Perth Can Be One Of The Greatest Cities In The World!

21st October 2020

For the most part, people who live in Perth love Perth. There are white-sand beaches, the Mediterranean climate, considerable wealth, enough bars and cafes, not a terrible cultural scene, and, in a world-wide pandemic, we’re walking around relatively unaffected. We’re incredibly lucky.

But even we, the grateful ones, know that in the Greatest-Cities-in-the-World race, Perth is the fat middle-aged man at the back who is drenched in sweat and taking a breather on a park bench. He’s probably complaining about the lack of hydration stations too, as well as the weather, which is 28 degrees Celcius and blue skies.

So I guess I was taken aback when I read the local paper’s front page which said in large block letters, “Perth Can Be One Of The Greatest Cities In The World.”

The article was announcing that media personality Basil Zempilas was elected as Lord Mayor of Perth. Basically, the piece followed Basil saying he was going to change a lot of things and that this was a fresh start for the city.

Usually, we say a fresh start after we’ve reached rock-bottom. The last time I said this, I was recovering from a night where I got so drunk I lost my phone, threw up in a garden bed at the Perth’s train station, passed out in the vomit-drenched hibiscus, and had transit officers drape blankets over me and feed me tea.

On the other hand, relative to the rest of the world, Perth has won the jackpot, so I don’t know what was meant by a fresh start. The article went on and Basil said he was going to fix homelessness in the city. I thought that was very humanitarian, then I read his reasoning: “The look, the smell, the language, the fights—it’s disgusting. A blight on our city and the single biggest impediment to progress and rejuvination.”

Look, I like Basil as much as the next person who doesn’t watch sport and has never heard of him until last week. But right now, there is a global pandemic, a recession, and more excess carbon in the air than the dry ice mansion in James Bond, and we believe that the few homeless people in the city—bless them—are the greatest impediment to progress?

Imagine. There is an engineer working on a light rail system and he is lying on the floor, feeling overwhelmed. His superior walks in and says, “Look, mate. I understand. Our funding got cut. We’re all suffering.”

“No!,” the engineer says. “It’s not that. It’s that homeless person on Hay st! He smells and I can't progress.”

I have a lot of compassion for politicians. Think about how many people would write little-dig articles like this about you? I for one would be about as successful as Kanye who, after announcing he was running for President, had a press conference and, after mild interrogation, bellowed incoherent gibberish then cried.

On the other hand, Basil and the local paper’s headline, to me, represents the type of privileged, isolated ignorance of an alarming number of West Australians. We’re just not that good at looking outside our bubbled state and addressing the larger issues. Like, I don’t know, the natural world’s impending extinction.

Just the previous week, I saw someone I knew at a bar and she said, “Probably shouldn’t be in a place so crowded. Not that I believe in COVID.” Then there are the young surfers down south who got on Job Seeker and, despite the horde of jobs available, spent the next six months surfing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m part of the problem too. I become consumed by my day-to-day problems as well and forget that on the other side of the world, on the other side of the country, on the other side of my suburb, there are untold sufferings. “I’m malnourished,” I often complained as a child.

“How can you say that? Think about starving children in Africa, Jayden,” Mum said.

“I’m too hungry to think.”

Mum was right, though. Even now, my ability to comprehend the world outside what I see or feel at any given moment is limited to the peephole of Perth where I can use food, money, beers at sunsets, and my self-proclaimed title as One Of The Greatest People In the World to build illusory cushions around myself, protecting me from the fact that one day I will have to face the inevitable: That I am vulnerable.

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