Lismore. Tuesday, 8.15pm
As I was filing into Lismore City Hall, holding a ticket to Bangarra Dance Theatre in one hand, a pale ale in the other, I was thinking about the innocent people killed a few days ago. In France. And Syria. And God knows where else.
I passed a sign where the tiered seating protrudes into the entrance. ‘Mind your head’ it read. Ha. My head was already bashed by the brutal irrationality of it all. But worse, my heart was heavy: Once again rulers had betrayed the people.
But now, I feel much better, tucked in a corner of the foyer, watching the intermission crowd swarm the bar.
‘Hello S,’ A voice cracks my contemplation. A face emerges from the throng.
‘Oh, hello… mate,’ I say, struggling to remember the bloke’s name. I have trouble with names.
‘What do you reckon, eh?’ he says.
‘Oh, mate,’ I say. ‘That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.’
Yes. The Bangarra dancers’ performance of Brolga had washed over me like a ripple of refreshment, a wave of graceful humanity, a tsunami of love, lifting my sinking heart.
The dance broke a dam in me that had been filling all week. A world’s worth of pain and anger burst from me – a single tear – as the brolgas entwined, human skin on human skin, to the droning of the didgeridoo and the insight of the Indigenous people. Such beauty. Humans are capable of wonderful things.
‘What?’ the bloke says. (I think his name might be Tony or Trevor – something starting with ‘T’.) ‘No, I mean the French thing. Sad, isn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ I say. (Tim? Tom?)
‘Well, the French are going hard now. Bombing the bastards. Good on them,’ he says. (Teddy?)
I smile out of politeness but cannot make myself say anything. Bombing people in the Middle East is what started this whole mess.
Tyrone or Tobias feels my awkwardness.
‘Anyway S, I’d better get a drink before the second half,’ he says. ‘Pray for Paris.’
‘Sure,’ I say, making an effort. He walks away. Not to the bar. (Todd? Tyson? Maybe Tristan…)
Pray for Paris? You have to be kidding. Besides the embarrassment of people talking #hashtag to me, I will not pray for Paris. Religion has already played a part in the death of innocents this past week – this past year, this past millenium. This is not one god against another. This is not people against people. This is ruling elites battling. And people are the collateral damage of the cycle of revenge and the business of arms dealing.
You bomb people, they will bomb you back. Obvious.
You sell bombs, they will be used. Obvious. And it’s good, legal business in a corporate world. It’s all about money these days.
As Australia sends airplanes into Syria, there will be more deaths, more refugees and increased risk to Australian people. It’s silly, and sad.
The bells tone and I walk back to my seat, minding my head.
This week I experienced the worst of what American President Eisenhower called the ‘military/industrial complex’.
Tonight, I am experiencing the best of humanity.
‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all … it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.’ – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953