Santiago de Cuba.

Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant, sultry, energetic city on the southeastern side of the Caribbean island and is famous for its Carnaval, its fort and its people.

The city of eternal summer lies at the mouth of the Bahia de Santiago and comes alive every night to the sounds of Kisomba, Salsa, Casino and Reggaeton. Santiaguenos love to sing, dance and feel the music coarse through their veins to such an extent that it seems that they were born into music. African, Spanish and other influences combine to produce some of the world’s most beloved and recognisable music, which can be heard streaming out of cafes, bars and houses at any time of the day, and especially as the sun disappears.

Visitors will recognise classic tunes which have accompanied fiestas for many, many years, while youngsters will be more familiar with artists such as El Chacal, Laritza Bacallao and Gente de Zona, whose energetic beats originated in Cuba.

Of course, Santiago’s love affair with music and dance is most evident every July during Carnaval.

Afternoons feature parades of children and teenagers in all manner of costume, and even artists on stilts warming up the people in Plaza Cespedes for the main event later that evening.

Vendors ensure that festejeros, or party-goers, are in the mood to celebrate by the time the sun sets and the real party begins.

As darkness arrives, flamboyant floats awash with glitter and vibrant colours carry beautifully-adorned and astonishingly talented dancers through the streets to the cheers and applause of the appreciative crowd. Pulsating beats fill the night air until the early hours of the morning and create a heady atmosphere of joy, celebration, pride and beauty.

Interspersed among the floats are groups of dancers on the street similarly attired and entertaining the crowds with their raw, unrestrained rhythm and phenomenal dancing ability.

Many famous musicians were born in Santiago, including one who rose to fame in Jamaica. Alpharita Constantia Anderson is better known as Rita Marley and widow of Bob Marley, and is an accomplished musician in her own right who collaborated with her late husband on many of his songs.

Santiago has also produced many famous boxers and baseball players, as well as outstanding athletes such as Olympians Alberto Juantorena, Yaime Perez, Leonel Suarez and Anier Garcia.

Rum, or Ron in Spanish, also brings fame to Santiago courtesy of the vast array of sugar plantations which surround the capital city and drive the economy for many of the people who live in the province. Visitors can learn about the production of the world-famous drop at the Museo del Ron in the centre of the city, and can sample the product at the museum or in many of the bars and cafes throughout the centre.

El Morro, or fort, is another famous attraction in Santiago. El Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca sits on the shores of the bay of Santiago and was built to protect the city from invading forces in years gone by. Today it is a popular tourist site and glimpse into the colonial history of Cuba, as well as an ideal location from which to enjoy views of the bay. Views at sunset are even more impressive.

An attack on the fort is extremely unlikely these days, as is evidenced by the relaxed attitude of these soldiers.

Santiago is a vibrant city of music, rum, fiestas and dance.

Scott Morrison finally gets what he wants.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally been accepted as a real tradie after being exposed in a segment on A Current Affair.

Morrison was left floundering during an interview with host Tracey Grimshaw on a program which devotes itself to exposing dodgy tradies, repairmen and other occupations that Scott has imitated since becoming prime minister.

Viewers of A Current Affair watched Morrison suffer a ‘brutal takedown’ during the interview with Grimshaw, which aired on a channel which has been very sympathetic to the prime minister since he came to power. It came about the same time that Morrison rudely dismissed a journalist’s question as to why he has not appeared on NITV, the national Indigenous network, during the election campaign.

A Current Affair follows the formula of any modern commercial current affairs program. It runs countless stories exposing small-time cheats and scammers such as dodgy tradies, fridge repairmen, loan sharks, lawyers or small businesses, instead of pursuing big time cheaters such as political doners or the politicians themselves. It goes after very easy targets. If it does run stories on politicians, it is likely to be an ‘expose’ of a local council’s failure to repair a few potholes.

A Current Affair is nowhere near ‘investigative journalism’, and yet Morrison couldn’t even survive an interview on a show of this nature.

