“There’s a poor animal with blood on its head and tears running down its face. Who did that to it? It’s lying in the dust and its wings are broken. Who broke its wings? Who cut off his hands so that it can’t shake the bars?” Edward Bond, Lear.
We live in a cruel world. Whether or not our lives are filled with the social justice and comforts of the First World, the world is nonetheless a very cruel place. Politically, cruelty is not the domain of the left wing or the right wing – both wings were clipped a long time ago. Our wings were clipped by a corporate establishment that broke the social fabric so yearned for by the world after World War II. I do believe that there is another war emerging. Unlike the Cold War, it won’t be between two broken wings – it will be between us and the one percent. Whoever wins the war will determine the survival of humanity.
I enjoyed a healthy childhood in rural Australia, and for what I lacked from material wealth I gained with the richness that comes with an unrestricted and happy upbringing. Once, as a teenager, I ran away from home. I left on Friday afternoon, hopped on my motorbike, and camped out in an East Gippsland forest. I packed everything I needed including food and fuel; I also stole a rifle from my neighbour. On the Saturday night, I shot a wallaby in the head, attempted to cut out a tenderloin, cooked it on the fire, and thought about what I had just done. It died instantly – I knew that.
I returned on the Sunday afternoon. I was a little offended to learn that my parents did not realise that I had ‘ran away’, but forever comforted that I was always treated as an adult. Self-determination was something that developed in me naturally and not unconsciously. I knew that the world was a cruel place from an early age, and that cruelty is so often necessary for survival. But what I hate is the cruelty that is unnecessary, and I am scared by it.
At the tender age of seven I was handed a rifle to go on my first fox hunt. Etched in my mind is the image a poor cub dragging its head along the freshly ploughed earth with half of its snout blown off. I remember when it was my turn to cut the throat of a sheep but the knife was too blunt and I was too weak to make the kill quick – it died eventually. When an animal dies, you see its eyes, and its eyes see you. I didn’t want to do it, but I was a child and I was made to do it.
The were no tears in my eyes. Rather, I chose to keep the tears behind my eyes, perhaps so that one day I could make the world a better place with my vision clear and not blurred with hate or sadness.
If our wounds don’t kill us, our scars can thicken the skin.
I know many kind farmers – in fact the most influential and extraordinary person of my life was the farmer and sculptor, Rix Wright. But Canberra needs to know that animal cruelty is endemic in Australia. Children learn to bludgeon animals for fun; the rapid corporatisation of rural Australia has seen the torture and killing of our animals with the mechanical efficiency of Nazi concentration camps. It is for the progressive side of politics to end this madness.
I had an enlightening conversation with Animal Liberation Spokesperson Carolyn Drew yesterday. There was certainly more that united us than divided us. We agreed that a time must come when humans afford to the lives of our fellow animals the dignity inherent in all life.
Drew believes that through economic pressure we can make the world a better place for animals, and I agree – but I would like to go a step further. We must fight for the dignity of animals through the power of legislative authority, and that will only occur when the Progressive side of politics earns that authority. We need new politicians!
Today’s politicians can no longer write their own speeches or books; it is abundantly clear that they definitely can’t read them either. An example of this was Bill Shorten asking Keating to assist in the composition of his reply to the budget – the words were far wiser than the speaker.
Progressive politics must break through the barrier of accepting the established paradigm within which our regressive opponents are trapped – trapped like animals. There are millions of Progressives in Australia; they just don’t know for whom to vote. But in 2016 they will. I hope.
Orwell wrote Animal Farm with the conviction ‘to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole’. It is this very idea that I embrace, and, in order to succeed, all Progressives must embrace too. If we are to imagine new political realities we must first stop voting for vapid politicians whose imaginations have been destroyed by their conditioning well before preselection.
Where America failed in its quest for liberty, Australia may still succeed. There are millions of Progressives in Australia, but because democracy is pure illusion without choice, they just don’t know for whom to vote. In 2016, for the ACT and federally, there will be a choice, and they will know for whom to vote.
The Progressive movement in Australia is growing, and I plan to contribute to it with all my brain and brawn. But I say to my Progressive friends – we are fighting a political machine so entrenched in the established order, that to break it will require a political literacy that we don’t yet have. We need to be cunning; we need to be kind; and we need to be cruel. Know for whom you vote.
Steven Bailey is the First Officer and Election Team Leader of The Australian Sex Party – Canberra. Through the arts, education and politics, Steven believes we can make stronger communities and a better world.