It is a sign of the times that, within the worst cost-of-living crisis in Australia for nearly a century, we are even contemplating the return of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne.
We are in the grip of an inequality tsunami. Never have so many gone hungry. Never have so many been actually homeless. Never have the wage-earners of this country struggled so hard to make ends meet.
The last four years have seen arguably the worst bushfire season in recorded history, a severe drought, and now catastrophic floods down the entire east coast, from Queensland to Tasmania.
There is a meaningless debate as to whether floods are worse than bushfires. It does not matter; both devastate the land, and blight the lives of the humans who live anywhere near them. Of course the damage to the economy leaks out to the region, the state, and the whole country.
Although Australia is a land of weather extremes, it becomes clearer every day that something is indeed very wrong. Not only with our own weather and climate, but that of the entire planet.
Deadly floods in parts of Europe, and then drought with the following summer. Record temperatures in Britain and across Scandinavia. In North America, heatwaves and wildfires to the west, and ruinous floods and hurricanes to the east.
South America’s rainfall patterns are out of whack, Andean glaciers are melting, while the Amazon disappears, square mile by square mile. The continent is heating up, and millions are leaving for the United States.
In the Arctic Ocean winter ice is becoming a novelty. The Antarctic is calving icebergs bigger than buildings. Penguins in the south, and polar bears in the north are becoming the sacrificial victims of our negligence.
A pandemic which has so far killed millions, and continues to kill the unvaccinated, and the vulnerable. A special group in Australia, the elderly, are being covertly sacrificed to our hedonism and greed.
Africa is reeling from crop failures, drought and the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Very few are vaccinated, and millions are moving out of their homes, in search of a better life. Nigeria is in the grip of floods, and in the neighbouring Indian sub-continent both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been battered by great heat last year, and now flooding rains.
There is a war in Ukraine. The parallels with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 are chilling, and the level of destruction and suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian civilians is almost mediaeval in its mindless cruelty.
Of course, with the invasion, Russia has destroyed the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuel, because winter is coming, and Europe depends on Russian gas for its heating needs.
This feeds into the developed countries’ apparent reluctance to do anything meaningful about reducing emissions. So the earth is caught in a pincer movement, between allowing millions of Ukrainians to die of the cold, or allow human civilisation to be cooked by climate change.
And what does Australia do at this time of existential threats? We party. We go to the races, and we waste millions of dollars on pretentious food and wine, while 3 million of our fellow citizens are having to skip meals, and sleep in cars.
One must admire such wilful blindness. Even as the middle class complain of the rise in interest rates, and business complains that one of these days workers MIGHT get a small pay rise, they are guzzling French Champagne, and eating canapes.
Never mind the 3 million Australians who are struggling for life, under the misapprehension that in Australia we do not allow our fellows to starve to death.
As Marie Antoinette was rumoured to have said, “let them eat cake,” we are just about in the same league, with our tone deaf response to inequality, and our clamour to not see the misery around us.
Our federal government continues to dally, trailing its coat on tax cuts for the rich. How many of them, from all the parties, will find that parliamentary business leaves them no choice but to be in the environs of Flemington at around the time the races kick off.
If caught out, they will apologise, and pay it back. No three months in jail for them, for defrauding their employer. Just apologise, and pay it back.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote his famous piece on the Kentucky Derby, and the beasts who debase themselves in and around the racetrack. Read it here and weep.
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