Don’t Let the Pandemic Tear Australia Apart

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As a Melbourne transplant from Sydney, I’ve never bothered about state identities other than indulging in the chaos of the potato pie versus potato scallop debate. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I really felt like a Melburnian.

It seems that over the past 18 months we have all started to define ourselves according to the state in which we live. It’s not difficult to see why, since so much of our pandemic response has been along state lines.

We wake up every morning and check our state’s infection numbers and then compare them to those of other states. We have created personality cults around our respective prime ministers, the most visible faces of the response to the pandemic. We watch them argue over vaccine allocation like it’s a zero-sum game. If another state battling a major outbreak were to give more, it means that regardless of the number of cases in our community, we are less protected.

Much in Melbourne was also due to the shared experience of our long lockdown last year – the prevailing feeling that it was Victoria compared to the rest of Australia, and the feeling that the other states didn’t really understand what we had was through .

I have noticed that this state narrow-mindedness has flared up again recently, as many in Melbourne seem to be watching the lockdown in Sydney with horror but also with a certain glee.

Comments, mostly online but also from friends and people on the street, go like this: “So much for Sydney exceptionalism.” “If this were Melbourne, we would have been banned weeks ago.” And yesterday morning with the announcement that the residents of eight LGAs in Sydney are now restricted to a radius of five kilometers and have to wear masks outdoors: “Wait, you haven’t already done that? We have been doing this again and again for a year.

I’m not immune to that either. On the phone with a friend from Sydney last week, I couldn’t help but think ruthlessly: You guys aren’t even in a real lockdown.

Sydneysiders, in turn, have made it clear that these types of comments from other states are not helpful, especially when it often feels like they are aimed at normal people who have no control over the creation of restrictions and are just trying to get an all around terrible situation to survive.

According to Melbourne-based psychologist Chris Cheers, the increasing hostility between people in different states is a natural result of the desire to feel safe in an inherently unsafe, unsafe situation.

“Right now in Victoria, you will feel more secure when you feel connected to Victoria,” he said. “You won’t feel so safe when you feel connected to Australia.” After all, Australia also includes Sydney and its growing virus outbreak.

But he – and many others – are concerned about the growing divisions between states and how much work it could take to make us feel like Australians again.

To counter this hostility, Cheers created social media posts that offered Sydneysider’s advice for surviving the lockdown of someone who had previously done so.

His tips included “You know that anything you feel is a normal response to an abnormal situation,” “Hot tubs are nice, but self-care also means setting boundaries, saying no, and asking about what you do need ”and“ sometimes the you can just anchor and wait for the storm to pass. Like all storms. “

The posts went viral and many saw them as a welcome antidote to the common vitriol found in online areas. Other Melburnians jumped on board and offered their own tips and advice.

Every individual’s emotions are heightened during times of stress and insecurity, and people can go crazy as a result of this. It is normal for Melburnians in particular to have complicated feelings about the events in Sydney.

But the Sydney outbreak is a threat to all of Australia, not just Sydney. Emotional bigotry may be satisfying, but remembering the connectedness of the country and our sense of community can ultimately be more useful.

“I think the more we can get in touch with it,” said Cheers, “the more we can say, ‘Well, how can we all get together and support one another?'”

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