Saturday, January 26, 2008

The ugly Australian

It's Australia Day and unfortunately I can't celebrate. The Australian flag-over-the-shoulder look has come to represent jingoism, racism and ignorance.

A few minutes ago a female friend was in Kings Cross waiting to cross the road where she saw an Aboriginal friend of hers, who greeted her. A young Aussie suburban guy, drunk, flag draped over his shoulders, cut in with: 'What did that black bastard say to you?"

My friend gave him what for, pointing out that the 'black bastard's' ancestors had been in the country a lot longer than his. The young guy made as if to punch the black, but was warned off by my friend.

Nearby a five-year-old asked his mother: 'What is that lady saying to that man?'

'She's giving him what he deserves,' was the reply.

I fear tonight's going to be an ugly one up the Cross. How did this nation become so deeply ignorant?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Farrelly takes aim at Oxford Street

The credibility gap between Council and on-the-street reality got a good workout from Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH today.

Even as Kings Cross is hinting at a partial retail resurgence, Oxford Street remains bleak.

Several blocks on the north side of the street are owned by Council, and there has been friction with many of their tenants -- the small, independent unique ones on the whole, whose turnover was slashed while the uniform granite and Smartpoles 'upgrade' was installed at public expense.

But Council has a vision for the street. Unfortunately it is controlled by their property department who differ from the white shoe brigade only in that they are not risking any of their own money. They love the expensive places and the franchises, seeing it all in terms of dollars per square metre. Words like unique, local, creative and affordable are absent from their vocabulary.

As Elizabeth Farrelly put it, they are 'still seeing revitalisation as a means of precluding rent reduction, rather than a response to it.'

This cultural dissonance exists within some other Council departments as well, and no Councillor seems to comprehend it (except, I suspect, John McInerney). Placing the issue into public dialogue is not easy. Congratulations to EF for doing so.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Prohibition takes four more lives

People always have and always will take drugs, it seems. But only under prohibition does it cause wholesale death and destruction.

On Thursday morning I couldn't get out of my street into William Street because the police were there taping off a crime scene around a body on the pavement.

The young man's body was lying flat on its back, toes spread outwards, hands placed neatly on its abdomen.

While police remained tight-lipped, word on the street is that the man is one of four who died locally after injecting a new batch of drug available on the illicit and unregulated street market. The drugs are probably either unusually strong or cut with a deadly substance, and alarm has spread quickly amongst users.*

Heartless people will say 'serve them right,' but others will understand that each of these victims has family and friends who will now be grieving. Each had made mistakes -- like all of us -- but each has now been robbed of a chance at redemption. And each would probably still be alive if they had been able to access their drugs legally from a regulated system.

The world-wide carnage caused by prohibition is increasing (see stories 6, 7 and 8 at the link embedded in the headline). It's well past time to change our approach.

* 22 March: More reliable sources now say there were only two actual deaths in the area and that it was more likely that the overdoses were caused by mixing the legal pharmaceutical Xanax (like Valium but stronger) with the rather low quality heroin that's generally around lately. Also the beat up about Afghani Brown heroin seems to be largely in the media's imagination.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Doggy doo as class leveller

'Who d'ya think's gonna clean that lot up, eh?' came ringing from the street in the broad western suburbs accent so detested by the local gentry. 'Who's job d'ya think it is!'

The harangue continued and I couldn't resist opening the door to have a look. There was a guy bearing the marks of rough trade berating a leggy blonde attached to an ornamental white dog. She had just popped out of the rear garage entrance of her block of million-dollar Brougham Street apartments on a Saturday morning to let her pet relieve itself steamingly on the pavement. Her head was down, eyes averted in that sheepish manner typical of such litterers as she scurried back into the garage which was sprinkled with Porsches and a Rolls Royce.

He followed her towards the slowly closing rolladoor, emphasising his point with a few expletives.

I couldn't help laughing at this reversal of the usual social hierarchy and congratulated the guy as he walked past, telling him that I didn't have a dog because I didn't want to spend half my life picking up warm dog-poop.

'The trouble is, neither do they,' he rejoined.