It’s hard to believe he could have ever imagined such a response. And yet literally overnight, on the eve of Australia’s national day, the video link of Stan Grant’s address at Australia’s IQ2 Forum on Racism in Australia three months earlier set the internet, and debate, on fire.
He says it himself – he never could have imagined the response,:
- the over one million views of the address,
- the national, regional and international interest,
- the strong responses of viewers, both supporting and scathing of his clearly and poignantly expressed point of view.
At the heart of his address was his people, people who seemingly needed him to turn the volume up on an issue felt to be muted. With remarkable passion of expression, somehow able to prevent cracking of voice and shedding of tears considering the emotional fire of his delivery, he told his story. Their story. Their sense of continued exclusion.
The issues expressed, the work he felt still needed to be done exposed, made clear the belief of the need for the nation to continue to look into the mirror, honestly, with eyes and heart open, and question, “Are we done enough for all?”
The question posed, grounded in the clear sense of injustices still felt, have ignited a debate that many Australians feel needs to be reopened, Stan’s address questioned by the Sydney Morning Herald if it was to be “Australia’s Martin Luther King moment’. Many, on the other hand, feel it needs to stay closed. It is up to the Australian people to decide if they wish to look into the mirror and face wherever reflection looks back at them.
Watching Stan’s stirring address and the subsequent news coverage generated by its response, the story appearing as headline worthy within a line-up of global news stories representative of the challenges of our times, it was impossible not to feel that the discussion around ‘are we doing enough for all’ needs to continue.
But it is not only in Australia. Nations across the world from down under to far up north need to, in these challenging times, be stopping to ask, often.
Every day, national composition and conscience is seeing changes. Elections across the globe calling in new eras of leadership, industrialisation, and especially immigration, is putting not just economics and identity into question, but humanity. Stopping to look at who we are as a people, wherever that may be on the world map, and asking ‘who are we, what do we stand for…and are we doing enough for all’, is a critical part of a nation’s ability to move forward.
Fareed Zakaria, on his powerful GPS programme on CNN, recently shared that at last count 244 million people across the globe, effectively 3% of the world’s population, live in country other than that in which they were born. Integration has become one of our generation’s greatest issues – not if, but how. And, always asking, ‘are we doing enough?’
Countries, both those long established and those reborn, should never lose sight of this question. Whether the UK or countries in Europe finding long lines of refugees desperately knocking on their doors, the US or Canada with new leaders ready to set these nations on new paths of opportunity while subtle signs of dissatisfaction around perceived exclusion continue to bubble (as seen with recent raising of voices of discontent around The Academy’s diversity-deprived list of nominees for the 2016 Oscar Awards), or newly (re)born countries such as South Africa now approaching its 22nd birthday in April 2016 as voices rise around the nation’s fading rainbow, across the globe nations old and new are needing to look into the mirror.
Transformation, true transformation, does not come through politicians, or policy. These are people and structures there to help facilitate what must come, ultimately, through compassion of citizenry. The genuine desire to ensure that all citizens feel a valued part of society, without judgement, without ranking, with eyes shut and hearts open, is everyone’s responsibility.
Importantly, because of the ever-changing nature of our world today, people and places evolving to reflect the social, economic, environmental and political times in which we live, the process of transformation is never one to which we can say “we’re done.”
Whether the Australian dream, the American dream, the German dream, the South African dream, the Indian dream, the dream of any person in any nation worldwide, all people in all countries hold in their hearts a dream – a desire for a life that offers they and their loved ones safety, security and possibility of a better tomorrow.
It is the bold voices such as that of Stan Grant that reminds us to keep the mirror close by, working with a spirit of ‘we‘ so that all people of a country can look into their eyes, in their country, and instinctively smile.
Idealistic? Perhaps. But is idealism not an essential part of the DNA of a dream?
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016