Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


#illridewithyou shows the kind of world that is possible

  • 19 December 2014

While the horrible tragedy was underway in Martin Place this week a remarkable thing happened. We saw, and continue to see, a powerful sense of compassion for the people who were being held hostage.

Sadly, we also saw a rush of racist hatred towards innocent people. But we saw an even greater outpouring of solidarity by ordinary people with the ordinary people who were being threatened with this violence and abuse, crystallised in what can only be described as a love poem written by the people to the people, namely 'I’ll ride with you'.  

It looked like a simple offer of human support and protection to people of the Muslim faith who were in danger as they rode on the buses, trams and trains across Australia the next morning.  But it was always more than this. In its concreteness it was also a deeply profound declaration of a vision for a just and inclusive Australia. It was particularly beautiful because it came from ordinary people and it so strongly struck a chord with ordinary people.

Good policy always comes from below. Without the organised analysis and agitation of the people we would never have seen gains in the fields of industrial rights, women’s rights, tenants’ rights, environmental justice, workers compensation, Aboriginal citizenship rights and so the list, and the struggle, continues. People were radicalised by reality, by their concrete analysis of the concrete conditions. Good policy was born from such struggles.

Ordinary people thought critically and acted decisively in the face of a dominant ideology that continues to tell us that justice is impossible or, worst still, that inequality and humiliation are the manifestations of justice because the people who bear the brunt of this oppression must obviously deserve it due to a moral failing. Rather than accepting that justice is impossible, they proclaimed with their lives that, in the words of the great Aboriginal poet Bobbi Sykes: 'Justice is inevitable, like birth.'

Against the grain, ordinary people struggled, and continue to struggle for a society in which people are not blamed because economic structures lock them out or, in some cases, lock them up; one in which people are not told that they would not be poor if only they chose to be a little more productive; a society that does not humiliate people; a society that delivers the rights to: appropriate housing, adequate income, education, health care, jobs and working conditions