A Travelogue in the Fast Lane of the 21st Century via Sydney, Australia

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The international traveler, who may only be briefly passing through some strange new land, can tell at a single glance so much about not only the political, cultural, economic state of the world and plight of humanity in the 21st Century, but also about the state of whatever country, its people, and the myths, stories or aspirations about themselves towards which they aspire. Australia, especially Sydney, is one case in point.

One World Traveler’s Introduction to the Realities of Australia & the World

When the author Donald Horne wrote, in 1964, the line, “Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-class people who share its luck,” and made it the title of his now famous book The Lucky Country, it became an instant sensation in his native homeland. Yet besides taking Australian society to task for its then philistinism, provincialism and over-dependence upon its mother country Britain, as Horne intended, it also became the instant embodiment of how Australian’s see themselves in relationship to the rest of the world. That, and their penchant for celebrating life in exuberant ways by virtue of the fact that they share the blessed good fortune for being born “In the Land of the Fair Go,” and so are the lucky recipients of a country, that in the 1960’s, was then considered to have the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.

To draw upon an idiom from the New Testament’s parable of The Prodigal Son, the Aussie way of life became synonymous among many Australian’s and others in the world with the “Killing of the Fatted Calf.” However, in the 21st century, there are those others who now suggest that that New Testament idiom has since changed into still another idiom that this time comes from one of Aesop’s Fables that speaks of the “killing of the goose that laid the golden eggs,” because, as they would say, those golden eggs that once created “The Land of the Fair Go,” are now turning things into the “Land of the Fair Go No More!”

sydney opera house, bridge and ferry.
Ferry passing the Sydney Opera House with the Harbour bridge behind. Photo: Peter Gunneweg.

For over forty years this writer, married to an Aussie, has taken annual or semi-annual trips from Vancouver Canada to Sydney, New South Wales and its Blue Mountains to witness and experience that Lucky Country in the Land of the Fair Go Down Under. For decades it has been a matter of great pleasure, deep honour and respect to make many connections and reconnections with the Aussie landscape, its people, their rich heritage and unique modern way of life.

Since the 19th century, Australia has led the way for the world to follow in establishing a number of sound democratic and economic principles (i.e. proportional representation, mandatory voting, 40 hr. work week, equitable labour rights, a tax-free pension plan and livable minimum hourly wage) that created a model for its people that was the envy of the world. That is until recent years when the Australian people seemingly weren’t satisfied with what they already had and decided they wanted something better or different.

So the big corporate-globalization-privatization neo-con fat cats went to work against Prime Minister Julia Gillard, her Labor Party, and Green Carbon Tax on the Resource Industry and sacked the lot. Their counterparts in the TV, radio and newsprint networks (i.e. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Foxtel, The Australian, Daily Telegraph, 2UE, 2GB, to list but a few of a monstrously-large right-wing empire) also went to work with a vengeance to destroy what was once a sterling model for political and economic governance. In so doing, one of life’s chief wisdoms – embodied in the old adage, “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it!” – was violated. Ever since, they’ve tried to fix it and now Australia is “in the poo” along with the rest of the world.

A more recent journey taken between Vancouver, Canada & Sydney, Australia offered up some startling impressions of how rapidly all this is now shaking out in the development-crazed, pressure-cooker world of 2016; fraught as it is with constant, unwanted, fast-paced change and tumultuous turmoil whether that be in Australia or elsewhere. Deep-thinking human beings everywhere already can readily see that all the chaos in the world is being caused by the actions of too many neo con politicians, economists, ideologues and corporate CEO-type’s who lack any sustaining code of ethics and morality and who – no matter how they may try to rebrand, disguise or portray themselves as horses of a different colour – still blatantly are what they are and always have been: pure, unvarnished, old-fashioned fascists committing acts of fascism.

The reality of all this brought front and centre the glaring differences and challenges we each must face between constantly seeing the world through either the dulled-eyes of a tourist or dull-witted human who has eyes but never sees the truth, whose ears can hear but never listen to what these truths demand of them, or whose brains are working receptors but are never receptive to the essence of what the new input about these truths radically requires. And so, by the end of many people’s travels through life, however long or brief it may be, those who conduct themselves like tourists seldom can recognize the real state of their lives or the world’s and how both are ever-evolving for better or worse.

sydney monorail
The Monorail in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Photo: Leland Davis.

With these thoughts in mind, this one began such a journey from Vancouver’s YVR international en route once again Down Under to Sydney, New South Wales. The first eye-opener of how life really is in the fast lane of the 21st Century became reduced down to the microcosm of a passenger transit area.

