On Peter Garrett and the Futility of it All

Midnight Oil played a concert in Sydney’s Domain on Saturday night that I was lucky enough to attend. It was a beautiful, warm spring evening – perfect for a night out.

Oils At The Domain
PIcture courtesy @bodgerog

As I listened, I realised that the protest songs the Oils wrote are as relevant today, as they were in the 70’s and 80’s, if not more so. It made me wonder what the point of it all has been.

Peter Garrett brought Australia’s and the World’s attention to Australian social justice issues through his music and through his activism with the Australian Conservation Foundation and Greenpeace.  He went into politics, first founding the Nuclear Disarmament Party, and later joining the Australian Labor party and becoming a minister in the Gillard Government.

From my outsider perspective, his ministerial position seemed to compromise him. He no longer spoke out as stridently or as passionately as he once did. He was silent when I wished he would speak up, he seemed neutered, ineffectual.

So it was great to see him performing again. It was like the Garrett of old. He sang and spoke so passionately and well about issues facing Australia, in particular, the Adani mine. He was inspiring, bold, convincing.

But it leaves me wondering. If someone like Garrett, whose years of activism and of politics can’t change things, then who can?

Do democratic politics not matter?  They don’t seem to. Those who have taken bold stances before coming into power, seem to become weakened when obtaining power. Former PM,  Kevin Rudd turned his back on climate change,  our current PM, Malcom Turnbull appears to have compromised just about everything he ever claimed to care for. I’m watching to see what becomes of Anne Aly.

So if we can’t achieve social change, or protect what is important through music, activism, academia, politics, how can we?

Are we so enslaved to the capitalist system that nothing else matters?  Will we continue to destroy ourselves because the people with real power in this world are people like Murdoch and Donald Trump?

Is there really any way out?

I have no answers. I don’t believe we can give up. I know I am complicit, I  am by the fact of my whiteness, and of my middle-class privilege, my consumerism, my use of products like my iPhone,  produced through the exploitation of the poor, and destruction of our earth.

I do believe we need to keep trying to make the world a better, fairer and kinder place.  I hope that one day, we’ll figure out how.

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