October 14th, 2011

The Quick Fix: Turn Australia into a Dutch Colony

It is a little known fact that October 25th will be the 395th anniversary of the first European landing on Australian soil, by the Dutch Sailor, Dirk Hartog. So I am preparing a launch, on that date, of a 5 year political campaign to place Australia under Dutch rule, on 25 October 2016, the 400th anniversary of the landing that might have spared this country from the mess it is in. Had Hartog stayed, this country would now have a Calvinist heritage, and therefore laws and customs protecting the meek from the bullies.
In anticipation of the transfer of power, I suggest we all live, as of now, under Dutch law. Ride your bike with no helmet. Assume cyclists have the rights of pedestrians, not the responsibilities of drivers of cars. Hell, dose yourself up on pot, if that's your particular poison, and if you're a madam, feel free to build a glass shop front on the front of your brothel. I also propose we all observe the Dutch custom of permanently chaining an old beater bike near any train station we're ever likely to visit: I'm heading down to Sydney right now, to chain something near Central Station, in anticipation of my next day of homage to Clover Moore.

The only question mark over this, is whether or not the Dutch will be happy to take us on. I mean, they take rather more refugees than we have a reputation for accepting to our shores. Conversely, we could object to Europeans' perceptions of themselves as makers of art, when all we see are bad songs on Eurovision. But come on my fellow Australians, and come on you kinky Dutch buggas: let's give love a chance! You've got the laws. We've got the land. Let's make this happen.

Yay: I've finally convinced my wife that we don't need a car

Readers who have been with this bike blog from the start (hi Roberto, hi Gus) will know it began with a question: how many prestigious bikes could I own, for the price of one fancy car? Our Subaru Forester was rusting, and I didn't want to replace it. Marriage being a compromise, though, we have kept the rusting thing going... but not for much longer.

Yes, it's ta-ta, you rusty old car. Primrose, out of her frugality (Scottish blood, see!) has finally agreed we can sell it. Here's what became of the last car we owned (photos below). It went from playing our music and protecting us from the wind, to being a triple somersaulting acrobat at 110km per hour, all in an instant. Blame the flash flood, but it could have been anything. Nothing is meant to travel at the kinds of speeds road signs tell people to drive at. Alright, so nobody died, and I got to try morphine, but I had already been through all this before, when I was 15 and the car I was a passenger in on that occasion, had also done one of these tumble rolls at highway speed. After the second crash, I really did think I had used up my luck.
We went for 6 months with no car after that crash (pictured above), and I only yielded to Primrose's whining to get one, because Renault and Subaru released cars with 5-Star ratings from ANCAP. Both had the usual rust rating though: no stars at all. Cars, you should know, are largely made from iron, a substance that the earth and the air are constantly conspiring to put back in the ground. 

But I don't care about that anymore. When our kids' prepaid swimming lessons wrap up in December, that's it, we'll be living car free. I understand how this little family of mine will henceforth be sacrificing access to most of the sprawling city we live in, but since all the over-educated types like ourselves are mostly crushed into my part of town anyway, I can't say our confinement really concerns me. Plus, any friends I have in the suburbs, seem to like coming to town, with my house giving purpose to their struggle to find some place to park.

What I know we'll be spared from forever, are conversations like these, with our mechanic: "You need a new torque converter. But this new one I'll fit, for three thousand dollars, will last you the next twenty years!" Then, six months later, we get the news that we need a new diff, "...but don't worry, this new one I'll fit...". 

We are to believe that our parents moved to the suburbs because they preferred what was on offer out there.
"The fact that they later breathed polluted air, existed miles from work in tract houses which forced them to spend a massive amount of their disposable income in support of the automobile and petrochemical monopolies, and used a large proportion of their tax dollars to pay for infrastructure in the form of freeways rather than public transport, all had to be the result of their own bad judgement."
                                     —Alexander Cuthbert, Understanding Cities, p. 159.      

It wasn't bad judgement. It was their lack of education and access to knowledge, and the fact they were actively duped.