OUTSKIRTS > by Tom Doig

Outskirts image Outskirts Editorial for Voiceworks Magazine by Tom Doig By the time this mag gets back from the printers, we'll all be too excited to read it, because Australia --- and particularly Melbourne --- will be in the grip of Commonwealth Games FEVER! Exclamation mark. The Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games is `the biggest sporting and cultural event Victoria has ever seen'. `The city will be buzzing day and night' as records break, tourists buy T-shirts and, according to www.melbourne2006.com.au, enjoy `high-demand Games tickets and the ultimate in hospitality you've waited 50 years for' (they must be expecting a lot of 60 year-olds). For a couple of weeks, Australia is going to move from the periphery to the very centre of the British Emp--- I mean, world stage. Don't get me wrong --- I like watching men's gymnastics as much as the next bloke (possibly quite a lot more), and there's something tragically compelling about long-distance walking races. It's just that all the hype surrounding the Games makes me nauseous. While the rest of the world is looking at the dazzling fireworks `down under', as a resident Melburnian I'm more interested in the view from the ground --- and from where I live, it's looking pretty ugly. For a couple of weeks, thousands of elite athletes live together in a happy little prefabricated `Games Village' in Parkville. Usually Parkville is guarded by SUVs and grumpy milk bar owners; for the duration of the Games, it will also be guarded by hundreds of security guards, police officers, soldiers and counter-terrorism experts. In keeping with the spirit of the times, you aren't allowed into the village unless you have an official laminated ID card; even then, you have to pass through metal detectors and X-ray machines before you can finally enter the peaceful, tree-lined, multicultural police state. All this security isn't just about keeping people out of the Games Village. Newspapers are running articles about the threat posed by Games athletes and support staff from countries like Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Bangladesh overstaying their temporary visas, trying to settle here `on the sly' (like thirty people did after the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games). So, if all the foreigners are kept in the same place, with cameras on every corner … no worries. Of course, there is a distinct lack of media coverage about what is going on in, say, Bangladesh, to make people so desperate to breach their visas in the first place. This makes it almost impossible to put any of this Games madness in perspective. A quick example: the amount of money we've boastfully spent upgrading the MCG --- $430 million is more than ten times what Kashmir has received in Australian aid ($34 million) since the earthquake last year. But it's not all about sport and terror; there's also the cultural element. Festival Melbourne2006 stresses how `multicultural' it all is, with a focus on `community participation' and `Commonwealth support'. There will be traditional performances from many nations, even Australia! But while we are `celebrating what we have in common' and `celebrating our unique way of life' at the same time, it's important to stop and ask: what do we have in common? And what exactly is our unique way of life? I live in Parkville, just down the road from the Games Village. And after what I went through on Australia Day, I'm feeling pretty ambivalent about what passes for national pride … `Yeah fucken YEAH!' `We're here, baby, we're HERE!' [bang bang bang] `Bazza, ya cunt, stop fucking and open the fucken door!' [bang bang bang] `Australia Day baby! FUCK YEAH!' 3.37am; my new next-door neighbours appear to be having some friends over. When I wake up the next morning, it's a gorgeous day. The sky is blue, almost as blue as the paddling pool over the back fence, or the inflatable kangaroo with stars on its head and a Union Jack on its back that Bazza is pretending to have intercourse with while his mates cheer him on. Bazza, topless and buff, Aussie flag tied around his shoulders; VB in one hand, Skippy's quivering tail in the other. `Yeah baby, YEAH!' `Fucken Australia Day Baby! Are you excited?' `Am I EXCITED? Feel my NIPPLES!' Fuck Australia Day. As I biked to work, I thought about the ugly side of Aussie mateship: when you love your mates so much that there's no love left for anyone else. It got worse that evening, but I'll spare you Bazza and co `drowning' chicks in their paddling pool, roaring with laughter as they screamed and thrashed around, yelling `Durka durka durka' at the Pakistani pizza delivery boy because he was … y'know. Obviously, there's much more to Australian national pride than mateship, inflatable kangaroo abuse, misogyny and casual racism. But you're not going to find it in Parkville … … unless you come to my house, where there are plenty of copies of the Outskirts issue of Voiceworks. While the world gawks at Melbourne, our writers are looking outwards --- away from the fireworks, the green-and-gold lyrca bike shorts and the blinding glare of that ever-burning Queen's Baton. Enjoy. for more information about Voiceworks magazine, go to http//www.expressmedia.org.au/voiceworks.php