Doubtful Creek. Sunday, 12.45pm:
There's a prayer tent.
Yep, set among the protesters' camps is this tent with a sign that reads 'Prayer Tent'.
I suppose given the nature of the battle here - a bunch of locals against the combined forces of a State Government, the police and a fossil-fuel company - it's good to have a plan B.
"Oh well, the democratic right of protesting has been intimidated out of us by the servants of the dollar, so... let's pray!"
Though I doubt if the hundreds of people here would fit into the tent, even if they all knelt. And many are old enough to find kneeling a bit tough on the knees. Anyway, who wants to kneel? Kneeling shows submission and submission is what religion and politics prefer from people, but it's not why people are here.
At the moment the prayer tent is empty. (Except maybe for God...) Praying types are few in number. The people here are more about action. Prayer will not help the resistance to coal seam gas mining.
There's a congregation at the community kitchen which is set up under a tarp on the side of the road. One bloke has carved a very neat series of steps up from the road and is lining it with straw. The food provided by the smiling cooks on this holy Sunday is also nourishment for the soul. A cup of tea is Holy Communion with flavour. And there's not an old man in ridiculous vestments to be seen.
Well, actually, that's not quite true - though I don't think a top-knot hair style and tie-dyed pants are as silly as a pope's pointy hat and gold-trimmed robes. The top-knotted older man is sharing a cup of tea and a sandwich with some Akubra-wearing, blue-shirted farmers who are aghast at the mining of their valley.
It's like a medieval fair. Banners, tents and a colourful crowd that represents the diversity of the area. Though the battle is a desperate and important one, there is a joyful vibe about the place. Joy comes from being on the right side in a battle.
Laughter erupts from the tent where three older Aborigines sit. A sign hanging there says 'Health before wealth'.
Four children squeal as they run from a camp where 'We want to be CSG free' is scrawled in a child's handwriting.
(Fat chance, kiddies. You children must learn that despite what the majority of people want, business interests come first. Children's health and the health of the land are secondary. Sure, that's tough. But if you be good, you'll get an iPhone.)
I walk to the gate which has closed the road to a state forest past which the mining is taking place. The gate is festooned with dolls and teddy bears and stuffed toys. It's a funny way to fight a war - with humour and joy.
But it's frustrating too; witnessing the defeat of common sense for the sake of a few bucks; watching the democratic process usurped by commercial interests.
A police van with two uniformed blokes cruises up to the gate; windows up, air-con on. There they idle. There's also an unmarked 4WD with two police just up the road. Luckily, there's no crime anywhere else in the area and these police are not needed.
Police fumes catch at my throat.
People are heading for the prayer tent. Maybe the time has come. I head that way too.
Maybe there is a God who in his (or her or its) infinite wisdom, thought it would be fun to create a beautiful world, introduce greed into it and watch it go to hell.
Maybe this God requires some kneeling action.
At least there's shade over there...
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