I watched Jaws recently. The choice was a deliberate one.
Recently, during Aunty ‘Rona’s long term visit to Australia, Jaws kept coming back to me. For a while I tried to ignore it and write articles without focusing too much on the situation. Keep my head down. Do the right things. Stay home. Wear a mask. Wash my hands.
Jaws kept on returning. Then a series of images from the movie Jaws appeared on my tumblr feed.
I realised something. I had to watch Jaws.
Great White Shark!
Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg was released in 1975. You may know the plot. Great White Shark appears in the waters of Amity Island and begins to feed on the population. The authorities try to hush up the shark attacks and tell the concerned Police Chief Brody to calm down.
Amity Island’s big holiday weekend is coming up. No one would come if the attacks were made public. The islands economy would be devastated. A second attack takes the life of a young child. Alerted, the locals and others hunt for the shark. They catch a tiger shark and are quick to call it over.
Police Chief Brody calls for an expert on sharks. The expert, Hooper is not convinced that the tiger shark caught was responsible. Late at night they check the tiger sharks stomach and find no evidence of human consumption.
The local government is entrenched in the islands commercial and economic reality. The mayor of Amity Island runs a Real Estate business. Amity’s biggest earning weekend is about to begin. “Holiday dollars!” the Mayor affirms with emphasis to Chief Brody.
Obviously Jaws attacks again. This time the attack is broadcast by the media who have turned up. Jaws strikes where Chief Brody’s son is boating with his friends. Finally it is clear to all that this is no normal event. The island’s big weekend is ruined.
Anyone Find This Familiar?
Any of this sound familiar to you? Threat to the population at large, elected officials weighing commercial needs over public safety, attempts to keep business as normal while a crisis looms. Eventual capitulation of elected officials in the face of the disaster they tried to cover up.
As someone who lives in Victoria, Australia, in August of Trash Fire 2020 Jaws is very familiar. There is a scene in Jaws that echoes how many people in Victoria feel. It is not the final death of the shark. Nor is it the moment where two kids with a cardboard fin scare those swimming with disastrous results.
This scene has the mourning mother of a child that was taken right in front of her confronting Chief Brody. She slaps him in the face. Why? Because Brody knew weeks before that the Shark was out there. He had been shushed by the Islands Mayor. There is no slap for the mayor, neither the doctor who changed the post mortem result.
Premiers and Prime Ministers
Dan Andrews is Victoria’s Chief Brody. As is Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales and Annastacia Palaszczuk for Queensland. The health of the state dictates the perception of the Premier and its elected leaders. While the Prime Minister is for the Nation, public health is a state concern.
When Prime Minister’s can go watch their team play it displays the health of the state and the nation. Meanwhile the MCG will be empty this September. No sport is being played across Melbourne. This does not mean that Aunty ‘Rona will stay away, especially if its ‘business as usual’.
Business is National and Global. Our ability to travel rapidly is unprecedented in world history. Technology is such that we can move with speed and efficiency. The thing about technology is that it not only enhances our strengths. It magnifies our weaknesses.
In Melbourne the state government checked in on 500 people who had tested positive for Aunty ‘Rona. One in four were not at home. They were out, mostly at work. Where? Well that could be anywhere across metropolitan Melbourne. All hopefully with masks on.
The response has been one of force. The threat of fines hangs heavily in the air. Melbournians are only allowed 5kms from home. If we can go to work we are required to have a permit from our employer. Why? Because of the weakness of human beings and the technology of travel. Though there is a third reason.
Casual Labour Pains
Casual labour is one of the main sources of infection. People who are paid little for short hours across multiple venues. People employed at Aged Care facilities, Hospitals, Abattoirs, Construction, Security, Fast Food and Retail.
Why? Age, language group, religion will change but the situation is the same. They are unable to afford the rent and bills one job cannot provide to pay. So they take work where they can get it. They get no sick leave, holiday pay or other benefits. Not working equals eviction or worse.
Our inability to control the population is related directly to the way in which we treat the lowest paid. We force on them a structure of debt which is exacerbated by a housing and rental market that is over priced.
Like Amity Island we are the ones who have manufactured our own calamity. The reality of work, housing and travel means that eventually unless other means are found to control the spread shutdowns are unavoidable. Welcome to the new reality. Next Jaws sighting, Bondi?
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.