Sunday, September 12, 2004

Wild and woolly Woolloomooloo

What is missing from Council's 'vision' for the Kings Cross district, and that of local residents who just want it 'nice' again, is any recognition of the area's role in the Metropolis as a whole. Yet they only have to investigate a little local history to see there is more to it than the staid conformity they espouse. Some quotes:

(KX was historically part of Woolloomooloo precinct. The following quote comes from 'Requiem for Woolloomooloo' by George Farwell, 1971).

'Every big metropolis needs its escape route, a refuge, some shield from the rat race, the inquisitive and unwanted charity of what is called respectable society. Yet... the 'Loo has mostly been respectable, its values very Christian in non-clerical ways: giving sanctuary to the poor, the persecuted or those otherwise in trouble.

'...At one time or other it has been a haven for all manner of classes, callings and types; gypsies, displaced Aborigines, poets, artists, gunmen, con men, philosophers, whores, drug addicts and drug smugglers, visaless immigrants, seamen jumping ship.

'...At a distance were the bright commercial towers of a city too affluent to care; and more closely, looming greyly above Cathedral Street, the buttresses and belltower of the cathedral, itself both conscience and scourge of the sinful below.'

When the current 'clean up the Cross' campaign began, someone on radio compared it to the S bend of a sink -- where all the filth collects, an analogy I found personally offensive. But it did highlight the stupidity of the sink trying to eliminate its own S bend. You can't have one without the other.

In 'The Glittering Mile' docco (1964) a nightclub owner described the Cross as Sydney's 'psychologist 's couch'.

And from 'Memories Kings Cross 1936-46' :

'Here joy, if not unconfined, was less restricted than it would be in suburbia or Boolamakanka. Live and let live was the attitude and still is. [Or it should be - Ed]

'Sydneysiders have always had to fight against becoming too raffish... not too staid and dignified but not outright raffish. It needed a Kings Cross and environs where carefree or even dubious behaviour would be tolerated or, at best, borne with pain by the conformists. What better place than the Cross, close to the city, almost a peninsula.

'... Ergo, the hoity-toi mixed up with the hoi-polloi and with artists, authors, musicians and outright bohemians, add transients from the country, interstate and overseas -- what a heady brew it all makes!'

Things haven't actally changed much, and the wowsers who in 1838 banned bathing in Woolloomooloo, and a century later sent businesses in the Cross broke by forcing them to close at 6pm even though they made most of their money later in the evening, have modern counterparts equally blinkered, self-righteous, judgemental and arrogant. They should learn to 'Live and Let Live'. That was stated in the first edition of 'The Kings Cross Times' and today has become its motto.


Anonymous said...

place spelt "bullamakanka"....

Anonymous said...

You seem to forget that ordinary people want to visit the Cross without being assaulted or harrassed, whether they live there or not.
I doubt your internet rag will do anything to change that.
If the visitor has "criminal intent" then let's hope that that visitor faces the Law before harassing and assaulting or peddling to anyone else visiting.
Considered "criminal"... hooking, dealing, pimping, stealing, bashing, littering, disturbing,...
Does the author really face everyday life in the 'Cross without seeing these filthy by-products of the City, and if he does, is he/she happy to tolerate it?
Most people have better things to do than publish tripe about a place that will become part of inner-residential Sydney regardless of how "different" it has been in the past.
Roll on Clover.

Anonymous said...

King's cross is becoming a part of Sydney no matter what.
The great policies of Local Government that have seen the re-population of the City are a Godsend. No more bleak, lifeless streets, a more cosmopolitan scene abounds!

Anonymous said...

King's cross is becoming a part of Sydney no matter what.
The great policies of Local Government that have seen the re-population of the City are a Godsend. No more bleak, lifeless streets, a more cosmopolitan scene abounds!

Anonymous said...

The king is dead. Long live the Queen.

Anonymous said...

“But it did highlight the stupidity of the sink trying to eliminate its own S bend”

The Cross is the bowels of Sydney and the sooner its wiped the better.

The Editor said...

Wow! That aroused some passion!

To those people who have such extremely negative views of the Cross, I would love to know why they live here -- genuinely curious.

Regarding being assaulted in the street etc, the Cross is actually one of the safest places in Sydney. Most violence is among drunk visitors after midnight on weekends. By far the biggest 'crime' is possessing small amounts of pot (not known for enhancing violence!). Car break-ins and the occasional mugging on the back streets are the main problem for locals, which is why at the last PACT meeting I brought up allocating more police to the back streets, particularly the use of police bikes which are the best way to surprise and catch the culprits.

