Current Issue #488



Adelaide author Stephen Orr asks the questions.

Why do the people I see on Linear Park each morning refuse to say hello (given, a few older people seem content, but the ones jogging …)? Why do some pet owners allow their horse-dogs to leave pipe-loaf-sized turds on the path? Why does the council guy who blocks the path every morning say (when I ask him why), ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ – lifting his hands like it’s one of life’s great dilemmas? Why have people given up caring?

Why don’t we hold our government to account for building multi-billion dollar submarines when there are people sleeping rough in Adelaide? Why, also, do Australians score so poorly on The Chase (compared to the UK version)? Why does the term ‘PreSocratic’ keep occurring to me? Why are we so obsessed with sport? Why do we avoid thinking about things, in the way Socrates taught us to? Why do football fans get a free bus to Adelaide Oval? Why did a Labor government spend so much money building a stadium for people who make millions selling beer and hotdogs? Why does it matter which team wins? Why don’t we read books instead? Why are all the book shops closing? Why am I writing this (I didn’t plan it, it just bubbled up, like the dozens of broken pipes under our streets)? Why have I given up on writing (okay, maybe I’m shit, but apart from that)? Why do the bloke and girl at Arts SA make a living from supporting artists when artists can’t make a living?

Why did the Labor government close so many schools? Why did they close Gilles Plains Primary School? Why do they eventually (as in Enfield High) always sell the land for developers to build homes? Why am I asking rhetorical questions about rates, stamp duty, and c.? Why are developers allowed to build eight houses in place of one? Why should people live like dogs when there’s plenty of room for everyone? Why is electricity so expensive? Why does my electricity keeping switching off then on, requiring me to keep re-setting devices I can’t reset (finding the instructions, screwing around half the night pressing the wrong button)? Why do we sell things from China when we can make them ourselves? Why did we stop making cars? Why do perfectly good, intelligent, reasonable, creative people have to sit around watching The Chase because they can’t get a job? Why don’t governments do something about this? Why do we let young and vulnerable people such as migrants work at pizza shops for next to no money so we can have cheap pizzas?

Why do we complain that it took too long to get our pizza when the guy only gets five dollars for bringing it to our house? Why are we becoming so inert and blaming others for our sedentary, unmotivated lives? Why do we then spend so much on gyms to try and lose the weight from eating pizzas? Why don’t we grow our own food, prepare it, raise animals, move away from the city? Why do we pay tax to so many people for no appreciable benefit?

Why has the Australian Tax Office became a branch office of the Stasi? Why do they have so much of my personal information? Why does the federal government think the rather vague threat of terrorism justifies taking away my rights to privacy? Why does Facebook exist? Why is Mark Zuckerberg thought to be some sort of folk hero when he sells people’s lives to Chinese corporations? Why did I lose a job because I expressed an opinion? Why aren’t we allowed to have opinions anymore, even if they make others uncomfortable? Why have so few people read 1984, Animal Farm, and other books that make them think about these issues? Why is the world full of Groupthink? Why are we so scared of each other (avoiding neighbours and the like)? Why are we so reluctant to be compassionate, and allow kids from places like Nepal to come and share the money we’ve got? Why do we listen so closely to political leaders who portray the world as a dark, dangerous place requiring millions of CCTV cameras, more police, and surveillance? Why do we need politicians (my friend, R, has all the answers – we just need to listen to him)?

Why are we surprised that children are becoming illiterate when they don’t read books? Why do we think technology will solve all of our problems? Why do we think automation is a good thing? Why do we have tablets everywhere instead of The Guns of Navarone? Why do we bother with the Premier’s Reading Challenge when political leaders only get behind sport? Why do they fence off ovals and then complain about obese kids? Why is the Port Adelaide/Enfield Council trying to close Hillcrest Basketball Stadium and make local kids walk ten kilometres to play basketball? Why did they put up such small signs around the stadium telling us of our rights to oppose the development? Why were we given so little time to voice our opinions (considering the stadium’s been there so long)? Why did the guy I rang at the council talk to me like I was an idiot? Why is shit like this happening all the time? Why do councils exist? Why do the top dogs get so much money for finding a way to empty our bins? Why do these people like playing golf so much? Why should some struggling mother in the northern suburbs pay for them to drink expensive wine? Why do politicians I’ve met always talk over the top of me, and why do they always sound like a brochure for a new hotel or amusement park? Why don’t they listen instead of reciting some pap some guy from Prospect on $183,000 a year wrote for them? Why is the world not like it used to be when I was a kid in the seventies? Why did they get rid of the Channel Niners and Crackerjack and put on more pap from America?

Why do we bother having the ABC if it can’t tell Australian stories (pardon the pun!), and why did the ABC gut its Adelaide office in favour of Ultimo? Why do we need a Festival instead of having the Arts all year round? Why are all the people at Writers’ Week late middle-aged women with silver hair and Penguin bags? Why do they all love Robert Dessaix so much? Why doesn’t Arts Minister Steven Marshall make the Festival Awards for Literature an annual award (it’s cheap compared to an oval)?

Why do people tailgate you, cut in front of you, do stuff they wouldn’t do if they were in the same room with you? Why do we have diesel trains instead of electric trains, like the rest of the planet? Why can’t we catch a train to Mount Gambier or Port Pirie anymore – these are really great places – god knows we pay enough tax? Why do blunt razors cut you the most (that’s not meant to be a metaphor)? Why is Home and Away looking and sounding more realistic by the day? Why do they always say things like, ‘You remind me of myself at your age’? Why is there an inverse relationship between how much cooking you do and how many cooking shows you watch (same goes for home renovations)? Why do we only make biopics about genuinely Aussie characters? Why do we remake films like Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wake in Fright when there are plenty of new ideas? Why do we think Americans are interested in us? Why did my dog, Molly, love watching documentaries about Nazi Germany (she found Goebbels fascinating)? Why do I like watching documentaries about Nazi Germany? Why does everyone enjoy watching documentaries about Nazi Germany? Why are Australians scared of their past? Why do we think everything has to be new, shiny, fit, politically-correct, fully employed? Why are the Germans I met in Germany happy to talk about war but we don’t give a rat’s about our history? Why do we spend so much time trying to live forever instead of enjoying the few lousy, rain-soaked days we’ve actually got?

Why do we spend 40 years paying off a mortgage to a bank when someone will knock it all down eventually (‘Because in the end you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn’: Jack Kerouac)? Why do banks need to make so much money when family life is unduly affected by our efforts to maintain two jobs to feed their voracious greed? Why? Why?

I’m not sure.

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