Let’s tell these bloody street preachers where to go
In the name of God, why should anyone be force-fed the word of the Lord while they’re shopping?
That swarthy dude with his dulcet tones outside Roger David in Rundle Mall? He can convert me to men’s suits any day. But these sanctimonious sermonisers and their 100-decibel rantings? No way, Jesu.
Myer is My Sunday place of worship, thank you very much, and Adelaide City Council can have My Vote for ridding our secular shopping strip of these screechy preachers who are apparently just as deafening as chain saws, jackhammers and farm tractors.
I wouldn’t want that outside my home. I wouldn’t want it outside my favourite Hills grocery store.
And retailers in Rundle Mall, who say they lose as much as $1500 in trade during these God-awful assemblies, most certainly don’t need preachers turning consumers away in the lead-up to the vital pre-Christmas shopping period.
Besides, who wants to hear about Christ when we’re trying to Christmas shop?
But here’s what I’m thinking. If this preaching palaver is done right, and more particularly in the right location, perhaps we can turn this abject annoyance into a niche attraction?
Adelaide is the Opine Capital of Australia. We’ve all got an opinion. About everything. Rambling is our entertainment of choice – we even prefer talkback radio over music stations in the mornings.
So imagine, if you will, a quaint little corner of Adelaide where those with a view are encouraged to verbalise.
Former Treasurer Kevin Foley on the top 10 tricks of ageing Lotharios.
Business SA chief Peter Vaughan on this season’s must-have brands when public holiday shopping.
City councillor Anne Moran on the unique structure of every blade of grass in the parklands.
Sunday Mail columnist Peter Goers on the joys of dieting.
ABC891 announcer Matthew Abraham on ... well, just pick any topic and he’ll argue against it.
Come to think of it, it’s actually quite surprising that Adelaide doesn’t already have a designated Speakers’ Corner (apart from the old spot in the Botanic Gardens that sees more music than speaking these days - Ed.): a place where you can like them or loathe them or leave well alone; a place where preachers, too, can have their voice.
Speakers’ Corner in London has been a symbol of grassroots democracy since 1872. Every Sunday for nearly 130 years, people have rocked up to the same corner of Hyde Park, with nothing more than a milk crate or stepladder for a stage, and spouted forth on politics, religion and everything in between.
It’s been the site of some of the biggest demonstrations in the UK, and past speakers include Karl Marx and George Orwell.
No subject is taboo, so long as the police don’t find it unlawful, it’s not spattered with profanity and you don’t mind a little friendly heckling.
Admittedly, it’s listed as #2 on a website for The 10 Worst London Tourist Attractions – but it does attract tourists (as well, apparently, as some speakers with absolutely no talent for public speaking).
Adelaide would do it better. We developed the Festival of Ideas, we’ve got Thinkers in Residence and we’ve turned punchy public debate into an interminable art form. How hard can a Speakers’ Corner be?
Hindmarsh Square is the perfect place for our Speakers’ Corner. Somewhere along North Terrace would work well, too.
But there is nothing to be gained by preachers continuing their campaign to proselytise in Rundle Mall. I imagine it’s turning even the most sympathetic ear against them.
And let’s not forget that tolerance is a two-way street.
Stay in Rundle Mall and continue to alienate thousands. Or claim a less invasive part of Adelaide as a legitimate Speakers’ Corner, and draw a crowd who truly want to hear (and perhaps dispute) what’s on your mind.
That’s my two bob’s worth, anyway.
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