Rich or poor, old or young, new arrival or been here for generations, there’s something every Australian now has in common. We’re all coming to terms with a global pandemic that has not only turned our lives upside down, but has put them at genuine risk.
No one is immune
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the barrage of news we get everyday about the coronavirus. It seems like the moment we get used to one change, another is on its way. For some of us, the only impact so far might have been the inconvenience of running low on toilet paper or having to cut back on our social life.
For others, it might be hitting closer to home. We might have lost our jobs, gotten sick ourselves, or have loved ones who are ill...or even lost someone. But, no matter who we are, it affects as all, and it is going to get tougher. It doesn’t care who we vote for, or who we pray to—we are all in this together.
Conflict is not an essential service
And, it is only together that we will get through this. The increasing polarisation of our society is a luxury we can no longer afford, and now is not the time to be tearing one another down. It’s a time for everyone to do their part to be there for one another, and we all have responsibility to do our part. We've seen some people rise to the occasion, but there are some examples of others falling short.
It's been heartening see our state and federal leaders working together, and for the most part they have presented a united front. But, it is important that there is a consistent message, and that disagreements stay behind closed doors and that once consensus is reached that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
It's also vital that the Opposition find the balance between holding the government accountable while avoiding trying to score partisan points. They should be asking the question whether their criticisms are constructive, or whether they are simply seeking to tear them down. Now is not the time to be undermining the public’s trust in our leaders.
Truth, not gain
The same goes for the media. While they should be keeping the public informed, there has been a trend of sensationalising the news simply for the sake of having something to say. They need to ask the question is what they are reporting serving the public interest, or is it serving their bottom line by selling advertising? Are they criticising the government’s response or playing up the worst-case scenario because it’s deserved—or because it serves their own agenda?
It also applies to the way experts are sharing their opinion. There will always be disagreements over the right approach, but the government can only follow the expert advice it is given. Other experts can disagree, but they shouldn’t be undermining the public’s trust in the government and our health system at this time.
Finally, we all need to do our part. It’s been so sad to see the actions of the few who have hoarded or profiteered from this crisis, or the people forgetting basic decency and fighting in supermarket aisles. It’s also been disappointing to see divisions growing, people finding some to blame.
We’ve seen some pundits painting every young person as irresponsible or blasé about this epidemic, with others saying that the old and vulnerable should be quarantined so that the rest of us can go about life as usual. We’ve seen people unable to look past their own selves, instead of showing empathy for others.
Australia needs YOU
Fortunately, we’ve also seen people coming together, the way Australia has done again and, through bushfire and flood and drought—and now through this. We’ve seen acts of kindness, people being there for one another.
We’ve seen people trying to make sure that the most vulnerable among us are cared for, and that the safety net for those who have and will lose their jobs boosted in a way that would have been unimaginable even six months ago.
That’s the Australia I’d like to think we live in, and that is the Australia that can get through this. It’s the Australia where we put aside what divides us, and remember we are all in this together. The challenge to each of us, whether at a local level or on the national stage, to take responsibility for our words and actions, asking ourselves will they make things better or worse for those around. If we all do that then this virus cannot defeat us.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html