Ironically, Morrison has now been reduced to the status of the people he has been imitating in endless photo opportunities since coming to power. He has pretended to weld, drive trucks, use military hardware, bake, pour beer, build a cubbyhouse, run water for a football team and even wash a woman’s hair in a salon.

If only A Current Affair and its counterparts would run a story exposing his failure to be prime minister.

Image: Getty Images

Two tales of a city.

The first inkling appeared before even crossing the bridge. She was young, confident and comfortable with the spotlight. Comfortable with the attention and the cameras snapping her every move, her every detail. Her frilled and voluminous black skirt sat below a figure-hugging bright red top and above exaggerated platform shoes and frivolous long socks. Hair in pigtails, adequately accessorised.

Her friend was just as pleased with the attention. This itself is a rarity in a culture which traditionally expected women to defer to men and display humility and subservience. They were also comfortable with the beats of western pop and hip hop drifting across the stream.

The teenage girls were the precursor to Harajuku Street, the epitome of Japanese counter culture and youthful rebellion against a stereotypically conformist culture. Harajuku Street is the birthplace of alternative self-expression and youthful resistance to Japan’s hegemonic culture.

Harajuku Street was at one time the only place to see, or even consider, outward displays of challenges to conformity, and certainly the only place to see a woman with tattoos.

It is thought to have become commercialised these days. Counter culture and expressions of freedom replaced with overpriced must-have fashion statements catering to the coolest kids of the capital. A stroll through the precinct doesn’t necessarily challenge this view.

Items of immense value lie inside the shops, judging by the queue stretching from the door and around the corner, and by the presence of the bouncers managing the flow of traffic. Objects of high quality and expert craftmanship perhaps. Garments of exceptional beauty or simply items that no one else possesses – not yet. Items found only in this store, at this time, which will set their buyers apart from from everyone else on the street, at their school or university.

That explains the queue. Not the quality, the appearance, the fabric or the production, but the originality. Originality and the rejection of conformity created Harajuku Street and drives its energy. Keep in mind, this was before the age of Instagram, and even Facebook.

What is it like now for image obsessed teens?

I left the trendy young things and continued my journey around the streets of the city. The dichotomy of Tokyo revealed itself within an hour.

She was demure, eyes downcast; inching forwards slowly with tiny steps. Adorned in traditional Japanese attire and make up and tottering on tiny sandals to the soothing tones of traditional Japanese music. She was participating in a wedding procession which had been practiced for hundreds of years in Tokyo and throughout the country.

The bride’s family completed the age-old ensemble and were also dressed in traditional wedding clothing and following rituals passed down from generation to generation.

Japan’s traditional culture and Harajuku Street’s inherent modernity present two tales of a city.

Was it ScoMo or Hanson?

Who is responsible, Scott Morrison or Pauline Hanson?

Which of these Australian politicians is responsible for the destruction of yet more Australian wildlife?

Morrison and Hanson both handled wombats in recent years and now a large proportion of the nation’s wombats suffer from mange. Coincidence?

Mange is one of the biggest killers of wombats. The mange mite buries itself under the wombat’s skin triggering extreme itchiness which makes the wombat scratch, causing open wounds and scabs to form.  These become infected, the wombat loses condition, becomes dehydrated, malnourished and slowly dies. The good news is, it can be treated.

The Wombat Protection Society of Australia is working to eliminate that threat. WPSA is a national non-profit organisation created to raise awareness and money in order to provide wombats with immediate protection from harm. WPSA enhances quality of life, funds projects that develop and protect suitable habitat, and provides sanctuaries for Australian wombats.

Mange is considered to be the major health issue impacting wombat welfare. It is caused by the parasitic mite sarcoptes scabiei, and the society has brought attention and action to this issue by encouraging and supporting research and collaboration in the treatment and prevention of mange in both free living and in-care wombats.