These areas, in places like London’s Heathrow or L.A’s LAX commonly are over-crowded, dysfunctional, dirty, uncomfortable, impersonal places; places that don’t ever seem to know that the only singular thing in life that really matters, is how to treat human beings in civil society ways by creating humanistic spaces where humans can relate and engage together in leading humane lives. Reducing this concept down to such moments of world travel means that only one reality should ever apply: Customer Service. This expression succinctly compresses today’s complex world down to just two essentials – customers and service – that could otherwise be construed to mean the individual and society and how the two inter-relate.

That being said, at Vancouver’s YVR, in spite of its ever-mounting hordes of rushing, milling peoples, passing through its spaces, too often oblivious to their surroundings and needs of their fellow human travelers, one can immediately find in its transit areas quiet, peaceful, restful green places conducive to sociability.

Everywhere in view are: enriching native art galleries; a majestic Bill Reid First Nation jade sculpture of mythological figures, large carved cedar totems of a Shaman & Thunderbird, conversing beside a running stream as it trills over a pebbled bed, enshrouded by ferns and greenery; the stream framed at one end by a room-sized, gaily-decorated aquarium, filled with curious, unusual Pacific Northwest ocean life; living history dioramas of native-colonial-pioneering scenes animated by the sounds of wind, water, birds and animals; all of them playing on the traveler’s mind and soul, informing him or her of another, more important reality.

Before long one slows down to the point where he or she forgets they’re travelling to some other longed-for world destination, desiring only to instead linger and stay forever if only one could in such a pleasant space where art, enlightenment, beauty and tranquility reign. “Why,” asked this hesitant traveler, “must I travel to still some other distant place in the world that no doubt will reflect yet a markedly-different, perhaps even caustic image of what life really is?”

Sydney harbour bridge at night.
Sydney harbour bridge at night. Image courtesy of Troy Faulder at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But life, of course, never is static. The next eye-opener came while suddenly seated in an over-crowded 747 bound for Australia that only a few years ago would have had enough empty seats to allow the lucky traveler a more spacious experience to stretch out, sleep or chat more amicably with their fellow new-found neighbours.

These confined environments instead now are crammed to the gills with little room left over, unless one is the lucky 1%’er who can afford a First Class seat to dine, converse and freely move about while the other 99% otherwise sit stiffly immobile, seldom choosing to converse with the potential mate or simpatico sitting butted-up right against them, while isolated in their darkened, insular worlds for endless hours, transfixed in front of some Smart Phone, laptop or movie screen, never gaining whatever insights, wisdoms or comical anecdotes might be aching to be shared by the fellow humans seated ’round them at arm’s length. All the while, the whole lot hurtle onward together at 500 mph across thousands of miles in less than a day, spanning vast oceans, mountain ranges and deserts that once took travelers of other centuries months, if not years, of life’s trials and tribulations, dramas and adventures to traverse.

Where once upon a time even the airlines flight crews took the time to call to the traveler’s attention interesting historical land masses, or fascinating places of note, cloud formations and meteorological phenomena where now the only time a flight crew may actually speak is to warn passengers to “please buckle your seatbelts,” or ask, without so much as a smile, the clipped question, “Chicken or Beef…Eggs or Pancakes?,” followed by the query, “Any scraps or garbage?”

The arrival at Sydney’s Mascot International was still another eye-opener of how rapidly the world is changing. In just one year, since this writer’s last passage through Mascot’s arrival and departure transit areas, it had gone through a radical reconstruction and expansion phase that reflected a different kind of growing reality. To best describe what still only could be sensed, yet soon was about to be fully witnessed, what actually was going on – economically, politically and culturally – in Sydney as well as New South Wales and Australia at large, is to say that Sydney was about to present a startling image of a “Vancouver on Mega-Steroids, with maybe even a hefty added dose of crack-cocaine thrown in for good measure,” that the radically new airport development and presence of so many foreign nationals already gave a hint.

Suddenly, at a glance, the view of long queues of Asians and East Indians milling and thronging, pushing and shoving, served as a harbinger of even greater changes still to come. Clearly, one could see that Australia’s politicians, economists, commercial and tourist trade officials had obviously put their heads together and decided it was time to dramatically ramp up their willingness to accept however many more tourists, investors and massive numbers of those from many different and strange parts of the world, so long as their pockets bulged with money.

This observer immediately had the sense that the kind of greed and acquisition of wealth that was at once in evidence through this initial tiny peek at Sydney represented what is now happening to human beings in every city-state-country in the world. That what the similar hordes of free-floating humans everywhere else now represent is, perhaps, a far more pressing, universal crisis than, say, even Global Warming or ‘The War Against Terrorism’ because it signifies the epic passing of a multitude of traditional world cultures and an entire civilization before one’s very eyes that would seem beyond the abilities of whatever world body or leader to do anything to prevent.

