Boomtown Lament

This is not the blog I was planning to write today. But it’s the one that’s calling me like a howling wolf to the pack of my thoughts. Would you ignore that?

I’m always drawn into considering each word carefully, of searching for the right phrase – novel, precise, colourful if possible – of editing myself as I write. I end up with the final product, not a draft. But today, I’m going to gag my inner censor and just bang it down, for better or worse. This is as close as I get to spontaneous.

I’m disturbed at the moment. I’m sick of everything familiar. So sick, that I actually feel physically ill. I’ve had a slight headache for a couple of days, and a bit of an upset stomach. More than that, there’s a vague dis-ease about me and that vagueness is unsettling…something is just not right.

Walking along past Scarborough and Trigg Beach last week, it struck me that while I love the sea as always, I no longer identify with Perth. Oh, I’ve had my gripes about the place for a long time, and have shitted on since the earliest days of The Boomtown Rap about the many adverse changes the last 5 or so years of “boom” have brought. I retract nothing.

I despise what this place has become. Selfish, materialistic, real-estate and bucks-obsessed. Yuppie Central. Unaffordable for the have-nots, while the more fortunate fill up on the spoils of the Boom, like tics bloating themselves on some dumb beast that is itself gorging on lush pastures, fat and lazy and arrogantly unmindful that seasons change.

Masochistic readers after more detail on why I perceive this place as I do can find it in the following posts:
Perth – More Brass Than Class
Dark Side Of The Boom
Rent With Angst – The Real Victims of the Home Affordability Crisis
Is there something fishy about Perth price increases?

My criticism of aspects of Perth may be confronting and unpalatable to many, but I am not alone in my perceptions. More and more, I am encountering people who share my sentiments. But where I’m at right now is beyond whinge. This is a more serious malaise.

I feel disengaged – displaced, in fact – from the place I grew up and have spent most of my life in and that is profoundly unsettling. That is what I mean when I say I no longer identify with Perth. It’s as if everything has shifted, and the commonplace and familiar has in some way become alien.

It is often uncomfortable and confronting to journey to a strange land, but it is also exciting, and there is normality in feeling like a stranger in that context – because you are a stranger!

What, though, if you awoke one morning in the city of your birth, a place you’ve spent most of your days in, full of landmarks that provide some measure of your life, physical and psychic… and encountered the dull Kafkaesque horror of unexplained, abrupt metamorphosis? How does it feel to be – suddenly – a stranger in a strange land that was just yesterday your land, the most familiar place in the world? And at the same time to be dulled and weary?

It feels frightening – your identity is under assault. Bitter – you didn’t choose this. Sad – something has died, something that was once part of you for all its flaws, in your blood for better or worse. And above all, it is disconcerting to your very marrow.

You wait for sleep in hope of waking to find it was all a misunderstanding, some aberration that time has put right. But each day, the sense of disconcert is there. This is not some attitudinal influenza. It’s like age, or cancer – time is no medicine.

My city is lost to me, and the forces that stole it away are outside my control. Now I am beset by an urge to tear down all that is familiar. Is this petulance, awaking as a cockroach and seeking vengeance in a cold campaign of self-orchestrated destruction for the awful transformation that has been visited upon you? Destroy the familiar, create the alien and restore a sense of harmony between environment and identity? Perhaps.

It strikes me as I write that while it is unarguable that Perth has undergone seam-bursting change in way too short a time, maybe the biggest change is in me. A shift in my perception has thrown the planet off its axis. Copernicus had it wrong: this here universe revolves around me, ferchrissake. And I don’t like what I’ve created.

I’m bored by my long-term friends, and I’m talking of people who have been fixtures in my life since school days, or early adulthood.

I’m sick of petty jealousies and defensiveness and banal codes that preserve us in a suspended animation of shallow expression and unauthenticity.

I’m sick of self-absorbed people who don’t hear you when you speak, who have no sense of curiousity outside their own little bubble. (Is it endemic that folk become more and more self-centred as they reach their 40s and 50s?).

I’m sick of uninformed opinions and arrogant self-certainty. I’ve grown intolerant of delusion.

I’m sick of lies.

I’m sick of myself. My conversational riffs. The voices and faces I lean on like crutches. My takes on the world. My sacred cows. Thrust a dagger into their hearts.

I have ceased to be original. I can’t recall the last time I surprised myself.

Tear down the familiar. Its time is past. I am filled with nostalgia for things I have never known.

6 thoughts on “Boomtown Lament”

  1. Sounds like your inner speculator is finally emerging. Tear everything down and build something new. Redback spiders are always the first life form to move in.

  2. Inner speculator? More like inner detonator!

    You know, I’ve always liked redbacks. They’re timid little creatures that are much maligned just because they dare to defend themselves – and do so effectively – if some boofhead reaching into dark crevices puts an unwitting hand on them.

    Nice to hear from you, Lyn.


  3. I’m from the Qld Gold Coast. We’ve been speculating, detonating and hastily erecting for decades. We have soulless down to a fine art.

    There’s a pest control business around here with a big redback logo, despite the fact that redbacks are resistant to pesticides. The humble daddy long legs is the most effective redback control, but is vulnerable to pesticides. It’s only a matter of time before redbacks are attending the universities, running the local council and lulling residents into a false sense of security by attaching redback logos to pest control letterheads.


  4. Very scary. Its a bit like reading my own thoughts! I came to Perth in ’83 as a 10 year old and up to age 18 loved it. Then adulthood beckoned and I started seeing things as they really were, not simply the image Perth likes to portray of itself. I found the place to be ultra boring, conservative and dispiriting. However, it still had an easy going and affordable lifestyle going for it. With this in mind I was fairly content to stay here as long as I could get away overseas or interstate for a holiday every couple of years to spice life up. Fast forward to the present and I too no longer feel like Perth is the same place I have called home for 24 years. I would leave in a heatbeat if possible- but have wife, kids, mortgage etc (just made it in time before boom.) I look around at the greed and violence of place now- like you stated- Perth has all bad things associated with big city without the advantages. And I think the problems caused by the growing gap between haves and have nots will be all too clear in next 5-10 years.
    Very sad.

  5. What can I say, Mark? Of course, I agree with everything you’ve written – especially your closing sentence.

    There’s some comfort in receiving a comment in sympatico with one’s own sentiments and perceptions. Thanks for posting.

  6. Yeah the swipe at people’s rudeness and ignorance is definitly something I can relate to. How many times I have been talking to someone at work, at home, at a pub or whatever and they aren’t even listening, just right over their head. Everyone is so distracted by everything and nothing and their phones. Don’t people live anymore in reality? Does their whole life have to be revolved around their mobile phone, or facebook or twitter or any of the other garbage out there? I feel I have a lot to say, Rolan you have inspired me. Thanks

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