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If Sydney is ‘dead’, who signed the death sentence?

If Sydney is ‘dead’, who signed the death sentence? : #Sydney #dead #signed #death #sentence CelebSurgery

Last week the Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece with a bold statement declaring “Sydney has died”. The author, stuck on a train for two hours between North Sydney and Central, was inspired to declare the city “cancelled”.

He goes on to outline that Sydney no longer offers nice weather, public transport is in tatters, pubs are being bought by Merivale, Oxford Street is still a bit quiet, and a popular late-night Indian takeaway almost got shut down. Ergo: “What is the point of the city any more?”

OK, so being stuck on a stalled train is no fun. And to be fair, the author admits upfront that his is an emotional argument – “you should never make a decision when you’re angry”. But if we accept the conceit that Sydney has indeed died, it begs the question: who or what killed it? Because to me, the piece actually reads as an angry commuter taking out his frustration on a city battered by climate change, government miststeps, and a growing class divide. 

While many of the SMH article’s points are valid, they don’t acknowledge that the inconveniences suffered here are symptoms of much broader issues. He’s complaining about flooded train lines instead of worker conditions and climate change. Dying retail districts are angrily decried, rather than gentrification that prices local residents and business owners out of rental markets (not to mention a rising cost of living that leaves many with little to spend within their local economy). ‘Over-regulation’ is listed as a villain, instead of lockout laws that oddly eschew Pyrmont, and the approval of gambling licences despite failure to comply with industry standards. 

Crowds wander around a night market at CarriageworksPhotograph: Supplied/Chantel Henwood | Crowds wander around a night market at Carriageworks

Look, I am not your typical Sydney apologist. Growing up in the bible belt of the Hills District as a Queer, neurodivergent, fat kid, I developed a long-standing dislike both for this city and this country, and I left the first chance I got. Only time away allowed me to return as a stranger and develop a more nuanced appreciation of the city and its people.

What I feel is missing from this discourse is some critical thinking about what points are raised about our city and who has the platform to raise them. Indigenous, Disabled, Queer, Immigrant and young folks have been campaigning for generations for comprehensive healthcare, public housing, climate action and better access to public transport. Yet when a middle-class white man with a university degree and a mortgage complains about how long his commute from work took, we suddenly have a viral news piece. 

To say “You can’t get around, everything is shut, and the weather is abysmal” asks where you are looking for beauty within our city, if at all? For those who are used to creating their own spaces and are willing to explore outside of their own experiences, Sydney still has plenty to offer.

If you have any grievances with Sydney, perhaps it’s time to reassess what you’re doing to contribute to it

With many committed to contributing to Sydney’s evolving culture out of the ashes of the pandemic, local business owners, artists and event curators continue to create innovative and exciting experiences no matter what your interest. If you need a laugh? Sydney’s comedy scene is thriving, with Powerbomb Comedy and Joke Off providing multiple weekly nights for you to engage. Want to learn a new skill? The Sausage Factory hosts Sausage making classes, and Clay Sydney will teach you how to throw clay like a pro. Looking to get your pulse racing? Sydney’s Burlesque scene has you covered. Even the Opera House is offering a sexy dinner-and-a-show moment with L’Hotel. Your wholesome Sundays are covered with Sydney Vegan Market, which hosts zero-waste day and night markets throughout the year. And suppose you’re concerned about our offerings throughout Sydney WorldPride – in that case, I’d like to inform you that queer culture comprises of more than just Arq on Oxford Street. This year, Carriageworks is celebrating queer art and subculture during Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, Sissy Ball celebrates the history of vogue, and even Sydney’s drag scene is thriving with options. 

Patrick McIntyre, former Sydney Theatre Company executive director, wrote in a 2017 essay: “We are culture, We are made of it. Whether or not we are aware of it.” The essay argues the importance of being aware of our role in the creation of culture and calls for us to unpick and understand the ways in which we relate to the world around us so that together we can create stronger relationships, understand our differences and make better decisions. 

So if you have any grievances with Sydney and what it offers you, perhaps it’s time to reassess what you’re doing to contribute to it. 

Chantel at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling HarbourPhotograph: Supplied/Chantel Henwood | Chantel at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour

Yes, maybe the city is a hard place to make friends. The SMH piece quotes this masthead’s Global Survey from earlier this year that ranked Sydney third-last among 53 world cities as a place to make new friends. But then, if you’re finding Sydney to be an unfriendly place, ask yourself: when was the last time you helped a stranger, or checked in on your friend? 

Suppose you’re frustrated with Sydney’s transport system. Why not read up about the Sydney train strikes and send an email to the NSW Government to express your solidarity with the rail workers? Perhaps you’re concerned about the increasing change in weather and how it’s impacting your community. You can donate to the NSW flood victims and urge your local member to create a community that reflects the needs and values of the people who inhabit your community.

Yes, they say to never make a decision when you’re angry – instead to sleep on it. But maybe it’s time to wake up to what the real issues with Sydney are. And what the real solutions might be, instead of just packing up and leaving. 

Chantel (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, vegan, neurodivergent content and event specialist, guest speaker, and occasional writer living on unceded Gadigal land. You can follow them on Instagram @lecross.

Find Sydney tough to crack? Here’s how comedian AJ Lamarque found this city’s soul.

Got some feelings? Here’s everything we love about Sydney (and what people get wrong about this city).

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