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A not so Good Friday

Today is Good Friday April 10, 2020. The latest modelling shows that although Australia’s COVID-19 curve is flattening, talk of its suppression seem as a glimmer of optimism from the hopeful days of this year’s Ides of March and St Patrick’s Day.

Schools and universities are both closed and not closed. Happy social gatherings are a memory of an uneasy past summer.

In regional Australia, towns and communities which courted high hope of an Easter bounce in the aftermath of the Great Conflagration, are deserted. Packs of starving wild dogs roam ruined streets, nosing through debris, looking for scraps. Rural police patrols are perfunctory. Glock pistol shots scatter the dogs, and in some locations act as a warning to looters and strangers, sneaking into communities in search of empty holiday houses in which to squat.

Native flora rebounds with each autumnal fall of rain.

The air above Australia clears of carbon emissions.

Fungi devour rotting timber, scenting the air with a fusty odour.

Passing interstate truckies watch for neon lights around familiar bends, but find their favourite petrol stations-cum-diners shuttered. Menacing graffiti throw-ups disfigure timber hoarding put in place by business owners to save expensive plate-glass windows from vandals.

Crack cocaine is in short supply. Users are edgy, often violent. The rural elderly and frail remain indoors.

As winter’s chill begins, speculation mounts power supplies might become unreliable.

While toilet paper remains a coveted item, all types of batteries are sold at exorbitant prices. Methylated spirit and petrol and containers to carry both, are traded on a growing black market, as is soap and rodent poison. Rats roam city streets day and night with impunity.

Commercial radio stations increasingly play pre-recorded programmes, but the ABC remains true to its charter, providing a rolling coverage of news about COVID-19. News Corp attacks the ABC because of its perceived bias in coverage of a significant High Court decision.

City offices are forensically cleaned daily as are hotels used to quarantine cruise line passengers. And while debate rages over which authority allowed the Ruby Princess to dock at Sydney’s Circular and disgorge plague-infected citizens, little thought is given to the fate of foreign seaman who staff these white-painted floating RSL clubs.

Local councils consider disinfecting streets, especially around sites where rough sleepers congregate.  As temperatures drop, night time jogging becomes a fad, as does cycling and skateboarding; anything to break the tedium of home isolation.

Remote and regional Australian towns and hamlets struggle with ailing Grey Nomads, many of whom are stranded by floods or border closures, and seek shelter in caravan parks now deemed COVID-19 hot spots by edgy local coppers.

Workers on non-essential building sites seem to believe wearing a high-visibility vest is a guard against COVID-19, and that social distancing does not apply to them. Meanwhile the management of those workers go to extraordinary lengths to prove their business is ready for the vaunted Snap Back. The Big Australian BHP, reinforces the stereotype with an inane advertising campaign seemingly aimed at currying favour with the Australian Government  in case a potential bail-out is in the offing.

And as global capitalism teeters Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg persist in characterising the pandemic as an economic issue.

The Great Drought finally releases its grip. And as farming communities celebrate the promise of a seasonal bounty,their spruikers in the National Party fail to grasp the reality of a diminished foreign and casual labour force. If backpackers and seasonal workers from the Pacific are sent home, unpicked crops rot.

As millions of believers in the religions of The Book prepare to celebrate a sanctified time, many among their ranks ignore the pandemic’s potency.

Despite a ban on driving beyond one’s home, a certain prince of the Catholic Church George Pell embarks on a road trip which crosses the New South Wales border from Victoria, to take up residence in palatial accommodation on Sydney’s outskirts.

And as Ultra-Orthodox Jews fail to observe social distancing rules in Israel, Muslims around the world come to terms with the need to cremate their mounting dead.

In the United States of America hundreds of thousands of devout Christians switch on televangelists in a vain attempt to ward off the ravages of their nation’s catastrophic response to the worst outbreak of illness since the incubation of the Spanish Flu in Kansas.

And as the Arts mourn the loss of many from its ranks, the actions of a buffoonish NSW Minister for the Arts diminishes the efficacy of art in a time of crisis.

And so the last words of my Easter story come with an apology to my favourite artist and poet, T.S. Eliot:

“This is the way the world ends, not with bang but a” … virus.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.

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11 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    “In regional Australia, towns and communities which courted high hope of an Easter bounce in the aftermath of the Great Conflagration, are deserted.”

    That is not the case where I live. We have been inundated by people escaping Sydney. We are more crowded than at the height of the tourist season and locals are not happy. We do not have the facilities or resources to cope with such crowds. Our shops are stripped bare by people stocking their holiday homes. Our pharmacies are supplying scant supplies to people they have never seen before. The petrol station, which also supplies food, is jam packed. The normally deserted beach is crowded with strangers. I have never seen a police vehicle go past my place before but they are doing so now. On the odd occasion when I venture out, I have witnessed many arguments. It’s scary. The locals are trying to look out for each other but we are competing with people who couldn’t give a toss about anyone but themselves.

  2. whatever

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/coronavirus-updates-live-global-covid-19-cases-approaching-1-5-million-record-16-8-million-americans-file-for-unemployment-20200409-p54iog.html#p509y6

    A 55-year-old man from Sydney’s northern beaches has been charged after allegedly cracking a whip outside the Chinese Consulate in Camperdown last week and making threats to people in the line.

