KINGS DOMAIN 12th March
One. One, two. One, two, three, three helicopters. One two three helicopters circle the sky. It’s three days until the Stolenwealth Games commence and these helicopters are meant to somehow make me feel happier, more peaceful and relaxed. Gees what kind of world are we living in when the sound of choppers circulating and keeping the air ‘free’ is meant to be a soothing sound. God I don’t know. I wonder whether there was this much security for the Olympics in Sydney, whether people fell asleep to the sound of airplanes and helicopters. I suppose I should get used to it but fuck that why should I get used to this paranoid country, this paranoid world… this paranoia within me. Why?
It’s four in the afternoon. Loud techno music is playing in the background as a couple of thousand people get their kicks off at Earthcore in the city. I’ve been sitting here in Kings Domain since 11. Today’s the first day of the indigenous protest camp. We were to meet under the statue of King George (extremely appropriate!) at 11 and set up camp from there. Of course the socialist couldn’t help but get their hands in the mix by selling their rags to everyone. I think I was sitting there for only maybe five minutes when I was accosted by a Trot or some fringe branch Marxist member hocking a newspaper. To make things easier they’d even printed out a little piece of paper telling me twhich issue had an article dealing with indigenous rights.
After sitting there for an hour a meeting was called where Clare Land and a legal advisor spoke about the issues surrounding the camp. About the new gazetting rules that meant the state government could excise any part of the city as a games site. And as such quell any protest or voices that ‘disrupt the enjoyment of others’, that present an alternative view to that of the state governments media and tourist angle and there excessive budget.
This speech lasted for ten, twenty, thirty I don’t know however minute it was. Anyway however long it was the speech took place and then we headed over to the site that had been chosen as the campsite, all a hundred metres away. Here, the two hundred or so of us ferals, punks, student, activists, whatever the fuck we are calling ourselves these days, sat in a circle and listened to speeches by Isobella Coe, Targan, Robbie and Marge Thorpe, Robert Corowa and Uncle Kevin welcoming us to the camp and to the sacred fire. At the end of the speeches we all rose from the circle and grabbed a branch of gum leaves from in front of us and put it on the fire. As we walked back to the circle the city become covered in smoke and the smell of eucalyptus travelled down the hill, releasing bunjl to spread his message. Even one of the police officers, whose intention was to put the fire out, walked hand in hand with Robert Cowora to put a branch on the fire.
Since the first smoking ceremony ended- around one- we’ve been sitting around waiting to hear news of whether we’re allowed to set up the camp. Namely whether we’re allowed to use pegs and where is the best place to put the tent to ensure that we don’t pierce the sprinkler system. Also we’ve been waiting to hear back from the rangers the more important news of whether or not the sprinkler system will be shut off. Apparently all will be told by mid afternoon.
To occupy time some of us have been handing out flyers to the crowd heading up to the myer music bowl for Earthcore. I think in the half an hour or so I was handing out flyers only two or three people grabbed them. Mostly people just ignored me and walked on by. I guess guilt holds them back. Or maybe they’re not interested, which is worse. I talk with one of the other guys who has been handing out the flyers. He says he’s experienced a similar thing of being stared straight through, of being accosted and ignored. I guess though that’s what we’re looking to experience, that this ignorance is what encourages us to continue putting ourselves out there. Eventually someone, some idea will spark and things will just hit off. I mean there is two hundred of us waiting to set up a protest camp so it’s not as if there’s no hope in this country, or as if we’re not attempting to forge our own paths.
Anyway so it’s four o’clock and I’m sitting here at King Domains listening to an argument between a couple of punks and one of the guys from Earthcore in the city. I want to interject and get involved but I’m enjoying playing the role of voyeur and eavesdropper from the moment. Chris- I hope, I think that’s his name- is sitting there telling the two punks about the paranoia in his head. How he fought in Iraq, how he fell asleep twenty miles south of Baghdad to the sounds of bombing, how as he walks through the streets of Melbourne he expects the buildings to explode any moment. He explains how he doesn’t understand the protests about the war in Iraq, whether we hate him or not, why there were so many people out on the streets, that when he learnt about the protest over in Iraq he was pissed off at this country and all on those on the streets. A point to which the punks reply is that they’re not attacking him personally but rather the system that sends them off to the war; that the anger of the people on the streets was anger at John Howard for sending them off to war, a war that this country doesn’t need to fight. That they don’t want to see a body lost for a fight that is not really ours to fight, in a struggle to appease and keep up some delusional relationship with a psychotic country.
A point to which Chris counteracts that he to hates John Howard for sending him to war and that he wishes he hadn’t even been in the army but since his dad had and his dad before that there was nothing else he could do. And well besides once you’re in the army you can’t leave without the risk of going to jail. That even if this is not a war we’re meant to be fighting that it’s still better to be on the side of America rather than against. That even though he hates Howard for sending him to Iraq that he still voted for him and still will in the future. An argument that infuriates the two punks as that is the problem, that as a country we don’t need to go into war. That we shouldn’t be siding with America, that it’s this siding that leaves us in situations like we are.
I sit here watching all this, thriving on the intellectual argument. It reminds me of watching the Australian Open with my nan and pop, or sitting in class at uni laughing as lecturers argued amongst themselves (their theorists sitting on their shoulders like little devils/angels), or like two gazelles fighting in the plains of Kenya. It’s interesting but also headache inducing. After an hour or so the argument dies and Chris leaves heading down the hill into the city. I turn and talk to the two punks the look on our faces say it all. Here’s someone we’ve gotta free and it’s going to take more than an hour to free him and it’s going to split heads to do it. I’m glad I didn’t open my mouth because I probably wouldn’t have articulated everything as well as they did. Probably would have gotten infuriated. And besides truth be told I wouldn’t have remembered as much of what was going on.
It’s five o’clock now and we’ve just been told we can set up camp. The next hour or two is spent putting kitchens and fires in place and setting up the sound system for the week of festivities that have been planned. To set up the information tent, the medical centre, the barbie, our own tents, to collect enough leaves for the fire, for the daily smoking ceremony, to ensure that the spare blankets are ready to be used, that everyone can settle and buckle down for the next two weeks and wake up tomorrow ready to plan everything, ready to head on down to the yarra for the ANTAR stolenwealth protest that is taking place.
That night I fall asleep thinking of Chris and Iraq and the helicopters flying overhead and wonder what the next fortnight is going to be like. As I wake twice during the night once to a rehearsal of the opening ceremony and the screaming of woman for her partner to get his arse over, another to the sound of pouring rain I realise it’s going to be quite tiring but not nearly as full on a war as that in Iraq. We may be saturated and captured by media images, may be isolated and alienated and feel scared and paranoid from helicopters floating over head, from the glorification of violence on the screens in front of us, but at least we’re not over in Iraq or Afghanistan being put on the frontline for some false ideological battle. That we’re free to come and go as we like and that all we can do is attempt to free others no matter how much they try and stick to the centre. That we have to free ourselves and those around us, in spite of the habits that we’ve been indoctrinated into and which we so easily fall into, in spite of the headache inducing moments that come along with that.