A litany of thoughts vied for the mind’s attention as the hordes continued to jostle and push in front and behind, nudging us all ever slowly forward together, en mass. They were the same thoughts that had oft been pondered about the country of Canada that had just been left far behind on the other side of The Big Pond that asked, “What is the primary concern or motivation of all the politicians and business leaders that host countries like Australia, Canada and others in the West have, as host countries, by allowing into the bosom of their homelands so many immigrants, refugees, migrants and wealthy investors? Does it simply boil down to a matter of pure economics to keep the host’s own societies financially-buoyant who actually care little about how these newcomers may or may not ever fit into the traditional cultures and lives of their new hosts? Is the main concern less about the potential undesirable backgrounds of these newcomers or, perhaps, the way they were brought up to believe in things that may be fundamentally antithetical to those in the West, or the fact that they spell trouble because they might have every intention of continuing to adhere to values and beliefs that are radically opposed to those held by their new host country? How much real concern is there that the values and beliefs of these newcomers might be forever hostilely-opposed, and so forever setback the host nation’s resolve to address such pressing societal issues as: equality for women, LGBT rights, abortion or assisted euthanasia? Or that they might instead even vociferously advocate for the right to routinely abort a female fetus in preference to a male fetus? Or, then again, they may intend to resolve whatever future personal, social, cultural, business disputes arise by extra-judicial, even violent, means outside of the established, legal practices of their new hosts? How concerned will they be about protecting the trees, natural world and existing character of the communities where they settle? In the end, is the bottom-line concern of most politicians and businessmen in these Western host countries simply how well-heeled, or even filthy-rich, these newcomers may be who will, perhaps, grease their palms? A host of still other questions vied for attention. Are the majority of the citizenry in whatever Western host country in favor of what all is being thrust in their midst or is it basically against their will and better judgment? What real weight has their dissent been given to the massive displacements and resettlements of so much humanity throughout the world? What fundamentally is being done to curb the displacement of so many that is perpetually being created by the world’s merchants of death who remain stoically-indifferent as they continue to amass handsome profits from all the world violence and chaos? Even more importantly what is being done to squarely address the world’s never-ending population explosion that no collective body or leader ever seems capable or willing to address? Could this be why the massive rates of suicide, depression and addictions of all kinds continue to skyrocket throughout the world, especially amongst the youth, aboriginal peoples and women, as the grim reality of what the future of the world holds, continues to seep into collective conscious thought?”

The last big question asked, “Is there some master plan afoot, in either the human or cosmic realm, that intends the human race to become reduced down to some mass, universal mono-culture or borderless, nation-less existence for some higher more evolved purpose, or is it simply the regression of the human species into something meaner and more dismal?”

qantas flight sydney airport.
Qantas flight at Sydney’s Mascot airport. Photo: Tony

The only answers that ever seem to come from world leaders about such posed questions end up being a declarative “NO, YES or NONE!” But these are the very same questions that, in another time and another place, would have been asked by whatever traditional Old World council of European, Aboriginal, First Nation elders about some group of strangers from a strange land who were asking for admittance into their homes, communities and way of life.

Before boarding the Air Canada 747 flight at Canada’s YVR, this one happened to read in a local newspaper one such pithy answer to all these questions that typifies the 21st philosophy of today’s movers and shakers everywhere in the world. A young, arrogant, neocon developer from Asia, whose father had created, by criminal-illicit means, billions from the insensitive redevelopment of whole cities everywhere in the world, and who had just taken over the reins of his ruthless father’s empire, glibly declared, “The Old World and its way of life is over! It’s a thing of the past! Everyone is going to have to get over it and accept things the way they now are. Besides, the world is still a big empty place with a lot more room for a lot more people and a lot more development.” This same argument was soon about to be heard coming from every sector of Australia’ corporate, business political leaders.

Proponents of this flawed Empty Country argument, in countries like Canada, Australia and others in the West, commonly use it as a rationale for the vast forced changes to life they now forcibly foster. But in Canada, as in Australia, it’s a misnomer because in both countries the majority of their populace is crowded into their peripheries due to the basically inhospitable, uninhabitable climates of their interiors to ever naturally attract and perpetually sustain endless numbers of newcomers; coupled by the lack of infrastructure, employment, housing and services to support endless increases in new demographics.

The only answers the politicos ever know to give are those of perpetual growth. Hence the increasing numbers end up unacceptably evermore packed together along their increasingly-less inhabitable edges. Which leads one to the only conclusion that it must mean all the world’s neo-con politicians, economists, corporate CEO’s, real estate moguls and their syndicates are nothing more than traitors and betrayers of their peoples way of life and the sacred trust given to each of them by their native cultures and the birthright of their homelands. Such officials instead prepared to endlessly flood the lives of their constituents and clients with all those who they know, full well, will utterly corrupt, displace, and forever radically transform the future and that of their homeland for no reason other than their own self-gratification and aggrandizement.

