Boxing Day sales madness in Sydney – animal instincts at their best

Bondi Junction Mall

Yesterday was Boxing Day. In Australia and New Zealand that is code for sales. New Zealand malls can get pretty crazy during Boxing Day sales, for instance, it is not unusual for the Albany Mega-centre carpark to be full before 9am. However, in Sydney the craziness went to a whole ‘nother level.

The two big department stores – Myer and David Jones opened their flagship stores at 5am. I am not so desperate to get up that early so instead I headed to Bondi Junction at 8am. Bondi Junction was surprising not as busy as I expected I manage to even get into the fitting rooms at Myer and bought some clothes relatively pain free.

However, heading back into the city to face the chaos at Pitt Street Mall was probably not the best move. At the best of times Pitt Street is busy but this was like trying to exit a rock concert. Police, and security was trying to keep the crowds flowing but ultimately it was just a giant scrum to get into Myer.

Inside Sydney City Myer was a crowd that made The Warehouse on a busy day look empty. Getting between levels of the store required you to stand in a queue as security opened and closed escalators to control the crowd. Once on the level you wanted it was just shoulder to shoulder people where you didn’t have a chance to browse over clothes instead you just had to glance at the mess of piles of abandoned clothes hunting for the right size and then hanging onto it for dear life as you decide if you actually want to buy it or not.

Shopping and especially sales brings out the most interesting primordial behaviour in people. It is quite literally every man, woman and child for themselves. Also it is consumerism at its worst. I saw families with shopping trolleys overflowing with clothes. Sure the sales are a good way of getting good stuff at a good price, however, seeing the behaviour of some people reminded me of just how animal we are. Continue reading “Boxing Day sales madness in Sydney – animal instincts at their best”

Sydney Biennale

Today I went to the 17th Biennale of Sydney. I had planned to go when it opened but I kept on putting it off when I got to the weekend as I was lazy, or the weather was bad or I was busy with other events. But this morning I woke up and instead of being lazy I forced myself down to Circular Quay and onto the ferry to Cockatoo Island.

Arriving at Cockatoo Island on an overcast day brings with it an even greater feeling of mystery. In the past Cockatoo Island has been used as a prison and as a naval shipyard. It is said to have ghosts on it and that is something you can certainly feel in the air as you step onto the land. The exhibitions of the Biennale have been set up within the hundred or so buildings scattered about the island. There is a map in the guidebook of where each piece of art is but there is no set route around the island you are left to your own devices to explore both the art work and the Island.

A lot of the art is audio/visual consisting of short (and some long) films or a combination of sculpture and projected video. The best installation of this type was a circular room with video projected in 360 degrees. In addition to these installations there was also your more traditional modern art consisting of sculpture and a combination of post-modern objects mixed with everyday life.

In addition to Cockatoo Island there are a number of other galleries around the city with installations as part of the Biennale. I got off the ferry back into the city at Shed 2/3 and after that I walked through to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sometime before the event ends I will need to head through the Opera House and the rest of galleries to see the rest of exhibition.

Vivid Sydney

Last night on the way to watch the All Whites game at Darling Harbour I detoured through the Opera House to see the sails of the building be lit up as part of the Vivid Sydney festival of light.

The different patterns and shapes projected onto the opera house are awesome and poor photos from my cellphone simply don’t do it justice. If you are in Sydney go and check it out.

There is something wrong with an economic system that tolerates beggars

Today marks four months since I moved to Sydney. To date Sydney has been awesome, I do have a few moans about it, mainly around its sheer size, my lack of a car, and unfriendliness of people, however these points are minor compared to one thing I am still failing to understand.

Sydney is a rich city, it has been blessed by money, looking at the CBD there are an uncountable number of buildings over 200m in height, looking at the news you seen rich people complaining they are being taxed too much, every mall has a many designer fashion stores, and one thing you don’t see much of is poverty. Except in one place. Street corners in the CBD. On almost every corner there is a beggar, some young, some old. There is one question that screams out from this: How can a city that is as big and as rich and is blessed as Sydney have people on street corners having to beg for money to survive?

I am informed that Sydney beggars are not as bad as other big international cities, and when I have raised this point with locals in discussion their reply is often runs along the lines that the beggars should just get off their lazy arse and get a job. Sure there are probably a few young beggars who could and should do this, but what about the older generation the people who have been on the streets for years? Surely this problem is a failing of the underlying social system than that of solely their own doing.

And the problems in the social system must lie on the shoulders of the government. It is the government’s duty of care to look after its citizens in particular the vulnerable and the disadvantaged in society and the homeless must be some of the most disadvantaged people in Sydney. I have yet to meet a rich beggar.

However, the failings of the government must lie back in a lack of tax revenue being raised from the people who are blessed, those who are earning money and are wealthy enough to be demanding tax cuts so they can buy their sixth holiday home. But can we really blame or attack people for being rich or blessed? People often work extremely hard to get ahead so who are we to bring them down for it?

Ultimately the issues of wealth, poverty, tax and a failed social system lie with the failure of our economic system, capitalism. A system that in its most fundamental form demands that in order to make a profit another must make a loss and those who make the largest profits win. And that is seen in its raw form with bankers walking past beggars at rush hour every morning in central Sydney.

In a column in today’s NZ Herald union activist Matt McCarten writes:

The left intellectuals we used to rely on to challenge ideas have retreated into academia. The staunch left survivors parroting on about an economic system built around the needs of people, rather than the needs of some to make profits, is rather quaint and eccentric.