Hooking is legal, not criminal. Most locals including myself are not particularly bothered by hookers or spruikers on the street, as two young women showed by their comments at the last community forum. If you talk to some of them, you find that they are human beings with a story to tell. One spruiker has been here 25 years! Broadmindedness and tolerance are traditional features of the Cross as the above essay is meant to demonstrate. It would be nice to see that continue.

The Editor said...

Oh, and I agree about the spelling of 'Bullamakanka' -- the author I was quoting spelt it with one 'l'. Is there really such a place?

Anonymous said...

I have lived in the Cross since the early 1980's. At least one murder a year along the strip. Is this a record in Australia?

I just came out of the station a short while ago and the police are outside the station with a sign asking if anyone witnessed a violent bashing at 5:45 am this morning at the station entrance.

This is a frequent event ( assaults at the station ) Why do so people drink on the way to work on a weekday morning ?

The Editor said...

This is the sort of thing the Police should be concentrating on instead of running about with sniffer dogs. There's never one around when you need one.

The only assault I have seen outside the station was committed by a State Rail Security guard against a sozzled indigenous guy who kept wanting to sit against the wall inside the entrance. He was thrown to the ground violently. The indigenous guy was calling the guard (who was of Islander appearance) an immigrant.

I suspect one murder a year isn't particularly frequent for a busy central-city area, and there's certainly a lot more gun crime elsewhere these days. According to Police, crime rates are at an all-time low here. Most of their arrest stats boil down to minor pot busts.

Most assaults are by drunk guys on drunk guys. So if your'e a guy, and get drunk, be really polite to other drunk guys.

Anonymous said...

One murder a year along a small street . Is unbelievable and unacceptable. I know that Kings Cross holds many records for assaults and drug dealing. 800 drug deals a day according to the December 14 statement by the commander of your local police.

The Editor said...

It's not a matter of the size of the street -- it's a matter of the number of people using it. Darlinghurst Road gets thousands of times the foot traffic that Iona Ave West Pymble does, so more things happen, both good and bad.

Every city needs places where people go out, and, yes, a minority of them drink and get stupid. That's life. Kings Cross happens to be one of those places and people who like the action move there. People who don't like it might consider moving to West Pymble instead of trying to squelch everyone else's fun.

The sheer number of people going out is evidence that society accepts this.

Regarding 800 drug deals (??), they are victimless crimes and not in the same category as an assault. Furthermore they only occur in the way they do because of the prohibition laws, which are unjustified and in fact cause most of the harm they purport to be addressing (including several wars!).

Remember Al Capone & Prohibition? Drive-by shootings etc. Just like south-western Sydney today, and for the same reasons only it's drugs not alcohol. The law is the problem, not the substance, although anyone injecting heroin I would regard as an idiot. Banning it obviously doesn't work.

There is no difference between a publican and a pot dealer except an accident of the law -- and pot is far less lethal than alcohol, so there's no sense in it. How many schooners get sold per day? Because it's legal and regulated, things like the very successful KX Licensing Accord prevent the sale of alcohol to drunks and no doubt prevent a lot of trouble.

Anonymous said...

You keep coming back to "small pot busts" as the major crime stat in the Cross. Well that's the fact, then. Are you intimidated by the presence of sniffer dogs? Perhaps you want to carry pot? Pot users are a vast minority and marginalise themselves. As proven, pot users are often experienced in other, more insidious forms of drug use and use pot as a currency to deal for other drugs. It's the base level bust. Don't deny it, using pot is a sign that you hold the law in contempt and do nothing of physical importance to the community...just lay back, stoned, and comment on how all the drug-free citizens that make the Cross a "safe" place for you to crow about "prohibition" are ignorant in some way for not accepting your pro-drug propaganda. Grow up.

The Editor said...

Re sniffer dogs -- the 3,000 people NOT carrying anything who were searched in public in one year aren't very keen on them. Out of 2,505 searches on trains not one single trafficable amount of any drug was found, except for two cases where the substance mysteriously 'turned out not to be drugs' and disappeared (read the Ombudsman's report). Only 1.7g of heroin was found in a whole year.

Re the pot laws -- it is in fact the law and the government that holds us citizens in contempt. The Australian College of Physicians, DPP Nicholas Cowderoy, The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs just to name a few recommend decriminalisation, but are ignored by the government. Are these people laying back stoned like your cliched hippy?

