Wednesday, December 17, 2014


                                                            I'LL RIDE WITH YOU

You could say Martin Place is the heart of the city, anchored by The Cenotaph, the empty tomb, sitting outside the once General Post Office with its one hundred metres of golden sandstone colonnade where all the mail, when all there was was mail, came and went - city, suburbs, county, interstate and overseas. It was under these arches we as young medical students chose to do our silly Commemoration Day stunt to maximise our exposure.

The empty tomb is where the city grieves for its war dead on the one and only day of the year which has garnered significance: Anzac Day.

Rising slowly up to the east, Martin Place is now a pedestrian plaza flanked by the grand buildings of the old banks and insurance companies and at its crest meets the city's only boulevarde with the country's oldest hospital, Sydney Hospital, looking across and back down the slope.

We were in town today for a lunch, and encouraged by others, went to see. I'm glad we did. I was struck by bonds of it-could-have-been-anyone-of-us, and that they were one of us, and the importance of public grieving.

There was a steady stream, and endless stream, of people quietly and slowly arriving with flowers. Most were on their own and most were young. There was a calm. There was respect.

A unobtrusive man with a vest marked CHAPLIN mingled. There was time: time stilled, time taken and time lost. A group of religious clerics of all faiths stood in silent prayer before some lowered a flower into the sea.

Above, the Sydney sky was its usual brilliant blue, a flag at half mast.

The Lindt cafe beyond with its shattered glass secrets was secured by a black shroud.

Later that evening in the hazy light of the day's end, we watched a cruise ship sail away, another one about to arrive.


Susan Scheid said...

This is a beautiful tribute to the capacity of so many to come together in positive community in response to an inhuman act. #Illridewithyou must be one of the best uses of a twitter hashtag I've seen.

David said...

I can only echo Susan. Human solidarity in the face of atrocity. It's a mass psychosis we're witnessing, born of I know not what - exclusion and powerlessness don't account for everything. I can't get my head round the Peshawar school massacre.

Anonymous said...

The perpetrator in this case had his own very individual psychoses. This is just outside my place of work and I have witnessed the display of public grief and sympathy. It is moving and also striking in the very broad range of people from all backgrounds waiting to make their contribution. They were still lining up yesterday afternoon as I headed home. I don't want to be a Grinch about this: I too have found myself tearing up. But I can't help also having misgivings about how it has been framed and in a way contrived (including by the hostage taker himself) as something to do with a cause or "terrorism." On the first day I happened to be on my way home as our PM came by to lay his flowers and I'm sure he can see a couple of points in the polls in it for himself.

Anonymous said...

And now (under cover of darkness, I suspect) two whopping big Australian flags have been fastened to the railings on either side of the entrance to the railway station which is immediately adjacent to the flowers, coupled with a "Team Australia" t-shirt.

wanderer said...

m - I felt strongly the (mostly young) people who were there, at least early on when we went, are immune to this nationalistic rubbish, and that's exactly why they were there, and the #illridewithyou epitomises that.

Talking to this age group, I wonder if they are feeling they have been bequeathed (by us) a divided and unworthy world . Perhaps we are at rock-bottom and the swing might be on?

I don't think anything can rescue Abbott now, not even milking this tragedy. But boy will it come in handy for surveillance, data retention and privacy invasion legislation.

David said...

I too feel that 'the swing might be on' - in our parts of the world. Unfortunately it's the young who are going off to join IS in large numbers - that's what makes me think of mass psychosis, though I take Marcellous's point that this was an isolated individual.

wanderer said...

The debate here David is how this person with a shocking history of violence and anger and who rang every alert bell imaginable escaped adequate surveillance.