The Landscape has changed.
She lived on a farm in a back road of Warrnambool. In the city, her vast front yard would have been a small park with a playground, or dozens of units, whereas here, visible to only one neighbour who was driving past, she was cutting the grass on her ride on mower, whilst wearing a mask.
Maybe we have it all wrong.
Maybe, pre-covid, many of us were living under the tyranny of too much freedom and now, relieved of that burden, they are finding peace under our governments ever growing overreach, like chickens curling up under their parent’s warm wing.
Look how well so many have not only conformed but adapted. Together they are actively enforcing the new rules upon those amongst us who aren’t so compliant.
Put your mask on! Do you want to kill us?
Just get jabbed! On repeat.
This Christmas, they’re taking their new love for authoritarianism to levels we would have never believed they were capable of. Ostracizing family members who haven’t been vaccinated, and denying health care to the sick, they have even publicly informed those people stuck on transplant waiting lists, no jab no transplant, or comply or die.
It is as if the many have willingly downloaded and installed a new moral code that states “bullying and shaming and dobbing in the non-compliant, even if they are family, is now a noble civic duty.
It’s like, after thousands of years of waiting for our inheritance, the meek have finally risen and taken the world by force and won.
Or have they?
Outside a small café on the way to Warrnambool we drank our takeaway coffees and waited for the heavens, that had opened, to close again.
We were heading to Warrny to interview any locals who wanted to speak before MCing Christmas Carols for everyone, but this torrent of rain was making it look like that idea, and us were mad.
It was now that I noticed that behind the counter, two of the women weren’t masked and two were. I asked one of the unmasked ones why she wasn’t and she said she had an exemption. She also said how difficult it was serving and cooking all day with it on. The woman who had it on looked stressed, even angry as she worked the grill and the fryers.
Is she the owner? I asked.
No, I am, said the woman who had the exemption. And then, like a larrakin, she grinned.
Later that night we would all be staying on a farm that overlooked a waterfall. And around a large fire, and late into the night, we all laughed and joked and mocked to what to us appeared to be the insanity of the Covid world. But when we woke we found that beyond the view the insane world was waiting for us.
Over breakfast we heard the news that the Western Australian Premier hadn’t allowed two double jabbed parents into the state to be with their daughter, who they knew wasn’t mentally well. Then after the girl had taken her own life they let the parents in, but they both had to quarantine for a fortnight.
To us it was a moment to be silent. To drink our coffee and wonder where we were, yet as I write this, I wonder how many others applauded the hard uncompromising decision from their warm place under their premier’s wing.
Are we really the last? Was that woman on the lawnmower wearing the mask because she’s irrationally frightened of the virus, or rather to show her passing neighbours which side of the narrative she’s on, like a swastika?
In Warrnambool several people talked to us and most of their stories were snapshots from the carnage of our leaders’ reaction to covid, and many of those who we interviewed hugged us afterwards, warmly and for a while.
And it was within these hugs, and around that fire, and in the van as we drove home, where we poked fun at our driver, Steve who was still practicing his jokes, that our happiness now resides. For how can you aim for a future called happiness, when you’re surfing on tyranny’s incoming tide?
But in Warrnambool the entire trip was summed up in the eyes of a baby.
When we were wrapping up, a young mother with two kids, one of them a baby, asked to talk to me.
In the chilly wind she told me how her husband had lost his job, due to his choice not to get jabbed and was now struggling.
He was in their car with another daughter and got out as we approached.
Loose limbed and awkward, he shook hands firmly, his eyes red rimmed with worry, and as his son splashed in the mirrors of the evening puddles, we talked quietly about the behemoth that had driven us together.
I wish I had some answers, but I don’t, I said. Except to say that you are not alone. They are determined to make us feel like we are, but you are not. It’s just unfortunate for you buddy, that you two are lions.
He smiled to this, and then laughed as he was offered a free hug. And it was a strong hug. A defiant embrace.
And then I saw that his wife was smiling too and, in her arms, her Covid baby was taking us all in, its bright, baffled eyes full of the leaving sun.
And I could see those eyes as I fell asleep in the van, then woke later to find my new family, these freedom fighting brothers and sisters, joking and laughing, like our combined happiness was a revolutionary flag, red and blowing in the wind.
Michael Gray Griffith