As this one continued to shuffle forward in Mascot airport’s passport control line, these ruminations begged yet one last question, “Who or what is running the future of this crazed world? Is it We, the little people, ourselves … the dirty monies of crooks and scoundrels … the threatened dirty bombs of terrorists … base human greed or some evil cosmic force?”

Modern-Day Australia as Seen Up Close in the Fast Lane

With the first steps taken on Australian soil, it wasn’t long before a Sydney Morning Herald was picked up at a local news agency, and an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news segment was caught on ‘telly’ that began to further inform this reader about all such questions. The local radio, television and print media filled with one scandal after another of corporate, political economic corruption, crime and betrayal of the peoples trust.

For starts, one newsprint column sought to point out that since 2011, Fairfax Media, who owns the Sydney Morning Herald, among other metro and national newspapers, cut almost 800 jobs from its editorial staff all across Australia. Hence, 1-in-5 of every newsroom staff, like everywhere else in the world, has been fired by the higher-ups who continue to reduce the numbers (the count 9000 in 2015) of investigative journalism stories that superb, award-winning reporters continue to struggle to uncover every day.

Yet the muckety-mucks, hoity-toitys and ideologues, like everywhere else in the world, strive to restrict the brilliance of so many investigative pieces reaching the public’s attention. During the some two months that this writer was present, Fairfax Media savagely fired some additional 80 reporters more from their metro-regional-community empire to the point that the long term plan is to reduce the much-acclaimed Sydney Morning Herald – known for its always independent, fearless journalism – to an online newspaper (Monday to Friday), with only a weekend version available in print.

Thus much of the work being done to expose and reveal the extent of the dirty monies that the scoundrels daily pour into places like Australia, from all points on the compass to be laundered or parked as a safe haven – thereby causing so much irreparable cancerous corruption, unbridled residential, commercial, corporate redevelopment despite fierce, furious citizenry protests – continues unabated. In the process, traditional Australian culture, the natural world and environment grievously suffer. Thus, with fewer and fewer news sources available, other than Rupert Murdoch-type right-wing rags, a gradual propagandized, dumb-down of the populace is assured in the future as it is everywhere else in the world, which, of course, is the intended plan by the world’s .0001% rulers.

One glaring fact of so much raging corruption and development is that some experts now say that 10% of all construction cranes in the world now are to be found mainly in Australia’s major metro-urban areas, second only to those found in Dubai. 97% of these cranes now said to be in Sydney’s metro political region itself. A real feeding frenzy obviously is going on.

Once this observer found himself standing in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, it required only a 360 degree glance around the skyline to realize why it is touted to be “The Construction King” of the world where more cranes can be seen than even in places like New York or Los Angeles.

It only took a short ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay on the Parramatta Cat up the Parramatta River to NSW’s Olympic Village to see where only a few years ago one could take a peaceful journey along bush and mangrove swamps where now everywhere popping up are still more construction cranes, wrecking balls and already completed, or in the act of being completed, monster luxury homes. Or then, say, take a train trip from Sydney’s Central Station in any direction to whatever distant NSW destination and take notice along the way, on both sides of the train tracks, of the every-burgeoning numbers of high-rise, high-density developments where not long ago once beautiful, stylish Victorian or Federation-style homes once were everywhere more prominent. One-time rural villages like Campbelltown and nearby Camden, that once were isolated in NSW’s former, world-famous sheep country, now are evermore sprawling masses of monster box subdivisions, built close enough to one another to enable one, if they had a mind to do so, to jump from roof to roof for veritable blocks at a stretch.

In the recent past, much to the chagrin of many, alarm bells immediately were set off following the elections of Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the NSW Premier Mike Baird when they both proudly declared to the world, with great fanfare and beaming faces, “WE ARE NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS!” Since those elections it has become amply clear to many what they both really meant. Sydney and other major metropolitan centres in NSW and Australia certainly being places now where the corporations and developers have been given the green light to ‘GO FOR IT!” Yet there are those others who wouldn’t put it quite so sanguinely. Rather than Sydney, NSW & Australia itself being “On the Go” they would otherwise contend, using old Aussie lingo, that they’ve instead Dropped Their Bundle!

One case in point, that underscored this in the news media, is the ever-escalating debate about the by now infamous, if not notorious, Barangaroo Tower project, a 70 storey, and still-counting up to 90, mega-monster-storied casino-hotel-development, located on the opposite side of the Harbour Bridge from the Opera House; located along a stretch of wharf area that once was called “The Hungry Mile,” by dock workers looking for temporary work during the Depression, that now is mockingly referred to by its detractors as “The Greedy Mile.”

