Don’t Let the Pandemic Tear Australia Apart
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As a transplanted to Melbourne from Sydney, I never cared much for state-based identities beyond occasionally reveling in the chaos of the potato pancakes versus scallop debate. It was only since the pandemic that I started to really to feel like a Melburnian.
It seems like we’ve all started to define ourselves based on the state we live in over the past 18 months. It’s not hard to see why, with much of our response to the pandemic having taken place along state borders.
We wake up every morning and check our state’s infection numbers and then compare them to other states. We have created personality cults around our respective prime ministers, the most visible faces of the pandemic response. We watch them discuss vaccine allocation as if it’s a zero-sum game, as if giving more to another state struggling with a major outbreak means we’re less protected no matter how many cases we have in our country. community.
In Melbourne, this is also due in large part to the shared experience of our long lockdown last year – the overwhelming feeling that it was Victoria against the rest of Australia, and the feeling that those in other states didn’t hadn’t really to have what we had experienced.
I noticed recently that this state-based parochialism is on fire again, as many in Melbourne seem to view the Sydney lockdown with horror, but also with a certain degree of schadenfreude.
The comments, mostly online, but also from friends and people on the streets, support: “So much for the exception of Sydney. “If it was Melbourne we would have been locked out weeks ago.” And even yesterday morning, with the announcement that residents of eight LGAs in Sydney are now limited to a three-mile radius and required to wear masks outside: “Wait, weren’t you doing that already?” We’ve been doing this on and off for a year.
I’m not immune to it either. On the phone with a friend in Sydney last week, I couldn’t help but think, without charity: You are not even in real confinement.
The Sydneysiders, in turn, have made it clear that this kind of comment from other states is of no use, especially when it often feels like it is addressed to ordinary people who have no control over creating restrictions and just trying to survive a terrible situation. .
According to Melbourne-based psychologist Chris Cheers, the growing animosity between people in different states is a natural result of the desire to feel safe in an inherently dangerous and uncertain situation.
“Right now in Victoria you will feel more secure if you feel connected to Victoria,” he said. “You won’t feel so secure if you feel connected to Australia.” Australia, after all, also includes Sydney and its growing virus epidemic.
But he – and many others – are worried about the growing division between states and the amount of work that may be required to become Australians again.
In an attempt to counter some of that animosity, Cheers posted social media posts offering the Sydneysiders advice on surviving lockdown from someone who had already done so.
Her advice included “Know that whatever you feel is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation”, “Bubble baths are adorable, but taking care of yourself also means setting boundaries, saying no and asking for what you need” and “Sometimes the only thing you can do is anchor yourself and wait for the storm to pass. Like all storms.
The posts have gone viral, with many seeing them as a welcome antidote to common vitriol in online spaces. Other Melburnians jumped on board, offering their own tips and advice.
Everyone’s emotions are heightened during times of stress and uncertainty, and people can become angry or defensive as a result. It’s normal for Melburnians, in particular, to have complicated feelings about what’s going on in Sydney.
But the Sydney epidemic is a threat to all of Australia, not just Sydney. Emotional parochialism may seem satisfying, but remembering the interconnectedness of the country and our sense of community may ultimately be more helpful.
“I think the more we can get in touch with,” Cheers said, “the more we can say,“ Well, how can we all come together and support each other through this? “”
Now for our stories of the week:
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