The government justifies sniffer dogs using hard drug rhetoric but uses them to harass smalltime pot users. BTW, isn't a 'vast minority' getting close to a majority? Alcohol causes far more problems than pot, so why is one legal while the other isn't. Bad law is bad law.

And I would rather the cops put their time and our money into policing crimes which have victims, like assaults and car break-ins. These cause genuine anguish.

Anonymous said...

So what if 3000 get sniffed by a dog ? 30,000 get stoped to blow into a bag over a long weekend. There is no embarrassment when this happens.

So whats the big deal?

Accept it and move on.

The Editor said...

Getting nigh-on strip-searched in public for no reason is hardly the same as blowing into a bag. It smells of fascism.

I don't criticise the RBT program because it is aimed at people who are actually putting others in danger by drink-driving. It is also random to avoid particular communities being targeted. The sniffer dog program on the other hand is targeted against certain communities including Kings Cross, young people & train travellers. Rich dealers running around in their cars are immune -- as long as they don't drink.

And you wonder why the Police can do nothing about the so-calle drug problem.

Anonymous said...

I don’t know about you, but all the pot heads I know are still passing around joints in a time warp set around the 1960’s.

They don’t seem to have grown up..
If there was ever a reason not to smoke just look at their skin. Dried prunes no less. Some are now psycho and if they aren’t their kids are.

The Editor said...

Most of the pot smokers I know are employed in high-level executive jobs or running companies. They tend to have great skin and really nice looking girlfriends, except for the female and gay ones who have really nice looking boyfriends.

The 2001 Household survey on drugs reveals that in fact rich people use more drugs than poor people for every drug and every age-range.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say that these pot smokers you know in executive positions or running companies mustn't be very influential.
They can't be working in a safety-critical environment either. Their employees must also be immune to the detection of levels of THC in the bloodstream, and must also work in a non-safety-critical environment.
The people that protect you from crime, the Police, are subject to random drug tests to discourage the use of mind-altering substances, lest the officer have to make a split-second decision that may affect a life, such as yours. When you can say that pot smokers are just as able to undertake safety-critical tasks i'll agree to decriminalise the stuff.
Do you think the sniffer dogs are trained not to detect pot on the dog-handler?
Get real, pot is a soporific depressant...and a big waste of time, man.

The Editor said...

They don't smoke it at work, so it's not a safety issue, and it doesn't seem to be impairing their success or effectiveness. Anyway you'll find all that safety issue scare is largely a right-wing beat-up fed to a willing press. A lot of the research is really dodgy and only funded if it is looking for harm. It's in the mission statement of our major drug research bodies. Of course, if you were only looking for harms, research would show we should ban cars, rock fishing, mountain climbing and football to name a few.

The whole prohibition fairytale is based on deliberate lies -- Google Harry Anslinger prohibition if you really want to see the crap the laws are based on.

Anonymous said...

If your kid gets run over by a motor car and you find out the driver was stoned on THC, are you going to quote the Anslinger stuff? How could you eliminate the doubt that if the driver was not affected, his situational awareness may have been such that the "accident" could have been avoided?
Fact is, THC is known to impair performance. I want the driver straight if possible.

Anonymous said...

Oh and did you try to help the indigenous man being assaulted at the station?? Your statement would've helped stop the "Security Guard" from doing it again.
By the way, whether or not these executives smoke pot at work or not is irrelevant. THC hangs around for months stored in the body. Today's pot is tomorrow's dope.

The Editor said...

Yes, I did help the man at the station and defused the situation.

But on your pot and driving argument -- full credit to your debating skills, but I can tell which newspaper you read, and it sensationalises rather than informs.

1. If driving is your concern, you must then agree with me that targeting sniffer dogs at train travellers is wrong and a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

2. An adviser to the NSW Staysafe Committee said there was ZERO epidemiological evidence linking cannabis and car accidents -- although there was a link with tobacco smoking and mobile phone use. Are you just as passionate about mobile phones and fags? Maybe we should ban them, too.

3. A furphy story comes around every few years claiming 'Cannabis linked to 40% of car accidents'. The idiots in Victoria now urine test their citizens based on this . I looked into the study. It was rubbish on several grounds, like most such drug research:

'Associated' does not establish causality. For example 100% of accidents are associated with tyres, and probably 80% with right-handedness.

The study did not separate the alcohol factor, so most of the accidents were probably alcohol-associated. Then there are statistical confounders: young males have more car accidents. They also more often smoke pot. So if 40% of them smoked pot there is no statistical significance whatsoever. Note, before pot was fashionable, young men still had the car accidents.