The Barangaroo Towers project, a brain-child of the Australian development mogul Jamie Packard and his $1 billion dollar Crown Limited casino group, with connections to Macau’s gambling syndicate, has so far mightily pitted past and present mayors of Sydney against one another, and caused former Prime Minister’s and prominent architects to have a heated go at one another, slandering and maligning each other along the way. Critics of the project continue to refer to Barangaroo as a quintessential Sydney property story of ruthless corporate greed and corruption. Some, like its original architect Phillip Thalis, go so far as to even call it an archetypal story of modern Australia and a demonstration of everything that is wrong in contemporary Australia.

It’s said that once the Barangaroo Tower is finally completed it will have a residential penthouse apartment that, potentially, is said will be worth $100 million, with the hotel rooms in its tower costing upwards of $40,000 a night for high-rollers. This amply suggests for whom it is being built and the actual clientele that will be attracted through its doors. Once the project is completed, those like Mariah Carey, Jamie Packard’s new wife, no doubt will find much to the liking of world-class performers like herself to grace its glitzy entertainment-gambling-casino complex, irrespective of how much this project may destroy the classic character of Sydney’s inner harbour and Sydneysiders former way of life.

The original Barangaroo, after whom the high-rise complex has been named, historically, was the wife of Bennelong, the original aboriginal cohort of the First Fleet’s Governor Arthur Phillip, who once lived on Bennelong Point where now stands Sydney’s Opera House. Barangaroo and Bennelong no doubt are turning in their graves as they continue to listen to what all is being said and done in their names as more and more profit and privatization interests continue to be placed ahead of the public good by this assault upon the commonwealth of the citizenry on lands that once were the ancient homelands of the Cadigal aboriginal peoples.

Another classic archetypal story currently underway, this time of ruthless modern Australian government in action, is the despicable way another project – The West Connex Motorway Toll Road – is being pushed forward by the NSW’s Liberal government and its Premier Mike Baird. This project the largest integrated transport and revitalization project in Australia that is designed to form a continuous, free-flowing motorway from Sydney’s outer western communities to its inner-city suburbs and commercial business districts (CBD’s).

This is literally and figuratively ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ for the Sydney/NSW populace, as three planned stages are intended to methodically march through – with roads, tunnels and rail – some 40 kilometers of densely-populated inner-city West suburbs, smashing-demolishing-devastating their way through untold citizens lives, irrespective of how much rage, despair or bewilderment they may cause or personal and cultural losses of whatever historic architectural heritage, archaeological sites, fine inner-city commercial streetscapes or ill-will that has sparked many ferocious protests by dozens of opposing city councils, environmental groups and tens of thousands of distraught citizenry; the NSW Liberal government and Premier Mike Baird otherwise dismissing them as the Hoi polloi while they act more like a modern-day Aussie version of an American Civil War Union Army and its General Phil Sheridan as they attempt to do their own Down Under scorched-earth policy and “March through Georgia to the Sea!”

This hard-nosed, heartless NSW Liberal Government and its Premier unilaterally have chosen to create, at the same time, “Fit For the Future” legislation for almost half of the state’s duly-elected councils, declaring that too many councils “Are Not Fit for the Future,” and any resistance therefore is futile and so the only choice given is either Amalgamate or be Exterminate. In other words, My Way Or the Highway!

The NSW state government unilaterally amalgamating elected city councils into ever-bigger entities against their will and despite numerous “Save Our Councils NSW” petitions that are everywhere springing up like mushrooms, while, without any discussion, mayors and councils continue to receive letters of severance directing them to reapply for their former elected positions, sign ‘loyalty oaths’ and give cause why a single administrator shouldn’t be appointed in their stead; somewhat like what the neo-cons in the U.S. government have done to depose mayors and councils of bankrupt towns and cities, installing in their place an administrator to run their local governments and sell off whatever public assets to private interests. As a consequence, Sydney’s news is full of “Save Our Council” coalitions, fed up by such high-handedness, who are emerging between citizens of all political persuasions and parties, from the Christian Democrats, Labor, the Shooters & Fishers Party, Farmer’s Party to those of the Green Party.

The same merciless NSW Liberal government continues its scourge and purge, like some kind of Al Capone-type gangsters providing muscle for the rich and powerful, as they cozy up to billionaire developer interests from all over the world – many of them offshore from Asia – who eagerly use their 100’s of millions of dollars with impunity to corrupt or unduly influence whatever, wherever and whomever; applying every day to local, state and federal governments and their planning departments, who provide little resistance for permission to continue to knockdown more and more historic, architecturally-significant homes and commercial structures all over Sydney’s inner harbour and build ever more glitzy, expensive and expansive construction for the 1%’ers.

