Monday, August 04, 2008

Twenty years of Punt Road gridlock – a parable

In the two years to mid-1988, car traffic on Melbourne’s Punt Road (an inner-city arterial and bete noir of every Melbourne driver) increased from 50,000 to 200,000 vehicles per day. This figure has stayed pretty much constant ever since. Nonetheless, Punt Road's traffic congestion is featured in two big (unrelated) news stories in today’s broadsheets. Contrary to what you might think, today’s stories are not shallow, ahistorical whinges; nor overt “20th anniversary of the gridlock” angles. Instead, we get the impression that the stories' quoted experts have driven on Punt Road precisely twice in the last 20 years (in 1988 and then just the other day), which has resulted in such exquisite deja vu that fixing Punt Road gridlock has become a personal crusade of some urgency.

As most Melburnians would recognise, the above Punt Road figures are a crock – everyone knows that Punt Road has been gridlocked forever. Moreover, any Melburnian who started espousing the golden, olden days of Punt Road, “when traffic was as light as silk”, would be committing high treason on Melburnians’ most sacred collective tenet – that the worst Punt Road traffic has ever been was one’s most recent (if not current) time, but equally the title to Punt Road’s true horror-of-horrors Worst Time Ever is so fiercely competed for among Melburnians that they should never lightly enter the ring, by sharing, especially with strangers, their own Punt Road traffic-horror anecdotes and metrics. But I digress.

If you replace “Punt Road” in the above with “post-modernism”, you get a nutshell of today’s “news”. Yes, post-modernism has been omnipresent in Australian universities humanities departments for about 20 years, but never mind revisiting the facts of its rather abrupt introduction. But that’s perhaps a niche story, anyway. More importantly for today’s "news" is that the intervening 20 years are of remarkably little consequence. While in the last 20 years, millions of journeys have been taken upon Punt Road, and at least hundreds of thousands have done three or more years study in humanities departments, today’s news focus is on the armchair expert, who somehow manages to own the Worst Pomo-Horror Ever (Anecdote) Official Title, in spite of twenty years of life and student/academic traffic going on and through humanities departments.

I have previously written on this phenomenon – which of course marginalises Xers' experience (to an offensive degree), and privileges boomers’ irrational/armchair perspectives – a la Keith Windschuttle. I thought then that maybe this was a right-wing nutbar peccadillo, but it now seems that it’s in the general water supply consumed by boomers.

For the record, there are actually living Australians who were students when post-modernism became pervasive in university humanities departments in the 1980s. As you can probably guess, I am one of them. I don’t think that anything more needs to be said about this, other than if pomo was going to cause the sky to fall, then it already must have happened, sometime in the last 20 years.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?