Having advised people for years to not feel shame in mental illness, when I had a break down it was time for me to take my own advice. Part of my self-treatment was to announce my breakdown on Facebook to my friends. I did this because I knew I needed my friends to be able to get myself through it. There was a certain amount of risk in doing so. My friends might not have known what to do and remained silent. This might have devastated me even more.
Luckily for me they didn’t remain silent. They offered support and kind words in droves. There was no judgement. There was just a groundswell of support and caring. I have no doubt that the support and caring of my friends drove me on. I believe it was more than 50% of the reason I was able to pick myself up and drive myself to get better. This care factor cannot be underestimated. Knowing that people care is vital. This might seem obvious, but caring about someone or something is a powerful motivator.
Caring is not just about caring for the frail, the disadvantaged and the sick. Caring comes in many forms. We can care for the environment. We can care for equal opportunity and a fair go. We can care about politics and abuse of power. Lots of things motivate us to care. But more importantly when we see that people care about something it motivates change.
I care about lots of things. I am vocal about these things. I often make reference to these things on Facebook. I care that Melbourne has such shitty traffic but don’t do much about it except moan. I care that we have a Government that is so bad it cannot even explain its own policies properly, I moan about that too and share endless memes about it. In fact I am constantly voicing a view or sharing memes on social media that denounce our Government. I think it drives some people batty because my long time mate Peter, after a few bevies with his mates, commented, “Every F#$%ing thing you put up here is a moan.”
That I moan all the time is strictly not true. I also share bad jokes, bad puns and other asinine things. This is like light relief from all the heavy issues that I do share and comment about. I moan not to be negative, but to generate discussion and energy so that the crass unfairness and inequality of our society can be challenged. I do not believe remaining silent does anyone any favours. As Albert Einstein once said – “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
Consider what has happened recently. Our rather un-esteemed Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, decided to back down in repealing section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. This section of the Racial Discrimination Act legally prevents a person from insulting, humiliating, offending or intimidating another person or group on the basis of their race.
For some very strange reason, that most of Australia has not understood, the Government wanted to repeal this part of the Act. This would have made it ok to publicly intimidate and insult people on the basis of race. Why? Because it’s our right to express what we feel even if it ostracises an entire race of people. That was the Governments reasoning anyway.
This week Mr Abbott said that the repealing of Section 18c was off the table. Mr Abbott said he was taking 18c off the table because it was clearly unpopular with the Muslim community and that he needed their cooperation for anti-terrorist legislation. Free speech was less important than terrorism and had to go. In one fleeting moment Mr Abbott not only blamed the Muslim community for the demise of free speech but he also labelled them as terrorists as well.
That the repeal of section 18c was taken off the table really had nothing to do with the Muslim community. Mr Abbott took it off the table because he knew that the majority of Australian’s cared enough to want Section 18c retained. To repeal it would have been political suicide.
Waleed Ali, writing in The Age, explains that section 18c didn’t even protect Muslims. Said Ali, “The law doesn’t regard Muslims as a racial group. So, whatever it is section 18C prevents you from saying about Aborigines or Asians or Jews, you can go right ahead and say it about Muslims.” This is apparently because Muslims are seen as a religious group and not a racial group. You can say Muslims are violent and horrible. But you can’t say Muslims are violent and horrible because they are black. Confused? Don’t worry, me too!
The truth of the matter is that Mr Abbott backed down because he could see the majority of Australians cared about having a law that made it very clear that racial vilification should not exist in any form. Especially not in the guise of free speech. Rather than be strong and admit this Mr Abbott has used the Muslim community as an excuse for the ditching of a bad policy. In doing so he has insulted the entire Muslim community.
Ali makes this clear when he states, “We’re being held to ransom again. Muslims are the Grinch who stole freedom.” He is a coward our Prime Minister, he has used the Muslim community as his crutch. He simply could not admit the reality that is most Australians do not support what the Liberal Party wanted to do.
The truth is 18c remains because enough people cared enough about it and protested loudly for it to be retained and they won. We must continue to care and be vocal about a myriad of things. Remain silent and Pyne will get his way in education. This will mean that the more disadvantaged you are the more you will pay. But that doesn’t matter cos only poor people and women study teaching and nursing so universities will make these courses cheaper – (yes he said that) .
Or we will make women who have abortions be labelled a health risk because abortion causes breast cancer – (Abetz, Minister for Employment made this outlandish claim this week.) – Or we will have the unemployed receiving no income whatsoever for six months and forced to work for the dole. Even though work for the dole has been an abject failure everywhere. If we don’t care and remain silent this is potentially what we will be lumped with.
So care and care a lot. Be vocal and let the Government know what you feel through whatever means you can. Because if you don’t then, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.