Thursday, May 28, 2009

Temperance union strikes back

A letter in this week's City News responding to my opinion pieces exposes the tiresome poverty of argument and evidence offered by the anti-alcohol activists in Kings Cross.

The letter, from Ms Sue Hanley, totally ignores every point in my original articles and effectively just restates her dislike of the area she lives in.

"…all of us need assured levels of peace and quiet," she writes, postulating a silent-night world in which red light/party precincts don't exist. Kings Cross is about 250 metres of part-time party precinct in around 4,900 square km of Sydney. My point remains that Ms Hanley is perfectly free to live somewhere else. What about the tens of thousands of tourists on holiday and the partygoers who come here? Don't they need a place to let their hair down as much as we locals need sleep. Just one little precinct in the whole of Sydney? Too much for Ms Hanley.

Ms Hanley quotes lots of research "proving" the relationship between venue concentration and crime. But she simply ignores the fact that crime in Kings Cross has steadily fallen at the same time as the capacity of venues increased by some 3,300 people. She was told this point-blank by the Kings Cross Police Superintendent at a community meeting. Ms Hanley was trying to draw a link between the proliferation of new venues around the Coke sign area and a cluster diagram showing lots of crime incidents in the same area. 

"You'll get no joy out of that," said the Super, "because the crime is decreasing."

Yet Ms Hanley's letter makes much of "objectivity". 

She also ignores information in the research report which shows Manly and Coogee have higher rates of alcohol-related violence but fewer and less concentrated venues than Kings Cross. Inconvenient truths, Ms Hanley. None of the top 20 "worst" pubs in Sydney are in Kings Cross or Darlinghurst according to Police data. While I have shown this data itself to be extremely dodgy, the trend is clear. The problem is the concentration of bogans, not venues.

"We are nostalgic for the days of naughty but nice – within the limits of the law and without significant risks to our personal well being and safety," writes Ms Hanley, conveniently creating a fictitious past. 

Sorry, Sue, but the Kings Cross of previous decades was far more unpleasant and dangerous than today's Cross -- Just read a few books like Frank Black's Kings Cross Double Cross (available at The Cross Art + Books in lower Roslyn St) or check my photo/video collection showing the streets of the Cross packed and impassable in 1945, 1961, 1964, 1978 etc etc. In those days when licensed venues were heavily restricted, the industry simply went underground, speakeasy-style. There are currently two unapproved venues that I know about operating in the area. Perhaps Ms Hanley simply wants more of these?

But in the end it's the futility of Council's and Ms Hanley's campaign that saddens me. Instead of supporting a million positive ideas that could make the Cross a far better place, she joins Council in good old-fashioned squelching. And what if they succeed in the litany of court cases they are preparing for? Even if they reduced licensed venues by, say, 20% it would make little difference to the noise and mayhem. The emptier venues would simply fill up, and maybe some of the action would spread to non-entertainment precincts, inflicting the fallout on those who intelligently choose to live in an area that better suits their temperament and age.

It's the wrong strategy for the wrong objective.

Meanwhile the lawyers will have a field day, squandering ratepayer's money on the same Quixotic campaign middleclass councillors have been fruitlessly waging for decades.


Anonymous said...

Is there a name for this syndrome in which people feel unable to move away or escape from a living situation they dislike so much?

The Editor said...

One simple name for it is projection, a fundamental failure to distinguish between subjective and objective.

For example when someone says "it was boring" what really happened is that "they were bored". The next bloke might have found it fascinating. They have a subjective reaction but project it onto the object.

Similarly, "Kings Cross is intolerable" really means "I can't tolerate it." It's obvious when you see one person in a flock of bats complaining about stuff that all their neighbours tolerate or like.

It's happening now in Springfield Avenue -- a bunch of residents have started a Facebook group to co-ordinate objections to the Sugarmill now its trial period is over. Other residents from exactly the same place like the newly activated Plaza because it has driven a lot of the junkie activity elsewhere. They see it as a return to the heyday of the Village Centre -- now a construction site of the Era building -- which was the coolest place in Sydney to dine alfresco.

Unfortunately this trait of projection is fundamental to the middleclass mindset. Think about restaurant snobbery. Some people I know have extremely low opinions of two of my favourite local restaurants, which I find great value with excellent food and service. But these people wouldn't be seen dead there by their middleclass friends because the place hasn't spent a million bucks on renovations and pretension that you pay for with every meal.

But they rationalise it by saying "Oh that place is so dirty." Yet we can see the kitchens working and they are perfectly fine.

The same types when they travel go for the high class hotels while we go for the authentic places with laminex tables in the back streets. After eight trips to SE Asia the only place I ever got sick was in England!