Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Big City

People in the middle of Sydney are very grey and busy. They all look preoccuppied and shitty.  They talk on phones or have headphones on, or yell busily to each other as they walk together, rushing from place to place.  They all wear black or grey.  No one looks happy.  There are very few children, and those that are there look sad and stressed in their strollers, often crying.  Those children can tell the city doesn't want them.  The city is not for them.  Or for their carers. No one watches out for you as you push your kid around, dodging the angry, busy strides, and the cigarettes held at child eye level.  No one clears the way for you at the curb, or lets you walk your sleeping child in the small patches of shade on the dirty black footpaths.  The shops have steps, or ramps that have big gaps down to the pavement, you can't go in here, these entrances say.  It is loud, and smells bad.  The city is unfriendly and sad.

I like cities, but have always found Sydney to be an alienating and sad place, especially in the inner city.  There aren't many shared smiles, or polite nods.  There is no space made for you if you don't fit the pattern of what the city declares itself to be for: for work, for business, for rushed transactions in inconvenient spaces, for adults, for walkers, for those with money, earning money, and spending money.  If you can't keep up, then you don't belong there: a sharp lesson in survival of the fittest.

The sociologist part of me wonders what on earth we do this for, this crazy 9-5 structure of working days, so far from family and friends, so isolated, a veneer of pointless activity over boredom and repetition, or futility, or even over satisfying or productive effort, but at what cost?  Do we really need to be working like this?  As a society, what do we do it all for?  Can't we come up with something better, or at least more forgiving and flexible, that allows us all to survive, and thrive, as well as making sure our society turns the right cogs and cranks and keeps it all chugging away?  Why isn't our work shorter, more flexible, in more beautiful and meaningful spaces?  Why is there no shared community, or local cooperative industry, or sharing of labour and expertise in ways that don't take us away from everything we actually would like to be doing, be close to, and see grow up?

What I mean, in short, is seriously, WTF?

I really wonder why I would hope and dream for my daughter to take her place in all this mess of horrid activity.  What will it give her?  Why would I wish for so many of her hours and her life to be given in service to such a system?  What does it mean for us, that our spoken values of family and love and community are so very far from what we force people to do all day in order to ostensibly fulfil those lofty goals?

That's what the city, and my husband's demanding and long-hour-ed job, makes me think while "strolling" the streets of Sydney.

Sarcasm and cute pictures will resume tomorrow.

1 comment:

Sazz said...

Hey, I share your feelings about Sydney...but then that could just be coz I'm a Melbournian?