Asia’s governments and tourist industry, as well, continue to expand and make inroads into the Australian-New Zealand market. In 2015, more than one million Chinese visited Australia and splurged some $4.7 billion dollars. In 2016-2017, China anticipates some 24 million additional tourists will travel beyond its borders with a total projected outbound travel in the future of upwards of some 139 million. The demand is growing so fast that the Royal Caribbean Line has commissioned the Meyer Werf Shipyards in Papenburg Germany to produce a fleet of Quantum-size cruise ships that each will have some 16 decks to accommodate upwards of 6,500 passenger and crew members. Ovation of The Sea, the third in this proposed fleet, is due to be launched in mid 2016 with the fourth to be built in 2019 and a fifth in 2020. Tourists and investors are now China’s hottest export and, as Australia continues to gleefully welcome them with open arms, “There Goes the Neighbourhood!,” as the saying goes. But one can circumnavigate the globe and hear this same grim mantra being everywhere chanted.

The simple reality is that Chinese tourism and investors are keeping afloat Sydney’s economy. Like the economies of so many other Western countries, Canada being one, this may be an advantage in the short term but in the long term may also be counter-productive to protecting that country’s cultural heritage and quality of life.

Large portions of China’s offshore investment monies have oft been noted in the news to be clearly coming from dirty or illegal sources invested offshore by many of those who once were either integral parties to, or offspring’s of, Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution, and so have a vastly different ideological-philosophical world view, understanding and comprehension of what culture and the future of the world means when compared to Westerners. Such investment monies thus may end up ultimately creating as much as they destroy in whatever host countries as they continue, virtually unchallenged, to sow the seeds of destruction to whatever host country’s distinctive culture and civilization.

One could look at it as a slow form of cultural, societal and environmental genocide; a veritable invasion as real as any boots-on-the-ground military invasion that is radically transforming the world. Not only is such tourism exploding Australia’s entire infrastructure (road-train-ferry-bus systems and airport-shipping-docking facilities) but in places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Canada’s Arctic is contributing to a degraded natural world and environment that now is being characterized as Extinction Tourism.

However, one must always keep in mind that it always “Takes Two to Tango,” and “There can’t ever be a buyer without a seller.” So it’s not just the fault of however millions of ex-communists or some neo-con, nouveau riche immigrant Persian, East Indian, Middle Eastern group; because far too many in the West are always ready and willing to sell-out to the highest bidder, irrespective of whether the next buyer will protect and preserve for posterity their own tiny part of the world, eagerly prepared to instead volunteer for self-destruction themselves, their children and their children’s children legacy and heritage of the future.

For years, Australia has been its own worst enemy since the early days of films like Crocodile Dundee, when the country decided to throw open wide its doors to aggressively promote its Fair Brown Lands to the world. As a result of this cancerous-like cultural malaise, the Chinese Diaspora that has since followed has required, in turn, the need to create not only ever bigger cruise ships, but also has now spurred the need to relieve Mascot’s over-taxed airport by creating yet a second major airport that is being planned for the outskirts of Sydney to be accommodated by a proposed extremely-costly high-speed train system that will link Sydney’s outer western communities with Sydney’s inner west.

The rippling effect of all this throughout NSW is similar to what happened in North America in the 19th century as railroads hostilely pushed through the territories of aboriginal peoples while developers and land speculators in the know bought up everything for a pittance along the routes of the tracks and made a killing. In the case of New South Wales, already once formerly small isolated country towns are mushrooming in leaps and bound in anticipation of the impending population explosion and economic boom. In just one year, Sydney’s Mascot airport already has morphed into an insane, traveler-unfriendly complex of fewer cafes, hopelessly-long queues for bathrooms, a labyrinthine high-tech passport control area where passengers are being herded more like sheep or automatons than humans through evermore sprawling, glitzy Duty-Free shops that now feels more like London’s Heathrow or L.A’s LAX. All this begs recalling the wisdom contained in two pithy wisdoms that apply to any human endeavor across the board of human life which is that Organization is Always the Death of the Idea and Bigger Is Not Always Better.

Unlike years in the past, what was oft commonly overheard this time around in conversations between Aussie commuters on buses, street corners, train stations, cafes and other public places were topics that centered upon such pressing issues as: why ever more of the citizenry are being forced to live and commute from longer distances away from Sydney proper; the same conversations that have oft been heard said while traveling in the 21st century’s fast lane to so many other impacted urban places in the world. Namely, conversations about such universal issues as: the ever-spiraling rise of land values; escalating house prices; rising cost of living; out-of-control, grid-lock traffic congestion; marked increase of knockdowns of traditional housing stock; the elimination of mature, native growth trees and natural landscapes; escalating commercial-business rentals and leases by new absentee offshore owners; crime-ridden neighbourhood streets caused by escalating ethnic gang violence; the shifting values, composition of schools, and curriculum away from the host countries traditional culture; lower quality of educational programmes attributed, rightly or wrongly, to the ever larger needs and preferential treatment given to immigrant-migrant-refugee populations.