4. Pot makes people drive a lot slower. It makes them a bit paranoid and more careful, whereas alcohol has the opposite effect. To really find the answer to this question would be simple: do a study of, say 1,000 people who had smoked pot for, say 20 years and study their driving records compared to 1,000 non-smokers. Such research, however, does not get funded because the government is deliberately pulling the funding strings.

They have learnt from experience that all comprehensive and unbiased studies commissioned in the past by governments -- including the US, Canada and the UK -- have showed that pot was not only almost harmless but had many benefits. All these studies have simply been ignored by dishonest right-wing governments continuing the hypocrisy of Harry Anslinger.

The first study was done on American soldiers building the Panama Canal, who were exposed to pot by the nasty Panamanians -- now there's a safety issue for you. A two-year study found that not only was it harmless but it made the smokers better able to bear the horrendous conditions and the government decided not to worry about it. This was before Anslinger, of course, who deliberately ignored and suppressed this study and many others. He also ignored and suppressed the American Medical Association who opposed prohibition. But what would they know.

This was during the period when hashish was freely available and writers like Lewis Carrol and artists like Aubrey Beardlsey were eating the stuff and producing the stories you probably read to your kids. Maybe we better ban them, too, along with Noddy books. Better still, burn them in public.

My last argument is that prohibition doesn't stop people smoking in any case. It's on the increase, my friend. It doesn't work. So why flog it?

You haven't mentioned schizophrenia and pot? Go on! Make my day!

Anonymous said...

Effects of Marijuana on the Brain. Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is acted on by the hippocampus. This is a component of the brain's limbic system that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations. Investigations have shown that THC suppresses neurons in the information-processing system of the hippocampus. In addition, researchers have discovered that learned behaviors, which depend on the hippocampus, also deteriorate.

Effects on the Lungs. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have. These individuals may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke.

Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers. This may be due to marijuana users inhaling more deeply and holding the smoke in the lungs.

Effects of Heavy Marijuana Use on Learning and Social Behavior. A study of college students has shown that critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning are impaired among people who use marijuana heavily, even after discontinuing its use for at least 24 hours. Researchers compared 65 "heavy users," who had smoked marijuana a median of 29 of the past 30 days, and 64 "light users," who had smoked a median of 1 of the past 30 days. After a closely monitored 19- to 24-hour period of abstinence from marijuana and other illicit drugs and alcohol, the undergraduates were given several standard tests measuring aspects of attention, memory, and learning. Compared to the light users, heavy marijuana users made more errors and had more difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment, and in registering, processing, and using information. The findings suggest that the greater impairment among heavy users is likely due to an alteration of brain activity produced by marijuana.

Longitudinal research on marijuana use among young people below college age indicates those who used have lower achievement than the non-users, more acceptance of deviant behavior, more delinquent behavior and aggression, greater rebelliousness, poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends.

Anonymous said...

Marijuana has serious harmful effects on the skills needed for driving a car. Timing, coordination, alertness, and performance are all affected. For instance, the marijuana user may have trouble judging distances and may have delayed reactions to sights and sounds that drivers need to notice. There is data showing that marijuana has played a role in crashes. A study of patients who had been in traffic accidents revealed that 15 percent of those who had been driving a car or motorcycle had been smoking marijuana, and another 17 percent had both THC and alcohol in their blood.

More sniffer dogs I say. Also put them in with the breatherliser patrols. See if they are drunk or stoned.

The Editor said...

The last comment is a perfect example of the use of junk science to mislead the public. I note we're now way down from the 40% mentioned in other junk studies, to the point where the percentages are LOWER than the percentage use by Australians. This in fact demonstrates that pot smokers have fewer accidents. Thanks for the back up.

Re the bigger comment before that -- I have never said there are no dangers or risks. I advocate moderation, and you'll notice these studies always refer only to the minority who abuse the substance.

However everything has a risk, and what we do as human beings is to weigh risks against benefits. The benefits are obviously huge or smokers would not continue in the face of government opression, paying the inflated prices under prohibition.

