my take on the Brisbane floods – a need met and posturing

I’m not going to start with an apology for my silence. I’m just going to start. I’m going to start with some good news amid chaos.

There have been two simultaneous tragedies recently on the world stage. Both have caught my attention, for very different reasons. The floods. The assassination attempt of Gabby Giffords.  Both sad. Both with disability implications. I’m going to start with the one closest to home and more immediate in its implications and in this case celebrations.

Heroes big and small

Amid all the tragedy of the Queensland and northern New South Wales floods there have been many stories of heroism, and many stories of loss.

Whoever coordinated the AUSLAN (Australian sign language) interpreter service accompanying the police briefings and Premier’s  speeches every time I saw them on TV is my hero. Particularly on Channel 10 and Foxtel (who didn’t crop the interpreter out of the picture, somewhat defeating the purpose I would think). It’s the first time I’ve seen inclusion work so effortlessly upfront in the mainstream Australia media. In their press release, available here, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network congratulated the Queensland government and I will to. Of all the many things they will be congratulated for, this won’t be remembered as broadly as it should.

As to the floods more broadly

Friends of my brother’s were affected, but otherwise it didn’t touch me personally.

We are increasingly becoming a land of extremes, the kind of extremes that Dorothea MacKellar talked about in her poem; which I did elocution lessons on as a teenager. It includes the following stanza.

I love a sunburned country;
a land of sweeping plains,
of ragged Mountain ranges;
of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
her beauty and her terror–
the wide brown land for me!

Last year and many years it has been fire that has ripped communities to the core. Floods have been devastating for local communities and growing up in the country area I saw a few of those though thankfully never first-hand. However, they have never been so wide and broad in their scope.

I’m not sure whether it is a change in the weather pattern, the 24-hour seven day a week news and online cycles or a combination of factors but these disasters seem to be coming thicker and faster. It’s probably a combination of these factors.

Giving campaigns

What also seems to be coming thicker and faster are the appeals for help. . There have been fundraising efforts by every television network in Australia, many shopping chains, including coffee shops and high-end boutiques.

Even Naffnang are holding an online auction of some sort.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that banding together as a country to support those who need it in at the moment of crisis is a bad thing. But even this seems to now be turning into a bit of a commercial competition of one-upmanship. Who can pull at the heartstrings tightest. Lovely in sentiment. But perhaps not in the delivery.

Ultimately if the money goes where it is supposed to, to the individuals who need it the most, and not just those with the best connections, or the squeaky-ist wheel, it will be good. Or not even good, but great.

Personally I’d rather just write a bigger cheque to the one organisation, or to people I know personally who need it and stay away from feeling like I have to donate every time an organisation decides to raise money and look good.

My local television station doesn’t need my donation to choose to make a donation in its own right. they have enough money to do it without announcing it or seeking my help. My local coffee shop can too without selling me a muffin or cupcake. They don’t need to tell me how good they are. I’m reminded of a Bible verse which has nothing to do with Noah. From Matthew 6;

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Believe in the religiousness of it or not. My point is that surely now isn’t the time to be posturing or letting our media do it for us. Now is the time to back each other, report on the news, give us the updates if that is your job, but stop competing to be fund-raisers.

I get that some people need reminding to give. Some people need the opportunity to be right in front of them. Some of us don’t though. It feels too much. And it is starting to feel insincere. The fact is that those who will give will find a way to do it.

Perhaps a bigger change …?

It is time to start assuming that people know the right thing to do and are capable of doing it, whatever that is. It is time to raise the level of public debate. It is time to stop catering to the lowest common denominator. It is time to do the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do.

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