Cronulla, Cronulla and Cronulla dominates the newspapers this morning –
the Falconio verdict and the Hicks judgement came in too late. So let’s
look at some of the underlying causes of the disturbances on Sydney’s
southern beaches.

First, there are small matters of geography that people outside Sydney
probably aren’t aware of – what a self-contained area Cronulla itself
is and the sense of identity that this engenders. Then there’s the whole
issue of the Sutherland Shire area – the Shire, always – and the sense
of difference its residents have.

Geography leads to climate. Sydney’s hot and humid. People go the beach
and drink beer. They get p*ssed. Some probably enjoy other organic and
chemical leisure supplements, too. We all know what the implications of
this can be.

And other beachside residents of Sydney think they’re special, too.
They don’t like outsiders. Their mood just manifests itself in
different ways.

Take the residents of Pittwater, for example. There are entirely
intelligent people who will tell you that the Liberals lost the
by-election there last month because their candidate wasn’t a local.
These, of course, are the same people who fought off the Baywatch
menace. The threat of all that silicon in their water!

Then let’s look at cosmopolitan Bondi. The locals love living by an
international icon. They just don’t seem to like outsiders actually
visiting the place. Remember the campaign five years ago to stop the
rail link being extended all the way to the beach? It was conducted
largely on environmental grounds – but people were happy to tell
journos they didn’t want westies to be able to jump on the train at Emu
Plains and travel all the way through to their beach. They could bloody
well get out at Bondi Junction.

Yes, there’s some racism involved in the Cronulla riots – but is that a
cause or an excuse? After all, if you’re p*ssed and stoned and want a
rumble, you don’t need much in the way of justification. Instead, what
we are seeing is rampant, mutant nimbyism.

Paddy McGuinness had an excellent piece on the topic in The Australian
after Pittwater. PP called the result “the triumph of nimbyism… not
just a matter of advancing one’s own local interests but of defending
them to the exclusion of the interests of the wider community, or
simply narrow-minded selfishness.”

“Narrow-minded selfishness.” Now, racism is narrow-minded selfishness –
but it’s only one possible manifestation of narrow-minded selfishness.

Still, it’s much easier for journos and politicians to rant about
racism and holler about hooligans than hold a mirror up for the
punters, isn’t it?