Don’t Give Up – Dec 2020

Content Warning: mention of depression, pandemic, coronavirus, suicide and Christmas.

It’s the tail-end of a very hard year for everyone, though some more than others. Lives have been lost all around the world, people have lived in fear and reacted to it in their own ways, the world keeps turning and our worries don’t look to end any time soon.

I know that’s not a very uplifting note. Remember: the end of a year isn’t seasonal, it isn’t magical, we don’t get a fresh reboot come January 1st. It’s a normal transition from one common day to the next, no matter how many fireworks you let off or how much booze you drink.

Things only get better if we make them better.

That’s not to say we should give in to despair – and there is an awful lot of despair going around right now. Australia seems mostly good, though there’s a worrying outbreak of coronavirus in New South Wales and we’re entering our bushfire season, but the United Kingdom is seeing cases of a mutated form of the virus, the Unites States aren’t even close to eliminating it yet, and the rest of the issues in the world haven’t magically gone away just because everyone’s had to deal with a pandemic.

Enter this song: Don’t Give Up, Peter Gabriel (ft. Kate Bush).

Now, I’m nobody special. Just some standard, boring disabled non-binary geek in their 40s with a head-full of worries and a heartful of love. It’d be weirdly romantic if it weren’t largely inconvenient. My point is, I’m not particularly different from anyone else in the world – though I am both more and less privileged than much of the planet’s population (yes, people can be both and most people are).

I have, however, faced down suicide multiple times in my life. I’ve stared Death in the beautiful, tempting face, both dealing with the passing of loved ones and through the processing of my own occasionally suicidal thoughts. So this is a topic of which I have some understanding and for which I have a lot of passion.

This song hits me in the heart every single time. It would do so even if I weren’t hopelessly in love with Kate Bush’s voice (which I am and, I feel, understandably so). The subject matter, theme, mood, composition, sound – everything is far too close to home not to have an effect on me. Every time I hear it I need to fight against tears. Sometimes I don’t even try.

It’s about struggle, yes, and about the need to deal with one’s failures. It’s about how our upbringing very often falls short on preparing us to deal with setbacks in a healthy manner. Many people hurt themselves and others for want of adequate coping mechanisms. It’s about holding on, not because things are better than you think they are, but because things can get better than they are now.

This is a distinction that I sometimes feel people miss about this beautiful song. It isn’t dismissive or derisive. Peter Gabriel isn’t being made to feel less, he isn’t being told to ‘man up’ or that ‘you’ve got it easy.’ This song does not make those assumptions, and neither should we. Peter is expressing very real emotions in a way that is healthy. Many people have never done so. In the context of this song, Peter may never have expressed these doubts and fears so clearly or candidly in his life. He may never have let himself feel them so keenly and without artifice.

Kate is not belittling him. She is a presence of comfort. She’s not even trying to give suggestions for how Peter might improve his lot; that’s not her role. She is comforting him, reminding him that he isn’t alone, that these fears are natural, that expressing them is healthy and good. She is there for him, willing to hold and to be held while he works through the burdens of his life. She is his reminder that there is good in the world, that he can keep going even if he doesn’t feel that he can.

Sometimes we all need Kate Bush to tell us there’s no reason to be ashamed, that it’ll be all right, to not give up. I know I do.

As I type this, we’re less than two hours away from December the 25th, which is designated Christmas Day whether we celebrate it or not, and as depressed as I am I can’t help but turn my mind and heart outward. I wonder how many people are struggling tonight – how many families don’t have enough to eat, how many people are living without a roof over their heads, how many are being preyed upon by manipulative, abusive and deceptive entities – whether it be by governments, family members, strangers or ‘charitable organisations’ ostensibly set up to help those very people.

We have a lot of sadness in the world. We need a lot of compassion to combat it.

Please, don’t give up.

If you need it, here’s a website with a bunch of support resources*, including a global list of suicide prevention hotlines. Reach out. Talk. Let someone know, even if it’s a stranger you’ll never meet in person.

