On the pretext of annihilating El Quaeda and its leader Osamr bin Laden, America launches into Afghanistan. Osamr is never found and Afghanistan is left in rubble and unbelievable poverty. Afghanistan is again in the hands of the old War Lords and the Taliban. Civilians, especially women, are scared to walk the streets, and once again people’s lives are threatened or they mysteriously ‘disappear’.

America wipes its hands, that job’s done, onto the next: Iraq. This time it’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Never mind that the United Nations hadn’t finished its job of looking for them. In a letter to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, one writer asked why America was so sure Iraq had WM’s. The answer was ‘because they had the receipts.’ What happened to the WMDs in the intervening years is a mystery but none have been found, nor evidence of chemical or biological weapons, not even one speck of anthrax. So it’s ‘in we go again’ time. War in our living-rooms. We watched as American tanks got closer and closer to Baghdad until the night sky was lit up. Silhouettes of tanks and soldiers, black against the red flames, could clearly be seen. Terrified Iraqi people huddled in their homes as the bombs drop, and the sound of gun fire surrounded them. And it’s still going on.

Rumsfeld refers to dead civilians as ‘collateral damage’.Isn’t that a wonderful turn of phrase, ‘collateral damage’? Just about covers everything. At a rare press conference, when asked what he thought about the sacking of the Bahgdad Museum and its priceless treasures, his reply was ‘stuff happens.’ Yes Rumsfeld, it sure does, but this is war, and anything goes. People, ancient relics, humanity. That amazingly stunning speech about the knows we know about, and the knowns we don’t know about and the unknowns that are unknowns but we can guess about, and the knowns now which could be unknowns in the future. Didn’t that make you fall back in your chair with your mouth open? This wasn’t Seinfeld, but it might just have well been. What amazed me was that he could remember it all, but then, what’s a few ‘knowns’ and ‘unknowns’ in the wrong place, it still would have sounded the same muddle of confustigation. It was an Oscar winning performance. During Bush jnr.’s election campaign, daddy came out and said ‘my son is not stupid.’ Daddy, your son is barely coherent. He comes out with the most bizarre sayings, ‘the French don’t have a word for “entrepreneur”’, ‘the things we export are those things which go out of the country.' He’s a dangerous man, even more so because there really isn’t much between the ears.

And here in a country once known for freedom and compassion, we have a government with its own deceipt and lies, which were believed by many. Children overboard? Nah, not true. Funny that, could have sworn I saw people bobbing about in the ocean, clinging to life-buoys. Oh I see, a rehearsal for a training video about life-saving. The Tampa never happened, neither did the ‘Pacific Solution’, nor the CIVX. Over three hundred people in a leaky boat drowned, and nobody in authority seemed to care. ‘I didn’t see anything,’ ‘I didn’t hear anything,’ ‘I didn’t say anything.’ The Three Wise Monkeys. One of them did a sudden disappearing act. The one with ice in his veins and an iron mask for a face, has become our Attorney General, with powers which are terrifyingly scary. His place taken by that wonderful floral humanitarian who’s only been in the job a short time but already her nose is down to her knees. But we still have Billy Bunter, carefully feeling his way through to a vaguely coherent answer to a straightforward question on affairs, foreign or otherwise. And trying to sound oh-so sincere at the same time. His nose is now trailing on the ground. And who is leading this craftey crew? The brown-nosing Deputy Sherrif with his back-to-the-fifties mentality and seriously embarrassing trakkies. A man incapable of saying those three very simple words, ‘I’m sorry’, yet can declare in a bellicose way, ‘I will decide who will come to this country and when.’ The excising of over four thousands islands. A quick snip and poof, Melville’s gone. What would happen to Tasmania if a group of refugees got really lost and landed there? Would it be a case of ‘bye bye the Apple Isle?’

But hang on, what about those families standing behind razor barbed-wire fences, concrete walls. Faces blank, mute, devoid of hope like Holocaust victims, put there by a madman resembling Charlie Chaplin, but unlike Chaplin, didn’t make people laugh. These people aren’t laughing. They’re beyond despair. Ah, I see, a location for a film set in the desert about a futuristic society, like Mad Max. But what about? And what about? And? And so it goes on. But those images on our televisions are real. Women wailing over the bodies of dead children, men sobbing, cradling shattered corpses of their families. And still the American tanks roll by in the rubble and dust. These pictures are real, not a rehearsal. Yes, he had to go, but not this way. An awesome sight that massive statue falling, could have done without the draped stars and stripes though.

Yes, there’s a lot to bleed about. Where are you Keating? You gave us a vision splendid of what we could be. No fifties thinking with you. No dragging our troops into war, sorry, pre-emptive strike. We could hold our heads high, now we hang them, humiliated. We are all boat people. My family left the poverty of Welsh coal fields, adults ‘ten pounders’, kids free. We thought we’d come to Paradise and for us it has been ‘the lucky country.’ I love my adopted home, but right now, I’m not particularly alert, I’m not especially alarmed, but I am so very, very ashamed and sad for what we are seen to stand for, and for a vision lost.

There could be a light though at the end of this long dark Liberal tunnel. Mark could be our man. He could build a new Jerusalem out of the destruction. We could be seen as ‘the lucky country again and one of which we can feel proud. A country with a big heart for all of us and for those seeking refuge from oppression and fear. We might even become a Republic. In the words of the late, great Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream.’

    Copyright Sydney 2004
    Lesley Mellor

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