A little context. My home is right now sitting not far away from a massive fire front, its ragged fingers like outstretched talons reaching towards my little rural community. I’ve evacuated, temporarily. Better off than some – whose houses are now ash and rubble. Better off than those who have died, and better off than the millions of animals with nowhere to run, no cars to jump into.
Naturally I spend a lot of time on Facebook, anxiously trawling for news – is it here yet? are my friends and neighbours safe? Do I still have a home to go back to? Facebook, the Great Satan, is proving the Great Connector. And yet.
It’s here that you find the best, and the worst. The people who make your heart swell with pride to be Aussie, or even human, and the people who…well, don’t. Our village fire coordinator, who finds time to make jokes about weird designer clothes for men in the direst of times. The firies who come from the north coast – recently beset by fire – to help us here in our little hamlet. The neighbour who pops around to check someone’s gutters because they can’t climb a ladder, who lends a generator, brings fresh water, cooks a quiche. The truckies who deliver free hay and water, the Sikhs and Moslem convoys who bring food to country towns. The people whose loungerooms are now full of burnt native animals in pillow case pouches. It makes me cry. Kindness, cooperation, stoicism, bravery. The best of us.
And then. The armchair experts who overflow with vitriol and sheer stupidity ‘It’s all the greenies’ fault’, ‘You never see a fire on a concrete footpath’, ‘These fires are nothing unusual’. The ‘string ’em up’ brigade, ‘99% of Aussie fires caused by arsonists’, ‘Looters run amuck in fire evacuated towns’, ‘We need more logging!’. There’s a tendency for some of us to turn on each other in these awful times. In my own village, thoughtless kids started a blaze which was soon put out; naturally, they got a severe talking to. The single individual who started a hate rant about it on the local Facebook group was quickly shut down – and it’s this which makes me proud of my home. Others have not been so chilled, choosing to maintain old feuds while the fires rage around us, and that’s disappointing.
Opinions are one thing. Mobs are another, very much more dangerous phenomenon that we need to avoid at all costs in these testing times.
And well, like a lot of evacuees, I’m missing my home…