Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Don’t turn the cheek, meek city, go for a holy contra-deal
If it ain’t one durn pope it’s another. Clover Moore is often seen as our mayoral mother superior but lately her vespers must be dominated by papistical exasperation. For, as the Anglicans prepare to split globally asunder over gay rights, Mother Clover, grass-rooted as she is in Sydney’s gay constituency, has been forced to defend her city against a plague of popes.
“I also support the removal of … PoPEs,” Clover told the house a couple of weeks back, “which have for too many years discouraged live entertainment in this state, favouring venues with television screens and poker machines.”
Clover is a prudent and educated woman. She knew therefore that the last More to side with the papists during a major church split was Thomas who, back in 1535, lost his head for his pains. Admittedly, More had been chancellor, not mayor. And removing the head was anyway superfluous, since he had already resigned, allowing the 28-medallion Collar of Esses that marked his office to be slipped around the illustrious and (more importantly) more continuous neck of London’s lord mayor, where it hangs to this day, a pale precursor of Our Clover’s choker. But I digress.
For once, the NSW Government supported Clover. Virginia Judge, the MP for Strathfield, agreed that popes “are effectively a duplication of an existing process … expensive, difficult and highly complex – not to mention highly anti-competitive.” Anti-competitive? I’ll say.
So did 45 others, specially whipped up for the occasion. But the Government had cynically wrapped its small-bars Place of Public Entertainment (or PoPE) reforms in its grubby new planning legislation, like fish and chips in newspaper. This forced Clover to oppose the whole ugly package and support the PoPE, thus opposing small bars, though her heart might break.
No sooner had they seen they seen off one pope, however, with its associated cultural devastation, than another was preparing to land, to not dissimilar effect. But this new pope was no acronym. This was Pope with a capital O.
In 1538, even as the bishops rifled England for Anabaptists to burn, the abbot’s kitchen at Glastonbury turned over 176 oxen, 634 sheep, 52 calves, 22 pigs, 264 sucking pigs, 575 pounds of butter, 145 stone of cheese, 2183 shellfish, 3243 hake, 8532 herring, 131 salmon and 30 eels, using 27,000 bundles of firewood.
These days, the gluttony is less gustatory than urban. The Vatican may head the world’s richest church. World Youth Day may be sponsored by corporations including Qantas, Telstra, Arnotts, Tip Top and The Daily Telegraph. But still they want. Not only Hyde Park, from now till November. Not only Cook and Phillip, Belmore and Wentworth parks and street closures throughout the Rocks, the city centre, Surry Hills, Randwick and North Sydney. It’s not enough to fill Centennial Park and Randwick Racecourse (the so-called Southern Cross Precinct) with 4000 toilets and 35 large video screens (remember Mother Clover warning about popes and TV screens?) for weeks on end.
The wish list, presented to the city mothers last month, also included free use of Angel Place recital hall and Paddington Town Hall for three days; free permits for hundreds of temporary structures, food-vending stalls and crane permits; free event parking (although, for we-the-public, most of the city becomes a 10-day clearway); free removal of bus shelters, street furniture and garden beds as required along the “pilgrimage” route from North Sydney to the Southern Cross Precinct and free reinstatement of same; free use of 1500 banner poles throughout the city, and free banners to go on them, in those gauche WYD colours. Oh, and free PoPE licences, as and when.
Should I argue that this triumphal treatment of a partisan religious group (the secrecy, the touring icons, the special act of Parliament) has no place in a secular state? Should I speculate – following Camden’s “my kids don’t speak Muslim” Koranic school rejection on “planning and air quality” grounds (no, really) – as to the possible official response when half a million Muslims, say, want to hijack Sydney for a month?
No. There’s another way. Last month the Jewish Board of Deputies applied, by way of countering anti-Semitism, to delete from the Stations of the Cross the bit where Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin, or Jewish court. I reckon they’re onto something. If we could just rewrite the Bible, delete all that stuff about giving rather than taking, about the meek inheriting the earth, the thing would be sorted. Call it updating. Replace all that cheek-turning with something a little more contemporary, more demand-driven. “Want not, get not.” That sort of thing.
Then again, if we’re doing unto others, how about a contra-deal? What if we all turn up on the Pope’s doorstep, complete with swags and porta-dunnies, say … this time next year? Bags I the Sistine Chapel. You and the meek get the rest. Kiss, said the bishop to the mayor, my ring.