During WWII, the Nazi regime in Germany found a convenient way of maintaining the vibe around its villainous onslaught, not only within the military and its upper echelons but with the public at large. To put it crudely they became a nation of meth heads, supposedly from the Fuehrer right down to the frontline cannon fodder. Methyl-amphetamine, marketed under the brand name of Pervitin, was widely sanctioned as a means of boosting confidence, performance and patriotic fervour.
Meth was widely prescribed for everybody from bus drivers to house wives and even found its way into popular confectionary. However, it was within the military that it was most widely used as sleep deprived soldiers were loaded up to go that extra mile on the battle front. Combined with the massive rallies and the Nazi propaganda machine it was the ideal substance to maintain public support.
Authoritarian regimes throughout history have always looked at ways of maintaining this public collaboration, not only through harsh regulation but with large scale displays of nationalistic allegiance. Witness Putin’s recent ‘Victory Day’ parade or Kim Jong Un’s massive card flipping stadium spectaculars. Here in Australia we have more subtle ways of releasing our jingoism, through sport and other more low key activities like the somewhat anaemic Australia Day.
Governments here are nevertheless keen to bring the country together, ensuring their own continuance, through large scale public events. It would be wrong to draw a direct analogy between Sydney’s NYE fireworks and the mind control of some of the world’s worst regimes, but the propaganda element is not entirely dissimilar.
We are constantly reminded that our fireworks are of huge global interest and seen by millions, if not billions around the world. It’s our major opportunity to put Sydney on the international map and attract thousands of tourists. Shame the Chinese won’t be coming any time soon. There may be some truth in that kind of coverage, a bit like the attention given to the ball dropping in Times Square, but are they really watching in Botswana and Siberia? Then again we are told it’s all a big party that brings Sydney together, farewelling a year we are all trying to forget and welcoming in a more positive 2022.
When the last champagne cork is popped and the first COVID figures for 2022 are released, we soon realised that not only has nothing changed but it’s got a whole lot worse. Many of us see NYE as more of a ritual, a kind of Pagan celebration, than an occasion with any real meaning. There’s nothing wrong with that if it brings people together, albeit in socially distanced numbers, to evoke some kind of positivity – but should the authorities blow millions on our behalf in staging the event.
Fortunately, good common sense prevailed last Friday and the public stayed away in their droves from the harbour foreshores. It’s reported only 36,000 watched the display from close proximity. It will be interesting to see what happens this year, if we eventually get on top of the pandemic and whether the huge crowds will return.
One thing is for sure – we are stuck with the NYE fireworks and the somewhat exorbitant cost for many years to come. It’s not a narcotic but it’s a means of keeping the punters happy, a massive visual stimulant if you like fostering what is essentially a cruel hoax. There are always hangovers after NYE but this year it seems the hangover might last the entire year. Bring on 2023!