Friday, February 24, 2006

Long but short

You know that feeling you get when you realise a certain number of years have passed by and you think "gee, it doesn't feel like that long". Then you sit back and reflect on all the things that have changed in that time and if you're anything like me, you start to get a feeling of unease that time can pass so quickly, so quietly and so easily by.

Soon, you will see a lot of fuss in the papers about the tenth anniversary of Howard's 1996 election victory. People seem to like nice, round numbers. I also suspect newspaper editors know that readers love nostalgia and that many column inches can be filled with pictures of John Howard's eyebrows 'over the years'.

Ten years sounds like a long time, and it bloody well is. In politics, that's a helluva lot of parliamentary sitting periods in which to force through horrible legislative agendas. Its also a helluva long time to completely neglect and ignore pressing social problems and to run down vital infrastructure.

It allows one to perfect the art of blame-dodging, diversion politics and agenda-setting. And if you do it over ten years, you can slowly but surely erode principles of accountability and responsibility without anyone really noticing. You can slowly and subtly change the way people think about each other and their place in the world, until all one cares about is oneself and how much one owns.

The way we're going at the moment with priorities in this country, I reckon the Government could propose a scheme whereby tax-payers could forgo a millimeter of skin every year in lieu of an interest rate rise and we'd all be stripped down to our organs before anyone bloody noticed.

Its the three 'P's - don't touch my property, plasma screen or private school fees and you can do whatever you want, Johnny boy.

Oh, and 'petrol', of course.

But this 'ten year anniversary' will also mark a ten year anniversary of my own. In a week or so, it will be ten years since the most liberating and thrilling night of my short life at that time. Ten years ago I attended my very first mardi gras parade.

I may have spent 6 hours teetering on the edge of a stolen milk crate, dripping with Sydney's late-summer humidity, pushed and bullied by a bunch of completely trashed american muscle-marys, but I don't think any number of cliches will adequately describe just how fucking fantastic I felt that night.

And pretty much ten years to the day later, I'll be in the parade for the first time. And this is where I stop to think 'crap! time passes so quickly and easily'.

A lot has changed for the mardi gras since then. Back then, it was still telecast on ABC television and it seemed like there would never be too many floats or too many marching/dancing groups and club anthems.

The party was bigger and bigger and more frikkin' expensive each year and back then, the papers' favourite stories were about the mighty pink dollar and how delightfully fashionable (read: unthreatening) 'lipstick lesbians' could be (I still hate that phrase).

Of course, now we have 'new' mardi gras, corporately sponsoring itself into absurdity and each year brings less and less media attention, with ABC telecasts one of the first casualties of the Howard/coalition-backbench crusade on the ABC.

The papers now churn out ever-predictable stories asking whether mardi gras is relevant, and the financial troubles of the group (and others like it, such as the Satellite group) are of more interest to the mainstream press than recent rises in homophobic violence.

Nostalgia is nostalgia is nostalgia, but for what its worth, I'd never go back to ten years ago. I may have felt liberated and excited back then at a kind of freedom I hadn't previoulsy known. But I have that everyday of my life now, and the enduring and life-affirming contentment that this brings will always be more valuable than the spontaneous release, no matter how joyful, of years of repression and compromise.

But, ten years ago, at the end of that fucking marvelous night on Flinders Street (that's the best viewpoint, don't you know - and an easy walk through to the Beresford) a man walked through the crowd, hailing into a megaphone, the surprise victory of John Howard's coalition party. No one believed it then, and I can barely believe he's still here.

Maybe at the end of next week's parade, some similar turn of fate will arise. Yes, it is no doubt foolish to place hope in the life-altering potential of a decimally measured anniversary, but as far as the political and social direction of this country is concerned, I happy to hang on to whatever shreds of hope I can find.

Happy mardi gras.


Georg said...

I was a mardi gras marshall the year Howard won. It was shattering. We were all on a high after the parade, and being so close to it as a marshall, when someone told us all that Howard had won. No one could believe it. None of us then realised how long it would last, that that let-down feeling would go on for the next ten years, at least.

Georg said...

Oh, and great post!

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes, it is a great post!

Among other things it has made me realise that nobody aged 28 or younger has ever voted in a federal election that Howard didn't win. I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like -- to people of *ahem* my age, it still feels more like a very, very long blip than like any kind of actual norm.