The fight between socialism and capitalism isn’t over yet.

I was challenged last week to put this to the test.

So we organised a left versus right debate on Wednesday at Auckland University on the question, “Is Capitalism working?” Unashamed right winger Matthew Hooton, aided by the NZ Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan, with liberal conservative cover from National’s Nikki Kaye, agreed to give us the reasons why capitalism was better than socialism. Unite’s Mike Treen and NDU union leader Maxine Gay joined my team.

The auditorium was standing room only, overflowing in the aisles and outside. We won the overwhelmingly majority of the nearly 400 students present. When the right has to justify its dogma it doesn’t stand a chance with a thinking audience.

It is no surprise that the socialists won in a debate at a university, in the same way the capitalists would win if the debate was held in the middle of the stock exchange floor. However, I do believe that capitalism is not working, and it is not an academic argument, it is an argument that can be shown through beggars on street corners, pensioners who can’t afford the necessities of life, or a decent health system, or the young people of today who are being lumped with huge student loans to be able to get a qualification, a ticket to compete in the corporate world where capitalism turns people into cannibals who will stop at nothing to get to the top of the cooperate jungle.

A new system of economics and life needs to be developed, one that does not tolerate beggars, one that values education and our young people, a system where taxation is fair and leaves no one behind. People can become rich and can be blessed but not at the expense of others. I don’t buy the argument that it is just a fact of life that there will be rich and poor. Sure there will always be unbalances in life, but as socially advanced, aware, and intelligent beings we need to start acting intelligently and ensure that everyone in society is guaranteed shelter, food, health, education and employment.

This is not a left verses right political argument. This is a societal argument. I have no issue with people working for the dole, and I certainly do not like the idea of tax money being given freely to those sitting around watching TV all day. This is an argument about how terribly broken our economic situation is, and how we need to change it before our entire world collapses, the global financial crises was only a small warning sound to a much bigger societal collapse – are we intelligent enough to listen and react to the warning? Or are we truly just deaf, blind, dumb and stupid?

Little bird big city

I have now been in Sydney for 11 days and every night I have planned to blog about the first few days here and every day I have been too tired or too busy. Tonight I am in the too tired camp but have decided to force myself to give an update and get over and done with it.

I arrived in Sydney two Saturdays ago at 8.30 in the morning, after leaving Auckland at 7am (which meant a 3am get up time for the flight). We arrived into Sydney at the same time as about 10 other flights which meant it was chaos trying to get our bags and get through customs. In the end it took close to an hour and a half to get out and into the rental car hire queue. The rental car I got was a 2009 Toyota Corolla and by far the smoothest and nicest car I have ever driven.

The first few days in Sydney were spent getting my new flat/apartment set up. It is amazing how much money you can spend in just getting the basics – like food, cooking equipment, and basic furniture. In between all this chaos I also managed to do a few things that got me to see a bit of my new home these included:

  • Going to Opera in the Domain with a friend who I had not seen in 9 years.
  • Going to Hillsong Church
  • Going to Penrith – driving at a speed limit of 110kmh is a new experience.

The second part of my first week here was spent sorting out things like insurance and the like. The most interesting part of this was sorting out Medicare where I had to make a signed legal declaration that I had moved from NZ for good and was living in Australia for the next few years – the guy at the office didn’t seem to believe me even though I had all my uni forms with me! Thought I was some crazy kid on holiday. I also managed to get a cellphone and internet set up. After terrible customer service from Optus I went to Vodafone who set me up with this awesome mobile broadband USB stick which is faster than my old wired broadband in NZ. Although a much smaller data cap so I have to take care about how much data I use.

My second weekend in Sydney was spent having fun in the rain as some of the heaviest rainfall in years hit the city. On Saturday I went out to Bondi Junction shopping mall. Bondi Junction is massive. Imagine the Albany Mall and times it by 2 just for the ground floor, and then make it seven stories high. There is something like 450 shops in the mall. And you know what. I walked through the entire mall and only went into 2 of them! They were nearly all clothes shops – the last thing I need when I am trying to get set up for uni on a budget. On the Sunday I decided to look through town and found this most amazing hobby store in the QVB mall called Hobbyco.

Monday and today was spent at Uni. There is nothing that exciting to report here about my course – Mostly what I was expecting with a few minor hiccups around enrolment. What is amazing though is the size of the campus. Having come from Massey Albany with only around 6000 – 7000 students it is so weird to be on campus with close to 50,000. There is a sign at the front gate that welcomes the 9,000 new first year students! Almost twice the numbers of the entire Massey Albany campus.

The one thing that I will get sick of very quickly, and already am, is having to catch the bus to campus. I have not had to use public transport in years and while the Sydney transport network is far better than Auckland – I love the underground trains, the buses remain as noisy, as crowded, as bumpy, as slow, and as annoying as ever. Given that I have no plans, or money for a car for around a year I guess it is something that I am going to get used to – I just wish there was a train to campus rather than a bus!

P.S. I may have used to complain about the humidity during summer in Auckland but it is nothing compared to heat here. Last night was 25c overnight it makes it so hard to sleep!

Say hi to your mum for me

Good news:

I have arrived in Sydney and getting set up before starting university next week.

After four days of being in the 90s (aka the stone age) I now have a mobile phone and mobile broadband internet – it is quick too:

I have many photos to sort through and put online at some point as well as that a much larger blog to write detailing the first few days of my new life. In the meantime I will leave you to wonder how I managed to drive 600km in a rental car in 3 days without leaving Sydney.