The People on the Banks

by Con Carylon

(Reporting from Toowoomba, Australia)

After about twenty years of drought, Australia is now having rain and lots of it. Our dams, which were at a disastrous 7% level, are now approaching 70%, with rain predicted for a couple of months yet. Some may even get to 100 percent capacity. Toowoomba sits on top of a mountain range, so floods are unknown here. Not so for many other Queenslanders who are situated in flat areas close to rivers. Many have to contend with houses under muddy water, and at last count at the time of this writing, nine have died trying to cross flooded streams.

It is always pleasing to see people pull together in the face of adversity. Political, religious and class differences are forgotten in these times, as well they should be. But why does it have to be restricted to times of adversity, one could ask? When the crisis has passed we’ll resume bickering among ourselves, no doubt. We are humans, after all.

There are those who see adversity as just another opportunity to further their own agenda. Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has assured us that he will be calling the government to account if they don’t handle the crisis according to his exacting standards, and announced with a flourish his plan to build dams around the country so that floods will be a thing of the past. At first glance this seems like a good idea. That is, until the NIMBYS (Not In My Backyard-erS) discovered that it is in their backyard that Tony plans to build his dam. Good luck with that. There are numerous other reasons why the proposal will never bear fruit, but appearance trumps substance, and that’s all that matters in politics, it seems. Is it any wonder that we become so cynical?

The opposite of cynicism is that during the flood crisis, thousands of people are donating money and  time to help with the State Emergency Service; and helping in a million other ways without receiving any recognition for their efforts.  Will Durant had something to say about this:

“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

So, here’s to the people on the banks. We too often forget the true heroes in this world.



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