Why ‘no’ campaigns pain the mind. Nothing is scarier than something.

Standard

‘No Airport’

As in ‘it is ridiculous to build a second Sydney airport at the base of a national park out in the populated (and soon to be super-populated) ‘burbs’.’

I shout it, wave signs saying it and don a T-Shirt with the same message but somewhere inside me I feel uncomfortable because I am well aware that for humans the idea of nothing is nearly always scarier than something.

Death – endless minutes, hours, days, months, years of nothing. Imagine that?  No thank you….. Why else to we imagine a heaven full of all the lovely things and people we miss in the ‘real world’.

Darkness – feeling alone, vulnerable, chilled, disoriented, anxious.

Nothing = All.Of.The.Above.

A ‘No’ campaign is good to a point but there becomes a point when people go home and say ‘well, what DO we want?’  This is especially true when the ‘Yes’ movement is offering enticements.

In the case of the Western Sydney Airport (Badgery’s Creek) the good fellows at spin HQ have been smart enough to package deal the airport as the key to unlock an economic bonanza for the west of Sydney, an area that has been sorely neglected for pretty much ever really.  The western outskirts were where the ‘poor’ and ‘undesirables’ were pushed in the rush to gentrification of the inner suburbs.  New migrants also gravitated ‘out there’ thanks to the cheap housing and larger blocks of land (making some level of self-sufficiency possible).

I can see how the inner city elite might feel that the west must be gazing on with wide eyes, looking up to their inner city ‘betters’ and wishing that they too could be like them.  I feel that this attitude is epitomised by the Greater Sydney Commission headed up by Lucy ‘where are we talking about?’ Turnbull’ et al.  After all, why wouldn’t they feel that way being as though ‘they’ kicked ‘us’ out and for the most part they are stinking rich in a world that thinks that’s all that matters.  The have’s vs the have-nots.  Only when you look closely that isn’t what happened ‘out there’.  We are not in need of charity and neither do we want what ‘they’ value.  I say ‘we’ because although I’m not a flat-land westie (I’m a mountains girl) , to those in the capital (and I’m channeling my hunger-games Katniss here) WE are just pawns in Their game and as long as we are compliant we are rewarded (within reason).

So our reward this time is an airport. An airport with jobs. We need jobs, so many of us commute out of our ‘burbs to earn a living because ‘their’  imaginations haven’t been able to stretch the 50 plus KM from Sussex Street to create or stimulate the creation of local jobs ‘out here’ over much of the last 80 years but we are supposed to forget about that. About how they have not given a shit for years. But now, now they plan to solve that for us with a 24/7 polluting Aerotropolis.  Nice touch.

So when we say ‘No’ to an airport we are,  by default (and though no fault of our own) saying no to jobs and growth, to government investment and to rewards.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Let’s think about power and control.

Master and Servant.

Bondage vs Democracy.

Nothing is scarier than something.

I’m taking you down this path of thinking because what the pro-airport lobby has done is neatly enslaved ‘us’.  Be a good servant (let the airport happen) and we will give you a reward (investment and jobs).

They have groomed ‘us’ into this with years of underinvestment and interest. They have abused our trust.

As far as ‘we’ go, when ‘we’ know our place we can become good at it. Become good citizens / slaves, better than someone else maybe. We feel part of something again, we stand a chance of being rewarded, of winning one of the jobs and benefiting from some of the cash splash, the new roads and the shiny new parklands that were once covered in bush.  We can even frame our efforts as making a sacrifice for the greater good if we so feel. It’s all less mentally taxing than just saying No and then being left hanging and far more rewarding in the short-term no doubt.

And that is what they want of course.  The master wants to maintain paternalistic control and what’s more he wants you to do his bidding for him, to ‘remind’ people  of the ‘fact’ that ‘it  (the airport) is a done deal’ and that ‘if we don’t go along with it we will be left out’  because it is messy work trying to convince all those people who this is the right course of action to take because people have their own varied minds about these things and some of them might not like it.

Anyway, that’s by the by.  I see this happening, I don’t assume that everyone going along with the airport feels enslaved and neither do I feel that everyone supporting the airport is deluded – there are many benefits that airports can bring to a region and I’m not denying that.

