Serial Novel “The Sorrows” - December 22

No, I didn’t get to visit my new country place.

I was in meetings with lawyers for the past week. Not in person but online. Where they never seemed to have the files they needed. Which just meant more meetings with more files they didn’t have.

I failed and tried to catch up with the architect. Lots of calendar entries and cancellations. All I wanted to do was make a day to visit the building site. Easier said than done.

And now it’s three days before Christmas and nothing is going to get done. No doubt you remember the great Australian tradition of Christmas office parties. Everyone here loves to work hybrid but party in person. There are a lot of parties. There’s even parties for staff here at the hotel. And everyone is being asked to wear masks because there’s been more outbreaks of Covid despite all the vaccinations.

At least it’s not as bad as China where they’re dropping like flies, dying in the streets as the Chinese Communist Party officially reports no new Covid deaths. What a strange country. Thoroughly and utterly communist but doesn’t have free health care. Every man and his dog has to buy health insurance, line up in car parks to pay to see a doctor. Car parks that are filling with hearses trafficking the dead.

I learned an interesting fact at breakfast this morning. Printed on a card next to a silver coffee pourer brimming with some form of sullen, dull coffee especially blended for the non-time that is hotel time. On the card, in a script typeface, was this simple fact: ‘Before the industrial revolution, silver didn’t need to be polished, because there was less sulfur in the atmosphere.’

That’s climate change for you. We have to work harder just to cope with the toxins in the air from our hard work. Wouldn’t it be easier to remove the toxins altogether, remove the problems altogether, as my stepson would like to remind me when he was in high school.

Climate change doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s like a virus. It doesn’t care. It has a thing that it does, and it’s doing it. And most people couldn’t care less. If the climate doesn’t care, why should they?

I read in The Guardian that four universities in the UK have barred fossil fuel companies from recruiting new hires through their schools. Not top-tier universities, of course. But it’s a start for them. Campus recruiting bans were an important part of the movements against the Vietnam War and South African apartheid.

Maybe they should also bar recruitment by government departments, especially environmental ministries which have derailed action against climate change by their own ineptitude and lack of ambition. Yes, the best intentions but sadly the worst outcomes. Emissions and temperatures continue to rise every year, every season, every month, every week, every day.

It was warm today in Collins Street. A wet heat after all the rain. The roads were sleek and the cars were overwhelmingly grey. They all looked the same with their sloping silhouettes. They all moved the same too. Like gray metal slugs slithering over the asphalt.

Did I ever tell you the story of where jaywalking came from? It’s 1923 and auto sales were slipping in the United States. Even worse, people and legislators were turning against the auto industry after an explosion of unwarranted pedestrian deaths at the hands of speeding drivers. Newspapers like The New York Times ran full-page stories headlined ‘Nation Roused Against Motor Killings’ with a black and white illustration of a skull-faced death racing a motor car into a crowd of innocent pedestrians.

The automakers and auto dealers got together and hired some old newspapermen to tell their side of the story. It wasn’t their fault that pedestrians got in the way of jaydrivers. It was the pedestrians’ fault.

Shifting the word and blame onto jaywalkers meant they were no longer liable. Whoever controls the story controls the outcomes.

The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce established a free wire service for newspapers. Reporters could send in the basic details of a traffic accident and would get in return a complete article to print the next day. These articles, printed widely, always shifted the blame for auto accidents to pedestrians.

Change minds and you change laws. Once jaywalking was made a crime, auto industry groups trained the police on how to arrest and fine jaywalkers. It was one of the most successful PR campaigns ever. The sins of our fathers, eh.

You’re not going to believe this but I have to dash to a Christmas party. That’s how long I’ve been in this hotel. It’s a staff party. I don’t want to be rude.

Plus it’ll be good to be among people. Even if we’re all wearing masks and keeping our distance.

I wonder what champagne they’ll serve.

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