Manning Community News contributor, Vincent O’Donnell reflects on issues of the past that will shape the years to come.

Always Another Dawn. 

This is the title of an Australian film released in1948, from the years when there was not an Australian film industry. Those words could also have been a rallying cry for that very small band of men and women who thought there should be an Australian film industry and campaigned and lobbied fruitlessly to create one. 

Always Another Dawn was not well received, despite its patriotic celebration of the Australian Navy at war, but it did one good thing: it gave Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, his first leading screen role of a subsequent six decade long career that made him the best loved and recognised Australian screen actor.

Those few words, ‘always another dawn’, expresses the optimism we face each new year with our new year resolutions, resolutions we (kind of) know won’t be in place by February.  But optimism is there and optimism is one of humankind’s most animating forces. 

It gets you up in the morning, you greet your neighbour with it. It hold families, communities and nations together. Fires, floods and other catastrophes hone its edge into a weapon of survival and recovery. It is essential to life and when it ebbs, disorder, or worse, follows.  

In Ukraine, the success of the country’s small army against a numerically superior invader is built on optimism, while the disorderly retreat of Russian forces signals a collapse of optimism that they are serving some noble national purpose as they have been told.

But sometimes it is hard work to seek that new dawn. The last couple of years have been particularly tough for many people: the threat of disability or death from Covid-19, at very least the inconvenience of lock-downs and travel restrictions. And there was the disappointment of seeing some people who were more concerned with their personal convenience rather than the welfare of the community that gave them place and purpose.

And there’s the on again-off again political and social concern about climate change.  Remember Kevin Rudd’s “great moral challenge of our generation”. That was fifteen years ago in the Kevin ‘07 election year. His generation did little, will the next generation do more?  The activists’ tactic de jour of gluing their hands to gallery walls and works of art gets publicity, but the publicity doesn’t go past the acts of defiance and so fails to communicate the issues behind the action. It is the issues that matter, not the publicity-seeking defiance.

Of climate change, I cannot judge the science, but I can judge the scientists.  I am far more inclined to trust them, rather than dissembling politicians or self-interested business tycoons, when they warn of the danger. And I am very strong on applying the precautionary principle. After many years in film and television production, I know not to trust those who say ‘It’ll be right on the night’. So, I think it will be better and cheaper in the long run if we act to head off the possibility of climate change lest it trigger social, agricultural and political events beyond our governments’ ability to anticipate or counter.

A key issue in climate change is the consumption of fossil fuels.  If you take the long view, then carelessly consuming a limited resource is not a good idea. One day the resource will be exhausted. So as our society has achieved a level of technical proficiency and social stability using fossil fuels, it would seem to be a smart move to develop and implement renewable resources and use fossil fuels for tasks where we can’t find renewable substitutes.

Many societies are starting down that road but some countries remain perilously dependent on fossil fuels, so we need an international effort to share renewable technologies. 

Sharing is also an act of trust, trust that our generosity will not be abused. But trust is in short supply. Things are not too bad in Australia, but trust in the US, especially in government, is seriously corrupted. Increasingly, US society and politics is governed by mistrust, from a need to be armed lest your home or person is violated, to their highest governing body, Congress, where even members of the same political party do not trust their own leadership.

In politics, trust is a two way street. It is hard to build, easy to destroy, but essential to efficient social and economic management, the core business of politics. John Howard’s core and none-core promises were, at least, a politician acknowledging that politicians cannot be trusted. The last decade of political leadership has done little to change this. Perhaps another dawn is called for.  

My New Year’s plea to politicians of every stripe, from wanna-be local councillor to prime ministers and presidents, is this:  win trust by being open with your motives and honest in your answers. Better governance will follow.

Trust and optimism are brother-sister qualities. If you have one, you have the other. 

As we face another year, my New Year resolution is this: be more trusting and trust-worthy. That will fuel my optimism that we can defeat the pandemic, ameliorate climate change and create a society in which we expect the best of family, friends, neighbours and politicians.  If so, we will all hopefully enjoy another dawn for a long time to come.

Vincent O’Donnell is a Media Researcher and Analyst

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