What’s going on in Sydney? The place is losing its mojo as it at the same time goes gangbusters! What are the causes of this counter-intuitive malaise, and how can they be fixed? The losing of the city’s mojo is not news to anyone familar with Sydney. But how can it be, when all across the city, cranes spike its skies and people and money surge and heave in a very city-like hurly burly. The ironic malaise has been a long time coming, and is reaching its crunch point right now. Let’s get going:
Sydney finds itself in an odd spot.
On the one hand, it’s growth is going gangbusters. It’s population surges by more than a thousand people every week. Construction activity is huge. Hundreds of cranes crowd its skyline, not just in the city centre, but across the metropolitan area. The city is positively convulsing with activity. At the same time, gargantuan, once in a lifetime, city-shaping, infrastructure projects punch their way through the city and suburbs, making Sydney into the city it will be. Sydney is not a city facing stagnation. It is a heaving, convulsing, thriving adolescent.
Yet for all this heaving, thrusting growth and activity, there are a bunch of nefarious threads insinuating themselves into the city’s fabric; the story it is writing now and into the future. to insinuate
These insidious threads mainly concern cultural, social, and civic functions – which would be well known to anyone familiar with Sydney – and also what city is being shaped by this immense moment of thrusting construction.
Sydney is an adolescent at a crossroads.
Like the adolescent body and mind, it has enormous scope for change and growth. It is plastic, mouldable, not set hard. But the decisions this adolescent makes now will shape it into the adult it will be. And like any headstrong adolescent, it is blind to the impact of its decisions today, and resolute in its knowing best now. It ignores the well-meaning words of advice, warning, encouragement, etc that it receives.
In my mind, this analogy describes variously the heaving nature of Sydney’s current growth, the point at which Sydney finds itself – plastic, changeable, adolescent – as well as the decisions being made by the people in power, who share this adolescent mindset.
These politicians are idiotic, spoilt, Northern Beaches, white, private schooled teenagers wrecking Sydney at this crucial crossroads. By no fault of their own, they find themselves in a position of comfortable power in NSW – years and years of Labor corruption and mismanagement has diminished government opposition. These misnomered ‘Liberals’ (‘liberal’ has come to mean conservative in the Australian vernacular) make decisions with the enthusiasm, consistency, and wisdom of a headstrong, spoilt, white private schooled northern beaches adolescent. Oh wait, that’s pretty much what Mike Baird and his cronies are, though they are now family men versions of the former. (I am aware of the many, moon-sized, chips on my shoulder).
Anyway, these teenagers have opened the taps in Sydney and let forth a maelstrom torrent of creative-destructive city building. And to be clear, I love that. This is a moment to be grabbed and harnessed. Change happens in fits and starts, not a regular beat. These moments can shake things up and direct us onto a better path. I believe this particularly virile moment of change is not directing us onto a better path. In fact, I believe we are making some huge, city-shaping mistakes. These mistakes are made in concrete and steel – they are, if not irreversible, at least highly problematic to change. It’s time to stop, right now, and take a long hard look at what we are doing at this very moment. Future us and our city deserve not to make the mistakes we find ourselves already halfway buried into. Keep the momentum, but swerve it into a better direction. Now. I have very many ideas and criticism for this, which I will gradually publish over the coming weeks.
Part II of this particular post will be published soon.