What Did We Do To 2012?


So this is Christmas — and what have you done?

So sang John Lennon, in what seems to have been an unnecessarily rude and accusatory manner. Yet still, this petulant act of naked aggression has a tendency to give us pause every year, and make us think deeply on the question. After all, what have we done? Have we done good? Have we done bad? Have we done anything at all, or have we spent the entire year horizontal, pantsless, eating Portuguese chicken burgers and watching Russian car crash videos on YouTube?

Each of us must answer according to our own conscience and net weight. But collectively, as a nation and as a society, we can hold our heads high and look that smarmy git Lennon in the eye, for we have his answer. Australia, in 2012 we have done a lot.

This is the year, after all, that we bit the bullet and decided we would become world leaders when it came to taking real, decisive action on angry women hellbent on ruining the country. Yes, 2012 will go down in history as the year Australia poked Julia Gillard in the collarbone and said, "Enough!"

Unfortunately this didn’t actually achieve anything, as the framers of our constitution, in their backwards pig-ignorance, failed to allow for the possibility of the sort of righteous white-hot public fury that we’ve seen this year, and so it is not technically legal to remove a prime minister without an election, even when everyone totally hates her and we all know it.

But despite this disappointing absence of real change, it was still a big year for those would fight back against the rampant misandry that has ruled our nation since that day that Gillard told Rudd there was something on his tie, and then when he was looking down, kicked him in the nuts.

Many people considered the pivotal political moment of the year to be Gillard’s "misogyny" speech, in which she proved herself to be a misogynist by endorsing Peter Slipper’s savage seafood imagery. "I will not stand here and be lectured by this man," she roared at Tony Abbott, who maintained a dignified silence in the face of the onslaught, calmly staring off into the middle distance and thinking about stomach crunches.

And that’s why this was also the year that Tony Abbott showed himself to be our next prime minister: the cool composure he displayed under pressure; the statesmanlike refusal to be riled by vicious accusations; the ability, even when sorely tested by the ferocity of parliamentary debate, to remain in control of his faculties and utterly oblivious to reality. These are the hallmarks of a world leader.

Of course there were other developments in the political sphere this year. The carbon tax, for example, was passed, killing thousands and leaving many more homeless. The mining tax was also passed, showing the Labor government to be tough on hypothetical profits.

We also saw big developments in asylum seeker policy, as our politicians’ compassion reached levels unmeasurable by conventional instruments, their deep human concern for the wellbeing of desperate foreigners so intense that several Nobel Peace Prize winners donated their prizes to Chris Bowen out of guilt. Apparently many asylum seekers are so overwhelmed with gratitude they can hardly eat.

And then of course there was the strange case of the Prime Minister and the Unanswered Questions. This year, more than any other, we came to see beyond any doubt that the prime minister has questions to answer. Questions like: "What?"; "Who?"; "How?"; "Whichever?"; and so forth.

Yes, there’s no doubt it’s been a year of furious activity. From the overpaid FIFOs of the Pilbara to the saucy orange nymphettes of The Shire, from the depressed forestry workers of Tasmania to the unemployed public servants of Queensland, Australians have this year been witness to momentous events.

Yet as we approach the end of the year, gathering together with family to celebrate the wonder of the Nativity and brace ourselves for Denis Walter’s rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High, there is a sense of malaise, I sense. Perhaps our robust democracy and the vigorous intellectual fencing that goes on in the upper echelons of our great meritocratic experiment have exhausted us, and we have reached a point of fatigue, where we would rather shut ourselves off from the world, have a biscuit, slip into a snuggie and think about Melissa George’s career for the rest of our lives.

Was this the year that we finally threw our hands in the air and said, "It’s all too much"? Does 2012 mark the moment in history when Australia collectively decided to have a bit of a lie-down?

Well we hope so, obviously. At this time of togetherness and generosity and hyper-obesity, it would be well to reflect on just what all this palaver is getting us. Has all our argument and disputation really got us anywhere? Sure, Question Time dazzles us with its wit and repartee, but is it really taking us anywhere constructive?

Australia has a seat on the United Nations Security Council, but how can we be secure in our own united nation? After all the pain and struggle and sacrifice, what do we have? A stable democracy with a strong economy, a high standard of living and lasting peace? But is that enough? Wouldn’t it be nice if we also had more widespread wifi coverage? Couldn’t we use more monorails? Shouldn’t we be getting paid more to have babies?

The fact is, we’ll never have enough. We’ll always be wanting more. Give us low interest rates, we want them at zero. Give us efficient electoral processes, we want weekly referenda. Give us Keith Urban, we want Ricky Martin. We’ll never be happy, until we give up all our hopes and dreams for the future and learn to settle for less.

And so this Christmas I call upon all my fellow Australians to unite in apathy, to stop hoping for a brighter future, and to recognise that a mediocre, unsatisfying present could be just what we’ve been looking for. For if 2012 has taught us anything, it’s that making things better is hard, and doing hard things is never a good idea. This New Year, let’s resolve to take the road less difficult, sit back, and let our society decay quietly and neatly in a corner. In 2013, let’s make Australia known around the world as the country that pulled its doona over its head.

Merry Christmas all.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.