I am not one to look a gift public holiday in the mouth, especially one where you get two bonus days off. But Easter has always had several black marks against it in my book. Perhaps the biggest of these is that it is the time when one of the greatest scams ever perpetrated against families takes place – the Easter Show. It may once have been a charming slice of country life in the city, but now it’s an overpriced bulk marketing exercise located atop a former toxic waste dump in Homebush. The whole event is entirely light on actual fun, but without a doubt the worst aspect is showbags. How ASIC’s fraud division even cleared their sale is beyond me.
I remember realizing that the entire event was a cynical exercise in exploitation even as a small boy – but I went ahead and bullied my parents into buying the stupid showbags anyway. They are invariably full of rubbish no-name junk food of the sort that’s only generally available at a $2 shop, like non-Coca cola, or Cheeto Balls that aren’t manufactured by the genuine, internationally renowned Cheeto corporation. Which means that as a result the luminous orange slime on your fingers never actually washes off.
Then there are the ‘proper’ bags, which always cost extra. I used to buy the Triple M showbag every year – a radio station I later had the pleasure of working for, incidentally. All us kids got it, and we treasured our backpacks with that old guitar hero dude logo on them, and imagined ourselves rocking out across the airwaves like Doug Mulray or Club Veg. But now I realize that the genius of those showbags was that we actually paid Triple M to market their brand for them! Kids everywhere were promoting their station all over the streets and schoolyard, and their long-suffering parents were paying through the nose for the privilege.
Then again, I’d like to work for them again someday, so parents – carry on.
Most outrageous of all, though, are the sheets they pin up explaining what great “value” it is for parents. All the prices cited would make a 7-Eleven owner blush, and it invariably prices the crappy plastic toys that aren’t the reason you bought the bag and clearly cost 5c from a Chinese sweatshop at about $20. Then they always factors in $50 for vouchers that you would never use, like an offer for adults at children’s prices at Cables Waterski Park at Panthers. Whereas I’d have thought that in the unlikely event that any parents were actually convinced to waste a day of their lives taking their children cable waterskiing, the least the operators could do would be to let them have a go for free.
But Easter’s no better once you’re an adult. On Good Friday, one of the best nights to go out in the year since you have three whole days to sleep off any lapses in judgement, pubs have to close at 10pm. That’s right, hours before bedtime. What can possibly be the logic of that? It’s not like they’re closed all day – there’d be a mass uprising. So what difference can a few extra hours make?
Of course, we live in a secular society, so one religion’s social values should not be imposed on all of us. Hindus and Muslims manage to put up with the rest of us drinking all year round, so the Christians should stop interfering, frankly. And I can’t imagine even the Archbishops arguing that pubs staying open two extra house until midnight in any way impinges on their religious activities. Probably even a few ministers were prevented last Friday from having a quiet cleansing ale to relax at the end of one of the biggest days of their schedule. Most ridiculously of all, you can’t get takeaways – so drinking quietly at home isn’t even an option.
But even if you are a Christian, the pub closures prevents anyone commemorating Jesus’ life and Death with a good old-fashioned wake. It’s very short-sighted – for those believers who also enjoy the seamier side of our city’s nightlife, what more fitting way to commemorate that fateful day in Jerusalem than by getting slaughtered up the Cross?
Easter was a pagan festival for thousands of years before Jesus’ death, and if you visit the Easter Show or the chocolate aisle at any supermarket, you’ll see that it still is. So the least they could let us do on this ancient festival of excess is enjoy a few moments of Bacchanalia.