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Last night I watched a documentary that I have had since 2016. It was about the Toowoomba Grantham flood disaster of January 2011 when communities in Queensland were devastated by a deluge of enormous proportions. It struck me, as I watched, how different people are from what they were 9 years ( or even 4 years ) ago.

As I watched, I had one word come in to my mind. HUMANITY. What is lacking today is our sense of humanity. Our sense of caring and compassion and regard for others. 

Have we changed so much? Or is it that our Governments and media have changed and are expecting us to follow suit?

I can speak with some degree of  authority about what happened that day in 2011. I was there, in Toowoomba. It had been a long dry period of years and we had been on water rationing for so long that it had become a habit to never squander water. A shower was a 2 minute once a day event and flushing the toilet was on an as needs basis. Gardens lay wilted and forlorn and we just held on to the hope that rain would eventually 

And fall it did. By January 10th 2011, the ground was soaked and unable to drink anymore. Its thirst had been quenched. 

But it kept raining and the intensity seemed to be increasing. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon, it started to pour down with a ferocity I hope never to see again. 

 

By now, the water was cascading down the mountain and the small town of Grantham, where I once worked, was in the path of the deluge that would claim 12 lives and destroy an entire community. 

The devastation in Grantham was staggering, not just in its ferocity but also the speed with which the disaster struck. Without warning. 

 

Days later the flood waters flowed on to Brisbane and our Capital city was facing a disaster not seen since the 1974 flood.

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You may wonder why I am talking about this today in 2020 when so much is happening that is more important than a tragic event that happened nearly 10 years ago.

It is because I was struck by the change in Government response and people's attitudes in the decade that has passed.

The broadcasters were compassionate and stuck to factual reporting. 

No one talked about Climate Change. 

Afterwards, we were " locked down " - not by Government dictate but by practicality. The roads were washed out, bridges gone and we were marooned on a mountain top with rationing and limited supplies. No one stock piled toilet paper. We went for bread and milk and canned goods. We didn't hoard.

Not because we couldn't, but because we wouldn't.

Over the days and weeks that followed, the stench of the rotten food, water soaked carpet and furniture was everywhere. I will never forget that smell.

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But local businesses mucked in and we all began the task of rebuilding our lives, our sense of community and our sense of self.

The media broadcast messages of support and our politicians did likewise.

Of course, in the aftermath the blame game started. The Toowoomba City Council was blamed for inadequate storm water drainage. The owners of a quarry were blamed. The Queensland Government was blamed for not opening the spillway at a dam early enough. 

But no one ever blamed the people. 

I cannot help but compare the tragedy of 2011 with the tragedy that is 2020. 

A virus from China has flooded us with a different kind of devastation. A society consumed with fear and dread.

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A society that is divided and suspicious and full of blame. 

It is no longer a time to rally the humanity that lies within all of us. It is now a time to blame the people. The media and the Government are desperate to blame us, not the politicians who allowed this to happen or the country that created the virus in the first place.

The blame is planted on our shoulders for failing to do " the right thing. " We are encouraged to report each other, socially isolate and be suspicious of our neighbours. 

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The media and the Government are pitting fellow resident against fellow resident and encouraging a sense of disunity while using the catch cry that " we are all in this together. "

No, we are not. 

We are in this alone. The people are not allowed to hug, help and hail each others bravery. We are being not only encouraged, but forced to live in isolation. 

As I watched the documentary, I almost wanted to weep with sorrow at the loss that we have suffered that is far greater than any we endured in 2011.

The loss of humanity. The loss of our shared communal security.

That port in a storm. That wonderful, human need to be part of a group, a family and that comfort of shared sorrow.

As our elderly die from grief and our children cower with fear that Santa may give them a virus, it is nothing short of mass cruelty to allow this media and politically driven fear campaign to continue.

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As our loved ones die in isolation and we are denied the RIGHT to act and interact as is our instinct, I can only say that we have lost something that is our most precious gift: our sense of humanity.

 

 

 

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