Surfers Paradise. Saturday, 1.20pm
There are two cultures of value in Australia: the Aboriginal and the Alternative. They are of value because they recognise that the natural systems of our land and sea are fundamental for human survival. They also realise that each generation must learn this.
You won’t see much of either culture in Surfers. You can buy a key-ring boomerang, or a dot-painting stubbie holder. But you don’t see many blackfellas around here. Or hippies. The kombis have headed south because there’s nowhere to park, let alone camp, in Surfers.
Fifty years ago Surfers Paradise used to be a beach town. Now it’s… I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t paradise – unless you’re a drug dealer, pimp or cosmetic surgeon.
At street level, in the shadows of high-rise buildings that are either being constructed or pulled down, a group of teenagers roams between the metal mesh security fences that surround the construction/demolition sites. These young people, like our environment, are the keys to our future. Like the environment, they are abused, neglected and sold to the highest bidder.
The teenage boys walk in a way that is part New York gang swagger (from MTV) and part authentic Aussie drunken stumble. United by their new tattoos, championed by the chamber of commerce and safe in their number, they hoot and holler at two women on the other side of the street.
The two women seem immune to this mating display. Locals. They’re dressed in large sunglasses, heavy lipstick, spray-on jeans and high heels. This is called beachwear.
There are some tourists too. They carry shopping bags with Ugg and Hard Rock Cafe on them. They wander around, wondering if that’s all there is.
Not only the buildings, but the streets too are barricaded and fenced because of a road renovation project. This old tart of a town, once the belle of the Gold Coast ball, is constantly getting a nip here, a tuck there, desperate to stay attractive.
Cars cruise the detours, loud beats leaking from the tinted glass. A window winds down and a tattooed arm appears with a can in its hand. An inarticulate bellow punctuates the doof doof doof and the can points to three young Asian women.
Those women scuttle back into the relative safety of Starbucks from where they’d just ventured.
Schoolies week is coming. The first wave of young people ritually regressing into adulthood has already hit Surfers. Cash registers ring, brain cells die.
We offer our young so little. Get pissed. Yell at girls. Welcome to the adult world. Now… shut up and spend money.
It’s an empty culture, ours. Okay, we have the Melbourne Cup. And we honour Ned Kelly – a thief who got caught. We define our national identity by our failed attempt to invade Turkey at some other country’s request.
Maybe because we have never really connected with the land we live on, we have lost our way. Old cultures around the world know that your land creates your culture, gives meaning to your life. But we came here unwillingly, hated the land from the outset, trampled on a culture developed over millennia, and now find ourselves culturally unanchored. We live on the edge of this great land, unable to properly embrace it.
Ever the convicts, we are ruled by men with law suits and corporate ties who are willing to sacrifice all to an ideal so low it’s a bottom line; who are willing to sacrifice our future for a present that really is no gift at all.
So, drink up lads and lasses. Enjoy Surfers.
Personally, I believe two weeks in the bush with the Elders and a bit of scarification would serve you better.