I recall 1982 as a confluence of firsts. As I began my thirty first year, life seemed as an endless sequence of possibilities, rolling toward a future gilded with boundless opportunity.
The bitter years of the Fraser interregnum, triggered by the dismissal of Gough Whitlam rapidly gave way to Bob Hawke’s unstoppable rise.
The scent of optimism seemed sweet as spring. And to celebrate an inevitable change in fortune, I tagged along to a movie at the Valhalla Cinema in Glebe Point Road Sydney.
The film had an improbable, unpronounceable name. Koyaanisqatsi introduced three elements which remain with me as I contemplate my seventieth year:- the concept of dystopia, the music of Philip Glass and the reality of an ‘unbalanced life’ as expressed in the Hopi language.
The Hopi people, who occupy much of the south western states of the United States of America, today live their own Koyaanisqatsi — unbalanced life — brought about by the ravages of the COVID-19 virus.
It is as if the world is now flickering through the images of this remarkable film … but with notable exceptions.
I’ll use another film title to continue the metaphor. The Usual Suspects of Trump, Bolsinaro, Johnson, Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte … the list seems endless … persist with the notion normalcy will return, and economies will do what they did before the virus.
To quote Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects:- “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Switch on any news channel and see for yourself.
The United States is paralysed by conspiracy theories. And in the absence of Government initiatives, Brazil’s street gangs patrol the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, warning people to stay indoors. The death toll from the virus in the United Kingdom surpasses Italy and Spain. So much for BREXIT.
Tankers filled to the Plimsol Line with Middle Eastern oil, sit off the American coast, waiting to off-load a cargo nobody wants.
At the National Press club on May 5 2020, Treasurer Frydenberg ruled out public works as a way of rebuilding a shattered economy, preferring instead the so called nous of the private sector.
This despite the greatest example of a kowtow by billionaire Andrew Forrest, when he invited a spokesperson of the Chinese Communist Party to an asinine press conference about his donation of 90 tonnes of medical supplies via his Minderoo Foundation.
Never mind the fact Forrest will pocket a tidy tax right-off of this so called goodwill gesture, courtesy of an army of accountants.
And while Australian citizens of Chinese descent are beaten bloody in the streets of our cities, Senator Kristina Keneally lets loose a high-pitched dog whistle about immigration.
Sky After Dark invited pauline hanson (lower case intended) on to its various Conspiracy Corner programmes (upper case intended) to make merry with Keneally’s ill-timed and intemperate Op-ed published in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 3 2020.
Not even a smooth talking Senator Penny Wong on the ABC’s Q and A on May 4 2020 could explain away Keneally’s nationalistic clanger, which I contend, was probably not cleared by the office of the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.
Despite this the endless political coup within the LNP rolls on. The NSW Deputy Premier and National Party head kicker John Barilaro, at the behest of Barnaby Joyce, scorned the hapless Federal Leader of the Nationals Michael — Micmac — McCormack, for not backing his tilt.
And the NSW State MP for Bega Andrew Constance, famous for wasting billions of public dollars bankrolling private toll roads, imperils the Berejiklian Government by throwing his hat into the ring to contest the Federal Seat of Eden Monaro.
I’m not saying Constance cannot win Mike Kelly’s old bailiwick, but the following quote, plus endless footage of Scott Morrison’s disastrous handling of the conflagration around Eden, will haunt the Constance campaign, or doom it altogether.
“To be honest with you, the locals probably gave him [Morrison] the welcome he probably deserved. I say this to the Prime Minister today, the nation wants you to open up the cheque books, [and} obviously help people rebuild their lives.”
So with Constance pulling out do we say hello … Jim Molan?
Unless the Australian Budget remains our common wealth, a majority of Australians face the prospect of impoverished, unbalanced lives for the foreseeable future.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.
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