Wish you were here

I recently took a trip off my island and went to another place with a beach that is a little bigger. Queensland’s Gold Coast.

For the uninitiated, the Gold Coast of Queensland is situated about an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, Australia, and is the holiday destination of many Australian and overseas tourists. Over the last 30 or so years, it has become a tourist mecca, and a slave to the almighty tourist dollar and  mass consumerism. I like to call it the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ of the east coast, and avoid it like the plague if I can get around it.

The Gold Coast has always been a popular destination for the holiday maker, and in years gone by it was considered a great place to take your family to for a relaxing and fun holiday, free from worry and stress.

Things have certainly changed over the last 20 years.

About 20 or so years ago I lived there briefly with my brother before I saw the writing on the wall. I was young, and it was as good a place to go as any to get a tan, have a holiday, and generally let my hair down and have a good time. Of course, the Gold Coast lived up to its end of the bargain and supplied me with more entertainment than I could poke a stick at, and a steady supply of people that wanted to show me a good time. It wasn’t long before I started to see the seedier side of the Gold Coast even then, in it’s fledgling days before the rot really set in. I’m not one to drink or smoke, so I was luckier than some that got caught up in its sinister web.

The Gold Coast was an easy place to get what you wanted, when you wanted it. It didn’t really matter what it was, if you had the cash, it was yours. If you didn’t have the cash, you either stole or sold your soul to get it. The Gold Coast could be an addictive place, in more ways than one.

There is a dark side to the Gold Coast that nobody would admit was there for a very long time. It has been left to fester over the years, as more people have settled there on the promise of an easier lifestyle. The sad reality of it all is that it’s only a better lifestyle if you have the means to back you up before you get there. The gap between the rich and the poor has become increasingly apparent in the last few years. We are now hearing of crime waves, gang wars, drive-by shootings, corner store robberies, carjackings, and more prevalent in recent years – cold-blooded murders of members of the police force, who are just trying to keep a lid on a pot that is about to explode.

Most of these crimes may be tracked back to the drug use and poverty that nobody wants to talk about. Some of it can also be blamed on apathy. We see it, we are horrified, we are densensitised, and we do nothing. So it remains, and it’s only going to get worse if solutions are not found. Solutions that continue to be thin on the ground when there is money involved.

It’s a catch-22. The Gold Coast needs  the tourist dollars to survive, plus the entertainment venues that go with it. A lot of people that head to the Gold Coast want a slice of that entertainment, fun, adventure.

Call it what you want, but ‘tourism’, as such, is geared to the consumer on the Gold Coast on more levels than you see on the glossy brochures or a white beach. There are fewer families, and more of what tends to draw in the most dollars.

The authorities, of course, are in denial. Why wouldn’t they be? With the Commonwealth Games in 2018 waiting in the wings, nobody wants to tarnish the pristine beaches or the glistening megastructures rising into the azure blue sky. There’s a dollar to be made and consumerism to be catered to. To hell with the crime wave. What crime wave?

I for one will be visiting only when I have to. My brother still lives there and I like to see him occasionally. Sadly, the consumeristic juggernaut is in 5th gear and shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. It brings me no joy to sit back and watch the Gold Coast slowly self destruct and eat itself alive. I feel sadness for those that have been lost in the mix and for those that are left to pick up the pieces when it’s finally over.

The Gold Coast’s day of reckoning may eventually come. But this will only happen when we are prepared, as a society, to accept that  life may not be all about what we have on the outside, but what we can achieve on the inside.

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