A bottle of whisky, Dan Andrews and my resilience

More to my surprise than anybody else’s, I have discovered over my adult life that I am a pretty resilient person. I have had to endure some challenging scenarios that would rock many people emotionally and mentally. It’s no understatement, to say that I handled these scenarios with a minimum of stress and anxiety.

The reality is, that there were some nights where I sat home in moments alone that I wondered why those events weren’t impacting me more. I’m not saying this to beat my chest with self pride or to say I am better than others with my emotions. It’s just simply an observation of self-reflection.

Where this resilience comes from I am unsure, possibly from my teenage years where I endured significant bullying in secondary school and which I kept entirely to myself as I was too embarrassed to let others know. I survived those years of bullying without confiding in others and in the end, it was a victory that I could only celebrate within and one that I took no joy in achieving.

Was it this the experience that made me resilient? I have no idea, I am no physiologist.

What I am sure of though is that it helped develop another two poor character traits in apathy and procrastination, which are both weaknesses that infuriate me endlessly to this day.

In my adult working life, twice I have had my reputation unfairly tarnished, my character defamed and my work and income-earning ability terminated by vile people who didn’t hesitate to lie about me to further their own agendas. Worse than that, I lost people in my life who I considered long term friends. They either turned against me, despite knowing better or simply pretended not to notice as my character and reputation were defamed, tarnished and lied about. Rather than stand by you as a friend should, which would have taken some courage on their part, they instead chose to not rock the boat and sit it out the issues on the sidelines.

If you haven’t been through this sort of thing before( and not many people do endure it) then rest assured it is a confronting and depressing experience and one that becomes extremely lonely and has you questioning yourself.  Many in my position I am sure would have thought about some counselling, but I never did. Maybe it was the Christian faith I have acquired through my mother’s devotion to it and my acceptance of it as an adult, maybe it was being raised as the second youngest in a family of ten, whatever the reasons I have found myself capable of facing the most traumatic of experiences with a degree of resilience that I don’t see in others.

This is not to say that there was no sadness, no depression, no emotion or loss of self-belief, it just never crippled me and aside from the odd self-pity in moments of silence to myself, I usually found myself rising the next day and getting on with life. It’s a strength in my character that I have always been grateful for. I know of many others who have struggled or would have struggled with the mental health issues these situations can create, but not for me.

To come through all of that gives you the confidence to handle most situations.

So considering all of this, it comes as an even greater surprise to me as to how these continued restrictions and lockdowns have impacted me.  Like so many in Melbourne, my life has been ground to a halt over the past seven months. At the start of this year for the first time in three years, I had my business on a clear path to a healthy space, where for the first time I could see that there was a payday in the not too distant future.

That all changed in the space of twenty-four hours in March when first the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and then the NBA basketball season in American followed on the same day.

After that, it was a domino effect in a very short period. My business was a combination of news, social media, services for small and local businesses and community organisations along with sports coaching through basketball. In what seemed like a heartbeat, everything I generated an income from was shut down. All of a sudden I had no work and was reliant on government handouts.

Originally, our political leaders assured us that this would be for a short period to flatten the curve and to ensure our health systems could cope, yet with every ensuing day, week and month we had our hopes for opening up dashed, smashed and ruined on a regular basis. We were given assurances, dates, roadmaps, goals and numbers on what was required to get back to some form of normal. Yet despite achieving these we remained locked down.

Throughout this whole sordid period, we have been deceived, lied to, mislead and simply not told the truth. Worse, we were treated like gullible morons and spoken to like five years olds as though we couldn’t see that our political and bureaucratic leaders were hiding behind their so-called inquiry. The same inquiry at which supposedly intelligent people with decades of experience in professional careers all of a sudden, couldn’t recall, couldn’t remember or passed the buck about some of the most important public policy decisions ever taken in our country’s history. It was behaviour you would expect from kids in a schoolyard as opposed to some of the most responsible positions in our state.  It was unforgivable.

Through this time it wasn’t hard to see the worst of us. We had our freedoms and liberties removed and reduced, we saw citizens arrested for what amounted to thought crimes and were even being visited by police at all hours of the day or night to be warned before a committing what was seen as a crime or breach.  Interestingly most of those arrested or intimidated by our police only crime was to make or consider making public acts of defiance against the government decisions and policy. You know that pesky freedom of speech thing.

