MODERN DRINKERS RECOGNISE RUM as a spirit distilled from sugarcane (more often specifically, molasses). These days, unlike those of Australia’s original penal settlement, you can’t drink it in jail. Eddie Obeid, formerly New South Wales Minister, formerly member of the Legislative Council, formerly OAM, will have none for a period of at least three years, and up to five. That’s not likely to concern Eddie, who is reportedly not a big drinker, or indeed, anyone else. That Obeid has been sentenced is justice, no more or less. But how much does our current political culture owe to the rum days?
I CAN’T FEEL THE outrage. It’s true that Westconnex, the planned motorway to be constructed through and underneath Sydney’s inner west, is bad. It’s a model of combined woeful planning, culture war assumptions about transport, shocking public relations, and kleptonomics: a chuckleheaded set of map lines straight from love-in seminars between baked-in NSW Treasury headcases and cynical bagmen from the usual consultancies. It’s a highway project that would shame Robert Moses, who, when all was said, at least believed in the public good and not simply transport efficiency. It has been and will be a crappy project from the get-go to the eventual ribbon-cutting ceremony, and it should justify every vociferous demonstration, tree ribbon, and lie-in. Yet I can’t quite gather the strength to be infuriated. What is worth saving?
THE FIRST TUESDAY IN November, Melbourne Cup Day, is marked not by the excessive consumption of food and drink, but rather, by its regurgitation. The race that stops a nation also stops it in mid-sentence (‘um, hang on a minute’), bends it at about forty-five degrees at the waist, puts its hands on its knees, then floor-pancakes its lunch across the footpath, or bus floor, or office carpet. There, doesn’t that feel better out than in?
THE SPECTACLE IS NOT a sandwich, but a social relation mediated by sandwiches, or so Guy Debord didn’t say. A long week of ridiculous thinkpieces and social media wank, begun by shameless controversialist and charlatan Bernard Salt, just reinforces the prime role of foodstuff-as-ideology.
‘CURSED IS THE GROUND BECAUSE of you,
Says God to Adam, after he and Eve have eaten the fruit,
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground… [Genesis 3:17—19]
The story of the casting-out or ‘Fall’, in which humans are given their divine punishment for knowledge, is one of our most familiar creation stories, in which God sets the terms of human existence unilaterally. Like a boss making a workplace agreement with themself, the story of the Fall is the original greenfields enterprise bargaining agreement. It’s a powerful morality tale which has informed our attitudes and assumptions about work for a very, very long time.
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