Empathy is not a dirty word

2018 is coming to a close and as with any other year it is prudent to pause and reflect on the year that was.  

We do well to heed the lessons that this year have given us as we would also do well to steel ourselves for the year ahead. It pains me to write, but 2019 is shaping up to be potentially one of the most bitter and divisive years that we will see in a long time. 

If the Victoria election is anything to go by, vested interests will continue to try and divide the community on fundamental questions, fundamental principles that make Australia what it is today. When we have a government that rejects the Uluru Statement and consciously decides to vote with a far-right fringe party in support of a neo-Nazi white power motion, you know in an election year, decency is likely to be jettisoned in favour of rank populism.  

In an election year, we therefore must guard ourselves against free speech as code for hate speech.

It’s important that as a community we continue to pay attention, keep a mindful eye out for what is really driving bigotry and hatred. To do this, we must re-familiarise ourselves with empathy. 

The ability to try and understand the plight of others is something that many of our political masters and their masters in the mainstream media have been trying to drill out of us for decades now. It is cheap and easy to apportion blame, to see only black and white in what is a grey world, to dehumanize the human condition, to blame the victim.

These tactics will be tried and tested in 2019. It is up to us to reject them.

I take heart that people are wising up to the continual attempts to divide, the Victorian election result is testament to that. So in 2019, let’s remain relentless in the pursuit of open and nuanced public discourse. The future of the country is at stake. 

In that spirit I wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous New Year.