All cultures have their mysteries.
Ghost stories, like the Roanoke Colony of early America. Mute artefacts like the silent stone guardians of Easter Island.
Australia is no different.
We have our own brush with the transcendent and the incomprehensible at this time every year. It is the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Seriously, Australia, why is this still even a thing?
Have we nothing better to do than watch arrogant millionaires at play?
That’s why we invented Rugby League.
The reasons for our original enthralment by this annual festival of damp, fathomless tedium and puzzling arcana are not hard to winkle out.
It is rooted in the lethal boredom of the old summertime non-ratings period on the telly when, bloated with leftover pork and still drunk from toasting the birth of Santa with a hundred-and-eleventy Christmas Day beers, we desperately searched all four free-to-air channels for something to watch.
And there was the boat race, because billionaires love boat races, and by a happy coincidence they also tend to own TV stations which could broadcast them having fun on the water.
When your only alternative was watching Bill Lawry talk up the rain forecast from the Boxing Day Test, a couple of hours dozing fitfully on the couch with vague dreams of Harbourside breezes was a reasonable way to wait for your grossly distended belly to return to something like its normal circumference.
This is no longer the case.
We are never more than a click away from an infinite stream of much better entertainment than whatever the hell a tacking duel is.
And most of us actually have no excuse for not hitting those streams, given how far behind we’ve fallen with The Walking Dead and Orange is the New Black.
Those TV shows aren’t going to binge themselves, people!
If you are some sort of freak and the idea of physical activity appeals, don’t just sit there and watch a bunch of billionaires’ minions running from one side of a grotesquely expensive super yacht to another.
You can get yourself down to the Boxing Day sales for an even more vigorous workout.
The billionaires won’t care, honest.
They already own everything and will wholeheartedly approve of your going deeper into unsustainable debt to increase the value of their gargantuan fortunes by mindlessly shopping for even more crap you don’t need, with money you don’t have.
But it’s a tradition of heritage, you protest. We always watch the Sydney to Hobart. No, you don’t.
You just think you do because it is inescapable, like death and taxes.
Unless you’re a billionaire yacht owner of course, in which case the tax system exists merely to channel the few remaining pennies out of the grubby paws of the lumpenproles and onto your giant Scrooge McDuck style mountain o’ doubloons, the billionaire version of a small change jar, from which to cover the operating costs of their ridiculous super yachts.
But ‘JB, they’re not all billionaires’ I hear you say, probably because you’re the paid lackey of a billionaire.
Well, fair point, they’re not.
In any Sydney to Hobart yacht race there will be at least one crew of gallant little street urchins or amputees or reformed and genuinely penitent torturers from the former Romanian intelligence directorate, all of them lathered with 50+ sunscreen and fleeting media attention to provide a heartwarming distraction from the aquatic pig circus.
And good for them.
But don’t imagine we’d all be following their antics with slavish devotion if they decided the morning after Christmas to wander on down to the harbour for a bit of a bash about in a borrowed tinny.
We suffer this event every year because it reminds us of our place in the world.
Face down in the bilge water, while the rich guys lord it over us up in the sun.