I've been meaning to draw attention to an excellent essay by Simon Sellars at Ballardian on the disturbing interactions he observes between J. G. Ballard's dystopian imagination and day-to-day life in Melbourne.
It sounds...well, grim.
Worryingly, inner-city Melbourne is becoming increasingly lawless. Each day brings newspaper reports of gangs attacking passengers on trams, bashings involving Sudanese refugees, drunk patrons of nightclubs targeted for muggings… The true sound of Australia is no longer ‘Advance Australia Fair’ but rather the sickening thud of a skull hitting the pavement. Well, that’s what you read in the papers anyway, and while I have never been one to trust the sensationalized Australian media for my eyes and ears on the world, my attitude changed once it started happening to me. In the past couple of years I have been punched to the ground, unprovoked, by a gang of drunken/drugged up men in the main street of Byron Bay, in full view of passers by, for the territorial crime of being a ‘tourist’. Minding my own business, walking home, I have been set upon by a group of football fans leaving the Melbourne Cricket Ground after I made the mistake of protesting when they tried to tackle me to the ground.And he hasn't even gotten to the part about the 'bicycle wars'.
In my view -- for all the psychological eccentricities of his fiction -- Ballard is quite strong on sociology. (In fact this is one of the arguments of paper I presented not all that long ago at a conference in Norwich which I hope will see the light of the published day at some point. We'll see.)
Along with many other things, Simon offers a different perspective on life in one of the world's 'most liveable cities'.
Great essay, Simon.
And be careful.