Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paint my nails in a pasta bake.

The week before last, I spent quite some time agonising over a particular post I’d written but not yet published here. The following Saturday, now of course known as ‘Black Saturday’, as the temperature slowly climbed until it was perched somewhere over the 46 degree mark, my mouse hovered over the ‘Publish’ button. This was in between little trips out into the backyard to try and wrestle the portable gazebo over the kiddie pool into submission, while it was doing its best to fly off and terrorise the neighbourhood in the incredibly strong and oven-like northerly winds. Eventually, sated with deliciously refreshing and ice-filled cocktails courtesy of VG, I opted not to publish. It’s probably worth mentioning a lot of this was influenced by Mr Jones, who had threatened me with all kinds of verbal abuse should I publish this post a day or two before.

This turned out to be a very, very good thing, because just like delightful turns of phrase such as ‘Die in a fire’ have been shelved somewhat indefinitely from outside our household, so too would a long and whinging post about the weather in general, filled with self righteous indignation about my initial demands for some nice, frying days a few months back.

As the body count from the fires rose, so too did the number of status updates on Facebook from friends threatening all sorts of nasty things against journo’s who’d been demanding that summer turn up. I quietly kept my own status to myself, and thought Well, thank christ I’m not a journo then. Dodged that bullet! I felt a little bit guilty, but also knew full well that many of these people were just as guilty of wanting a nice warm summer as I was – and after all, there’s nothing wrong with wishing for a warm summer - if we’d been declaring we wanted several hundreds of kilometres of bushfire front, then I think that might have been a different situation.

Luckily for some, soon the whole notion of deliberately lit fires came into the public sphere, and quicker than you can say burning pitchforks, the villagers had a whole new, far more plausible and violence-worthy target. While I was all for conversations in pubs amounting to a list of what we’d like to do to someone who has deliberately lit on of these fires, it all got a whole lot more disturbing when the notion of an arsonist became less arbitrary and a whole lot more pinpointed to some guy the cops picked up in Gippsland.

Frankly, I can’t believe for a minute that someone of sound mind could light one of those fires and not feel tremendous remorse. I think that anyone picked up and actually found guilty on these charges probably needs some pretty significant psychiatric care. I also tend to think that anyone who believes that bashing the shit out of anyone who may or may not be an arsonist, in a summer where we’ve had record heatwaves, uncleared bush, poorly maintained infrastructure such as powerlines, and a total reliance on volunteer firefighting forces, is fucking kidding themselves if they think that would solve this problem – that this would undo all the damage done.

I can’t imagine any chance in hell of this guy getting a fair trial in Victoria, let alone the rest of the country. The image of this one arson fire of many fires alone – a fire that met up with a bunch of ‘naturally’ sparked fires in the area, can’t help but be mixed up with all those images of the lost families and completely destroyed towns of Marysville and Kinglake. So few people in Victoria are removed enough from the impact of the fires to form a jury of any real, legal validity, and the prosecutors and magistrates themselves are under such incredible pressure to produce a guilty verdict – to produce a real, physical thing - a person - that can be blamed for everything that’s happened in the last week or so. After all, this is a lot easier than addressing the issues of effective forest management, of the issues of managing an ever expanding urban sprawl encroaching bushland.

During the record breaking heatwave in the week prior to the fires, let’s not forget that Melbourne virtually shut down. The train lines buckled. The power supplies collapsed. Roads were closed due to fires on their fringes – fires that could have, and should have been prevented with basic firebreak management by vicroads… you know, that organisation we each pay hundreds of dollars a year to in vehicle registrations, just so they can approve more toll roads. Now we all know that those were extreme conditions, but none the less, it’s a rare summer in Melbourne that we don’t see the thermometer slide over the 40 degree mark at least once, often to then hover in the thirties for quite some time – so why on earth is our city – and indeed our state – so poorly managed that we’re not even bothering to maintain, let alone build infrastructure that can cope with our temperatures?

Christ – Adelaide had something like two full weeks of over 40 degrees, and they coped! We had three days, and the state all but collapsed. Three days! Adelaide! What next? Fucking Tasmania? New Zealand? It’s just fucking embarrassing. We’re Victorians – we can do better than this. After all, we should be the ones setting an example for the rest of the heathen states in this country. Surely it’s basic fucking logic – you live in a part of the country where it’s not socially acceptable to run down the Aboriginal population in your cars, you should get functioning fucking train lines. I mean really, Cronulla. The entire state of NSW seems to have some kind of weird deep-seated fear of Mosques, yet they have seemingly constant supply electricity. The fuckers probably have functioning fire breaks, too.

The really depressing part is that ‘they’ (being experty types I presume), seem to think that this is an emerging pattern. Superfires and the like. What I want to know is how many seasons of full on fires like this it’s going to take before the State actually throws the necessary money at all those basic maintenance tasks that have become dilapidated through neglect over the years, let alone expansion of those tasks. I can honestly say that a couple more years of this sort of thing, and I reckon I'll be out of here... though that's probably not much of an incentive to getting things fixed I suppose.

It’s either that, or they blow the cash on migrating us all to Canada, which I suppose is one kind of solution. The really cool bit about that is they already have a Victoria sitting there just waiting for us.


So, how did you deal with the heat? Everyone doing alright? Not joining vigilante arsonist-hunting groups I hope?

The Rantolotl.
ps - please be sure to thank Shane for his title contribution.


Fandango "facestabknife" Jones said...

Pretty sure that I threatened you with more than 'verbal' abuse if you were to post an update wanting colder weather... Infact, I'd go so far as to say that the words 'stab', 'you', and 'face' came up at least a few times.

But I suppose that's pretty much par for course =P

twinfins said...

I'd made a point of not reading the articles on the arsonist dude simply because i thought the whole idea was so ridiculous that it wouldn't stay in the papers for more than a day, and would be thrown out pretty much immediately.

Why do I keep overestimating people??!

It's fucking dispicable. They say that "the only way it could have started was arson" because the fire started unexpectedly in a presumably safe area. Bollocks! I mean, if there was a random bit of glass anywhere around there, the sun shining through it could've easily started a fire. Especially considering the drought means all the grass/leaves would've gone up in a second!

Plus, aside from your incredibly correct point about any trial being unfair because of the biases of the jury/magistrate plus the pressure to get a conviction, there's also the fact that the only evidence they could possibly convict the dude of is circumstantial! In several kilometres of fire, identifying the exact location of ignition's fucking impossible. The best they can do is say he was around the rought area of the place around the time that it started. That's it!

GAHH I hate everyone, they're all fucking bastards! ! *dies*

Anonymous said...

Next time your gazebo is threatening to fly around terrorising the neighbourhood, I want to be there.