Wombat conservation occurs throughout Australia but is carried out almost exclusively by volunteers. Very little government funding is provided to wombat protection groups, and Morrison and Hanson could change this; Morrison especially. Instead, both politicians exploited wombats for photo opportunities instead of substantially increasing funding for their protection.

The One Nation leader posed for a bizarre photo with a distressed wombat while campaigning. She straddled it before appearing to knee it in the back in a move that’s not even legal in the NRL or Super Rugby. That wombat is likely to be suffering a lot more than mange.

Morrison appears extremely uncomfortable handling the wombat during his photo opp, but one can’t expect a man to offer empathy to an animal if he can’t even offer it to humans.

Morrison and Hanson attract an equal amount of suspicion. Both are populist leaders more capable of slogans and photo opportunities than actual policy formation or genuine action. Both utilise racism and the gullibility of semi-literate Australians to maintain their power, and both have a terrible track record on issues of environmental sustainability during their terms.

So who gave the mange to Australia’s lovable native animals?

Was it Scott Morrison or Pauline Hanson?

Images: AAP, ABC

Your Exclusive Guide to the Candidates for Wentworth.

The joy and excitement of a federal election is upon us, and our letterboxes will soon overflow with messages and promises from candidates fighting to represent the good people of the Eastern Suburbs in the steam-cleaned halls of power.

The Beast used its exclusive access to sources within each campaign to put together this guide on what to look forward to until decision day.

Incumbent Dave Sharma remains our tremendous eastern representative. Turrramurra’s excellent ring-in used his teal emulating resume to boast of his truly enviable results in the HSC, and to distance himself from his own party.

Was the dependent independent distancing himself from the Coalition’s targeted electoral rorting or their toxic economic recovery which guarantees total environmental ruin? Was our Dave expunging from our minds Australia’s terrible extinction rates and Gladys’ treeless earth rampage, or his party’s efforts to tirelessly erase rape incidents occurring in the country’s erstwhile institutions?

Let’s not be too harsh on him though. Let’s cast our minds back to simpler times when the tragically erroneous romantic showed his tender, enduring respect for women by handing out tokenism epitomising roses.

But what of Dave’s opponents in the big dance?

Allegra Spender – Independent

Spender’s pamphlets will also lie on the blue spectrum and will cleverly differentiate her from other independents. Astute residents will notice a tendency to use upper case L throughout the Literature in recognition of the tradition of Wentworth. Before you accuse ALLegra of poor grammar though, remember that it also serves to differentiate her from our Dave.

Tim Murray – Labor

Murray’s pamphlet is still a blank piece of paper. He had initially opted for Labor red but feared accusations of communism from News Corp. Green was suggested until it was pointed out that Easts rugby fans maintain a healthy hatred of the Galloping Greens, before an eager volunteer suggested red and green to reflect the party’s policy stance and to appeal to Rabbitohs fans. Links to Anthony Albanese were then discussed, before a junior staffer suggested using black to further accentuate Albo’s weight loss. Ultimately, they will likely settle on grey to reflect the party’s convictions.

Dominic Wy Kanak – The Greens

The Greens are different. They will forego the traditional paper pamphlets, in order to avoid felling the remaining trees that Gladys didn’t prune before saying YES! They can’t afford a Tesla, so they will instead deliver messages with solar-powered red-winged parrots. Parrots that don’t get eaten by pet cats will deliver a policy outline painstakingly inscribed on the seaweed that washed up on our beaches during the recent storms. Residents are encouraged to reuse the seaweed. Sushi anyone?

Natalie Dumer – United Australia Party.

Dumer also did away with pamphlets. Instead, Clive Palmer’s loyal servant will erect huge yellow billboards on everyone’s lawn with promises as big as the billboards themselves; promises she’ll never have to keep.  The billboards will make historically-inaccurate claims that previous prime ministers belonged to the current UAP, and will launch attacks on the mainstream parties that are far more vitriolic than any satirical article. She will also vow to Save Australia…from someone or something.

Enjoy the ride and the democracy sausage!

