So shoot me down for being a bit hopeful, but I’m seeing a few “moments” that are adding up to a nicer picture than we’ve been dealt recently.

Found on
Found on

These zeitgeist observations tend to land you in trouble. Or they used to. You flag a personal thought or you simply put out an idea for discussion and you get shouted and trolled down, often for some pinnicky, side factor, or a typo, or a joke that lacked perfect nuance. That’s been the way for a while….for too long.

This has saddened me. This pouncing-for-the-sake-of-pouncing has shut down deeper, more reflective thought. It’s made women too self conscious to voice their feminism. It’s left bloggers, journalists and authors second-guessing and toning down their writing to avoid attacks from commentators who refuse to do the deeper thinking around an issue, instead putting their energy into shredding complex ideas with facile, destructive, binary judgement. And then click-baiting it.

And it’s left our political leaders talking in three-word slogans. Slogans that talk to policies that are facile, destructive and binary.

Stop The Boats.

No Carbon Tax.

No Queue Jumpers.

Sometimes Shit Happens.

Here in Australia we’ve had a very significant leadership change that we’re yet to absorb fully. But I found it telling that a Liberal frontbencher (in the former Prime Minister’s Government and presumably in the new one too) summed the change up like this:

“It feels like we are now able to speak in full sentences and have ideas.”

Good Lord. That’s how base we’ve gone lately. To think a frontbencher is rejoicing that he/she can actually be treated, and treat us, as folk with actual brains and hearts.

An optimistic mood shift has equally occurred at the street level. I’ve devoured the commentary and water-cooler talk on this leadership about-face and find it the most fascinating of the five we’ve had in the past five years (yep, seriously, for those reading this elsewhere). It’s like everyone is relieved. Not because we have stability (I doubt it), nor because we ALL want a liberal Liberal in power (not all of us do, in principal). But because the new PM talks ideas and in full sentences. He gives due consideration. Again, another considered read from Samantha Maiden.

He’s capable of deeper thinking and taking on complex ideas and, oh, you know, a few shades of grey. At least that’s how we’re feeling.

In the past few weeks we’ve also witnessed the worst of the shock jocks getting a jolt of redundancy. Learned commentators (oh Glory be!) are pointing out that we finally have a PM who doesn’t need/want their backing. Can you imagine?! A world where Alan Jones et al are forced to withdraw a bit and have good hard look at themselves…and think about what they’re saying!?

I was at the Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future event last week. You might have heard, the former PM’s chief of staff spoke out freely for the first time about her time in office. As she said, in 16 years in politics she’s only ever spoken out an anything private once before (about her struggles with IVF).

You might have noted the irony in Credlin speaking out only after Tony Abbott exits office.

Regardless, the point I’ll make from the evening is this: Every person in the room, most of whom I would pick as being left-leaning in their politics and very possibly critical of Credlin’s reported behavior as CoS, listened. The vast majority were compassionate, even if aware that there were shades of grey to the picture she painted that night (of being attacked solely based on gender). They didn’t snark. Or troll. As someone said, “That’s because none of the trolls and bitches were invited”. Perhaps they were, but somehow didn’t turn up because they detected the vibe was not conducive. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the talk of the town that night and for the days following was about how the feel in the room was truly collegiate – respectful and considered.

As I wrote to the host of the event the next day in a “thanks for having me” email, it was a rare atmosphere indeed. Or it has been.

In a related “moment” (I feel I should have three to make this a worth trend alert), I’m reading today a bunch of reports from the weekend about how model and TV host Jesinta Campbell responded to the couple of snarks who did get facile, destructive and binary off the back of the AWW event. Below is a snippet of some of the nasty stuff posted in a column written by Daily Telegraph’s Annette Sharp, followed by Jesinta’s response.


Jesinta’s social media response:

Jesinta's response.

As I Facebooked after I read the above: “I want to see more of this measured pushing back on mean media operators. Shut them down with reason and calm mirror holding.”

Jesinta also responded beautifully, with a mirror, to snark from a usual suspect (an Australian journo), following the event:


It should be noted, both snarky commentators were not at the event.

A few other moments that have grabbed me as pointing to a bolder, more considered, more inclusive, more “grey”, more principled way:

I don’t know, friends, do we have ourselves a shift? Can you smell it? Are we growing up a bit?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Kim

    Congratulations on a great post, Sarah. I agree we need more measured and considered discussion on many matters. It is too easy to ‘fire off’ at someone or something when an opinion differs from ours instead of listening and absorbing. Hell, I’ve done it myself! Doesn’t mean we have to agree with them but we should respect differences. Social media makes it very easy to knee-jerk! ?

  • Brooke

    love love love love this post – i feel a shift coming…. i am glad i am not the only one that can feel it 🙂

  • MrsG

    I’ve been reading your blog – though it’s really so much more than that – for years. So many times I’ve felt like you’ve literally plucked the thoughts from MY head and written them out, but beautifully, articulately and insightfully. I really hope a shift for the better is coming. I’m all for robust discussion if you disagree with a point of view. I and I’m all for agreeing to disagree. I don’t even mind some silent treatment if you don’t like my opinion. I’m not keen on shutting down opposing views with insults, trolling and downright offensiveness, all of which show a real lack of abstract thought and empathy…not even intelligence mind you, just the compassion of simply putting yourself in someone else’s shoes! I actually really felt for Peta Credlin! Why was she the scapegoat for all the Liberal party’s woes? The more I researched about her the more I was inspired by her – go figure, because the media that wanted you to hate her were very aggressive. Anyway, thanks Sarah, you rock my world!

    • Nicely put. I’m personally not sold by Peta’s take on things. But she deserves to be heard politely, bare minimum.

  • Oooh, I’d like to think we’re growing up a bit. Now, if only the UN special rappoteur on human rights has the opportunity to speak to individuals who have worked to protect asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru without fear they will be jailed. Then we could note a trend and shift.

  • *YES*

  • Leigh

    Perhaps we are; but I think the dangerous temptation here is to slide straight into thinking the issues are solved and taken care of, when I think we are only beginning to examine them properly. I loved Jesinta’s responses to those ignorant articles written about her and mental health issue. However I want to point out:
    – Chris Brown may have been denied access but many celebrities with bad records in domestic violence haven’t: Eminem, Ozzy Osborne to name a few. Why is there an inconsistency here?
    – Obama may have reached out to Ahmed which was super sweet, but he is leading the country doing airstrikes in the middle east which contributes to a culture of racial intolerance and vilification
    – I am extremely weary of Malcom Turnbull making any difference, but I guess time will tell. So far I think the only difference is he sparks less rage in the ordinary citizen than Abbott did when he was PM. But I am hoping to see a difference between the two reflected in policy.

  • Kaja

    Thank you for writing this, resonates with me:)

  • Why is it that we never QUITE give up hope for positive change?

    I agree that Turnbull’s turn as PM has released an audible sigh around Oz, but I too, am wary.

    I believe that there is still too much power by two media-owning families, controlling what information and then opinion is shared/visual in our country. There is just SO much evidence that our politicians (and therefore their policies) are controlled by what is ‘allowed’.

    Most often, this makes me switch off from all media and just concentrate on what little I can change/control/influence/improve in my own little corner of the world.

    It’s why I don’t have a tv.