Here, in what was once the lucky country, we live in a culture of fear, nurtured by a cynical, irresponsible media and a government (and, sadly, opposition) that want nothing more than our vote. Every day they try to teach us to be scared, be afraid. Scared people are docile, scared people often buy more, scared people don't have time to think and question and so vote out of fear rather than common sense.
And so the fear continues, is bred, and so our lives become smaller, darker and less interesting, even as we're convinced more and more that we aren't safe, that we need to do more to be safe, that the old stuff isn't safe enough, that anything is worth giving up in the pursuit of safety.
The terrorist issue is a post on its own... but lets look at the other things we've been taught to be afraid of.
"All bacteria are bad!" scream the adverts. "How clean is your home?" ask the tabloid media. They try to scare you into buying product after product to "kill 99% of all germs and disease." Yep, there are a million nasty bugs out there. But many bacteria are harmless to humans and there's a hell of a lot of beneficial ones as well, and I never see anything to say the latest anti-bacterial doesn't harm the bugs we need
Forgetting all that, how are you ever supposed to build up an immunity in a sterile environment? If germs and disease are so lethal, how the hell do people in third world countries get old enough to breed a new generation. Sure, many do actually die, but a heck of a lot live with far worse environmental concerns than whether a toilet smells of pine.
And if you've got a bug, sniffle or headache, quick! Down the medication! Got to nip this in the bud this instant! Don't want to go around all diseased and sick now do we? You have to have medication! You should ask for it! Doctors should prescribe it, and if yours won't, go to another doctor! Don't worry that it may only be a palliative, don't question that it may be unnecessary, and don't worry that many drugs have become substantially less effective through overuse, that we're actually helping breed stronger strains of bacteria and disease... demand tablets for every little ache and pain!
Humans are a lot more resilient than the media let us think we are.
If the media concerns for our health and well-being were accurate, most of us wouldn't make it past the first case of the sniffles.
So that's one thing. Let's just run quickly through some of the others...
Don't go bald, women won't find you desirable! Only losers go bald!
Your breasts! They aren't big/small/perky enough! Fix them with creams, surgery, any way possible or everyone will think you look awful! Your cock is not big enough! Make it bigger! Now! Women can sense that it's small and will hate you! No-one likes you! Buy this new product and they will!
All illegal drugs are evil and wicked, but alcohol and cigarettes are cool! Public transport is dangerous! People get stabbed! Don't use public transport, drive a car instead! Because it's not like people in cars ever get hurt, is it?
One of the saddest examples is playgrounds. From many any equipment that a child may get a knock or a scrape from has been removed. Most (not all) still have swings, but beyond that they are perfectly safe. And boring. No, you don't want your children in mortal danger, but for many kids a little risk is what makes playing fun. Trying to get the swing to do a 360 revolution is the dream of many. They want to find a way to do something with a bit of excitement.
I remember visiting a family playground area at King's Park, with safety rails over the little bridges and covered-in corkscrew slides, and noticing the kids climbing around on the outside parts of the slides, because that was fun. It didn't matter how safe the folks in charge tried to make everything, the children found a way to make it more interesting. If you don't occasionally stretch yourself, what's the point?
People wonder why we have a high obesity rate in our young people. What do they have to tempt them outside? If there's nothing fun at the playground, why go to the effort? May as well stay inside and play on the computer. Not to mention that they are taught to be afraid of the outside world thanks to over-protective parents not letting their kids out of the house. The kids get driven to and picked up from school, can't go to the park without supervision, etc.
Now no-one wants their child at risk of being kidnapped or molested by someone, but let's be rational, how often does this sort of thing really happen? Your child is more at risk crossing the street. What are you going to do? Not allow them outside? Most accidents happen in the home. Electrocutions, drownings, falls... Life is full of myriad dangers. But the odds are greater for a lot of other things to happen before anyone ever even looks lasciviously at your little darling.
Oh it happens, I'm not denying that, and it's a terrible, terrible thing. Then the vultures appear, media scare-mongers working overtime to make you buy their papers and watch their broadcasts, exploiting the situation and trying to scare you in order to sell more. They blow it out of proportion, papers scream and ask the loaded question "How safe is your child?" Every unknown person on the street is a potential danger. The strangers are out there, they want your children!
The truth of the matter is, if you want to keep your children safe from paedophiles and child-stealers, first thing you have to do is keep them away from those closest to you. These days many children are taken by a partner or ex. Many molestations are the work of friends, uncles, aunts, step-parents, even grandparents. If you're keeping your kid off the street out of fear, you may do better to worry about trusted family members and friends than worry about strangers. I know this one firsthand.
I'm not saying we shouldn't protect our children. But we shouldn't allow ourselves to be frightened into over-protecting them either, nor teach them to be afraid of everything and everyone.
Nor should we allow ourselves to be scared into bad decisions and immobility, it just continues the bad examples. Don't get involved, don't help, don't speak out... People don't know their neighbours any more, they don't go out, community isn't dead but it's coughing up blood.
Life is there to be experienced, to be lived to the full. And that means taking risks, learning to take a little responsibility for your own well-being, dealing with the hard stuff, being a part of the world and part of the solution.
A life lived in fear is no life at all.
In the time we've known each other, we've become best mates. From the time we first sat and had a decent yak, there was a connection there. Similar ideas and attitudes, with enough differences to keep things interesting and enlightening, and also to allow us some rip-roaring arguments and genuine hatred. Go back far enough and you can find a distant and tenuous genetic link, but we may as well be brother and sister for all that means.
She's creative. An artist, writer, performer... For someone with no sense of humour, she laughs at my gags a lot, or maybe that's why she laughs.
She enjoys being around nature, but also shares my great love of industrial architecture and big honkin' pipes. She gets excited by life as often as I, appreciates that the world is an amazing place with lots of cool things in it.
She's the person that got me past my shyness to start dancing at convention masquerades, which meant I was finally able to dance with Sharon at convention masquerades.
She's a science geek, science communicator. She's organised major events, press releases, and of course, she does shows at Science Works.
We share our hidden sides with one another. The hard times, the vulnerabilities, and the fierce temper. We each trust the other to tell us when we're wrong. As friends we've shared secrets that we've told no-one else, nor are likely to share. I've gotten to see what others don't get to, the side that ain't pretty, the side that most people would run from, the side that makes me want to draw back.
And it don't matter because she's me mate.
Tiki is someone for whom art is a part of everyday life. I'm not talking paintings and sculptures, though they have their place, but her whole environment. Banners wave, colours and shapes influence her home, she loses herself in beauty and music. She loves to spin words into brilliant and evocative tales of her life and exploits.
She seeks to open that artistic bent in others, seeks to show them the world through her eyes so that they can share in some of the beauty she finds around her. She's up for trying things. Weird stuff, exciting, different, challenging, and she actively encourages others to join her in the fun and exploration.
She knows the only purpose of boundaries is to give us something to push against.
Most people who know her find Tiki to be special, engaging, sensual, a spirit of energy running fleetingly through their lives, seldom there but when she is, giving her full attention to them.
I doubt there's anyone who has spent a decent amount of time with her that thinks she is anything short of amazing.
(As I was getting this post up, Tiki came dancing into the lounge, talked to me about melting cheese onto chicken schnitzels, and danced out when she was done. That sums her up to a T.)