I started some notes for this blog and then I watched Ash Barty win the Australian Open. Seeing Evonne Goolagong give her the trophy, and Cathy Freeman in the stands taking photos of them both, I sobbed even more than I had already for Ash’s win. The Aboriginal Flag flying in the background and the MC starting with a greeting in language … felt like Australia grew up a little bit in Melbourne last night. Knowing the Victorian government are working on treaties, another sign of encouragement in our decolonisation journey.
There are brutal facts we need to confront. And as Jim Collins, author of the business classic, From Good to Great said, if we do not confront brutal facts, they will confront us. There are plenty of facts that we do not want to see, they are not invisible, we just turn away from them and pretend we can’t see them. Making facts visible is one of the jobs of the prophet and the activist. To call out the facts, to name them clearly, honestly, making them accessible to others so they can be understood, acted on, talked about; this is work that takes us to the edge of our discomfort. Getting to that edge will plunge us into grief, it may even paralyse us for a while, but if we do not get to this edge, we cannot dig deep enough to find the courage to confront the brutal facts. Brutality is a heavy, dull instrument, thick and devoid of empathy and sentiment, it makes the facts uncomplicated, unnuanced. I think this is why it is so hard to face brutal facts, we want them softer, with some honey, not like an uncooked lump of meat, like roadkill we cannot look away from. It is the work though to face them, fair and square and then methodically, like a puzzle and with the same precision that Ash has in her game, to step by step, using all the moves we know and a few more innovative ones, step up onto the court and deal with each truth, blow by blow.
I watched Ash look at the facts of her game in the eye, she did not shy away, they were visible for the world to see, and she loved each one of them, so they became her fuel not her hurdles. She stayed the course with fierce competition from her champion opponent. And so often we do not give whatever is on our back the respect it deserves – what if we all respected what was standing between us and our resolve with the same sincerity Ash worked on the court? I am taking so much inspiration from her game and commitment, and the mindset of love and support and not being alone on that court, but a village all around her, never letting her out of their sight. We all need a village like that for the challenges we face and to get the wins we need and champion the changes we want to see and be in the world.
My village is being rebuilt, the white ants and other pests are nearly all gone, although I still have some brutal facts to face in my personal life and am working on that. I see so many around me, doing the same, making new villages to sustain themselves, new ways of being in community, new forms of family and the impact of the pandemic is a big driver of those changes. I am truly touched and grateful to those who love and support me. What has felt like an insatiable thirst, is beginning to be quenched.
Many are searching for meaning and direction and looking to daily COVID announcements, press statements by medical officers, political leaders, researchers. Others are going to historians to read the litany of pandemics from the plague, smallpox (only disease to be eradicated by vaccination), measles, TB, malaria to name a few, to show us the interconnectedness of politics in their management. But how about the reason they might occur in the first place, what would it take to eliminate pandemics? Apart from disease surveillance, it is vital we look to the health impacts of climate change, how deforestation, displacement, higher temperatures, warmer oceans are all making their contribution. These are visible and way back in the olden days of 2016 the UN Frontiers report introduced to me zoonotic diseases, diseases that jump from animals to humans account for 60% of all human infectious diseases (1 minute video). (Feeling like this might be another fact stacking up to go vegan.) We have our most senior elected representatives making announcements about the Great Barrier Reef, koala management and support for business impacted by closures … yet the brutal fact of the connection between all these half (at best) measures and the root causes of loss of habitat and degradation is trivialised.
It is time to face facts, we are in the last set, there are four championship points up for grabs, and our lives depend on it. I have a new grandchild arriving in the next 24 hours and I intend to be holding my racket ready to serve. There will be nothing invisible about that.