Doubtful Creek. Saturday, 12.10pm:
The young woman is crying.
Sure, she's smiling, but tears are streaming down her cheeks. Her glistening eyes are locked on the performer, her body swaying to his rhythm.
She stands close to the makeshift stage (back of a truck), holding a video camera. She had been holding it up to capture the musician's performance but now the camera points to ground.
Behind her, hundreds of people stand in a paddock, also swaying to the music. Well, not all of them. Some people have set themselves up in their camping chairs. One older couple has chairs and an esky from which an endless stream of sandwiches emerge to be shared around.
Further back, parents have spread blankets on the grass for the kids. On the blankets babies loll, young girls do colouring-in, and a boy, already exhausted, sleeps - a sarong over his head to protect against a sun hiding behind clouds. Some kids have escaped the blankets and dart around the paddock narrowly missing each other, like the swallows that were swooping and diving there early this morning.
Behind the crowd, the paddocks stretch down to the creek and then up again to the next ridge. On top of that ridge squats a coal seam gas drilling rig.
This is a protest. And a concert. This is the way performers, promoters and stage crew register their opposition to coal seam gas mining - by entertaining the troops, and raising awareness. Media people are buzzing around the celebrities onstage.
Not far from here, citizens have been camping for weeks at the closed road that leads to the drill rig. Can't have a concert there, though. No, no. There are a thousand rules that authorities can pull out of a hat to stop a muso picking up a guitar in a public place. Strangely, there are no rules to stop a corporation risking a valley's water quality to wax its bottom line.
But we're on private property here; a farm owned by an old bloke who has lived on this farm since he was six. Like all sensible people, he is angry at the madness that sees a gas drilling rig on the ridge. Neighbouring farmers, also upset at the CSG operation, are here, enjoying the festive, friendly vibe and the support they're receiving from the wider community.
Onstage, the muso sings about our land and its value to us. We must protect it. The crowd cheers. Benny Zable waves his flag. Smiles flash around the crowd like electric sparks. A shiver runs up the collective spine. The sun cracks the cloud cover for a moment, shafting the scene with magic light.
The young woman wipes her eyes and raises her video camera to capture the moment. But she drops her arm. How can you capture the here and now? It's a darting swallow. The camera can only distract you from it.
We live in an age where everything must be filmed or photographed. Nothing is real until we upload it and make it virtual. We live more and more of our lives in a virtual world, losing contact with reality. We are encouraged to hide in our cyber constructions with our faceless friends and photo fantasies while the real world is violated by profiteers.
That's how coal seam gas mining happens. That's how we ended up with governments that work against our best interests. That's how the planet got to be warming while we're all waiting for the next Apple product.
This is real. Her real tears, these real people, real joy, a real threat.
If you want a real moment, you must log out, turn off and tune in. (Sorry Timothy.)
It'll bring tears to your eyes.
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