As the weeks have gone by, I’ve found myself more and more preoccupied and distressed by the potential outcome of tomorrow election. It’s probably not often that a wedding photographer will write about politics on his website but I honestly can’t hold it in any longer, my fear for the nation has reached a crescendo. I can’t sit by and allow tomorrow to happen without knowing that I’ve done as much as I can to ensure that this nation keeps heading in a direction where we are respectful of our planet and each member of our society is afforded opportunities and treated with compassion and dignity.
My parents came to Australia back in the late 70s, dad was on a scholarship to do his Masters and then his PhD. I was born in Wollongong in 1981 but we returned back to Sri Lanka in 1982 when dad’s visa expired. In 1989, after dad was offered a job at The University of Wollongong, they decided that we would come back to Australia to give my sister and I the best opportunity for a future. So mum and dad worked really hard, saved every cent they made and there were often weeks where we barely had enough money for groceries. But they gave us a house to live in, an education and a chance at life for which I am forever grateful for. And as different as I was to everyone around me, I was, for the most part, included. I felt like I was part of the community and was welcomed in to this country.
But slowly, things started changing. During the late 90s and 2000s, We had 10 years of leadership under John Howard, one of the most conservative and divisive leaders in a long time. I found him changing the attitudes of our society. Our nation’s collective ideas about multiculturalism, asylum seekers, war and Indigenous Australians were shifting further and further to the right. I felt people were becoming more and more interested in their own needs rather than the needs of the community and the last 6 years has demonstrated more and more of that with each passing day. The “news” our media provides us with is simply opinion and filler and the lobby groups for the dominant industries in the nation have deep pockets so they influence our democracy no end. It’s probably fair to say that you and I don’t matter anywhere near as much as we did 20 years ago.
The way things are, we have two quite unsuitable people as our candidates for the Prime Ministership tomorrow. One is supposedly a centrist-left while the other has no qualms about admitting his ultra-conservative ideology driven right-wing views. We’re at a point in history where we will hand the reins of power to either of these two people and their parties to drive for the next 3 years – and we’ll probably be heading in the wrong direction. This is what I am so fearful of. The asylum seeker policies of the Labor Party are criminal and pander to the most racist and exclusionary elements of our community and the continual instability within the party itself is of great concern. And the plans of the Coalition are just too scary to even think about (more for the rich & less for the poor, no action on climate change, unequal rights for people including opposition to marriage equality, reduced social services, budget cuts to foreign aid and a low quality redundant Internet technology for Australia just to name a few). Elections should not be about the people but in this instance, it’s difficult to separate the two leaders from their policies – they’re both flawed human beings with a combination of poor tempers and God complexes, misogynistic and outdated views coupled with in instances, a poor understanding of the politics or the science behind good policy. They’re both bad, but in different ways so most people simply feel like they are voting for the least bad. And it’s a sad situation we’re in.
I want people to go in to the election tomorrow with as much information as possible – I believe in the inherent goodness of people but this goodness has been perverted by our society. Our media and advertising tell us to be concerned about your own needs first but I’m asking you to think about everyone else too. Think about our society and think about what inequality will mean. Think about where you will see the country in 20 years time and whether that matches up with what you WANT to see. I’m not going to tell people who to vote for (I think my political leanings are pretty obvious to be honest) but I have absolutely no doubt that I want to see a progressive and socially inclusive society that treats all people fairly and with justice. I want our environment to be cared for and I want respect for the original custodians of our land. So if you are an undecided voter, I encourage you to look at this report card made by GetUp, a not-for-profit grassroots campaigning community organisation that I am volunteering for at polling venues on Saturday. It breaks down the policy areas and provides an independently determined rating for each of the major parties to help you decide who you’d like to cast your support for. We all have an opportunity and a responsibility to change the direction of the country and yes, while the system is well and truly broken, we still have a chance to influence it. And I will leave you with this quote which has always resonated with me – make a decision to look after everyone, not just yourself.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Neimöller