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Hoping for hope

  • 09 September 2021
What does it take to lose hope? For the 4,000 people who attended the anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne last month, an odd coalition of the frustrated, the scared, the angry and the hurt, it takes 18 months of pain and the ensuing changes in employment status, isolation from family and friends, and losses in lifestyle and individual liberties.

To sum up, a loss of hope had people marching and throwing missiles at cops, brought on by the collective experience of ‘same day’ powerlessness, accumulative distrust of leaders, and a lack of clarity about exit plans.

The Melbourne protest ended with 218 people arrested and six police officers hospitalised; in more peaceful protests, 2,000 anti-lockdown protesters gathered in Brisbane, 1,000 in Adelaide and more than 1,000 in Perth. Violent clashes in Sydney were attended by 250 people, according to police, of whom 47 people were charged with ‘breaching public health orders or resisting arrest, among other offences’. One ringleader in Sydney, Anthony Khallouf, was sentenced to eight months’ incarceration for his role, as ‘multiple breaches of public health orders’. Further demos followed throughout NSW.

These anti-lockdown protesters have been the visible face of this erosion of hope. It is easy and perhaps reassuring to dismiss them as ‘Jesus is my vaccine’ fundamentalists, anti-vaxxers and the like. But they also doubtless included those newly broken financially by lockdowns. Small business owners and staff. People made redundant time and sometimes time again. Parents, partners, and average punters fed up with being told to shut up and sit in the corner. People like you and me, who are scared, furious, broken financially and emotionally, looking around for someone to blame. Or to hit. 

Even the most impervious mind or hardiest spirit can be excused for thinking bleak thoughts or feeling overwhelmed these days. We’ve been sashaying through the repeated dance steps of lockdowns, financial and interpersonal stresses, COVID tests, jabs, and tiered exposures sites. I look back on four Covid tests in a fortnight, with gratitude for the health professionals who quizzed, swabbed, probed as carefully as they could.

We, many of us covering our ears and repeating that reliable and time-honoured mantra, ‘Not listening, not listening’, keep repeatedly lurching through the caterwauling of heated claims and counter claims of poor policies, inept governance and conspiracy theories in social and mass media.

'There is life beyond what we see and experience today. There is a future we can reach without