The toxic dose of pot is a theoretical 800 joints, and then it's the carbon monoxide that would get you. The toxic dose of vodka is 300ml. The death rate for MDMA is approximately 2 in 100,000 users, whereas the death rate from tobacco is in the order of 400 per 100,000 users. Even alcohol nets about 50 deaths per 100,000 users each year and the death rate from cannabis is ZERO. There is simply no case for prohibiting pot -- or ecstasy, for that matter. (GHB is genuinely dangerous and another matter, however)

Your smattering of health data gleaned after decades of biased research is in fact extremely minor compared to the damage caused by football, cars or mountain climbing etc. So why are they not banned? Engineered cultural prejudice, that's why.

All you have shown is that this is a health issue, not a criminal issue. Your information should be on the packet so adults can make up their own minds about the risks vs benefits, just like we do for crossing the road or eating fast food (which is far more toxic if abused than pot or ecstasy if you've seen 'Supersize Me'.).

And as prohibition costs you, as a taxpayer, a fortune, and it obviously doesn't work, it's time to repeal it just like alcohol prohibition was repealed. Then tax the drugs and put that money into sensible, balanced education about drugs.

And retrain the sniffer dogs to find explosives and weapons. Now that would be useful in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

A large number of sniffer dogs are for weapons. They can detect up to 23 different components including metals , oils and gunpowder. One of the most frequent Kings Cross dog patrols are for weapons.

Everyone keep assuming they are drug based.

The Editor said...

That's good to hear. The Ombudsman's report however only dealt with drug sniffer dogs, each of which costs taxpayers $90,000 to train. The total bill for drug prohibition in NSW alone is around $190 million pa. 50% of people in prison are there on drug-related crime.

Meanwhile people routinely wait for hours in ambulances because there are no emergency beds and the zero-tolerance Carr government, unlike Mussolini, can't even get the trains to run on time.

The priorities are all wrong.

Anonymous said...

Where is the comment from all the "fashionable" pot smokers?
They're probably too stoned to care.
You mention "schizophrenia and marijuana", you've made my day.
Let's say the passengers using pot alight from the train and walk into the path of your car, and you hit and kill one. Would you wish that the stray pedestrian hadn't been stoned, or drunk, or smoking a cigarette, or talking on the mobile, (probably to arrange a deal with the dope down the underpants)?
We know that when influencing factors are combined, as above, the human, who balances risks in order to survive, cannot make survival decisions fast enough. Remove some of the factors and the decisions become more accurate. Remove them all and we can assume that the decisions made were to the best of that human's ability.
When I go onto a football field I don't expect to be hit by a car driven by a stoned moron. It is, after all, a "level playing field".

The Editor said...

If the above was occurring, it would support my argument because, obviously, all the kings dogs and all the kings men using their prohibition powers were not preventing the problem. As it is not happening, the argument doesn't apply.

All this debate about the dangers or otherwise miss the point. Even if pot was as dangerous as you say, prohibition doesn't work and costs a fortune. Time to treat it as a social and health problem.

If you support prohibition for pot you must also logically support it for alcohol. We know from history it didn't work. Time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Marijuana street sales are not the issue here. I don't think that street drug use, violence, aggressive spruikers and constant noise and traffic are signs of a cosmopolitan district. They are signs of a district that is not being policed, a council that is not enforcing it's own regulations and a community that does not have the social infrastructure to support these issues.

People that think there is no violence in Kings Cross should live above Darlinghurst Rd as I do. It goes on 24 hours a day seven days a week. Whether it is the tourists visiting for a thrill or locals is inconsequential. Only residents that live amongst this day to day are entitled to an opinion here. Sure, we could move to Pymble OR we could get our tax payers' money / rates put to work and enjoy being residents in KX.

Anonymous said...

The hoi-polloi and the hoity-toit...and the outright bohemians..."What a heady brew".
Satisfies the lovers of alcohol, and the herb-heads.

Anonymous said...

I'n curious to know why you chose to live above Darlinghurst Road? And where did you think you were moving into? Reminds me of the sad cases who bought apartments above Luna Park and were so bedazzled by the view they forgot to look down and notice an amusement park below. Incredibly, they somehow now believe they have ownership of Luna Park and keep trying to shut it down so the rest of Sydney can't use it. I say they gotta move to Pymble - not an amusement park in sight. And the sad thing is that in 4 years when they've destroyed Luna Park for the people who enjoyed it, they'll find that property prices have risen and they can get 10 thousand more bucks for their apartment - and they probably will move to Pymble! Leaving nothing in their wake. I live above Springfield Plaza and the noise sometimes isn't pretty. But that's my problem - not the Cross. And I can choose to listen to it or not listen to it. Besides, a lot of the noise is from people enjoying themselves and there's nothing I like better than hearing people having a good time.