Call to arms for unity

Shanna Whan
Photo: Sober in the Country, Source: Facebook
Shanna Whan Photo: Sober in the Country, Source: Facebook

Many locals will know Shanna Whan from her community work at Sober in the Country. She is the NSW/ACT AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year finalist for 2018,  a speaker, writer, and volunteer ambassador changing how we talk about and deal with ''casual alcoholism'' in the outback. But Shanna is currently trying to spread another message.

Shanna made a post on her blog about the current state of Australian politics. It has been read and shared more than 9000 times in three days. Here is what she says...

Well, I’m not sure about you, but these past few months in the space of Australian politics and one-sided media have left me standing bewildered and frankly shaking in my boots from disbelief, fear, and burning shock at the rampant social injustice being perpetuated against rural producers - many of who are already on their knees.

(For those of you who were wondering, that's why my community work - along with a fair chunk of my sanity and any decent sleep - has taken a huge back seat in the past month.)

I am publicly involving myself in the current vicious #auspol debates because I am an advocate for rural people at the best of times and because I, too, have a voice and a conscience.

There’s a famous quote that says ‘’all that it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing’’.

So this is really me doing what I can with one voice, and a call to arms. Because I can't do ''nothing''. I simply cannot, in good conscience, remain silent. Because honestly, what is happening right now in our political landscape is the most repellent and ugly behaviour many of us have ever witnessed.

And as all the bickering rages on there are people in rural Australia about to quietly shatter into a million irrevocable pieces and walk away or worse.

For the uninitiated, there are four major things happening in the bush at the moment:

  1. Incalculable rural producers, towns, businesses, and families in drought-ravaged regions are holding on by nothing more than a thread of hope as they endure, in some cases, a decade of relentless drought and the terrifying truth of an ever-dwindling hope.
  2. Extreme animal activist groups within Australia are attacking all livestock producers regardless of their standards or truth - and are using tactics that have been likened to terrorism.
  3. Since the Menindee fish deaths hit the media – croppers in southern Queensland and NSW have turned into cannon fodder for anybody with a social media account, and this behaviour has escalated to death threats upon families and innocent people - again, regardless of individual scenarios or truth.
  4. And now - the North West Queensland flooding - where in a terribly cruel twist, graziers have gone from extreme drought to losing some or all of their livestock.

Natural weather extremes aside for a moment, my personal take is that this 10-year drought and now the flooding in the north are the catalysts for the human aspect of the fallout across Australia.

There is no doubt whatsoever that those of us outside of rural and remote areas are seeing one side of things in the media when it comes to water and/or livestock welfare. Confusion therefore precedes common sense. And people are unbelievably scared. People are losing hope.

And when people are scared and in a corner they lash out looking for somebody to blame.

Sadly one of the major current ‘’twitter trending’’ scapegoats for a disproportionate amount of that national rage and blame are drought-affected croppers in southern Queensland and northern NSW who are perceived to have water. Many have none.

I am not going to get into the ins-and-outs of the irrigation/Menindee debates themselves or to even attempt to bring balance and truth to a debate that is blatantly and entirely lacking both those things. Google the facts and read up on it for yourselves. They're there; if you care to try educate yourself.

The shattering truth is that despite critical and overlooked facts being presented again, and again, and again – the faceless multitude baying for blood and standing salivating at the executioner’s block behind their devices simply don’t care.

Facts and truth and innocence have literally become irrelevant in an online space. And as such, a lopsided view is being perpetuated by the ‘masses’ who in most cases have never even set foot outside their urban landscapes and onto a rural property or sat over a cup of tea, face-to-face, with a farmer or a grazier.

It is all leading to increased anger, frustration, and indiscriminate online warfare. Whether that's between farmers in the south or the north, the city or the country, the extreme greens and the moderates. One thing anyone can agree on is that it's a horrible, nasty mess.

We can also agree that much of the insanity boils down to an absolute lack of leadership, direction, and focus as a nation. How on earth can Australia (or any group of people) feel secure, united and content when its leaders are bickering over scraps, chasing votes and running blatantly questionable campaigns with blatantly questionable motives?

How can Australia’s leaders even be taken seriously when they overthrow each other as often as we flip our kitchen calendars?

United we stand, divided we fall, right? Apparently not. We have all split off into dirty fighting factions and groups and we are warring like people who’ve learned nothing from history or mistakes made for thousands of years before us.

Right now our leaders are so busy doing their best to capitalise on pre-election votes and tactics to even actually lead or stop to look at the hard facts and truth. Ergo a nation filled to the brim with an angry, disillusioned mob screaming for attention, results, and change. And fair enough. I am right there with you, screaming to be seen or heard.

Anybody with less than half a brain can agree that serious ongoing discussion, debate, and action are required. The topics are all mammoth ones; from climate change to mining, exports, drought-proofing, and beyond. But the very simple fact is that if we are to keep growing, changing, evolving, improving and meeting these challenges head on - it has to happen in a manner that’s basically the opposite of the divisiveness and hate we are witnessing today.

We have to work together!

And here’s a very awkward and inconvenient fact for many: at the end of the day; if you’re amongst those casting stones but you also enjoy eating food or wearing clothing – you are part of the problem.

You’re also part of the solution, if you want to be.