I personally feel somewhat immune to that master and servant game having come from a background of privilege, education and money (sort of).  I feel strong and unthreatened by the establishment – fuck them, I have other options (even other passports if it came to that).  I am dangerous that way. Not because I want to undermine the authority of the government in an anarchic way – I work within the rules – but because I am secure in my ability to access and utilise the full power of the law to defend my rights to say no and stand strong in that.  I am legally entitled to say no and protest. But I am aware of the delicate psychology that is behind this game and I want to shine a light on that, not least because it is this very thing the government is trying to barge on past.

So how do we shift the power in this game?

Turn a negative into a positive, you catch more flies with honey as the pro-airport lobby know all too well…..

The No Airport campaign has, to date been about educating the public at large on the facts surrounding the EIS proposal, an EIS that came out in October last year.  Education was and is needed as some councils (thanks Penrith) decided NOT to inform / educate their communities.  The facts do speak for themselves, no spin, mis-representation or sensationalising of what is in the EIS is necessary to convince many people of the flaws in this proposal. Now whether these flaws lead to people adopting a ‘no airport’ or ‘no 24 hour airport’ or ‘please explain’ is up to the individual but you get the picture.

In my mind the time for the next step is NOW.

We (out West) can’t afford to be held ransom like this, to have our values or our economic value misappropriated, we have to make a counter proposal.

Fast rail is a good alternative to the airport but it isn’t enough, not least because for us in the Blue Mountains the fast rail hub will never be under our jurisdiction.  Fast rail is, however, the proposal that could bring the west together and be jointly and wholeheartedly supported across the councils as part of the solution. But beyond that we are still left with a vacuum, not least for us up in the mountains.

The Mountains – focusing on what we can directly control. 

The Blue Mountains stands to lose much in the way of tranquility and unique character if the city limits are allowed to encroach on the National Park.  Pressure on existing roads will grow if we really are to get more tourists pumping dollars into our economy (and why shouldn’t we?) so we really should be asking ourselves, what type of tourist are we trying to attract? How will they get here, where will they stay and what are we selling them?  While at the same time asking ‘what can we do to grow our local economy?’, “what skills do we have” and “what does the environment lend its self to that can boost our economic value?’

It is clear that the government is looking to the west to fill gaps in its budget projections. This is not new to me, corporates do this to their sales teams all the time – the corporation needs a 20% increase in sales when the market is in recession – don’t argue about it JUST DO IT OR LOSE YOUR JOB OR CREDIBILITY.  Of course, the government, as in corporate will have to face whatever reality is real and if aspirational targets are not met they are not met but what isn’t tolerated in corporate or government is a lack of effort, a lack of a plan.

So can the Blue Mountains increase its revenue (and thus the money it returns to treasury) by 5%, 10%, 20%, 40%, 100% whatever AND maintain its identity and clean air?  I am not sure but surely THAT is the conversation we need to be having outside of government – a conversation we can have between friends and families, neighbours and council representatives. There is much here to value and as the world gets crazier we all wish we could retreat to the hills……

But retreat is not enough.

 

So when nothing is scarier than something we stay empowered by presenting SOMETHING.

I believe the key to achieving a just outcome in this situation is to state our values and our value firmly, factually and in economic rather than emotional terms (as it is clear from how the government treats us that emotional value is lost on them).

Which begs the questions ‘what is our value and how can we best work the assets we have in our region?’

What kind of community do we want to encourage? What economic activities could be promoted up here?  Who do we want to attract and why?

I was at an art exhibition opening yesterday – three local artists, much talent, expensive paintings some inspired by the local landscape, sell-out crowed.  We have the capacity to generate wealth up here, on our own terms, celebrating what we value WHILE we value and protect the environment.

And there is not ‘just’ talented painters up here, we have film makers, ceramic artists, musicians, singers and actors drawing inspiration from these surrounds.  And not just that, there are our towns full of unique and independent retailers, our coffee shops, restaurants, co-operatives and community hubs. We have education providers, tourist attractions, historical buildings, song lines,  flora and fauna, stories, festivals autumn leaves and winter snow!

So what are we waiting for?  Let’s spell out our potential and show them that it isn’t us that’s scared of change and ‘progress’ it’s them that’s scared of us.  We are far more powerful and valuable than they can possibly imagine especially when, instead of presenting nothing we can present something far, far more attractive than an airport.

I believe that nothing is what they are offering, not us. That they just happened to put it into a shiny gold-painted box and used a loud-mouthed sales man with no imagination to shove it into our stunned hands.

Well I think it’s time we presented a box of our own only our box will be full of something and not nothing.

Because nothing is scarier than something and we know we have something good up here don’t we?