What was even of more interest was that witnessed women being targeted, a pregnant one arrested in front of her family, a young one placed in a chock hold and thrown to the ground and another dragged from a car. All of them for minor offences at best. This from a government who proclaims itself as women-friendly.

If you dared to consider protesting against these encroachments on our human rights, you were labelled “batshit crazy” and a member of “the tinfoil hat brigade”, by a senior bureaucrat who swore an oath to protect Victorians, the very same person whose wages we pay. The term “fat cat bureaucrat” was more than appropriate in his case.

It wasn’t just in Victoria where we witnessed the insanity. Across the country, state border closures resulted in unnecessary deaths, families being denied the opportunity to visit each other even for those on their death beds or in their coffins. The decisions and resulting scenes, in particular from the Queensland government, we could never have imagined, yet here they were with the Queensland premier boasting proudly that her hospitals were for “her people” only. What an unfeeling vile creature she must be.

Premiers were so soulless they could justify the deaths of the newborn & unborn babies that required lifesaving surgery so they could keep their borders closed. Never mind killing the unborn anymore in this country, our politicians can now justify killing off a few of the recently born as long as that is what their focus groups and polls are telling them to do. Never mind integrity, never mind ethics, never mind compassion for your fellow countrymen.

Weren’t all these restrictions and lockdowns about saving lives? Or were there conditions on which some lives were more important than others to save? You know those lives that could help keep you in government or your cushy public job.

For me, I will never trust a politician or bureaucrat again. They need to earn my vote more than ever before from this point on.

What was most appalling though was witnessing Australian being turned against Australian, maybe that’s what our politicians wanted. Victorians generally and Melbournians in particular now know what it is like to be ostracised and be treated like leapers, not welcome anywhere and accused of things of which you had no control over. Unless you were a celebrity or filthy rich of course.

Hopefully, after this is all said and done, a more compassionate Australia will emerge, but I have my doubts.

The most demoralising thing of the entire seven months was simply the Groundhog Day scenario. For those whose businesses were shut down through no fault of their own, or had lost their jobs, or were forced to work from home, you were effectively sentenced to seven months of home detention.  You went to bed, you got up, you possibly listened to Dan’s and Scott’s press conferences, you tried to motivate yourself to do some work before giving up and sitting down to binge on the next online move stream.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, we were separated, we lost the little things in life that make it worth living and went through the same emotions depressing emotions day in day out. For a single person like me with less personal interaction than most at the best of times, to have the people you see on a daily and weekly basis taken from you for seven months was more than challenging, it was at times devastating.

In effect, I have a lost a year of my life at an age where you have fewer years in front of you than lay behind you.  My walls of resilience were challenged like never before. Fortunately for me, while they cracked, they remained strong, but they had never cracked like this before. It was a shock. Sadly I have read or heard of too many others whose walls not only cracked but tumbled and I wonder how many more are out there that we haven’t heard of.

No doubt, there are so many more people made of sterner stuff than me, we are the fortunate ones. It is on our shoulders o do what we can to support those who are as not as fortunate and do what we can to ensure this situation never arises again and I am not talking about the virus.

So after reflecting on all of this, I found it particularly galling that our Premier, who along with his government created this situation had the temerity last night to post a photo of a bottle of whisky alongside two full whisky glasses on his twitter feed to toast what he sees as a job well done. A smarter person, a person more in touch with his people would have decided against such a clarion call to himself. Maybe a prayer, or a picture of a lit candle for those we have lost, for those we are going to lose, for the businesses that have been crushed or those that may never recover, to the livelihoods ruined, or those now in unemployment queues or those battling mental health issues, for those children who have lost a school year and the families separated and in grief. Maybe, just maybe our premier could have thought of those people he and his government have so sadly impacted upon before indulging in his bottle of whisky for all of us to see.

For a person who has continued to demonstrate an appalling lack of understanding of the people he currently governs this should be no surprise. You would have thought one of his army of media advisors would have done their expensive job and talked him out of it.

One characteristic to go along with resilience is determination. When I desire it, I can find an abundance of it. So I am now determined that Dan’s bottle of whisky to celebrate untold devastation on a state and a people I love is a vision I will never forget and never forgive.

If the Premier expects those of us who have suffered loss, in whatever form, over the past seven months to be grateful that we have come through a situation of his and his government’s creation, then I would suggest he is sadly mistaken.