SO WHO'S THE WRECKER THEN?
It's easy to get carried away, we've all done it at some time or other, but when the Mayor of Mitchell hoiked the Premier of the State up into the cabin of the bulldozer that day neither he nor the attendant dignitaries and journalists knew quite how carried away he'd get. The idea was that he would turn the first sod on the site of a new housing estate near Kilmore, just off the edge of the suburban fringe, and to this end the bulldozer driver, before stepping down from the cabin himself, had given the Premier a quick demonstration of how to use the pedals, the gear stick and the hoist that lifted and lowered the bucket. The Premier was a man with a wicked sense of humour and a great flair for the dramatic, qualities that had endeared him to the electorate and happily won him a second term in office, and no newspaper photographer worth their salt would go out on assignment with him without a fully loaded camera and three spare rolls in their pocket. Some say this only made things worse; some disagreed, and said otherwise. Though the Premier was never one to shy away from getting out amongst the people and had worn his fair share of hard hats, soft hats, factory coats and hospital gowns he had actually never driven a bulldozer before and had, one suspects, little idea of the power he now held in his hands. He had no sooner lifted his foot from the clutch than the photographers in front of him scattered, and, much to the delight of the assembled dignitaries he then began in his wickedly amusing way to chase them around in a circle, like a dog rounding up sheep. In the course of this manoeuvre he inadvertently succeeded in demolishing a cameraman's tripod and the table where the wine and savouries had been laid and then, without forewarning, turned on the dignitaries themselves and began rounding them up too. People were running in all directions now and not many of them were laughing; the Premier of the State was the only one who seemed to have retained his sense of humour. He drove straight over the top of his own government car -- the formerly faithful but now very disconcerted driver jumped out and fled in panic -- and drove out across the barren paddocks where, watched by an increasingly stupefied crowd, he started driving around and around in an enormous figure of eight until he and the bulldozer were lost completely in a swirling cloud of dust. At this point the machine braked, idled ominously, and as with a sense of foreboding the crowd started to scatter again, the Premier emerged out of the dust and began bearing down upon them.
Real panic had set in amongst the onlookers now -- even the Premier's most ardent supporters were already wondering what political capital could possibly be gained from this -- and as the bulldozer closed in on them again someone in their panic was heard to say: Do you think he's gone too far? He had, and the supporter had no sooner made the enquiry than proof positive was given. The bulldozer, throwing up great clouds of dust, wheeled around the onlookers' western flank, knocked over the last remaining sapling in that otherwise barren landscape and began closing in on a well-known Canberra journalist who, unaccustomed to running with the herd, had broken away on her own and was now belting across the paddocks towards the main road into town. With a dexterity that belied his brief experience as a bulldozer driver, the duly elected Premier of the State with an overwhelming mandate to govern narrowed the gap between them, lowered the hoist, tickled the accelerator and knocked her deftly into the bucket. Like a Mongolian horserider raising high his prize he lifted her up, pirouetted three times, and drove straight through the barbed-wire fence that bordered the road and headed off into town.
The Canberra journalist's life was spared -- she was found a few hours later in a catatonic state high up in the branch of a peppercorn tree in the park -- but the town itself was not so lucky. In an orgy of destruction incomprehensible to some but which many had long seen coming, the Premier so beloved of the electorate turned his new-found toy towards the things that annoyed him most. In quick succession and with frightening efficiency he took out the new library wing at the local primary school, the child-care centre opposite, the palliative care unit at the local hospital, a second child-care centre (newly opened), and finally, and entirely, the local church, where at that moment a small congregation was paying its last respects to the local newsagent who for reasons best known to himself had recently taken his own life. That done, and the town of Kilmore in ruins, he swung the huge machine around and set off south across the paddocks towards the distant, smog-hazed city. A small group of excited children followed him, laughing and whooping and ringing their bike-bells and proving conclusively, if proof were ever needed, that good leaders with vision always take the young with them.
The Premier was thoroughly enjoying himself and there was no stopping him now. With that overpowering sense of self-righteousness that elected office often brings, he cut a swathe through fences, farmhouses and outbuildings, across backroads and rail-lines, through power poles, substations and shire depots. He came through Craigieburn at two o'clock that afternoon like a rampaging bull -- the streets were quiet, the children at school, the mothers gazing out their kitchen windows -- he tore through roundabouts, median strips and traffic lights, demolished the infant welfare centre and the elderly citizens club. To a young mother who defiantly stood in front of the bulldozer while the Premier idled in neutral for a moment wondering what changes he might make next, and who above the noise of the engine asked the perfectly reasonable question: Do you have any idea what you are doing? -- he duly answered by dropping the five-tonne bucket straight on top of her head. He was enjoying himself all right, and there was definitely no stopping him now. He exited Craigieburn that afternoon via Lavington Court, flattening in the process the house that a young married couple had just bought with the two thousand dollar deposit it had taken them seven years to save, and was last seen ploughing a new road through the suburbs towards that great seat of democracy, Parliament, where the red carpet was already being laid, the champagne chilled, question time deferred, the candles lit, the party hats distributed, the dissenters shot, the pockets pissed in, the band rehearsed, the late great mentor's body exhumed, the fireworks primed, the dancing girls inspected, the arts budget increased, the suicides removed, the people fed pap, the lies called truth, the brash beatified, the meek-hearted mocked and the Premier's portrait hung forever in the Gallery of Godawfulness.
To the question, what society do you want to live, in many answers might be given. Some might say a just one, some might say a tolerant one, some might say one that makes me wealthy and content; some might say a cruel one, a dog-eat-dog one, some might want a society where stuffed babies are garnished with snow peas. But to the question, how do we allow a leader to wreak such havoc as this, there can only be one answer.
That night the Premier went to the theatre, and the audience applauded his coming.
Wayne Macauley is the writer of the Melbourne Workers Theatre production of Tower of Light, a theatre spectacle. It is performed at the Melbourne Showgrounds as part of this year's Melbourne Festival. It runs 17-21 October and 25-29 October.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1999|
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