Image: Aditya Joshi

First published in The Beast magazine, May 2022.

Our Tremendous Eastern Representative.

Dave Sharma is our tremendous eastern representative, but how well do we really know him?

We recently discovered that he achieved truly enviable results in his HSC, but that was more than 25 years ago, and Dave’s kids are now closer to their HSC exams than he is. Boasting about a score of 100% is fine for about 6 months after year 12, but doing so in 2022 seems like a tawdry egotistical reminder.

To all of you kiddies out there who have no idea what this article is about, TER stands for Tertiary Entrance Rank, and this term was used in NSW instead of ‘ATAR’ in the olden days.

Dave’s exultation arrived in our letterboxes inside his teal emulating resume, which was strangely devoid of the Liberal party logo. Why did he choose to omit the logo?

Is it because of his party’s targeted electoral rorting?

Perhaps Dave is distancing himself from the Coalition’s total environmental ruin. He wants you to forget his fearless leader’s love affair with coal and the party’s determination to run coal-fired power stations for as long as possible. He wants you to forget the treeless earth rampage that earned Gladys the nickname Koala Killer, and to ignore his government’s ruling to remove project-specific approval under national environmental laws, which helps explain why Australia has the most inadequate climate policy among developed countries.

Official records indicate that our Dave and his colleagues also voted against efforts to reverse the terrible extinction rates of Australia’s native plants and animals.

Perhaps Turramurra’s excellent ring-in also wants you to forget his party’s plan for a toxic economic recovery from COVID-19, and the fact that he toed the party line on transferring entrapped refugees to the mainland for medical treatment.

The Liberal National Party has also been criticised for its treatment of Australian women. It has been suggested that some elements in the party have been tirelessly erasing rape incidents in parliament house from the minds of everyday Aussies, and that his own fearless leader reminded protesting women that they should be grateful they weren’t shot.

But let’s not be too harsh on our Dave. His tender, enduring respect for women was on full display at Bondi Junction station on International Women’s Day, but, alas, the tragically erroneous romantic was unfairly attacked for handing out tokenism epitomising roses. Poor Dave.

Dave was also there, alongside his LNP colleagues, when they formulated policies on funding cuts that made an Aussie tertiary education redundant, and he comprised the team which allocated peanuts to thespians, entertainers and roadies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s no better time than now to pay tribute to our tremendous eastern representative.

Image: Citizen’s Climate Lobby Australia

First published, in part, in The Beast magazine, April 2022.

AGL welcomes everyone…

Australian energy company AGL invites everyone…to suffer.

AGL is Australia’s biggest polluter but has also won awards for diversity inclusion, indicating that it welcomes everyone to suffer from the effects of climate change.

The company was recently awarded Gold Employer status for LGBTQ+ inclusion at the AWEI Awards, while simultaneously earning the title of Australia’s biggest domestic contributor to climate change by Greenpeace. Greenpeace argues that AGL emitted 42.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2019-2020. Greenpeace data confirms that the energy company creates,

“…24.6% of electricity sector emissions and 8% of Australia’s total emissions, which primarily comes from the coal burned at the energy giant’s three coal-burning power stations: Liddell, Bayswater, and Loy Yang A. AGL’s own data confirms that 85% of energy generated by the gentailer comes from burning coal.”

At the same time, AGL boasts publicly that:

“This is the third year we have been awarded Gold Employer status, and the fifth year that we have participated in the AWEI. Our employee-driven LGBTQ+ network, AGL Shine, was created in 2014. The network focuses on providing a safe and inclusive environment for all our employees – while also advocating internally and externally for gender inclusion beyond the heteronormative binary.”

Creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people in encouraging, but let’s not beat around the bush. How hard is it to be inclusive in 2022?

Encouraging diversity essentially means treating everyone equally.

How hard is that?

Even if AGL does genuinely support LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace, what exactly does this entail?