    The man stood outside the inner city consulate last Tuesday, just after 10.30am, armed with a large stock whip.

    In videos posted online that appear to be of the incident, he is seen to repeatedly crack the whip outside the consulate queue while yelling. He can be heard making claims about the Chinese government deliberately releasing the coronavirus and allegedly threatening people in line, saying: “we’ll get you”.

    Video clips show the behaviour occurring for at least three minutes while 10 to 12 people wait in line.

    The man was arrested at his home in Dee Why about 9am yesterday and taken to Manly Police Station, where he was charged with attempting to stalk or intimidate and being armed with intent to commit an offence.

    He has been granted conditional bail and will appear in court on July 1, where police will allege he threatened several members of the public while cracking the whip.

  3. whatever

    It wasn’t Tony Abbott.

  4. Ray Tinkler

    “It wasn’t Tony Abbott.”

    The best he would come up with would be a threat to shirtfront them. “You betcha I am”.

  5. wam

    A sad list that reflects the politics of the day through the main stream media.
    At ground level there are family friends, neighbours and small business australians doing there best to compete with the australians working for the greedy highly profitable big businesses like colworths, ubereats online sellers. We should shop local./

    In the last month we have had a week in victor harbor, a week in eldorado and two weeks quarantine in darwin end yeasterday the bakeriesm coffee shops and takeways were invariably stoic friendly hopeful and mostly women.

    ps reporter telling us about harwin’s fine showing no one is free from fines the chyron say nat fife avoids punishment for surfing but the poms have done a repeat of the italian clap around for health workers and a hear hear from me.

  6. LOVO

    Hi all here. 🙋
    I hope you are all well and safely closeted. 🔞
    I’m home alone and it’s a bit of a weird time really ay, though having said that, I am about to start my usual Good Friday observance….something I do every year on this day and only this day.
    I’m about to cook a steak. 🐴
    I’ve got a lovely piece of well marbled scotch fillet on the sink warming up to room temperature, have gotten the mash potatoes done and have the brussel sprouts on a light simmer as we speak. 👍
    Sadly though some things change…some things stay the same. nom nom nom
    I hope ya’all have an great day to day however you observe it. No matter the BS we put on to this day it’s a day off, woo hoo 😇
    ( except for those wonderful front line workers 💝 ) 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
    Stay safe, stay well and Happy Easter. 😆

  7. Phil Pryor

    This covers some of it, but one wonders at human behaviour and attitude, the “nature” effect. Obsessive selfishness crops up, as does brainless superstition posing as “hope”. We used to soldier on once, but not today. Even flus and colds never ruined human interaction and relationships too much; this attempt to face nature off is proof that we will always fail in the face of nature’s great array of powers.

  8. Phil Pryor

    “Tony effing Abbott,” the Manly Masturbator, is surely unable to ride a bike, get snapped, charge the taxpayers and make a stupid blurt. Good.

  9. New England Cocky

    @Henry Johnston: “The Great Drought finally releases its grip. And as farming communities celebrate the promise of a seasonal bounty,their spruikers in the National Party fail to grasp the reality of a diminished foreign and casual labour force. If backpackers and seasonal workers from the Pacific are sent home, unpicked crops rot.”

    I think you are optimistic that the Great Drought has broken. Analysis of historical records suggests that the break will come in 2021. This season 2020 is just a teaser.

    Fortunately we have AIMN to provide thought stimulation. Thank you all the contributing authors.

  10. Terence Mills

    Abbott’s problems with the English language from You bet you are, you bet I am on shirt-fronting Putin to his suppository of all wisdom.

    His quaint ideas about women : would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas, simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.

    And remember when he made us all cringe by talking about virginity being the “greatest gift you can give someone and of being “a bit threatened” by homosexuality.

    Ahhh Memories !!!

  11. Pilot

    Where in rural Oz is going off the rails? Certainly not here in the Upper Hunter. We have no tourists etc, our locals are all pretty good, except the lowbrow knuckle draggers who went ballistic on the dunny paper run. But it looks like they have run out of money because we pretty much have it stocked now. We did however have busloads coming up from Newcastle and beyond to pillage our supermarkets for a while. Other than that, life goes on.

    We have our grandkids and their parents with us so our use of the ol’ date roll is eye opening, lol, and we’ve been getting through things pretty bloody well, even though youngest grandson still tries to unravel rolls and throw it in the dunny, lol.

    In the beginning I showed the kids how to scrape their bums on the grass in the back yard for when we run of rolls, lmao!!! The kids, and their parents thought I was serious, lmao!! In response I told them that in the case of lack of paper, we have plenty of big leaf plants around the place. They have no sense of humour, but at least everyone is now watching our youngest and act quickly when he makes a beeline for the dunny.

    We keep our final emergency supplies (dogs & cats) inside and only let them out for toilet breaks, and have plenty of morsels (budgies) to snack on when commercial supplies run out. And the feedlot across the river is easy prey, lol.

    We will all be fine if we don’t catch the virus, but we need to be ready to help our less fortunate in their time of need. The Wife & I are both vulnerable due to treatments we’ve had in the past, but our main focus is on our family and trying to keep the grandkids amused and doing their assignments, they see us as the easy touch.
    Look after you local health workers!!!!
    Stay safe all!!!

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