There seems no doubt that today will go down in history as an important date, and it seems churlish to ignore it and debate the whys and wherefores of buildings in Wellington, when the real focus for much of the world has been on the buildings and public spaces in Washington, half a world away.
The date for us is clear enough: its the 21st of January, although America, being so far behind the time, will no doubt try to tell us that it was 01 20 09. Washington has revealed itself as not being just a vast ghetto of crack-smoking dens surrounding a stony white array of museums, but a pretty dramatically fantastic place to hold an inauguration rally. At last the scale of the buildings and monuments make sense – Washington was designed for scenes just like this, although perhaps even L’Enfant did not foresee over 1 million people making their way there at one time.
The media seems to be finally getting over the shock of seeing a brown skinned man being in charge – at least they seem to be mentioning that less – and while I couldn’t care two hoots what colour his skin is, its the colour of his politics that I like. Already the man is a breath of fresh air – after the stale and fetid stench of decay and corruption seeping out from under Bush’s sickly administration, its obvious that Obama is capable of bringing hope to many and a new sense of worth to all Americans. I know he’s had weeks to write the speech, but in terms of oratory, he’s streets ahead of our tired bunch of politicos. I even felt joy and happiness at the prospect of hearing a specially written poem, and listening to a unique composition by some of the world’s most talented musicians, playing outside with their priceless instruments on a cold, almost snowy day, with hope in their hearts. Poetry, classical music, classical white architecture, and a humble black man in charge: what more could you want to start the day right?
But what do our pathetic and retarded television commentators decide to do as soon as the Poem is being read, or the music is being played? The pompous ignoramus that is Paul Henry, of our shameful national broadcaster TV One, just blathered on over the top of the proceedings, cut the footage and returned to the studio; and TV3 was not much better.
It’s appalling, and bad taste, and shows a dreadful lack of manners and decorum, and also shows that our nation is, at heart, an uncultured beast, if there is no respect for culture in some of its many forms. America, as much as we may mock its arrogance and power and blind allegiance to monster V8 trucks, at least has the ability to commission poetry and music and to take its architecture very seriously. There is a lot that we could learn from that: the least of which is shut up and listen to poetry and music on special occasions. In the mean time, I look forward to the days ahead.
Wellington’s architecture, of course, is a very different story when it comes to the staging of mass rallies and speeches to the multitudes. But our streets are large enough for massing of sorts, although now we just do it mainly in front of the TV: in the past, Wellingtonians gathered in front of the newspaper office to see election results for themselves.
Washington we are not: there is a small area in front of the Beehive, but it’s not a natural rallying point, and there are plans amongst the Council to enhance the Parliamentary Precinct area to give it more cohesion and more gravitas, but probably not to give it an arena of space suitable for mass rallies. Our smaller population prefers instead to keep to the streets for our Enough is Enough rallies and bi-monthly Lambton Quay protest marches.
Post Script – update.
If you’re reading this for the first time, go and read the comments now, then look at the next two pictures. Oh – and big thanks to the Alexander Turnbull and the National Archives.
A little close up of some of the voters for you – and also a glimpse at what they’re voting for in the 1931 Election in Wellington. At this stage of the evening, United and Reform parties had 21 seats between them, and Labour had 18 seats sewn up. United and Reform went on to win the evening (thanks for the link Matt), and by the look of it, Fraser made a clean sweep of it in Wellington Central. But really, the most interesting thing about the photo is the very low number of women in the photo (up above) – it is as if women were not allowed to be interested in politics. Surely that must be a huge change to the Obama pictures above – where the tv crowd footage seemed to be more evenly split.