Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: November, 2020

FREEDOM

It’s Remembrance Day again, a day for reflection on the relationship between loss and human foolishness that seems lost in the wash this year.

There’s a lot of noise filling the wide blue sky right now, belligerent flag-wavers claiming their freedom is at stake unless we allow tyrants to have their way. It all sounds like the same old unhinged, clangouring dissonance that has always led us to war. Boring. Nasty. Terrifying.

And pointless, because there’s no such thing as freedom anyway. None of us lives without obligation or responsibility, without consequences following along after our actions. We might like to think we do, but it’s never true.

This time last year, our skies were beginning to fill with smoke from bushfires that would rage into the new year, bushfires caused by climate change, fuelled by our insatiable want for mountains of stuff we don’t need – fuelled by our freedom to pillage the planet.

Here are two kangaroos I snapped on the way home from the shops last November. They seemed lost in the thick blanket of drought dust rolling in from the west, the eerie prelude to the monstrous firestorms that would follow; and they were trapped in the maze of fences out where I live. That day, I felt just like them as I followed slowly in my car. Not free, but fragile, anxious, shedding hope by the moment.

Yes, things do turn around. Yes, we do find that break in the fence, eventually, and push through to a brighter day. A return to some equilibrium, maybe. An escape from oppression. But not to freedom.

This Remembrance Day, I’m reaffirming my obligations and responsibilities: to live smaller and love larger, and to refuse to lose hope that these things make a difference. They’re the only weapons of peace we’ve ever had.  

A NEW DAY, A NEW DEAL

Like many, I couldn’t sleep last night waiting for Pennsylvania to clock over the requisite number of votes to maybe, hopefully put an end to the era of super-charged, greed-fuelled brutality that’s gripped America and infected the world these past four years – or forty if we’re counting its true origins.

At first light, here in the cool, crisp tranquillity of faraway central New South Wales, I got up and went for a walk, listening to the magpies oodling the first notes of the dawn chorus, watching the dew slip from the long spines of spring grass and into the earth, waiting for the first glimpse of the sun.

It appeared as a slim thread of gold above low cloud hugging the distant hills before it rose with its usual slow majesty, the fire gem of our first worship. It’s Sunday in Australia now and this is my only church.

I pray that righteousness comes wearing robes of humility, barefoot and aware of its own frailties. I pray that compassion, the touch of hands reaching to each other, becomes news to celebrate – hell, let’s make it a competitive sport. I pray that we cease sticking dollar signs on all our blessings. Our families, communities and creative spirits are not for sale. This earth beneath our feet is a miracle to be cherished and cared for as our mother and child combined – as the only material thing of worth we ever truly have.  

The long tail of despair is shivering through me and I cry and cry in letting it go. Like so very many, I’ve found the blithe, superior contempt of our political and corporate masters dislocating, gaslighting, a vile and cloying web of silent hatreds that’s made some days hard to bear. I’ve questioned the value of having tried to pour whatever gifts I might have into a world that chucks my efforts onto the trash pile marked ‘sentimental’. I have wondered if the world has moved past hope – that one currency that keeps me alive.

I pray that there is no hollow hollering of self-congratulation from equally superior, sneering, self-described progressives who blame the poor for falling victim to cults that promise deliverance when those who should be tackling the injustices of poverty have quietly betrayed them, calling them ‘deplorable’ as they dial for a driver to bring them food and drink – a driver who works harder than they do and can’t pay his rent. Nothing, nothing whatsoever, to celebrate there.

I pray for the peaceful, sensible dismantling of the monstrous plutocracy that’s thrived like a cancer under our watch – the mega retailers and tech giants and bloated banks and puffed-up publishers and broadcasters – that have brought every one of us low, reducing us to blips within algorithms.

Big prayers, I know.    

But I have reason for big hopes, too. Yes, an old white man has just been elected president of the United States. Whoopie-doo. He’s a career politician not renowned for allowing his sweetest angels to shine through to his policy decisions and manoeuvrings, and yet there’s a glimpse of gold in the choice of this man.

He chose a woman – a highly accomplished woman of colour – to be his chief cahooter, his vice president. Her name is Kamala Harris, and she’s no saint, either. The way to achieving something good and decent is paved with compromise and deals with the devil that will follow you for the rest of your days. But, for mine, the most powerful thing this woman has done to date to was to tell this old white man to his face – in front of an audience of billions during the Democratic presidential primaries – that his past enabling of racism was wrong and hurt her personally.  

When Harris did this, I thought, well there goes your ticket, honey. But that’s not what happened. The old white man ended up winning the race, sure, but then he picked her as his running mate. He chose her to hold the spare set of keys to the United States of America, to the western world and all its long, barbed tails of bigotry. This is what justice looks like. This, fellers take note, is what a truly powerful man looks like, too: when you hurt someone, even unintentionally, do something restorative, do something to give them back their power. Yes, yes, yes, the choice of Harris was electorally savvy, capturing votes from women and people of colour, blah, blah, blah, but it remains, most significantly, a statement of change – a handing of the reins to someone truly new.

Let’s send her strength. And send out one last prayer: for all those who have lost loved ones and are otherwise suffering from the virus allowed to run rampant by the uncaring, may your sun rise again soon, may you wake into a world wrought into shapes of greater kindness.

And there’s enough sermonising from the little blip that is me. Enjoy the bright, beautiful threads of this day however they might appear for you.

Love, Kim x