Dominating these conversations, as well, is the need to engage in a constant search for smaller, less-impacted, outlying communities where life is slower, traditional Aussie values and culture still prominent, and local community theatre’s still feature wholesome family movies and cartoon with such titles as: “Dot & the Kangaroo,” “The Magic Pudding” and “The Adventures of Blinkey Bill”; or where tradesmen still can be found in abundant supply, who still possess the same age-old work ethic to do a solid days work for a fair wage, where Aussie lingo still is mutually understood and used. Also gleaned in these conversations were the undertones of rage about how once mutually-honoured cultural practices are fast going by the boards, with examples cited of: ‘newcomer’ pedestrians who commonly use foul language in the presence of women and children; pedestrians who commonly expectorate on the street, rudely emit flatulence in crowded public spaces; commuters who push past one another to board a bus or train and jump the queue with an “every man and woman for themselves” attitude, or, say: walk on all sides of the street rather than always stay to the left side like Aussie motorists do in order to make walking a more relaxed, pleasurable, less stressful experience rather than constantly have to play “Dodgem at Luna Park”; or even have to face the discomfort of change jars that pop up more and more in restaurants and cafes with the label “TIPS HERE!,” when local natives know, full-well, that tips aren’t ever necessary because employees already receive an adequate living wage and generous benefit package, unlike many countries who woefully underpay their employees with no added benefits, whatsoever. One verbal game commonly overheard being played amongst traditional Aussies is what they call “Spot the Aussie!” to see if one can spot the real native amongst the hordes of so many new offshore nationals.

Time to Return to the Other Side of the Big Pond From Whence This One Came

Finally, after some two months of tramping around Sydney, the Blue Mountains and outback places of NSW the time had come to once more depart and return to a much beloved, sacred domicile in Canada. As if to serve as an exclamation point to all the craziness of what had been witnessed, the taxi ride to Mascot, that took an hour longer than it should have, proved to be a harrowing one as the taxi darted in and out along an impacted M4-M5 Motorway, skirting main streets and dashing back and forth through side streets to unsuccessfully try to avoid chock-a-block roadways filled with stressed-out motorists.

When the taxi finally stopped at Departures the scene was one of yet more chaos of disparate milling throngs, in various degrees of panic, as they sought to get to wherever they were going after they’d finished scrambling about to come up with the unanticipated extra brass coinage, charged by Mascot’s evermore greedy privatized enterprise, to pay the $4 dollars for a luggage trolley that formerly only cost $2 dollars when other publically-owned airports, like Vancouver’s YVR, still provide them gratis. The next tension was trying to locate on a massive flight indicator the sole Air Canada flight among the multitude of airlines, with exotic names, that were departing to more points on the earth than had ever been noted before.

The next obstacle to overcome in this harrowing experience of international travel was how to negotiate past the long lines of crowded check-in counters that ran from A to Z the length of a veritable football field. Since the Air Canada flight was at Counter A, and the taxi had stopped in front of Counter N it meant playing again the “Dodgem” game as the trolley twisted and turned its way to the far end of the football field through the hordes of other humans playing their own mutually-antagonistic-version of the “Dodgem” game themselves.

The harsh reality soon realized was that once there the next scene was one of a series of still more exceeding long lines with no shops, cafes or places of comfort anywhere in sight where one could take a deep breath and linger for a time with relatives and friends before having to say adieu and disappear down the “Passenger Only” rabbit hole before facing yet another daunting labyrinth of still more human chaos that led through a sci-fi like high-tech passport control point and hermetically-sealed, Buck Rogers-type, X-Ray chamber that no doubt irradiated everything while it inspected every aspect of one’s private parts before finally being spit out into another monstrously large, brightly-lit, Duty-Free zone full of the same Gucci-Pucci sundries, perfumes and cosmetics universally found at every international airport; followed by an equally-bizarre, Alice-in-Wonderland wander down arduously-long, concourses towards a departing gate that turned out to be devoid of any points of interest or respite other than uncomfortable hard plastic chairs and a few pathetic unhealthy candy and pop dispensing machines to await the anticipated joy of taking yet another grueling 16-hour flight back across The Big Pond to North America.

The final insult to injury to this microcosm of world travel was the indignity of suddenly realizing that there was only one single bathroom for each gender to be shared between some five other departure gates, which meant standing in another very long line of other anxious people while trying to hold back a major bowel movement that had been struggling to get out and already had been held onto for far-too long before even the taxi ride. The thought an exceedingly unpleasant one that if the flight began to board before the line ended the agonizing wait for relief would be that much longer.

Expected Epiphany Offered in Fast Lane of International Travel

Standing in line, quietly shifting from one foot to another, using every known power of concentration to try to maintain some semblance of dignified composure to prevent some horrible accident of nature from blurting out, there suddenly flashed into mind the images of yet another more serious, evil kind of human carnage. This time it was what had just been witnessed in the film “Son of Saul” at one of Sydney’s ‘DENDY’ cinemas the day before.

