Remember the TV test pattern? Back in the olden days, there wasn’t even enough TV to fill up twenty-four hours worth of programming. That, and the people who worked at the station had homes to go to, families to see, lives to lead. Likewise with Saturday trading: time was, shops would close on Saturday afternoons, and not open again until Monday morning. Trading hours were 9–5, the pubs closed at ten, and on Sundays the high street was a ghost town. There was no broadband, no Google, no mobile phones, no EFTPOS; credit cards were a luxury, and crystal meth was only available in the military. How boring, you say. Yes, perhaps, but…
Look around you: everywhere you look there’s too much too much. It’s a blear-making blur, enough to make you squint. Hell, keep eating and your cheeks will rise to the occasion on your side-bottomed behalf. There might be a world food crisis going on, but you’d be hard pressed to see it through the fog of abundance (of all kinds, not just food) in this neck of the woods. And that’s because, while the lack attacks elsewhere, Melbourne is ‘suffering’ a blear glut.
As always, if you want to see the most ‘Melbourne’ evidence of this, you need to go to our CBD laneways. That’s ‘cos Melbourne’s alleys are apparently full of culture and cool little bars. Sure, on Friday evening. Come back on Monday morning (as the fug of blear is lifting like those notes from your fat-ass Friday-night wallet) and there’s more than the vibrant world of cool bars and underground culture. There’s also the sticky residue of puke and piss, the crystal spalls of broken glass and stinking piles of waste.
What ever happened to portion control? We’ve replaced it with control briefs and expanding appetites. I freely admit I’m as guilty as anyone here, but there’s something really grotesque about Melbourne’s blear glut when people in Port au Prince, Dakar and Cairo can’t afford rice. There’s too much, too good, taken too lightly in this city. Australians have a strongly entrenched culture of ‘gettin’ yer money’s worth’, and being at the pointy end of the global shitheap means that we can usually put this mother-load where our overstuffed mouth is. Of course, we’re the ‘lucky ones’, and I think that most of us would fight tooth and nail to retain our privilege (if we could be bothered getting off the couch). But we should also remember the reap that comes with the sow: a huge part of our blear glut has been financed by paying it forward – and you can only keep borrowing from the comfort of the couch before a man comes to take it away. Live beyond your means for too long and sure enough, the repo depot will come knocking. But does it have to get that bad?
Maybe ‘The Big Problem’ is so big, so systemic, that it’s beyond anyone’s control now. When people talk about the great extinctions, they usually mention three models: the dinosaur, the house of cards, and the runaway train. Well, picture a dinosaur building said house on a speeding caboose – that’s us! Is it? Well, we can just keep on partying like it’s 1999 and find out. But for ourselves, each other and the decisions we have some influence over, I’d say that one of ‘the problems’ (our little problem, if you will) is an inability to appreciate the quality of our quantity, and to really savour the flavour. When I was in high school I would devour the latest album by my favourite artists with lust and relish. When the new Fugazi album came out, for example, I would spend an hour a day with it for days, weeks, even months, working through and savouring every single detail. I feel like maybe we could start to get rid of our glut by applying something like this to the way we eat, the way we drink, and the way we listen to music.
Maybe we can heed the implied threat of the card playing train commuting dinosaur, avoid the reaper and the repo depot, and turn this into an opportunity to enjoy less – and by doing so, to enjoy it more. Why not stay home, do the dishes, or ride your bicycle to the park and read a secondhand book? Or how about having a slow conversation with somebody you like, over tea. Turn off your mobile for a day. Have a month off downloading. Go for a long, leisurely walk. Think about it: in a country where the blear glut is also an enormous source of profit (for businesses) and tax (for governments), taking a quiet stroll is actually one of the most subversive things you can do.
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
- ▼ May (3)
- ► 2007 (53)