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Leslie Cannold has had enough of being even-handed and presenting Both Sides Now. She wants to cut to the chase: what’s the right way to go? In Everyday Dilemmas, Dr Cannold brings her ethical training to your problems. Send your questions to [email protected] with “Dear Leslie” in the subject line. She might even reply…

Dear Leslie,

I moved to this country from the UK about 40 years ago and have always been mindful of how easy it is for white, English-speaking men like me to integrate into Australian society. When I first arrived, I could even vote in Australian elections without being a citizen! Now, I am being told that I am actually a migrant success story — and have been somehow battling the odds the whole time. This has left me feeling confused and somewhat embarrassed. Should I now be expecting special treatment? Now a proud Aussie, should I displace another migrant success story and run for Parliament? 

Confused Pom

Dear Confused Pom,

I see what you mean about mixed messages, so let’s unknot this ball of yarn.

The first thing to say is that you’re allowed to recognise your accomplishments and to feel proud of yourself. While both the English and Australians flee from this prospect like it’s plague — what are you, up yourself? — healthy self-esteem is essential to personal happiness and treating others with respect. As Mental Health UK puts it: “The relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.”

Having said that, only you know whether your experience as a British migrant is truly laudable, and it’s what you think — not what others tell you about yourself — that really matters. Try this test: if your story was someone else’s, would you feel he deserved recognition or credit for taking the risks involved in moving a long way from home and resettling in a new land? Even if his language and cultural heritage was shared by many of the country’s inhabitants?

If the answer is yes, I’d advise you give yourself a pat on the back too, although I’m less sure about Parliament given the dubious moral calibre of the current occupants. You seem like such a nice man…

Dear Leslie,

Every time I turn on the lights or pour petrol into my car I feel guilty as hell. But I know that even if I stopped doing these things it would make no difference to the environment. Is there any way to live a carbon-resistant life that makes a measurable difference to the planet or, in the end, are folks like me just virtue signalling?

Frustrated Environmentalist

Dear Frustrated Environmentalist,

Yes, you’re right that when it comes to big problems, one person’s efforts are a drop of water in the ocean. But when combined with other drops, they can literally move mountains. From consumer boycotts and the switch to socially conscious super to the growth in the market for hybrid and fully electric cars, when enough socially conscious individuals move in the same direction, meaningful change happens.

It’s also important to note what used to be called “raising awareness”, “acting as a role model” and “moral leadership” is now pejoratively labelled “virtue signalling”. There is a non-stop attempt by the chronically unvirtuous — think big business, the IPA — to make those who care about people and things other than themselves seem silly, shrill or hypocritical. Don’t fall for it. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about clearly indicating your stance on important moral issues, as long as you are sincere in what you say and back it up with action. (NB: Guilt isn’t action.)

So get busy! Assert your environmental values — on the socials and at dinner parties (unless you live in Sydney or Melbourne, where the latter concept has become foreign) — and what you do to realise them, everything from the donations you make to the Australian Conservation Foundation and the bins you’ve procured to separate your recycling to the solar panels you’ve installed on your roof and the investment you made in a hybrid.

Not only does this prove your sincerity, but it offers others solid ideas of how they can care for the environment too.

Good luck!

Send your dilemmas to [email protected] with “Dear Leslie” in the subject line and you could get a reply from Dr Cannold in this column. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.