It involves affirming the Darlington Statement which articulates the human rights demands of people with intersex variations. A statement written by someone else.

Does it involve paying a diversity trainer or consultant to conduct training sessions on diversity with employees, or hosting social days to celebrate diversity?

Does it involve allowing all staff to choose their own pronouns, and updating HR documents, or posting the rainbow motif on all social media platforms?

It might even include sponsoring a float in Mardi Gras, targeted employment or other active steps. They might even make a difference to the lives of employees.

Remember, however, that government schools throughout Australia are just as inclusive as AGL, but they don’t win awards. They also do so with a fraction of the money available to AGL. They do it with underpaid, overworked, undervalued teachers.

Did AGL win an award because it operates within the resource sector, and is the resource sector full of bigots?

Either way, winning an award for diversity inclusion does not change the fact that AGL is still Australia’s biggest polluter. It does not change the fact that:

Lesbians will suffer from climate change

Gay people will suffer from climate change

Bisexual people will suffer from climate change

Trans people will suffer from climate change

Queer people will suffer from climate change

Intersexed people will suffer from climate change

Asexual people will suffer from climate change

That’s not all.

Males will suffer from climate change

Females will suffer from climate change

Men will suffer from climate change

Women will suffer from climate change

Non binary people will suffer from climate change

Gender neutral/Androgynous people will suffer from climate change

Gender fluid people will suffer from climate change

Agender people will suffer from climate change

Cisgender people will suffer from climate change

Demigender people will suffer from climate change

Gender questioning people will suffer from climate change

Genderqueer people will suffer from climate change

Intergender people will suffer from climate change

Multi-gender, bigender and trigender people will suffer from climate change

Pangender will suffer from climate change

Bois, Tomboys will suffer from climate change

Butch/masc people will suffer from climate change

Femme people will suffer from climate change

Gender noncomforming will suffer from climate change

To the LGBTQIA+ community, don’t be fooled by AGL’s slick marketing campaign. You will suffer the effects of climate change.

To the LGBTQIA+ community, don’t let AGL exploit you to distract Australians from their climate destruction.

The cats eating Australia.

Cats are eating Australia alive. Cats kill millions of native animals every year and one region has introduced a plan that may well save many adorable Aussie animals from death or extinction.

Cats are estimated to kill about 1.5 billion native animals per annum in Australia. This destruction is the work of domestic cats, stray cats and feral cats. All of these cats are derived from pet cats, as feline species have never been native to Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1994 only 26% of domestic cats were confined both during the day and night. This means 74% of cats where roaming happily, hunting and destroying native wildlife. In the same year, 42,126 cats were dumped on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Only 3% of the cats were reclaimed and 74% were put down.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright.

Chantel Benbow is an ecologist, and some would say a hypocrite. She owns a cat and lets it roam free at night around the streets of inner Sydney. Her cat does wear a bib developed by Murdoch University, and utilised widely in the Eurobodalla Council region on the NSW far south coast. The bib claims to distract the cat from the prey, and to stop 81 per cent of cats from catching birds, 45 per cent of cats from catching mammals, and 33 per cent of cats from catching lizards and amphibians.

Not 100%.

That said, Benbow still advises:

“If you want to have a pet cat, keep it indoors because they are hunters. They are beautiful, they are cute and fluffy but they will kill something.”

This is why the Australian Capital Territory has introduced a policy that could save thousands of native Australian animals.

The policy requires all new pet cats obtained after July 1, 2022 to be contained indoors or in a cat run. It does, however, allow cats acquired before July 1, 2022 to roam free if their owners do not live in a new Canberra suburb. These cats can happily kill native wildlife every day and night. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Another law change allows cat owners to walk their cat on a lead, which is actually prohibited, not just odd. This applies to 17 designated cat containment suburbs in the territory. Cats will also have to be registered, just like dogs, under the new law.

The maximum penalty for breaching the law is $1,600.

Politicians announcing the new law boasted that the ACT is a leader in cat containment.

