EDITOR’S NOTE: These remarks were delivered upon accepting the Sydney Peace Prize on November 11, 2016.
I would like to pay my respects to the elders both past and present of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation on whose land we gather tonight.
Tonight I will be speaking about the need to change our cultural stories so that they cease to pit us against one another and the earth. And our greatest teachers in this process of transformation must be the Indigenous people who have kept their stories and practices of right relationship alive for tens of thousands of years.
Thank you David Hirsch, for this tremendous honor, and thanks to the members of the jury of the Sydney Peace Prize.
Thank you Senator Patrick Dodson, for your words and all of your work.
And my deepest gratitude to everyone who is gracing the stage tonight, especially the artists.
I want to thank my husband Avi Lewis, my great collaborator in all things. And our 4-year-old son Toma, who is here and doing his very best to behave.
I also want to acknowledge the many land and water warriors in this room—fighting to protect territory in this country from coal mining, fracking and oil drilling—and who are protecting the planet as a whole from disastrous warming in the process.
As I was making notes for this lecture over the past couple of weeks, I knew I really should be preparing two versions—the “Hillary wins” version, and the “Trump wins” version.
Thing is, I couldn’t quite bring myself to write the Trump-wins version. My typing fingers went on strike. In retrospect, I was derelict in my duties. So I apologize if what follows seems rushed—it is rushed. A “hot take,” as they call it these days, on a hot planet.
If there is a single, overarching lesson in the Trump victory, perhaps it is this: Never, ever underestimate the power of hate. Never underestimate the power of direct appeals to power-over “the other”: the migrant, the Muslim, blacks, us ladies. Especially during times of economic hardship.
Because when large numbers of white men find themselves hurting and insecure, and those men were raised in a social system built on elevating their humanity over the others, a lot of them get mad. And there is nothing wrong in itself with being mad—there’s lots to be mad about.
But within a culture that so systematically elevates some lives over others, anger makes many of those men—and women—putty in the hands of whatever demagogue of the moment is offering to deliver back an illusion of dominance, however fleeting. Build a wall. Lock ’em up. Deport them all—for life. Grab ’em wherever you like and show ’em who’s boss.
What other lessons can we take from our two-day-old reality that we now live in a world with a President-elect Trump?