Sunday, December 17, 2006

'tis the season...

Blimey, Guv'nor!
The number of child buskers on the streets of Melbourne at this time of year is somewhat disturbing!
Quite Dickensian, really. Three times now, as I've been winding my way through the busy streets, dodging hassled shoppers, scenes have struck me as redolent of Oliver Twist or a latter day Hard Times. I'll describe the two that struck me most for you:
Two 5 or so year olds, a brother and sister, were standing side-by-side at the traffic lights, facing shoppers, frowning as they stared off
into space, fiddling on miniature violins. The plaintive sound of the jigs they were playing on their battered instruments were only surpassed in poverty by the drab, ill-fitting Victorian rags they were draped in. Their little slip of black cloth strewn on the ground showing little silver or gold from an unappreciative public (myself included). They appeared profoundly weary and unhappy, a haunted look of innocence lost in their eyes, the dawning awareness of a bleak future. They looked like they would be happier if their parents had set them to the artful task of pick pocketing.
In stark contrast were two sisters, singing out the front of Myer at the milling, listless and sometimes wailing crowds of parents with their children, queuing in their thousands for a rushed glimpse of a Christmas front window diorama called Wombat Divine. The girls would have been no more than ten, one of them had a much stronger and sweeter sounding voice than the other, but even so she sounded shrill and desperate for attention and money, straining for her high register voice to be heard above her audience's much more compelling distemper and ennui. Naturally, their vocal talents as diminutive as they were, called for some ornamentation, which explained their tight, short cropped red shorts, black knee length stockings, pink tanktops, dangling Christmas decoration earrings and (coca cola [crunky]) red Santa pompom hats. Strangely I thought, they had a music stand with a page or two of sheet music to prompt them of the lyrics to the Christmas carols they were singing, but I suspect it was more of a prop to lend them an air of musical authenticity. I suspect that they would have rather been practicing their tennis serve after a stiff lesson in micro-economics and the virtues of Utilitarianism.
I have so many questions to beg:
What kind of a misguided parent puts their child up to busking in such ways during Christmas?
Did they tell their children that the only gifts Santa could afford them this year were those of self reliance and a lesson in market dynamics as they booted them out the door?
Will these children grow up to become failed entrepreneurs? Or Australian Idol rejects?
Did their parents take the money off them and spend it on the pokies?
Should I have called Child Protection?
Will they forever be under the yoke of parental control or will they throw off the shackles of oppression sooner than most?
Is it true that, as Nietzsche claimed, that which does not kill us can only make us stronger?
Do I really need to write this at 1am? Wouldn't I rather be in bed asleep?
I suppose these displays of various forms of poverty showed up Christmas for me in a newly absurd light, although they only reiterated the same old tired messages about Christmas, commodities, consumption and crunk.
Warnning: This entry may contain traces of unreasonable hyperbole.
Now Playing: Severed Heads - Come visit the big bigot

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