The film viscerally documented the heinous carnage of WWII that normal, average German human beings once ruthlessly did to other humans, and suggested what, say, still others – such as Americans, Israeli or whomever in some future WWIII – are always capable of ruthlessly waging against still others less fortunate than themselves. What followed were some of the things that the Austrian psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl once had written in his book, “The Meaning of Life.” Frankel spoke about what were some of the most important principles he learned to hold onto while enduring and surviving the Holocaust that can apply to any other horrific experience in life that one is ever forced to endure, whether it be a Nazi death camp, terminal cancer, mounting pressures of 21st century life everywhere or something as minor as a interminably-long, annoy some Sydney Mascot toilet line.

Recalled was a passage in “The Meaning of Life” that stated that each of us must invariably decide – every second of every day of our lives – to either choose to allow despair or joy – bitterness or forgiveness – to become the dominant emotion in our lives. That there’s really never any reason to get one’s “knickers-in-a-knot,” as the old saying goes, because whatever the crass, uncivilized, barbarous times of the 21st Century may bring they aren’t really any different than those of other previous centuries when some other conqueror, invader or pack of scoundrels held sway.

Ultimately, one can only do what one can do and then must let the rest go. The brutality of Australia’s early colonial culture and social history – especially the foibles, follies and corruptions of so many of its early dodgy businessmen, entrepreneur crooks or power-crazed megalomaniacs in those rough-and-tumble days of ye olde Sydney Cove in 1816 – one-in-the-same as all those shady figures and dramas to be recounted in 2016. The super rich 200 hundred years ago cared as little for the poor and starving masses who were either hung or transported to Botany Bay as do the super rich two centuries later in 2016 towards those less fortunate than themselves. Yesteryear’s Laclan Macquarie’s, John Macarthur’s. Captain William Bligh’s, Rev. Samuel “Fire & Brimstone” Marsden’s and racketeering entrepreneurs in the old notorious Rum Corp no different than the rich and ruthless 1%’ers in 2016, be they the Malcolm Turnbull’s, Paul Keating’s, Mike Baird’s, proselytizing “Fire & Brimstone” Tony Abbott’s or boondoggles like the Barangaroo Crown Limited or West Connex Motorway projects. This simple, yet sad, harrowing travelogue could have just as easily been told and retold, ten thousand times over, for centuries by aboriginal peoples throughout the world.

The ultimate lesson behind all this is that the visitor who travels to any strange, new land must be a serious observer of what part they play in life’s great drama and are prepared to go beyond becoming just another transient tourist, flitting through the landscape and lives of the local human and non-human natives like some indifferent passing butterfly, always prepared to leave them all behind to whatever their own fate and devices; just another transient dweller of whatever place, always ready to sellout their own tiny piece of heritage and sacred place on the earth to the highest bidder. The sad fact of the matter is that there just aren’t ever enough Beatrix Potter’s and Sabastiao Salgado’s who are so committed and willing to give their all to protect what few patches of sacred earth they can.

Moving From the Fast Lane to a Slower Fast Lane

When the Air Canada flight finally touched down at YVR, all the disembarking passengers had to slowly pass by another meditative living history diorama of a B.C. interior pioneer scene that depicted an old homestead with a barn, a horse in a corral, a chicken in the yard and the audible sound of a lone raven croaking somewhere in the backdrop of a snowy alpine tundra setting. One could immediately feel a cold refreshing chill in the air that always is so inviting upon returning to British Columbia. Next came a diorama of an old First Nation cedar-carved canoe, beached on a lonely stretch of sandy shore along a pristine river, followed by two 20 foot carved cedar totems of chiefs with their outstretched arms extended in a traditional expression of welcome to the weary traveler, followed by the refreshing, cleansing sound of running water coming from two waterfalls that gurgled, “Welcome Home!”

Passing by these uplifting scenes caused the mind to ponder how always relative anything ever is when compared to another. All of Vancouver and the North Shore’s: corrupt developers and politicians; the excessive high-density, high-rise developments allowed by intentionally-omitted regulations to curb dishonest, predatory real estate agents and builders from destroying local communities and eliminating so many magnificent stands of mature trees and natural landscapes; or Its ever-rising, uncontrolled hordes of immigrant investors who, when compared to what had just been witnessed in Sydney, didn’t seem half as bad and still has a long way to go before it all can be called “butt-ugly bad.”

 

Jerome Irwin is a Canadian author, who wrote The Wild Gentle Ones: A Turtle Island Odyssey. He once lived with the Crow Creek Sioux along the old Fort Thompson stretch of the Missouri River.