Well, it’s been a long time between drinks; 19 months to be exact. That’s when the last issue of Inner Sydney Voice magazine appeared — spring 2018. Remember 2018? When all we had to be preoccupied about was Sandpapergate and Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership shafting. Oh, and Barnaby’s baby. From where we are now, the world of 2018 looks a very different place indeed. Come to think of it, the world of a mere three months ago seems a land far, far away.
Since the social-distancing measures were implemented mid-March and our lives were upended by lockdown, we have all had to adapt to a new world. A world where “iso” is firmly entrenched in the Australian vernacular, where the daily commute consists of a log-in to Zoom, and “quarantinis” are an actual thing. A world in which Aussies are wrestling in supermarkets over 12-packs of 3-ply. A world where we find ourselves dancing around one another, like we’re doing the do-si-do. A world where elbow bumps have replaced handshakes and face masks are as ubiquitous as tattoos. A world that — for many people — simply imploded.
Almost a million Aussies lost their jobs as entire industries shut down overnight. While many Australians have been supported by the JobKeeper scheme, 2.17 million people — including international students and refugees — have fallen through the safety net, left to fend for themselves. And millions more, already experiencing hardship, have found themselves facing food stress, financial insecurity, and digital exclusion.
All this at a time when charities and community orgs are also doing it tough. Not only have many reported severe funding shortfalls, they’ve seen a sharp decline in staff numbers as volunteers have been instructed to stay indoors. But despite the disruption and in spite of the challenges, Australia’s community spirit has somehow won through. Whether it be everyday individual acts of kindness or communities mobilising to ensure those most at need are not left behind, Australians have strived to pull through these skewed times together. As one.
Many people have opined that perhaps this new world will lead to a better kind of being. That, beyond COVID, the “me, me, me” mindset will be replaced by a realisation that we are one large human community sharing the same planet. Instead of selfies, there’ll be selflessness. Narcissism will make way for collectivism. It will become a world in which humanity is valued more than commodity. You can only hope and dare to dream. Or perhaps I’ve gone stir crazy in lockdown. Or had one too many quarantinis…