Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Sunday in Sydney, so take your pick of Catholic Russophobia or Sydney Anglican fear and loathing of Sydney ...

(Above: a book published by W.H. Walker in 1877 warning of the invasion of Australia by the Ruskis. Happily Russophobia continues to this very day in Sydney, more details here and here).

It being Sunday, it's time for the pond to do its regular tour of the churches, and is it something in the air, or the water, and are things getting weirder by the week, or what?

Nothing of course can compare to the United States' current level of weirdness. First came the sight of Stephen Colbert circumcising a sausage as a way of converting all Mormons to Judaism, as a revenge attack for Mormons wanting to convert Jews to Mormonism (and you can see that in an un-geo limited clip here). And then there was John Oliver's take down of Rick Santorum on the Jon Stewart show:

Republicans aren't idiots, Jon. They know that America like its conservatism cut with plenty of baking powder because one hit of the pure stuff and you'll wake up with Eric Stoltz strangling you, having just plunged an adrenaline needle into your heart. (no link, damn you Foxtel, damn you to hell)

And to top it off Jeb Bush accused Republican presidential candidates of fear-mongering!

Up against a world where a comedy channel talks truth to crazy, the local clerics have to be losers, but it doesn't stop them from trying to be even bigger losers.

Catching up on the week-old deep thoughts of climate scientist Cardinal Pell, the pond was astonished by his piece ominously dubbed A Warning.

Did someone mention fear mongering?

It seems Australia is on the slippery slope towards becoming Russia:

Sometimes when good parents warn their children against dangers they might point to a great uncle, who was a bad alcoholic or a gambler who bet away his house. They might also point out cousins whose lives have been permanently damaged through the aftermaths of drug use; schizophrenia, depression, an inability to work.
Are there any countries, at least somewhat like Australia, who can be held up as an example of what not to do? The answer is "yes". Russia today is a disaster, a warning to us all.

It seems the Ruskis aren't fucking enough, producing children for the ponzi scheme known as the Russian Orthodox church, and people smoke and drink too much, which is somewhat like Australia.

Russian society passed a critical point where a slide towards social disarray became an avalanche. While we are light years away, we are moving steadily in the same direction in some areas.
Low marriage rates, extramarital births, increasing venereal disease, family turmoil exacerbated through alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling are not making our situation better especially among the poor, unemployed and underemployed.

Ah yes, the lumpenproletariat. Fear them, persecute them, but first make your money out of alcohol and gambling. Can we recommend the Catholic Club in Sydney's CBD, which has a handsome bar, wine list and bottle shop, and a fine array of gaming facilities?

Naturally Cardinal Pell was sympathetic to the Catholic clubs in their valiant fight against government intervention ruining poker machine revenue (Catholic club to join pokie campaign).

Did someone mention fear-mongering and hypocrisy in the very same breath?

Did someone mention hysterical exaggerated fear-mongering slippery slopes? And does climate scientist Pell have any idea of the definition of a light year? Why if he's right and we're light years away from Russia, but moving steadily in the same direction, since a light-year is the distance light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year (wiki it here), it should only take a voyage of just under 10 trillion kilometres (10×10 to the fifteenth power metres, 10 petametres or about 6 trillion miles) before Australia turns into Russia.

Set those monkeys to work typing now, so in due course we can end up with the works of Shakespeare.

What on earth is the point of stupid comparisons, except to establish the stupidity of the comparer? And the doom-saying negativity ...

Speaking of negativity, as promised Michael Jensen has delivered his first homily on the 7 Sins of Sydney, 1 being the pursuit of space.

After opening with punks Frenzal Rhomb singing Bobby Troup's song about Sydney - oh he be down wit it - Jensen establishes the tone by mourning the loss of street directories - damn you digital age - before cutting to the chase: the invasion.

Naturally Jensen calls for some water in a bowl, and does some hand-washing about the way the search for space displaced the Eora, though it could be argued that the Sydney Anglicans have to answer for their space crimes to the Gadigal people. Or do they?

We have long wrestled with these events which cast such a pall over the founding of our city, and from which we continue to benefit - particularly the Anglican Church, which received huge bequests of land that only tenuously belonged to those who gave it away. Yet it is too morally simplistic to assign blame to the Europeans for the cataclysm that occurred. There was no recognition of the possibility of a native sense of ownership of the land in the same way that Europeans thought of it. The anthropological concepts with which they might have begun to understand the relationship of the Eora peoples to the land were simply not available.