“The ACT government wants to minimise the impacts of domestic cats on native wildlife by reducing the number of feral, unowned and semi-owned cats through more de-sexing, improved domestic cat welfare and management practices, better ways to identify lost cats and reunite them with their owners,” Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Every year, free-roaming but owned Canberra cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs.

The ACT is not the first region to introduce some form of ban on pet cats in order to save Australia’s wildlife.

The municipality of Knox in Victoria has introduced a 24-hour cat curfew on all domestic cats to come into effect on October 1, 2021. Cats must be confined to their owner’s property at all times and the new law was established for one primary reason; to protect native wildlife.

Owners face fines for failure to comply, and the rationale for the law also sites general nuisance and safety for cats. However, it is not difficult to read between the lines of the government document and determine the primary motivation for the move.

The council in Melbourne states that there are “…currently over 6,500 cats registered with Council.” Even if each cat kills only one native animal per day, that municipality will lose 6,500 native animals every day. In the space of a year…

The law should have been introduced long ago. It should be nationwide policy.

The municipality of Knox trialled the curfew in 2020 and more than 86% of residents are said to have supported the continuation of the program, including cat owners themselves.

Opponents or critics of the curfew might also argue that it is not necessary because they put a bell on their cat’s collar to alert wildlife. Their cats then roam guilt-free. Blue Mountains City Council, which administers a large area surrounded by national park, claims:

“Bells on collars don’t always work. Cats with bells can learn to stalk prey silently,” and

“…native animals don’t associate the sound of bells with danger.”

Other Australian communities have also introduce such a ban. Mount Barker near Adelaide implemented a similar law in 2019. The law proposed penalties for cats found roaming freely between 8pm and 7am, and a limit of two cats per property. The community lobbied for the law after becoming sick of domestic cats defecating on people’s properties, fighting in gardens and killing wildlife.

Similar laws aimed at protecting wildlife have also been trialled or implemented in Gawler, Adelaide Hills, Marion and Campbelltown in South Australia. The law in Gawler included a provision to ‘seize, detain and destroy’ any cat caught roaming within its boundaries if the animal isn’t claimed by its owner within three days.

Various forms of cat curfews are also being considered in locations such as Yarra Range Council in Victoria and Wollondilly Council in Sydney. Interestingly, a councillor from Wollondilly Council, Simon Landow, was quoted as saying that the plan had been met with great support, but that the rules had no teeth unless the state government enacted similar legislation.

Mount Barker, Knox and many of the regions mentioned above feature residential areas which adjoin an area of bushland or open space, where native wildlife can still be found. If that wildlife is to survive, a cat curfew must be implemented across the nation.

Image: david_g_bevan_writer

Australia’s brilliant plan to dominate world Rugby.

Australia will win every Rugby Union World Cup and international game for eternity thanks to a masterful plan guaranteed to fill its teams with the world’s best talent.

Rugby Australia and the Australian government will force Pasifika people to desert their homelands and live in Australia, where they will have no choice but to play for the Wallabies and local Super Rugby teams if they wish to continue enjoying the game they play in heaven.

“We’ll drown their homes,” declared a spokesperson for the government and rugby authorities.

“We’ll continue to drive climate change which is raising sea levels and inundating low-lying Pacific Islands from which most of the world’s best Rugby Union players originate.”

The spokesperson then went on to congratulate Rugby Australia and the current LNP government for forcing so many players from countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to play for Australia and for Australian Super Rugby franchises.

Many Pasifika players grew up in Australia after their families were forced to seek greater opportunities in the land Down Under, either due to climate change or due to international trade and foreign policies. As residents of Australia, they cannot make these countries into rugby superpowers. The recent success of Tonga in Rugby League suggests these countries could dominate rugby union.

“Without our Pasifika players we would never win a game, at international level or representative level. That’s the reality of international rugby union,” continued the spokesperson.

