Lismore. Tuesday, 7.30pm
Don’t laugh. Just a few minutes ago, a car skidded its wheels all the way down Brunswick Street as far as the caravan park. Then, only a minute later, I heard a police siren. Action city.
Yep, the place is rockin’. I’ve only been living in Lismore for three hours and already I’ve eaten exotic food, heard tyres squealing and watched the Westpac chopper land.
It’s only Tuesday. Imagine what it’ll be like on Friday.
Cities (or towns that like to call themselves cities, such as Lismore) are the hallmarks of progressive humanity. A city (or polis as the ancient Greeks called it) was the cradle of western civilisation when it began in Greece more than three thousand years ago. It was the very start of our western culture. Cities are where democracy began… and where it will end.
I have lived most of my life in the bush. I was raised in a country town and I knew I’d live in the bush when I grew up. Then, when the opportunity came to buy some land in the north coast hills decades ago, I did. It was cheap. I believed the safest place to be in this ever-changing modern world is with people no-one cares about, on land that no-one wants.
Well, that’s how it used to be, but unfortunately there’s gas in them thar hills. And beef potential in the national parks. And potential shipping ports in the reef. And as every politician will tell you, such development is essential for their prosperity. Corporations are dismantling civilisation as surely as materialism has dulled the human spirit.
The ancient Greeks didn’t have political parties in their democracy. Or even representatives. You participated and represented yourself. (As long as you were a bloke, of course.) You have lots of small city states (like Lismore) rather than one huge state, or democracy doesn’t work. Local councils are the last remnants of true democracy.
Come to think of it, the Australian Constitution says nothing about parties either. Parties, like corporations, are non-human human creations that have come to dominate the way we interact with each other and our environment. They serve not the people, but themselves.
Anyway, part-depressed, part-inspired, I want to experience the humanity, the communality, the sophisticating of society that cities nurtured. I want to reconnect with the best in humanity. So I’ve parked my little caravan in a caravan park in Lismore.
Oh yeah, I’m an adventure seeker. And now, I’m a Lismore parkie.
From a tent not far from me comes the sound of one lung coughing. From a row of caravans on powered sites (my caravan is solar powered) comes the corporate rumble of televisions with the distinctive blue flicker leaking like toxic waste from behind floral curtains.
I’m sitting outside my van in a camping chair eating takeaway Thai. I have an extra chair out for company. But everyone is inside their vans, tents and cabins. A dog trots through the park. Excited, I wave at it and call it over. It doesn’t come.
A man with a big beard and a limp stumbles towards me. I prepare for contact. This is what cities are about: connection, social participation. Maybe there’s hope…
But at the last moment the man utters an obscenity, his head turns left and then his body follows it awkwardly towards the amenities block like an injured Robocop.
All is quiet except for the occasional lung-bursting hack and the constant television hum. A heavy doof beat thumps down the road. Far away, a woman screams.
The Thai is good… but the city is a lonely place.
I wish the chopper would land again.