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OPINION: Australians, stand up. If you are what you think you are, now is the time to prove it.
If you don’t, all those grand words about national identity, the Australian spirit, and a philosophy driven by mateship and independence, are meaningless pap.
It’s time to show whether the people of this country have been living with a series of jingoistic meaningless clichés or whether we actually do have something innate that makes us stand up and stand out.
You know the mantra, this Aussie spirit comes out at times of bushfire, war, flood, and any other national crisis that threatens lives.
We embrace a challenge, head-on. We are tough.
You will hear it through these Olympics. The “Aussie spirit” will be invoked in come-from-behind wins and success against the odds.
So is that a myth? Have we been deluding ourselves? If it is true, we must prove it. Now.
What about those Diggers who began to build the nation and the national spirit on the shores of Gallipoli? What about those that followed them in the jungles of New Guinea and can claim credit for helping to save the nation.
What about Mark Donaldson VC, who ran through a curtain of Taliban bullets to pick up a wounded mate and bring him to safety, and has always insisted that is what everybody would do?
What about the volunteer firefighters and emergency service volunteers who get up in the middle of the night, leaving a warm bed to walk into the horror of flames and mangled bodies in car wrecks?
Why do they do it? Not for money, that’s for certain.
They do it because of an inbred sense of duty and a determination to help, do the right thing, and die in the process if they have to.
That’s the national spirit. So where the hell is it?
It wasn’t in the streets of Melbourne or Sydney yesterday where half-witted fools protested against something that is saving their lives. In the process they threatened ours and they were too dim or driven to see it.
It’s not at any of the press conferences, as premiers snipe at each other and play indecent political games around what is a battle for the very future of this country.
It’s not in Canberra, where the Prime Minister and his team mostly seem driven by political self-preservation and spin.
We are 18 months into this pandemic and political trust has eroded. It doesn’t matter which party is in power, nobody is trusted.
So don’t look to our leaders. If we are to get through this it is up to us, the real people of this country who I believe do maintain some of that allegedly mythical Aussie spirit.
Look at the broken cafes, handing out free food to those who need it. Look at the $50 notes dropped anonymously into the letterboxes of desperate people. Look at the hundreds of bouquets of flowers anonymously placed in public streets to lift community spirits. That’s the real people of Australia and it is a flash of the real spirit we claim to embrace
Perhaps that spirit and sense of national pride can make some of those idiots in the street pause at some stage and consider what it means to be Australian. They will perhaps come to understand that nobody enjoys lockdowns or restrictions.
They will perhaps come to understand that restrictions are the only way to avoid a massive pileup of bodies while we buy enough time to be vaccinated.
And then, I hope, the rest of the country will decide to stand up for their mates, stand up for the future of Australia and recognize that with all the potential (but slight) dangers, vaccination is the only way through this.
Of course there is nervousness, of course there are fears. But as a people and as individuals we need to face those fears and recognize this is the way out.
We are swamped by experts but there are two people worth looking to as we head into this. One comes from the other side of the world from a tiny country used to facing life under threat. The other is a front-line worker in Australia who has lived through the horror wave that devastated Victoria last year.
First, the Israeli PM, Naftali Bennett. He has shown our leaders what leadership is. He made a plea to his nation. No spin, no score-settling, no threats. Just a simple and honest plea. He said, addressing those who were refusing to be vaccinated:
“The science is unequivocal: the vaccines work.
“Those who refuse vaccines are endangering their health, those around them and the freedom of every Israeli citizen.
“They are endangering our freedom to work, the freedom of our children to learn. Those who refuse vaccines hurt us all because if all of us were vaccinated, we would all be able to maintain daily life. “
His message: vaccinate or destroy the country through continued lockdown.
And finally, Dr Stephen Parnis. He is a front-line emergency doctor in Melbourne, a former AMA official, who has lived through the worst of this.
He says we are all suffering degrees of grief, fatigue, loss, and hardship. That, he says makes, us susceptible to bad decisions, like deciding to march in the streets and risk spreading the virus.
“Trauma brings out the best and worst in us,” he said “We have seen everything from heroism to blatant disregard for our fellow Australians.
“Division is as much a threat to us as the virus, because it compounds the burden of isolation, increases the likelihood of civil disobedience, and encourages purveyors of whacky conspiracy theories to fill the void left by strong, principled leadership”.
The words of both men could be read here as an appeal to the Australian spirit. It is an appeal to take responsibility for yourself and your country.
It is an appeal to live up to that Aussie image: to take it on. To have a go, to face the danger, to fight, to care about your mates, and to do the right thing.
All clichés, I know. But never more needed: Fight through the debilitating lockdowns, follow the restrictions, look after people who need it, and think seriously about getting vaccinated.
Do it for yourself, and your country.