“The beauty of this plan is that it’s so easy. We just have to continue doing what we’re doing. Keep burning and exporting coal, keep suppressing renewable energy and electric cars, and continue to be the country with the world’s largest per capita carbon footprint. We can simply continue massive land clearing and approving new coal seam gas and coal mines, because this all ensures that ice caps melt and flood low lying islands.”

“When ScoMo talked about a gas-led recovery, he wasn’t talking about the recovery of our economy, he was talking about the recovery of Australian rugby union.”

The plan will guarantee a steady supply of big, strong, fast, agile and skilful players into the Wallabies and Super Rugby teams, and will replace the students of private schools who traditionally played representative rugby in Australia. The same private school boys who become resource company employees and executives, kings of cattle, conservative politicians and directors of financial institutions which invest in fossil fuel companies.

Those behind the plan also hosed down suggestions that players with Pasifika heritage could still be eligible for Fiji, Samoa or Tonga courtesy of their ancestry,

“You can’t play for a country that’s underwater.”

Drowning Pacific Islands could also force many people to emigrate to New Zealand instead, but those behind the plan expressed little concern at this outcome, stating:

“The All Blacks don’t need any help.”

Image: Stephen Tremain

Crime Busters

A torrent of furious comments flooded the Pitchfork Facebook page.

“No more crime.”

“Fight dirt and crime.”

“Crime-free homes!”

“Live crime free,” cried the residents, who were sick of the crime spree sweeping their city. Sick of inaction. Sick of endless break-ins, vandalism, graffiti and theft – and scant arrests.

“Don’t tolerate crime any longer,” and so it continued, until the vitriol fomented into calls for action. Someone soon set a date and time to take back the streets and do what the police couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Members unleashed their despair at the regularity of the crimes, the brazen nature of the offences and the age of the perpetrators.

“Bloody kids, get away with murder…”

“I blame the schools. Too much black-armband history.”

“Not enough grammar and spelling!”

“Bring back the cane!” they ranted.

“Yeah, and too much greenwashing, nuthin’ wrong with good ol’ Chalk and Talk!”

As a teacher, Andrew was well aware of the limitations of Chalk and Talk, and he had no desire to engage with the latest social media hysteria. Nor did he need to. He heard the contorted philosophy of the Pitchfork parents through his students, and knew the vigilantes were planning to purge the city on this particular Saturday night. Thus, he locked himself in like a grumpy neighbour on Halloween.

Alas, on this night of nights, Dickens by candlelight was not enough to distract Mr Mitchell from the frenzied commotion on the street. He tiptoed through the darkness and peeled open the front door. He peered through the security grill and was summarily shocked, because he was blissfully unaware of chats that had occurred deeper inside the web since the first call to arms.

Bold claims were made, shared, liked and reposted.

“It ain’t neighbourhood watch,” they boasted, “…this is war!”

As users shared tips on acquiring actual pitchforks and other weapons, one post would dramatically change the course of the ‘street cleaning’ operation.

“Crime Busters” read the post, with a link which promised everything anyone would ever need to rid their life of crime forever. Credit cards were extracted and crypto accounts activated. Crime Busters sold out of stock in minutes.

That one comment explained Andrew’s utter disbelief as he peaked through his CrimSafe into the floodlit street.

The angry mob were rampaging through the streets, but instead of brandishing pitchforks and other weapons of war, they were armed with branded buckets, soaps, sprays, rubber gloves, brushes and assorted cleaning products.

“No more crime,” they yelled.

“Fight dirt and crime!”

“Blast away the scum”

First thing Monday morning, Jayden was summoned to the Pitch Palace at Brilliant Brands and Concepts.

“It’s a rare privilege for a junior to lead a campaign, Jayden, so tell me, have you heard of spell check?” asked his boss, in a tone reminiscent of Jayden’s high school English teachers.

The boss motioned to Jayden’s elaborate storyboards.

“Remind me, what is the name of our client?”

“Oooh,” Jayden finally clicked.

“Grime Busters”

Image: Luis Villasmil