Sunday, April 08, 2012

And so to a homily this easter Sunday on the intrinsic dullness of Sydney ...

(Above: just another violent factoid littering the intertubes. The link is to the wiki timeline of United States military operations).

It seems that Michael Jensen of the Sydney Anglicans is running a kind of law and order racket with his latest in the 7 Sins of Sydney 4: Brawling.

You know the kind. Crime is gunna get you, unless you turn to Jesus.

Jensen spends a lot of time i.n his piece with a Perry Keyes' song about a thugby leaguer John Sattler, and a street murder in 1929 involving the partner of his great-grandmother, and the bashing of leftie MLC Peter Baldwin back in 1980 after a tiff with the Enmore heavies (just up the road from the pond).

As a look at brawling Sydney, it all seems strangely remote, deep in the past, and historical, led off with a quote by dour protesting historian Manning Clark, and yet without a single mention of Sydney's glory days in crime in the nineteen twenties when cut-throat razor gangs were all the go, and Kate Leigh fought with Tilly Devine (and naturally they have their own wiki here). Or even - forget the bashing - the way it's possible to take out an M.P. (John Newman).

Jensen seems concerned that Sydney is a brawling city, and yes it's a city currently busy with drive-by shootings, and glassings and assorted barneys, but what's really disturbing is Jensen's taste for stereotypes and cliches:

All cities are violent, even though cities were ostensibly founded to protect us from violence. But among Australian cities, Sydney is famous for its love of a good ding-dong, a donnybrook, a barney. Cultured Melbourne is far too genteel for that kind of behaviour; sweet Adelaide even more so.

Actually, there's a fair argument that cities were founded as part of the neolithic revolution which saw a hunting and gathering lifestyle move towards agriculture, which required workers to gather in groups in villages. Gathering together in villages then presented a tasty target for violence, which led to fortifications ... and really Jensen should know better than to conflate the threat of external violence from the Romans with the internal Midsomer murders violence.

Never mind, it's the exceptionalist notion that Sydney is somehow ahead of the game when it comes to a ding-dong donny brook. Tell that to the lads at Maguires' pub in Tamworth, at least when one of the pond's relatives was managing the place. Why there'd be a brawl after five on any given day, and usually the management would be showing the way.

As for Adelaide, you can tell Jensen's never lived there. The pond remembers fondly the thrill of being only a block away from the infamous body in the freezer murder (now sad to say they've torn down the bloody house, as you can read in Body-in-freezer murder house demolished).

Now we won't go into all the usual gothic Adelaide horror stories - it so upsets sweet Adelaide readers - like the Truro murders, or throwing a university lecturer in the Torrens to drown, or the Snowtown murders, worthy of a movie (did the pond ever mention driving right past the building at the very moment the barrels with the bodies were in storage - unknowing of course, but still ...)

And as for Melbourne, where was Jensen when it came to the culturally sensitive spate of Indian bashings, or the brawls around the night clubs in King Street (take it away HUN, fill us all with fear and loathing of Melbourne's scariest places in Booze and violence make King St strip Melbourne's most feared spot - and if the myrmidon Murdochian bamboo paywall defeats you, just google the header, or here's the opening sentence to google Drunks and violence in the notorious King St strip have made it the most feared city spot for residents, shoppers and traders).

The pond once worked in King street in Melbourne, and it's been a seedy, sordid hatchery of vulgarity and violence for decades, up there with Kings Cross itself.

Truth to tell, Sydney isn't as exceptional as it fancies itself to be, and while it did have the Cronulla riots, whipped up by loathsome shock jocks - did we mention Alan Jones - it really isn't a patch on what some cities have gone through, or are going through, at least if you think of Beirut, Sarajevo, Syria's Homs, Baghdad and Kahbul (and the latter two can thank the pacifying efforts of the crusaders for their misery).

King street in Newtown - the pond's home strip - is supposed to be violent, but really it's more for shopping, though it helps if you stay out of the parks at night and the front bar of pubs at any time. Especially avoid mentioning how the Newtown Jets are second division losers. The thugby leaguers have brawn, but not much else ... and certainly not a sensa huma.

In the usual way of the Sydney Anglicans, Jensen seems determined to whip himself up into an apocalyptic frenzy of fear and loathing about the city:

What this reveals about us is how unforgiving we are. We live to eat or be eaten – perhaps our city deserved to be called ‘Darwin’ more than the town that finally bears his name. Despite Peter Fitzsimons trumpeting ‘you gotta love this city’ whenever he hears about a cute story of good sportsmanship, the reality is that this is a town that has no time for losers.

Darwin? Oh he casts a long shadow over the heart of Anglicans ... but speaking as a loser, it has to be said it's not a bad town for losers.

It turns out that if you consult the statistics, Sydney is only a fair average city for violence and crime, up against cities around the world (but by golly the Attorney General's website has a really good personalised widget for tracking local crime statistics at its website here).

Amazingly we even have an Attorney General who keeps talking about more lenient sentences, keeping people out of jail and reforming the ones inside the system, thereby sending the myrmidons of tabloid Murdoch land into a marauding frenzy (Attorney-General Greg Smith said he wants more lenient sentences).

It's only when you come to this par that you realise poor old Jensen is a bit paranoid:

The churches of this town have not always been above a bit of brawling themselves. You have to be tough to survive as a god-botherer in a town that despises wowsers so much. The Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang was himself a famously strident and uncompromising debater in his time.

Oh the woe of being a wowserish god botherer.

Still Jensen persists in bothering god and Sydney-siders, and in the usual way, the last bit of his piece is all about being a passive aggressive Christian, and offering up forgiveness, and he even throws in a quote from the book of Ephesians 4:31-32.

