Dan stans & Gladys fans

Natasha Moore reflects on what it means - in Tokyo, at home, and in lockdown - to be Australians, at the same time both one and many.

In Tokyo, I am, you are, we are Australian. Back home, not so much.

Here, it’s Victorians, South Australians, New South Welsh. Dan stans and Gladys fans. The war of all armchair experts against all. Blame games and battle lines. I just discovered you can buy a (fabulous) Kerry Chant superhero T-shirt (wear your team colours on your sleeve!)

Humans naturally affiliate in tribes. That’s good for solidarity, for our capacity to sacrifice for a common good. It also easily morphs from being for my fellow tribespeople to primarily being against another tribe.

It definitely feels like that this time around the Covid track. Solidarity is in shorter supply, giving way to bickering, smugness, pontificating, and sheer fury. Even within Greater Sydney, the community fractures: eastern vs western suburbs, white-collar wfh-ers and casualised essential workers, singles and harried parents.

It’s understandable that tempers are fraying. I want to say: let’s save the points-scoring for the Olympics, choose kindness, etc. But scrolling through Twitter, it’s feeling a little hollow.

My colleague Justine Toh wrote last week about how a pandemic makes visible the ripple effects our choices have; we are responsible for one another.

It’s also worth remembering the limits of our responsibility. We are one – but we are many, too. I take comfort, in my much-contracted sphere, in these words of Charles Spurgeon:

“Do the little you can do; do it well, and keep on doing it … Naturally, you would like to set all people right … But, my brother, [my sister,] the task is beyond you. Be careful to be right yourself in your own life, and be resolute to bear your complete, honest, obedient testimony to all the truth you know; and there leave the business, for you are not responsible beyond your possibilities.”