Singin’ in the Rain

One weekend in 2006, after wrestling with the question of which of the world’s too many troubles to mention in the intercessions at Sunday Eucharist, I empathised with Phillip Adams‘ lament in a column in the Weekend Australian Magazine. An extract:

I understand why fewer people are reading newspapers. I sympathise with the millions who don’t watch the news or SBS, or listen to Radio National, or read important books, or attend lectures on urgent issues. If you know about the woes of the world, then “compassion fatigue” can be more comprehensible than reprehensible. And if you’re lucky enough not to know, then who can blame you for wanting to censor the incoming signals? I can begin to empathise with those who dull the pain with drugs or shopping.

It seems I spend my time writing or broadcasting on wars, genocides, child soldiers, torture, climate change, George Bush, terrorism, refugees, West Papua, species extinction, John Howard, AIDS in Africa, ethnic cleansing, salinity problems, deforestation in the Solomon Islands, fundamentalists, social injustice, political chicanery, right-wing lunacies and the Vatican’s blanket ban on condoms. And that’s just Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday it’s on to the death penalty, the decreasing incidence of voting in Western democracies … before looking at really serious problems such as the mess the AL-bloody-P is in and the millions who’ll die when the bird flu pandernic breaks out.

So bring on Donald O’Connor falling over the furniture, or Gene Kelly waltzing with his umbrella. Bring on anything that’s silly or harmless and doesn’t cause cancer or add to greenhouse gases.

And it just occurs to me that waltzing is a very funny word, and that our national song is about a waltzing swagman who commits suicide over a sheep, which reminds me of all the problems in the rural sector, particularly the endless drought at the farm, and the depression afflicting swaggies, Les Murray and the ex-premier of Western Australia – and me, whenever I think of John Howard.

Darfur, petrol-sniffing [in remote indigenous communities], Cronulla [race-riots], domestic violence, arsonists lighting bushfires- a laugh a minute. It’s like being trapped in a revolving door with a hundred hopeless problems, like being beaten on the head by the vanes of Don Quixote’s windmill, like being condemned to spend eternity dancing with Pauline Hanson [retired right-wing politican] or attending a dinner party with Phil Ruddock [Attorney-General of Australia]. Only it’s even worse: like waking up and finding that Bush is still president.

I try to cheer myself up thinking that I’ll soon be dead, but that could take months. . . . Then, all of a sudden, I feel a hint of hope. Not too much-just enough to rejoin the human race, that sad and sorry mob who muck everything up. Yet humanity can claim one great victory. We made Singin’ in the Rain.