Tag Archives: elections

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #12

I love voting day and seeing people line up before the polling station opens ready to cast their vote. The veteran citizen of many an election, refusing the disability parking spot, preferring to walk proudly, deliberately into the booth accompanied by their walking stick and their electoral dignity. The first-time voter who checks with an older sibling or a parent to be sure they are going to get their mark to the right place on the ballot paper being congratulated for no longer being a virgin voter … these things give me a real thrill. Then there is the heart break of seeing ballot papers with no marks on them at all and several with the traditional male genitalia cartooned into place and the inevitable one or two that leave a comment about feeling that no one speaks for them and therefore no one deserving of their vote.

Handing out How to Vote cards in the morning and scrutineering in the evening once again after an absence of some years was a small and joyful act of this citizen, who once stood for a major political party twenty years ago. I haven’t been to a branch meeting or a fundraiser for more than a decade, and missed contributing to several election cycles. I needed a rest. Generously, the candidate, and member, who won the same seat acknowledged and thanked me for “loosening the lid on the can” that enabled him to go on and win it after me and in subsequent elections. The faithful who gathered at the local sporting club were mainly his family, friends and rusted on party members. I really appreciated the acknowledgement after all these years and in a week, where being seen and invisible efforts of mine are being made visible by others, it was another sign of the universe conspiring to remind and hold me to account to my roots and place, or more accurately, places in the world.

As the votes get counted and the maps get coloured in, the process of the big reveal, of what happened in the privacy of the booth, is like chlorophyll, the pigment that gives the plants their green colour and helps plants create their food through that glorious process of photosynthesis. Invisible to the human eye, coming to life under a microscope, chloroplasts, like every voter, have a huge and central role in bringing forth and sustaining a healthy planet.  Voters bring life, breath oxygen into decisions and then together set the conditions for how we will all get to live in the coming years.

This election was for the State, the next one in a few months will be to form a national government. I am very excited about what will unfold. A slew of independent women candidates across the country will be lining up, especially in the regions, there will be memories and disappointments being translated into voting patterns and I am predicting we will be seeing ourselves reflected in the result that is more feminist, more focussed on the future, more compassionate and more diverse than we will ever have seen – because this is who we are – a kinder, more generous nation that understands climate, gender and racial justice is what will take us to next level humanity.

The Premier incumbent for my State quoted one of my favourite political quotes in his speech last night: “In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen” – US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. I agree with that and for those of us who are privileged to have a vote. I have always encouraged others to vote with those in mind who don’t have that privilege, children, young people, those who are outside of the electoral process, incarcerated, refugees waiting for their status to come through, future generations, other species who need our help, our global neighbours, and partners. When you vote it is not just for your hip pocket, your place or family – it is something much bigger, wider, and deeper. It is stepping in to the booth with gratitude for all those who worked to enable you to have the franchise, for me I think of the suffragists, for my grandparents who marched for the eight hour day, for those who passed referendum to include Aboriginal people and I take my pencil to paper with the future in mind, one which will deliver more equity, more inclusion and has the potential to unite rather than divide.

The role of the citizen is the foundation of any democracy, and I am so grateful to be living in a place where the transfer of power by the people is done simply, civilly and in public view. Voting day is when citizenship is made visible, but it shouldn’t end there. Every day we have the opportunity to exercise our citizenship and vote with our values in the way we spend our time, money, resources and behave in the world.  You don’t need to wait for polling day to bring your energy to photosynthesis and breath the future in.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

One big union

Dear Hildegard,

September 11 passed my way this week, and like many others, my thoughts went to that day in New York. The city that never sleeps, had its two front teeth punched out, and irreplaceable DNA became cosmic dust forming swirling clouds of grief that choked more than the city.

Across the other side of the world I discovered someone I knew was lost and was then counted among the dead. As I often say two degrees of separation in Adelaide is often one too many.  Andrew was his name and he had given me a copy of One Big Union for me to learn more about the Australian Workers Union.  I loved learning more about the foundations of the Australian Labor Party.  Years later I gave the copy Andrew gave me to Anthony Chavez the grandson of Cesar Chavez the great leader of farmworkers in the USA.  Anthony is Br David Steindl-Rast’s assistant and a wonderful young man, just as Andrew was a wonderful young man with a vision of a better future for workers in this land.  Two young men separated by time, place and culture coming together in my little universe and through the labour movement.

This weekend Australia rejected the worker’s party and chose the party of capital – although it was hard at times to recognise much difference between them – but by the time the three years are up I am sure that will have been clarified for many voters.

The relationship between land and capital was alive and well in your time too and your crafty redistribution of property. Those young noblewomen who voted with their feet, leaving their families and promises of marriage gifting their dowries to your convent. When you set up your convent in Rupertsberg, those monks you were leaving behind I expect weren’t that excited about your move in taking your charges and their land with you!

Hildegard you had visions that guided your steps and just as surely did the nonviolent revolutionaries like Cesar Chavez and the violent leaders of al-Qaeda; I ask myself, what kind of vision do I have to bring about the reforms I yearn for? The ballot box seems such an unimaginative vessel for revolution to be birthed, and yet I am a big fan of democracy. I suspect you weren’t that much of a fan of democracy, after all the church certainly wasn’t in your time and isn’t in mine anything like a democracy.

Whether we find our selves running down the stairs to evacuate, sitting on a plane captured like an animal behind bars; abandoning our family or holding the banner and marching in the streets; we find ourselves in a big story. It is one big union we are all called to belong, and that union for me, is the uni-verse; the place where the one voice unites us all and calls us to a deep and sacred place.  My vision is for one song we all sing together in as many harmonies as we can invent; for one big union that we are all in together.

It’s not easy to hold on to this vision when planes fly into buildings, when people and their lands are separated from one another and when a government gets elected by neighbours that don’t share your values and idea of democracy.

One Big Union

The stairwell is filled with smoke.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

The cloister is filled with incense.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

The field is filled with cries.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

I clear my throat;

I close my eyes;

I fold my arms;

I open my heart;

I apply my head;

I find my way;

And

I remember where I am going.

 

The workers descend.

The choirs sing.

The workers rise.

Each voice adds to the next;

One big union for one big universe.

Solitary candle waiting for another one to be lit.