Over the past week I have been sent countless videos and links of people talking about civil rights and how Melbournians are at the effect of a dictatorial government that is not just infringing on our civil liberties but taking them away.

I am learning, from American commentators, how our government is invading homes and ignoring the legal requirement for warrants, to arrest people breaking public directives during the stage 4 lockdown.

Right through this whole Covid-19 drama, I have seen hundreds of posts and online videos of people preaching from the rooftops about civil liberties, personal rights, and freedom.

As I ran this morning, this weighed heavily on me, and I knew I needed to write.

We human beings do not do too well on our own. We are family and community creatures. I have read many health studies over the years exploring the devastating effects of loneliness. Further, longevity studies such as those that explored the lives of women in Okinawa in Japan, life Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones, have shown the health enhancing powers of close friendships and community.

Further, their have been hundreds of studies, for example House et al in the US, that demonstrated how people who were involved in some form of community service at least once per month had a significantly lower risk of heart disease than the average for US society. In other words, taking care of the needs of others is good for our health.

For a community to work, every person in that community must contribute. There is a responsibility for everyone in that community to do their bit.

I remember back in the 90’s when I was working as a Conditioning Coach at an AFL Club. The club’s number 1 recruit was languishing in the seconds. He was best on the ground every week but was continuously overlooked for the senior team. I asked the head coach why and he said, “Because he is playing in defence, and whilst he is gathering a huge number of possessions each week, his opponents are doing a lot of damage. He has not learned how to play a defensive role.

I realised the message was not getting through, perhaps because the way the coach was articulating the message was not being understood by the player. So, I took him out for coffee and a chat.

During the chat I asked him to imagine what it might be like to live in a small community where everyone had a hut, the group grew food, and everyone had animals. One of the challenges in the community was the animals’ droppings, and they would be all over the paths and even on doorsteps. A daily chore was “shovelling the shit”. I asked him to imagine that he was the Chief or the Mayor. Even though he is the Mayor, and has an important role, he too has to “shovel the shit” as well as doing all the glorious things. If not, you end up with a lot of “shit” on your doorstep.

I let him contemplate all that and then shared, “Mate, you’re are doing all the glorious stuff, but you are not shovelling your share of the shit”. His eyes went wide, and the message landed. The following week, he was still best on the ground, but his opponent was completely ineffective. A week later he went into the senior team and went on to become an outstanding footballer.

He was only interested at the time in his freedom to play football the way he wanted, the way he enjoyed it. However, he was ignoring his responsibilities to the team.

The two less glorious terms we do not hear about much are civil responsibility and civil service.

Right now, more than ever, Melbourne, and many other cities around the world, needs its citizens to place more attention on civil responsibility and civil service, to guarantee our future civil liberties.

Melbournians are being asked to shovel their share of the shit, because we didn’t do it very well in June and July. And most of us are willingly doing so, while the rest of the world seems to be freaking out.

Wearing a protective face mask is an act of civil service and civil responsibility. It is not about giving uprights.

I feel that for the future of the world, we need to start talking more about civil responsibility and service and less about civil liberties. There has been way too much “Me” and not enough “We”. As they say, if you take the letter “I” our of Illness and replace it with “We”, you get Wellness.

But while I am on my soapbox this morning, I’d like to address something else.

I am in a Football Tipping competition with some of my old Primary School friends. We are a tight group and take care of each other. There are some big hearts in this group of people and some crazy senses of humour.

In one of the seasons, one of the guys suggested the AFL was rigged and a robust conversation soon caught fire. After some time, I chimed in and shared that having worked in the inner sanctum of AFL Clubs, I thought it impossible. “Do you know how many people you would have to convince to completely shut down their own moral code, and to keep an awful secret for life?” I asked. Just contemplating this question alone makes you realise that it would not be possible for the AFL to be rigged.

The same goes for Covid-19. Sure, there are corporate interests that want to cash in on it, and there are huge egos out there who want to be the one to save the world. But that is how humans have operated for centuries. It is what makes the human race so colourful and fascinating.

But to even think that it would be possible to get tens of thousands of people to become willing conspirators, and to keep an ugly secret concealed for a lifetime, is the stuff of B Grade movies. It is delusional thinking at its very best!

My invitation to everyone is to start looking for the good in everyone. Get behind our leaders. This is a new and challenging situation. They are bound to make mistakes. Cut them some slack and let’s all keep going. We will get to the end of this, then we can set to repairing what we have done to create it in the first place. If you start doing your homework you will realise that this virus, like the bushfires from the start of the year, is a product of what we have been carelessly doing to our environment.

To fix that, we are going to have to give up some of our self-proclaimed liberties and take on some serious civil responsibility and deliver a great deal of genuine civil service.

Are you up for it?