Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Wowser

On Good Friday the ABC newsroom, clearly scraping about for stuff to fill its half hour – well, ten minutes, once you’ve factored in Thai kick boxing (and was that spectacle really suitable for Easter [or any day]?) and various forms of footie – came up with shots of shut shops (alliteration going into top gear there) and deserted mall forecourts.

The voiceover explained that Good Friday is one of the few days of the year when most avenues of consumerism are out of bounds. As a result many Australians feel lost and despondent and don’t know what to do with themselves. The camera then tracked to a shabby individual who I think was a professor of something or other (he clutched a bunch of stationery [notepad, some kind of writing implement, possibly a leather document case], which I took as evidence of his academic credentials.) He was on a deserted city street, surrounded by closed department stores. His expression was both disapproving and mournful (and who wouldn’t be mournful, on an academic's salary?) Without much prompting, he began to air his views.

A large proportion of the population was, he assured us, slumped at home, unable to cope with the 24-hour interruption to their drip feed of constant consumerism. Deprived of their one leisure activity – buying things - a vast number of our fellow citizens felt utterly lost. The only thing we could be certain of, he said, was that most of them (not us of course, we are ABC viewers and therefore superior) would be spending the day ‘hunched in the company of Mr Google’. He delivered his message with the solemnity of one announcing the death of the monarch.

What was the ABC thinking of? The picture this man painted of a nation whose normal day is spent oscillating between a flickering screen and the merry ring of the cash register has no basis in fact. No evidence was offered to back up the fellow’s depressing claims. This item was not news, as I understand it. It was a piece of doom and gloom killjoy moralising, a party political broadcast for the nostalgia party – main policy platform, ‘More sing-songs round the piano and making your own fun with empty jam jars and pieces of broken shoelace’ – who love nothing more than painting a picture of the western world hurtling rapidly towards the proverbial dogs.

Where I live people were gardening, walking their dogs (which involved hurtling rapidly behind some of the more unruly but no hurtling towards), washing their cars, washing their dogs (pre- and post- hurtling) and, above all, engaging in heroic battles with their misbehaving Barracudas (see Technology and Magic and Technology and Magic Update).

The suburb did not echo with howls of withdrawal from desperate shopaholics; there were no zombie figures staggering out after long slabs of time slumped before their computers to check whether the shops were open again. Not for the first time, the media was peddling an untrue but depressing vision of a world where we have lost all humanity as well as our moral compass, having plunged ourselves into a depraved frolic through the sticky web of capitalism – a heap of upsetting nonsense.

I could go on, but I have to run: someone’s just told me the shops have reopened, so I’m heading off down the mall. I shall spend the rest of the day there, drifting aimlessly through its air-conditioned corridors, my mouth hanging open, my eyes glazed, uttering little high-pitched grunts of pleasure as my pin fingers pick out their jolly little dance over and over again.


  1. I also love how the media are implicitly excluded from their critique. You see, it's all just that lot, out there.

  2. The ones trailing their knuckles along the ground.