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Please let me know if there's something that's not in crisis

Opinion

How did we get to a stage where everything seems to have to be in crisis for governments to get interested, asks Rebecca Levingston.

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Have you got crisis fatigue? I think I do.

I hesitated to confess my crisis truth, because I don’t want to diminish the serious challenges that face so many people and industries right now. But every day you read or hear about a new crisis declaration.

Cost of living crisis. Energy crisis. Fuel crisis.

You know what that adds up to? Economic crisis.

Covid? Crisis, obviously.

Domestic violence – ongoing crisis. Dairy farmers – in crisis. Housing affordability – crisis – aka rental crisis. Skills shortage – labour crisis.

It’ll be up to Labor to solve the crises in building, construction, tourism, hospitality, engineering, nursing, education etc, etc…

Natural disasters – shorter but just as traumatic in the form of bushfire, drought, flood, cyclone, pest and plague that often lead to ongoing and geographically specific crises.

Cue global climate crisis. America’s gun violence crisis. Britain’s Boris crisis.

Australia’s aged care crisis – shameful. Disability care – as above. Health and hospitals – a national crisis.

Mental Health – ditto (perhaps as a result of all of the above).

I could go on.

What is going on in the arms of government and industry that gets us to a point where crisis becomes the defining feature of a sector?

In the public service there are layers of management, policies and procedures that are supposed to monitor and protect people and operations. Nobody’s perfect I know, but I wonder if or when we might get better at managing things in a way that avoids the threat of dramatic and untimely collapse. Governments seem to respond primarily at crisis-point.

Perhaps private or unregulated industries are more at risk. Did it start with the Global Financial Crisis? In recent history, that’s the crisis which set the bar for traumatic consequences that ricocheted around the world.

It gained as acronym as well known as fried chicken. GFC, KFC – you know they’re putting cabbage on burgers because of the lettuce crisis.

It’s exhausting. Plus, I fear the term crisis has lost its meaning and that’s damaging when it comes to actually solving the problem. If so much of our country is functioning in what’s described as a state of crisis, what are we aiming for in response?

Getting out of the critical phase I guess, into recovery? Who’s cruising? (Certainly not cruising – that industry is in crisis).

Seriously, what industry is just bubbling along have a lovely calm time? Anyone without calamity must thank their lucky stars the crisis pandemic hasn’t infected them. Roll out that vaccine.

The Oxford Dictionary defines crisis in multiple ways: “a time of intense difficulty or danger”, “a time when a difficult or important decision must be made”, “the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.”

Surprisingly, I found those definitions helpful to consider as they made me think of a crisis as an opportunity for change, rather that a permanent state.

What’s the opposite of crisis? That’s not a simple word to find.

The treatment for a crisis? Take your pick…

Review? An inquiry? Parliamentary or independent? Perhaps you’d prefer a Commission of Inquiry? Or a Royal Commission?

Our political leaders love to announce a response to a crisis. Just listen, they’ll tell you they’ve listened and they’ve acted. Nothing like a crisis as a catalyst. Unless of course there’s a leadership crisis. Which there never is. Right?

We seem to lurch from crisis to inquiry or review with alarming frequency. It’s not a healthy or sustainable mode of operation for a person, business, state or country.

Is it inevitable? Maybe I just need adhere to the original crisis advice.. keep calm and carry on. I’ll try, but I worry that crisis fatigue means we can’t cure our crisis addiction.

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