Things like a one-in-100-year pandemic, and a rising tide of neo-Nazism, racism, anti-Semitism and violence against women and children, have made me question the meaning of life during the months we endured strict lockdowns in Melbourne.
Is there any point to the struggle? What is the “better” way (if any) to shuffle through this mortal coil before we shuffle off it? Should you stridently defend your comfort zone with weapons, violence and rhetoric as long as you have breath to draw (as evidenced by the storming of the Capitol in the United States last November)? Or should you always seek to “pay it forward”, or at least do no harm, as much as you are able to, in your circumstances?
My life has been marred by ugly instances of unkindness from strangers: the elderly white businessman in the navy suit with shiny brass buttons who gave me an earful outside the State Library of Victoria; the white 20-something male who laughingly told me to “F— off back to your own country” (surely only something First Nations peoples are entitled to say to the rest of us: white, migrant or refugee) when I was standing alone in the dark at Camberwell station waiting for a lift home; the white dad, mum, teen son and teen daughter hurling abuse at me, complete with hand gestures, gurning and “Chinky eyes” out of the open windows of a car with state-government licence plates in Lygon Street; the five white friends who deliberately sat around me on a train journey home from work at 10.44pm to let me personally know how much they hated Chinese people; the racial taunting from family members of my Greek migrant neighbour during the first COVID-19 lockdown while I was standing in the “safety” of my own backyard (because, like Orwell’s pigs, some migrants are more equal than others?).