This week I was so in AWE of a new hero, retailer Harry Hutchinson, who opened up his clothing shop in Melbourne DESPITE Covid-19 restrictions in Melbourne. You see, draconian laws mean that you can be fined up to 10,000 dollars for opening up your store. But that wasn't good enough for Hutchinson. Utterly fed up, he opened anyway. To their credit, Melbournians (in the 5 km zone they were allowed to move in) flocked to his store, buying what they could in support of his move. His online clothing went gangbusters, and he sold nearly all his online stock. People were buying things and leaving them behind - just giving him money in support of what he did.
Dubbed as a 'retailer rebel', Harry was greeted by the police and politely fined over 9,000 dollars.
Now, you could argue that if everyone had to stay shut, so should Harry. The laws are there to protect us.
But, what about Aldi and Coles and Australian hardware mega retailer Bunnings? They can open. You can pop to K-Mart for clothes, homewares and fishing gear, or to Woolworths for bananas, but your local green grocer or clothing retailer aren't allowed to open. There's a whole heap of restrictions in place that disallow the little guy, whilst the big companies seem to be doing just fine.
If you'd like to hear a spectacularly Australian rant about this (expletive warning - put your hands over your kids ears), have a listen to South Australian retailer over this issue. .I'm sorry it's just on Facebook - but it's the only place it's available as far as I can see. It's worth a laugh - but he also makes a hugely valid point.
What if everyone clothing store in Melbourne opened in defiance of these laws?
And that's the crux, isn't it? Because we all complain about certain rules and laws, and believe them incredibly unjust but we are still compliant. We don't want to get fined, or ridiculed, or jailed. And even if we all hate the law and hate the system we still obey.
I was listening to a podcast about Acid House in England in the late '80's - the 15 month 'summer of love' of acid and ecstasy acid house parties both in clubs and free party 'raves' across the UK. The media was not too dissimiliar to now - dividing people, tarring ravers as reprobrates and delinquents in much the same way 'anti maskers' and 'anti vaxxers' are now.
And so all of these kids having the absolute time of their lives and causing harm to no-one - yes, there were a few deaths but compare that to drink drivers - were forced to turn to 'illegal' raves and outwit the police. Listening to them, I was cheering them on as they worked out secret ways to gather despite the police.
But in the end, what could they do when hundreds of riot police would turn up? In their words, they were fighting this huge, well established institution - the battle had already been one. But they tried.
And I guess that's what is so disheartening about all of this. We know it's wrong. We know it doesn't serve the people, we know things are blown out of proportion and we know there is a better way, or at least a compromise (you can open a retail shop and keep social distancing laws, for example) in the end, the establishment wins, and we are all too scared to buck the system. Instead, we keyboard warrior it, and put up with it..
Yesterday's announcement brought a few changes to the lockdown laws, but still, it's slow going. I have two friends with yoga studios as they can't open, despite there being no peer reviewed evidence that gyms or yoga studios are high risk for COVID 19. They're going down all the legal channels they can, and writing and calling who they can, but aren't getting anywhere. I think if there is anything I really, really miss it's going to yoga in a studio with fellow yogis.
I'm glad I don't own a business, live in Melbourne or depend on any of this for my own personal happiness. But from a justice point of view, the whole thing stinks. And so I continue to keyboard warrior it, and let off steam on HIVE once in a while. And I continue to cheer underdogs like Harry, that rise up and shout against the system that keeps us all down and out.
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