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My reaction to the floods? Couldn’t care less

By Brian Holden - posted Monday, 17 January 2011


My family and I are safe where we are. I personally know no one living in Queensland affected by the floods. So, why should I be affected?

What I have just said sounds awful.

But it only sounds awful because it is not what anybody is supposed to say. I would venture to say that only a small minority of Australians who do not have family or close friends affected by the floods feels any emotion stronger than if they could not find an empty seat on the train home last night.

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The TV stations are running continuous coverage of the situation. It does not matter that inane comment by witnesses and service personnel follow one after another. What matters is that the comments fill up program time. Even when passing through a room where a friend has had her eyes glued to the TV screen for hours, I saw the same scene of a crushed green-roofed building seven or eight times. The media is furiously jacking an event up to become breath-taking drama - simply because that is the business they are in.

The stern faces of the premier of Queensland and the prime minister peer into the living rooms of the nation. This is the stage politicians dream about. Certainly, what the premier saw first-hand would have disturbed her. But, what is her deeper subconscious thinking? It is telling her that this is her Churchillian moment to wallow in. She is even appearing on TV screens overseas.

Why am I so cynical about Anna Blair and Julia Gillard? It is because my experience with politicians has made me that way.

And, how many would be as callous as I am towards the events in Queensland? The answer is many. They just keep their opinions to themselves. They are aware of the power of group-think in the majority who are not big on the big picture.

When Princess Diana was killed, the surge of sympathy for a disturbed personality who had become the media’s goddess was powerful enough to actually frightened the minority who would normally speak out against the absurd. So, they kept their mouths shut.

The wealth in this country will ensure that no victim of the flooding who survives will suffer any more than a fraction of the suffering of the victims of the floods in Pakistan in the middle of last year. No Queensland mother will hold a baby in her arms for days without being able to feed it. Few victims in Queensland will not be able to rebuild their homes - and even fewer will not be able to rebuild their livelihoods.

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In Pakistan millions will never recover their livelihoods because there was not much there to start with -and, what was there took many years to establish. They will go to their graves with only memories of what once was.

But! They are Pakistanis and we are Australians. That’s what the “grief” at home is really all about and what the casual interest in Pakistan was really all about.

Whatever the race one belongs to, the emotions are basically identical. That includes a weakness every race of people share. It is the very powerful urge to belong. The club we call Australia has traditions we identify with. They may be so superficial as to be silly, but they are enough to block our view of the family of man. The time-scale the human mind thinks within also blocks our view of the time-scale that nature works to.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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