A fifth-grade kid can understand that markets are driven by demand and consumerism. So to presume that living in a city “living your best eco-instagram life’’ while doing yoga, driving an electric car and being an open and proud vegan makes you separate from this mess or in some way virtuous and untouchable is literally the biggest lie you can be telling yourself. Just as that particular example does not by a long shot represent city friends in general - nor does ''cruel murderous farmes'' represent who we are. It's a shitty assumption driven by an ignorant few. And that is the exact nature of assumptions. They're deadly, in these cases.

If nobody told you yet: 99 per cent of rural people are literally constantly striving for innovation, sustainability, change, and a better way forward with our environment. Most of us (like anyone progressive) are constantly learning, evolving, and improving methods and practices. And, in case nobody told you this bit either - we love our land, our waterways, our animals, our nature, and our harsh and magnificent red-dirt blue-sky country. It runs in our souls and our veins like oxygen. It is our past, our present, and our future. And it is also the future for our kids, and yours - wherever you live. Geography is incidental if you need food on your plate or clothes on your back.

So please, put down your devices for a moment.

Look up.

Look around you.

Look at the produce on your shelves, the disposable fashion outlets on every corner, and the endless ‘’supply’’ of what you are all part of demanding and consuming.

We are all in this together, for better or for worse. Nobody is infallible. We can all do better.

And right now there is a genuine humanitarian crisis unfolding out here in the bush. Worse, the divisions are now travelling beyond city limits and pitting rural mates against rural mates. It is sickening.

There are people walking on the edge of suicide daily.

Seriously…. can you even imagine being a hard working person your entire life and waking up one day to find you are suddenly being slammed for the crime of providing food and fibre for the nation? This is the cruellest, lowest, and most telling blow of all for the innocent majority.

When the truth becomes irrelevant and ‘anonymous’ masses of people – driven by fear and extremes have decided that anyone who has ever irrigated a crop or sent a cow off to market is a criminal worthy of death threats - well, we know we’ve lost our way as a country.

When our leaders cannot see beyond their own petty differences to the big picture and the human crisis and need for immediate aid, national response, and action - we know we've lost our way.

The extreme greens taking potshots and perpetuating online terrorism towards primary producers from the comfort of their urban lives (and with literally zero lived experience) is crushing the hands that feed the rest of the nation, and it needs to stop - and those leading the charge and inciting hatred and false information need to be held to account with the full weight of the law - before it is literally too late. Our rural producers are too busy working themselves to death to get online and fight back!

To some of those extreme greens and terrorist-like online 'faceless' people on the hate wagon, I want you to say this:

Imagine for a moment, this scenario: let's pretend the dominant portion of the population and voters were rural/remote people. Now imagine that population decided to march upon cities, indiscriminately, with rage in our eyes, shaking our pitchforks and shotguns and demanding your life in exchange for the consumerism, waste, and destruction and pollution that’s been spewing from major cities since the industrial revolution? Imagine if we cared not for your own personal history, choices, good character, or love for the land or your country. Imagine if we were just ready to hang you without a fair trial...

That’s how it feels right now in rural Australia.

People are being metaphorically lead to the hangman’s noose for crimes they haven’t committed. For feeding a nation. For carrying a load for so long their backs are almost broken. So you can eat.

And before you sit there and shake your head and call that a ridiculous or dramatic comment, know and understand that as we speak there are women in country towns too frightened to leave their own home or even shop in their own towns.

There are tough, resilient, amazing blokes wondering if the best they can do is just end it all.

There are children too afraid to go back to boarding school in the city because people like Aussie Farms have nicknamed people like their hard working Mums and Dads “fHarmers”.

Many are so close to the edge that blood will be spilled. That’s not an “if’’ - by the way - it’s a when, unless what is happening now isn’t addressed urgently in the media.

So today I want to call out for compassion from all of us; whether you live on the coast, the city, or central Australia. Whatever your occupation. Whatever you think you might know.

I am calling upon our Prime Minister to take action in Australia immediately - to demand that media stand by their so-called strict laws of fair and balanced reporting while the current crises happening are managed and resolved in a way that is just, fair, and reasonable.

I am calling upon our Prime Minister to call for the protection of rural people who currently have absolutely no protection from intimidation and threats when they're already on the edge.

I am calling upon our Prime Minister to remind politicians that personal gain and motives have no part in what our elected leaders are Tweeting, sharing, and saying.

I am calling upon our Prime Minister to recognise the humanitarian crisis that’s happening as we speak among a group of people who are being treated as invisible at best.

And I am asking all of us this simple question: if, as a nation, we can (through people power) put everything upside down in the wake of the recent tragic death of many fish – then what, exactly, are we prepared to do for children, families, farmers, and friends?

Are you prepared to save fish but metaphorically slaughter men and women because of an inability to work together? If that's who you are - then hope is, indeed lost.

Please join us in taking action. Share this link. Tag an MP, tag a news outlet. It takes seconds.

For those wishing to donate and help our farmers from afar - the CWA is your best bet - link is here: http://www.qcwa.org.au/what-we-do/public-rural-crisis-fund/?fbclid=IwAR2rVgZWQQ555w8-l_dNifp_iH9ABRLyLvTNIcr-DD9ttA3Wl43tpOew6tY

xxx Shanna

You can read more from Shanna and her work at http://www.soberinthecountry.com.au