Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bread and circuses

Last night’s Commonwealth Games opening was, as several writers point out in today’s Age, somewhere between a tad extravagant and downright obscene, given the dire poverty of most participating countries and/or the tenor of the times in the West.

Personally, I don’t mind an expensive party, but it all depends on who’s “invited”. Here, I’m, referring to who actually got the $40m* that was spent last night. The performers? Nup – all “volunteers”, AFAICT. So where did the money go? It’s the same old story: stuff the people on stage (who do it for “love”, no?); only the roadies, lighting techs and the mixing desk are doing real work, after all.

Symbolic here were the simultaneous fireworks going off from many Melbourne CBD skyscrapers. Such would have been hugely expensive to arrange access to, and then install – and since 9/11, office rooftops are hardly fit places for “volunteers” – or probably even *paid* artists. I’d therefore label last night’s office-building fireworks as “arts terrorism” – instead of crashing a plane into the side at three-quarters up, skyscraper rooftops have been commandeered for equally contentless (unless you rate the sight of burning money) performances. It’s spooky, because as long as the schmos are getting paid – and the artists aren’t – the performance’s content will always be set by default, viz as a sub-conscious echo of our Worst Nightmare.

Meanwhile, Paris is again teetering between circuses, bread – and cake. Regular fashion writer and Aussie expat Emma-Kate Symons has been face-first into the riots, and has lived to tell the tale with credible acuity (OK, boomer-bashing):

"But that was the affluent late 1960s. Few young people worried then about their chances of finding a good job after graduation. France's baby boomers grew up to enjoy some of Europe's most generous social and retirement benefits.

Young people in France, whether jobless and living in the poor suburbs, or middle class and attending elite inner-city universities and high schools, seem united in their sense of outrage against a state that can't or won't give them hope for the future and refuses to tackle the culture of entitlement among France's baby boomers and retirees."

Burn, baby boomer, burn.

* The combined Opening and Closing ceremonies cost has been reported as $50m, with the riverside “Opening” element an additional $7m.

baby boomers being shot out of cannons instead of fireworks. now that would be entertainment
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