The Age of Apathy is Over? Methinks Not.

“The Age of Apathy Is Over”, announces Clementine Ford in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24th January 2017. And she heralds more of the same of old, more and bigger mass marches, more inane signs with good ones sprinkled here and there.

I am old now and I am over the marches. I have “marched” much of my life, as a feminist, as a protestor against the Vietnam war, as a person who believes we should solve conflicts by means other than by warfare and as someone who feels the environment should be better protected. But we have got almost nowhere. OK, we privileged, non-theist females who think we should have a right to independent thought and should also look after those who women who meet barriers in life, may have got somewhere from marching.

I used to think that just “doing” was the best way. At University I got collegial by marching and was convinced that, with group solidarity, we would get somewhere. And, with marching included, we did get somewhere with feminism. But this, I now surmise, is partly because women are 50% of the population. We also had the opportunity to discuss the issue with the men we met in our lives. We have got nowhere on many other issues where we usually have little space to interact with those with different viewpoints. And we have not got very far regarding women and men from other backgrounds that we do not meet in day to day life.

In the twilight of my life I have gone back to the “doing” option which of course involves  much “talking”.

But I think we also need something different. We need changes within from childhood. We need totally different thought patterns. We should not really use militaristic type techniques for non-militaristic purposes. And when I say “within” I do not mean minor changes within existing governments. I mean major changes in the populaces’ thinking. And we now have the means with modern technology. And those means are being badly used. We have to start with the children and their parents.

We have to get away from our childish “goodies” and “baddies” feeling. At the risk of alienating almost my entire extended family I will say we must stop making films like “Star Wars”. Whilst so ever we retain, and pass on to our children even in fun, a concept like “the dark side”, which is nothing like us and is pure evil, we will get no where.

We have to discuss whole belief systems which are as important or in some cases much more important than religions are to very many people. But for many, if it is not religion, it is not regarded as a belief system, more of an axiom. And discussion of some issues is regarded as not right and too personal. And yes, we must discuss religion too, in the sense that I really respect people’s rights to practice their own religion but only to the extent it does not impinge on others’ lives.

When I discuss my protests about Anzac Day with one of my lovely, independent daughters-in-law, she rightly points out to me that many people want to remember, with thanks, those relatives who died in wars. And I agree that a civilised society might acknowledge the need for various religious services to honour the dead and the secular laying of wreaths on memorials. But reenact a war march? She disagrees with me and says that the marches can bring loving memories. She does not see them, as I do, as warlike.

Enact a women’s march on a brand new President? How belligerent is that? Chain oneself to tree felling machinery ? What a physical encroachment just to get a bit of publicity. Glue oneself to Parliament House? All these I see as aggressive acts not directly leading to dialogue.

I respect all those aims but think that may not be the way in days of mass communication. We do not achieve freedom from aggression or exclusion by aggressive acts. As we teach our little children to grow to adults, we already teach them fighting is no way to end a dispute between one another. It is no secret that most human beings need a great deal of “indoctrination” to make them able to fight and to kill other human beings. It is no secret that many ex soldiers struggle in post war peacetime. I want their attitude recognised as universally sound.

I would like this country to be like Switzerland and others, neutral, having a negligible army which does not fight in other countries, but with volunteers from households prepared to resist an invasion. We do not need well trained, psychologically altered “cannon fodder”. And we are an island so are well suited to a neutral role.

We do not have to be puppets of countries with adversarial systems and induced adversarial natures. We do not have to be adversarial in our many internal differences. I would rather sit down ( off air) and have a long philosophical discussion with the Alan Jones’ of this world. I do not wish to fight them with weapons and numbers. I want to change their views. How would peace marches help this?

Climate changes? How can we help here? I can remember my father, a Scientist, trying to set up an experimental, energy self-sufficient project in the early 1960s. How long do we still need to convince the average man that we cannot use energy as cheaply and as frequently as we used to and that every one of us has to make sacrifices? We cannot do this by marching on our government. We can only do it by communication, and most of this has to be personal – as when I just, in 36 degree heat, explained to my grandson why I do not have air conditioning. (My tolerance to heat and cold may have been hardened by growing up in Cooma and Broken Hill.)

I admire Clementine Ford. She is a fervent communicator. I wish her the best of luck. I very much hope she and others continue the good work. But I am sorry that she may be disappointed that the age of apathy is not over by a long shot. The number of tweets I read complaining about personal discomforts makes me think people may have become more inward looking than ever. They probably won’t even watch a march on TV or computer. I’m afraid I didn’t.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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