Hang on, hang on, the new testament? What about the old testament? Apart from providing stark evidence that the Christian god isn't above performing genocide on the entire world's population (with the exception of Noah and the team), a quick perusal of the Evil Bible provides exemplary evidence that the long absent lord loved a street rumble.

There are dozens of examples - we commend them all to you here - so let's just pick one:

Go up, my warriors, against the land of Merathaim and against the people of Pekod. Yes, march against Babylon, the land of rebels, a land that I will judge! Pursue, kill, and completely destroy them, as I have commanded you," says the LORD. "Let the battle cry be heard in the land, a shout of great destruction". (Jeremiah 50:21-22 NLT)

Now that's how to rumble. Can we use cut-throat razors oh lord?

And of course Jesus himself loved a good rumble, especially when he could get amongst the money-lenders in the temple, and show them what for (as well as offering the temple-dwellers a good tearing down of the stones and eternal desolation).

Which makes you wonder how selective Jensen could be when he writes this tosh:

Not so in the kingdom of Christ, who did not quarrel even with his accusers.

The Sydney Anglicans of course spend all their time quarrelling with women and gays, and helping create fundamentalist mischief and mayhem by acting as missionaries in Africa ... why Phillip Jensen himself routinely snubs ceremonies involving women, and has been doing it since back in 2008 (Australia appoints woman bishop).

It makes young Jensen's talk about not playing hardball seem like a most peculiar passive aggressive form of ... hardball. If that's the politics of Jesus, just biff me on the nose ...

So where have we reached? Well Sydney's not a bad town for tourists. Avoid places where English and Irish soccer fans congregate, avoid watering holes for surfers, avoid Bondi and Maroubra, avoid Manly - no suffering so far - perhaps try Palm Beach instead - and remember that thus far most drive-by shootings seem capable of hitting the side of a barn or a house, but don't seem to result in many deaths. You need to be in the company of drug-dealing bikies to get that sort of result, but really you can find as many bikies in the drug trade in quiet old Adelaide as you can in Sydney ... (did the pond ever reminisce about a time in a Port Adelaide pub when shotguns were flourished?)

The truth is, on a global scale, Sydney, for all the pressures of four and a half million people rubbing shoulders, is relatively dull, and quite unexceptional, and long may it stay that way, provided we can ignore the hysterical shrieks and ventings of shock jocks and the Murdoch press. And now, it has to be said, Michael Jensen rabbiting on about crime as if we're all about to be mugged.

We're not. It's generally a quiet town, and the intrinsic dullness of squabbling Sydney Anglicans is all you need as proof ...

(Below: click to enlarge).


  1. Dorothy, Sydney Anglicans have spent more time brawling with people who oppose discrimination, than Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh spent in battle. People like the Jensens have dedicated their lives to oppressing women and gays, so much so they have revamped an organisation called Liberty Christian Ministries Inc to maintain prejudice against GLBTI people. The organisation was founded by a Sydney Anglican, David Petersen and Peter Jensen was on the committee as stated in this article. Michael Jensen might think Sydney a dangerous city but it's far more dangerous with the likes of Sydney Anglicans likening gays and lesbians to Gollum. And they have the hide to publish books with titles like "What Some of You Were" ...but I suppose that's better than what some Sydney Anglicans are!

  2. I've chosen today's reading from the book of Genesis, chapter 32, verses 22-28. I chose it because it speaks to the question of brawling or gay ministry, I'm not sure which.

    That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

  3. Hmm interesting.
    Well for those of us that believe in the Supernatural err yeah the guy he 'wrestled' with was an angel the outcome was a nation blessed and called Israel.

    Oh and when God wanted those people driven out it was because they practiced human sacrifice amongst other fun Saturday night activities.

    And often if one doesn't kill everyone the next generation will grow up and come after you. But if you truly knew history you would know they slayed 20,000 slaves and soldiers just so the grave of Genghis Khan would remain a secret. But who wants to stick with facts when fiction is so much more fun??

    The thing about homo sexuals is it is a sin and you will go to hell read the bible folks.

    Personally if you want to write your philosophy on life and believe whatever good luck to you but I find your past times equivalent to back masking on records and trying to find it. Interesting but there are other things to do in life.
    I do believe in hell and that those not saved or are sinners will go there. I suppose you could share your beliefs then for entertainment because forever is a long time.

  4. Anglican Priest in SydneyApr 8, 2012, 1:24:00 PM

    Thanks for this, Dorothy. Well said.
    It was amusing - although predictable - to see Michael studiously fail to mention the way in which his father attained the position of Archbishop: an example of Sydney gangland viciousness which puts to shame anything which ever happened between Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. The knife stabbed in the back of the sole other candidate on the night of the final vote is still plain to see: the accepted wisdom among Sydney rectories is that Michael's father ordered it be left in situ as a warning to anyone else interested in challenging the family hegemony.

  5. That's a truly alarming set of links Calamity Jane, but the Gollum link is the real killer. What a shocker.

  6. The senior Jensens were in Adelaide back in the day, Dorothy. I clearly remember their involvement with the Festival of Light.

    As to the dead-solicitor-in-a-freezer house being demolished, why wasn't I told? The place is an architectural icon! Greenhill Road won't be the same without it.

  7. Yes David it was a crime against humanity to demolish the house. And to think the vandals are the Transcendental Meditation Movement! And once again Unley Council reveals itself to be the home of philistines. To think of all the rates the pond once paid them ...

    Here's hoping the dead solicitor returns to haunt them all.


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