Except in New Zealand, where they signed a treaty, and except in the United States where they routinely signed dozens of treaties, and just as routinely broke them.

But it comes as a great relief to the pond, because for a moment there, we were thinking Jensen might propose that the Sydney Anglicans hand over St. Andrew's cathedral. Perhaps keep the spiritual title but hand over the physical title to Gadigal and Koori radio, and if they felt like fracking away to keep the show going, why they could frack over the cathedral. As it turns out, all Jensen offers is the usual mealy-mouthed pieties of a humbug kind, with no practical consequences whatsoever. Now that's classic Sydney ...

Yep that's prime real estate, snatched away from the Gadigal, and by golly we're not even showing all the other Sydney Anglican landholdings, and commercial investments. This is a blog, not an encyclopaedia ...

Jensen also takes a view about the hunt for a view, without seeming to understand that most people don't get a view in Sydney. He quotes David Williamson in Emerald City:

Elaine: Sydney is different. Money is more important here.
Colin: Why more so than Melbourne?
Elaine: To edge yourself closer to a view. In Melbourne all views are equally depressing, so there’s no point.

This is of course one of Williamson's cheap, slick, superficial one liners which established him as a banal writer of the first water. When I lived in Melbourne, I found the views of the Yarra from Toorak quite restful, and the views from St. Kilda (except for the screeching of the trams) quite exceptional. The notion that Melbourne is depressing and the Gold Coast invigorating is surely one of the silliest Williamson ever came up with, but he's sold the pup to Jensen. Maybe he can sell him the bridge or the Opera House next?

Then it's on to this bit of Jensenism:

But the truth is, we’ll kill for a harbour view - others, or ourselves. Looking at the harbour is the secret to the envy that makes Sydney the town it is. When it comes to views, in Sydney, size definitely matters. We'll work so hard to have it, we'll never have the time to see it.

The truth is, a lot of people wouldn't kill for a harbour view. Some even prefer the inner west. The pond has lived with fine north shore views of the harbour, but finds Newtown more to taste than dormitory suburbs like Cremorne or Kirribilli, and the madness of Military road. It's just a taste thing, no need for murder or the killing fields ...

What Jensen's harbour fetish says about the Anglican heart is quite disturbing.

And sure enough in the next bit, he quotes that great depressive Manning Clark, and that effete ponce D. H. Lawrence to do dirt on the suburbs and their dog-kennels. Let them live in humpies or squats instead ...

Yes, some suburbs are as ugly as sin, and it's all a shock and a shame once you head out Parramatta Road, but then things get quite bizarre, because Jensen thinks that somehow we should be thankful for sinful monstrosities and hideous property developers:

Unlike Americans, Sydney-siders have no ceremony of thanksgiving for the place they now inhabit. We don't tend to regard the space we inhabit as a gift.

Isn't that because Jensen's just established it's as ugly as sin away from the harbour, and if you don't have a harbour view, you're less than nothing? This is a gift? Gay kakken af en yam ...

By this point, the pond was quite befuddled. For starters, thanksgiving in the United States isn't about space or property. Originally it was about safe journey, or might be for a military victory or a drought, or a successful growing season, and these days it's about families getting together to kill turkeys. It's not about living in boxes, or being grateful for a harbour view.

Let's just say it's impossible to make any sense out of these doomsayers, whether Sydney Anglican or Catholic. There's only one hope left:

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Koori Radio is standing by, waiting for that Sydney Anglican donation from the sale of a few properties, preferably those with a harbour view ...

(Below: only in Sydney).


  1. Dorothy,
    I've given up reading Michael Jensen me nothing he says makes sense. I think you missed the best Sydney Anglican publication, written a few weeks ago.It seems Sydney Anglicans like to keep an eye from afar, on what other people are doing in their bedrooms.

  2. Not much chance of them selling the cathedral.

    Just a year ago Jensen's dad, the Archbishop, clung tenaciously to his residence 'Bishopscourt' at Darling Point despite calls to economise. Though he’d just lost $160 million of the church's money on the stock market, he refused to use the expected $24 million proceeds of a sale to cushion the effect the loss had on the good works of the church.

    Not sure what the view is like at Bishopscourt but perhaps this is what Michael Jensen means by Sydney siders being prepared to "kill for a view".

  3. Thanks for the incisive and constructive analysis.

  4. I was simply trying to say: it isn't simply a matter of blame, is it? Responsibility, yes. Sue me for trying to get to the complexity of the matter.


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