As you know, next Tuesday, the ‘race that stops the nation’ will be run. As you may be inclined to fear, this race can also stop an equine heart. Racing has always been a cruel sport that claims animal and human victims as it speeds toward profit, but it’s only in recent years that folks could make their objections known at great volume.
Horse racing in Australia will be eventually ended by these voices, and by a more general lack of interest.
As huge and as drunk as the crowds for Spring Carnival and its Melbourne Cup remain, they will diminish along with an industry so brutal, no one can really come up with a good argument for its existence. The race that stops the Nation will stop.
You might reasonably think that’s a good thing. But, what we might all miss when the race gets axed is our chance to actually stop.
Look. Not to get all “together we stand in a moment of perfect unity” here, but I do think it’s a good thing for a nation to occasionally do the same thing at once. Even if we hope for a world without borders, our borders remain and it’s a good idea not to be cranky inside them. Good customs can create good opportunities to understand what we would like our borders to mean. Bad customs are those that draw borders inside our borders.
No one but the participants and a drama teacher called Jeremy actually liked it. But, have you got a better idea?
Like the thing referred to as Australia Day, the Cup now creates division. We see one large group of people hanging on to a past that excluded many others, and another large group who respond to this with anger. Both groups are trying to improve life within our borders, but neither pauses much to say, “here’s a new custom that most everyone can enjoy”. So, perhaps it’s time to think of another way to stop the nation on the first Tuesday in November.
I’m thinking a revival of Rock Eisteddfod. This is not because I liked the Rock Eisteddfod. No one but the participants and a drama teacher called Jeremy actually liked it. But, have you got a better idea? Or, one more appropriate to a month when high school kids might be otherwise crowding our streets with their Pokémon? Let’s offer them money to gather in a hall and rehearse the worst hits of Madonna, and other artists of whom no self-respecting adolescent has even heard.
It was an awful day when the last teaching adult inflicted the last age-inappropriate song on their students. And, of course, the performances were awful, but that was the pleasure of the thing. What’s not to ultimately love about a bunch of kids clearly embarrassed by the dagginess imposed on them while they’re dressed up like a cardboard box? Surely, we can all relate to the pain of teenage humiliation and find a way to fund its public expression.
Can’t we all come together to affectionately remember the idiots that we were?
There’s just a few truly unifying sensations we can enjoy. One of them is not the memory of colonisation on January 26, when 'racism stops the nation'. Another is not the vision of hooves hurtling toward possible horror in November. What could bring us together, just for a moment, is a screen full of vulnerable, pretty adorable kids doing something we just know they’re going to regret later on. I can’t imagine there is a single adult alive who does not suffer occasional memories of their adolescence.
Come on, admit it! You, like me, find yourself alone in the dark every now and then when the lightning memory of yourself as a dill of a teenager strikes.
Let me start us off: I was so pleased when I stuffed myself in to a pair of size eight Fabergé jeans, I pranced about at the bus stop after school so that a very audible fart was squeezed out. My “poem” inspired both by the music of Joy Division and the boobs of a girl in Year 10 contains the phrase “no one understands me” and still exists in printed form. I went to see Duran Duran.
Can’t we all come together to affectionately remember the idiots that we were? Wouldn’t a memory of ourselves as little people still unaccustomed to life give us cause to forgive each other better? And, how can there be a better expression of this young nation that still doesn’t know what it’s about than a group of kids fumbling on a stage?
Bring back the Rock Eisteddfod. Fund it, endure it and use it as the best kind of custom this difficult teenager of a nation could stop for.