Who are the people in your neighborhood?

I am not sure what this says about the state of world affairs at the moment, but recently, I’ve had some very silly songs stuck in my head.

Don’t try telling me that getting a silly song stuck in my head has nothing to do with world affairs – the subconscious is an amazing thing that we still don’t know enough about. Right, Freud? Yah.

Of late, it seems as if the musical part of my brain is taking a vacation, and, in the hope that I wouldn’t notice, it left out some old vinyls from my childhood, to play on repeat while it lazes in the warm sun sipping cocktails on one of Johnny Depp’s 14 islands in the Bahamas.*

I wouldn’t admit this to anyone who knows me in person but on more than one occasion lately – looking through the stationery cupboard at work was one such moment –  I’ve caught myself humming Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Admittedly, Sesame Street was a favourite program when I was about four years old, and I enjoyed the opportunity to giggle at parts of it again when my daughter was a toddler nearly 18 years ago, but I have not watched any episodes since then, so why this song is intermittently lodging itself in my brain at the moment I do not know.

On a local scale, my neighbours seem like nice enough people, although as I’m reserved and shy, (or, you could just come right out and say unfriendly, if that’s what you’re thinking) I don’t really know them well enough, or possess a good enough memory, to even recall their names. Across the road it’s Mark and Roslyn, I think, and someone-or-other and someone-else, next door. Both are couples with 2 kids. Apart from the lack of a second car, which none of us have in our tiny street as it would just be silly to do so, they are your typical “ordinary” families, I guess you might say, at least if you were a politician hoping to appeal to white anglo voters.

I live in the inner west of Melbourne, so I don’t need to travel far, to come across plenty of people who do not fit the politician’s easy “ordinary Australian” slogan. Two suburbs away is an inner suburb that has long been characterised as having a big population of Vietnamese immigrants, but is also home to older Italian and Greek families, as well as a more recent wave of immigrants from East Africa. I could travel for 10 minutes away from the city, and be in one of Melbourne’s poorest suburbs, where after Australia, the most common countries of birth are Vietnam and India. Those people from their diverse backgrounds are my neighbours.

Talking on a wider, global scale, in Australia, our neighbours to the East and North are New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia. Some bloggers, more well-read on world current affairs and international politics, would be able to sum up our relationship with our international neighbours nicely for you, but I’m afraid I know very little about international politics. I am unqualified to discuss this geographical area, particularly as I may be the only Australian over the age of 2 days old, who has never been to Bali. I have seen some very nice Balinese-style shirts in my time, but that is as much as I can offer on our neighbours in the global arena. I’m aware of continuing political instability in some of these neighbouring countries, but I don’t feel convinced that it’s worry over that geo-political situation that has me humming the old Sesame Street tune.

Perhaps it was some deeper philosophical thought, about the people all around me, and their values, that prompted the song.

After all, there are islands in the region I have mentioned, that are used by my country to detain people who were our neighbours, and who are there because dire circumstances caused them to leave their homelands and seek refuge elsewhere. They may have come from Iran, or Myanmar, or Bangladesh, but if their trip took them via boat from Indonesia, in an attempt to get to the Australian mainland, they were locked up on Manus Island, Nauru, or Christmas Island, where many have been for up to 4 years now. These are also some of the people in my neighbourhood.

And then, there are the people around me who are content with that situation, also my neighbours of sorts, those who comment on social media and write letters to papers to say that we shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars on helping refugees when there are people starving in our streets already. As if that is the choice. As if there is a pool of money that politicians dip into and will only allocate to one of those good causes, or the other. Why not resent, instead, the money spent on re-branding Border Force, for example, instead of resenting money spent on helping people re-make their lives? I am always disappointed by a lack of compassion for people who are suffering, and even more so when it’s politicians, who know that taking a tough stance is always a vote-winner.

My neighbourhood is a mixture of people with all sorts of beliefs and values, but if it is true that a majority of people in my neighbourhood support cruel detention policies,  I tend to think a significant portion of those people must consume news and opinions from the biased, fear-mongering Murdoch-owned press and media. Essentially, a high proportion of what they read, watch and listen to is filtered through the political perspective of one media mogul, a guy who called Brexit ‘wonderful’ and Trump ‘a very able man.’

If there was a moral to the song I learned so many years ago on Sesame Street, I think it was that there are all sorts of people in your neighbourhood, but you’ll never know unless you get out there and meet them.

Maybe I’m not the best proponent of that motto, (since I can’t recall my neighbour’s name), but I do relish the diversity around me in Melbourne, and I like to think that it’s a strength of this city. It’s the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street.

*

*I don’t closely follow the fortunes of Johnny Depp, but was listening to a usually intelligent writing program on community radio last week where the announcers talked so much about Johnny Depp and his 14 islands that I eventually had to switch off without discovering what writing that dumb conversation was supposed to tie into.

 

 

 

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