Suicide Stop

* = I am not affiliated in any way with Suicide Stop or any of the resources provided therein. I just want you to have options, no matter where you are in the world, should you need some help.

2020 – An Earth Odyssey

It’s New Years Day, 2020.

This year has long been coming, in the back of my head, looming like an oncoming train, and to find it here it a little… odd.

Unlike other years, except perhaps 1999 (thanks to Prince) and 2000 (due to the Y2K bug), 2020 was prefaced in my life by the awareness that this is a year that I should keep an eye out for. This is… not an end-point, precisely, but a moment of warning, or of payout, depending on how humans as a whole have acted.

When I was in high school, which seems like it was an era past now, we were at one point given a student workbook called Australia 2020. Written by Graeme Scott and Peter Cock on 1983, illustrated by the notable cartoonist Stuart Roth, it was an interesting and thought-provoking document. Very briefly, it attempted to act as a forecasting device for how Australia as a nation could turn out in 2020 if the bulk of our population made the same, or similar, choices on a range of subjects such as housing, immigration and emigration, luxury items, children and so on.

I wasn’t given this booklet in 1983. I’d have been seven years old. It must have been five or six years after that. So while the original target audience would have been looking through a lens of 37 years, mine would have been more like 31 – still an impossibly long time for a young kid.

Once the choices were made the student tallied their score and checked the back of the booklet for the two-page spread of their possible future. Kind of like a societal Choose Your Own Adventure book.

There is no way, of course, that such a booklet could take into account the changes wrought in the 37-year span since its creation. Nor did it take into account events within the rest of the world (or, at least, the edition I was given did not), but its message was clear: Australia has a lot of futures, and all of them are dependent upon the decisions we make, or fail to make.

I remember that most of the time I got the same future: one in which there’s little to no unemployment, few to no cars, plenty of bush, very high environmental awareness, and a painfully dwindling population.

Lots of nature, not many people. Sounds like me. I think that was Future 2.

There were worse futures in there, too. Ones in which there were staggeringly long lines of people on welfare payments, little or no nature, buildings everywhere, rich folks in cars about to unthinkingly mow down aforementioned unemployed people (and how prophetic is that?) and so on. Most fell somewhere in the middle, futures of mediocrity that vary only in things like birth rates and the ratio of bush to buildings.

While some of the lowest number futures were arguably no better for our long-term future than the higher numbered ones, for the most part the healthiest options started low. Future 4 seemed best to me, if I recall correctly, as it was more or less the same as the one I habitually got, with only minimal differences and a stable population.

One particularly lurid future, right at the back, couldn’t be attained using the point scoring system. It was a scare tactic, an apocalyptic wasteland with nuclear explosions going off in the future, almost nothing living except a man in the foreground running for his life and a tank prowling the broken streets between shells of buildings.


Nowadays I look around and I wonder which future we got. It’s not one of the lower-number futures, that’s for sure.

Urban creep, drought, unemployment and wealth disparity are long-standing issues. Now we have parts of the nation burning on a horrifying scale, with nine confirmed dead within the first (and by no means most dangerous) month of our summer. The smoke from our fires aren’t just wreathing our cities – they’re reaching New Zealand.

I won’t get too political. I could, but I won’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because this isn’t about that.

My point is that I had a wide selection of future places in front of me when I was small.

“Choose carefully,” I was told, “because your choices in life do have consequences, and not just for you. These choices shape our future, because you are our future, and in 2020 we’ll see how things are travelling.”

I think there were, perhaps, not many workbooks in the 80s that aimed to sample possible 2020s and to provide them in such a way to students. Globally, I mean. I don’t know if Australia was unique in that regard but I think what we did wasn’t that common.

And yet, even though I was given warning, I don’t feel warned.

“This wasn’t an option I saw,” I can’t help but think, as the back of my mind flicks through the things I might need if the watch-and-act fires to our north grow and spread.

Welcome to the new Roaring 20s.

Happy New Year.