Good move to cancel the acknowledgment of frontline workers with a front-row seat at the fireworks. Let’s acknowledge them the best way possible. Give them a bloody pay rise, all of them. But where are the rules on DIDOs (more properly known as dodos), those who will drive-in, drive-out to foreshore locations outside the CBD, despite the Premier’s imprecations, without a health care in the world?
The recent behaviour of those in Sydney during COVID-19 times has confirmed for me that the government should cancel the fireworks this year. It’s Christmas Day at Bronte Beach and idiots are cavorting in board shorts and Santa caps, chanting at the top of their lungs as if we don’t potentially have the plague on every breath. The Sydney Fish markets attempted to pull itself together on Christmas Eve by taking temperatures and enforcing QR check-ins, but it didn’t insist on masks. Attending police tried to persuade but weren’t wearing masks themselves. My favourite fishmonger didn’t even have staff wearing masks. Not too many masks at the Hillsong light display in Bella Vista, even fewer at Westfield Parramatta. And as for my compatriots’ understanding of social distancing? Folks, 1.5 metres is not arm’s length unless it is the arm of someone three metres tall, from sternum to fingertip.
Let me acknowledge the humans who’ve been for the pap smear of the nostril, the great COVID-19 test, and, with even more gratitude, those who have administered the nasal spear. Thousands of the tested and thousands of testers. Heroes. Hordes prepared to wait in blazing heat or in their cars, where they will use their phones while parked in queues and then become targets for police fines. In NSW, over half a million tests in the last four weeks with a general testing rate of 65 per thousand. I have not yet had a COVID test. For the first time in living memory, I have had neither sniffles nor coughs unless you count my response to lilies delivered to our door the day of my mother-in-law’s funeral.
But while it is true that we have many excellent citizens who had had their swabs, that’s more of an “ohmigod, I might be sick and I should really get that checked out” action as opposed to the more purely selfless behaviour of those who wear masks at the shops and on public transport. Of which there is not enough.
Which brings me back to the fireworks. Yes, they are lovely and exhilarating. Soaring, popping, being in large groups of people all aahing and oohing at once, as if they’ve rehearsed for months. But last year was a warning. As Australia burned, fireworks snipped and snizzled across our land. We had a few reflective thoughts about whether we should add more to our already poisoned air, whether we should heap particulate on particulate, but mostly went ahead anyhow, even as people were losing their families, both human and animal, and their homes. The spectacle mattered much more than our consideration of others.
This year, just broadcast the fireworks on various platforms. And next year, ditch them altogether. Replace them with laser lights or similar. Not as spectacular? Maybe we need more bread and fewer circuses; maybe the gormless federal education ministers we have had in succession could fund a search on how to make laser lights more thrilling? Or fireworks less polluting. In the meantime, we don’t need them, they cost an armload and there should be a better way to celebrate time passing. A New Year’s episode of Bluey. Remember how we celebrated Earth Hour? Switching off all the lights, watching the stars and contemplating how lucky we are, how lucky to be alive.
Jenna Price is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and a regular columnist.