The singer Gordi's rendition of the national anthem in the Rod Laver Arena just before Sunday evening's men's singles final was controversially melancholy-sounding.
Although she dutifully sang the prescribed opening words "Australians all let us rejoice", her voice and face and body language seemed instead to be saying "Australians all let us despair ..."
I wondered if perhaps she was so despondent because like me, earlier that day she had listened in alarm to ABC Radio National's latest Big Ideas edition. Three erudite and science-informed panellists spoke, each with 50 shades of despair and sadness and grief in his or her voice, of how climate change is already ravaging and changing Australia and is bringing inevitable catastrophes far worse than Australians and their governments can imagine.
Back to those 54 alarming, despairing ABC Radio National minutes in a moment but first to the one minute 45 seconds of Gordi's unusual trilling of the national anthem.
It quickly brought those on social media to the boil (seething that Gordi's was the "worst ever" performance of the anthem), with assorted news mediums quick to join in the frenzy. Some couldn't forgive her for singing "for we are young and free" rather than the new "for we are one and free", but it was her rendition's lack of the usual patriotic bounce and bubble that caused the most angst among the tweeting-texting classes.
As she sang I couldn't quite believe my usually utterly believable ears. Her stark, a cappella (without musical accompaniment), almost funereal rendition was fascinating.
Most public performances of the anthem have an easy-to-forget sameness and blandness about them, but hers, whatever her reasons for doing it her way (and of course I am only being fanciful in suggesting she was singing under the influence of that upsetting edition of Big Ideas), has somehow velcroed itself to the memory.
Some of its strangeness has to do with how, in spite of the anthem's words' overt jauntiness (urging us all to "rejoice" over Australia's superabundance of gifts and good fortune) Ms Gordi sang it as if singing a lament. The anthem's merry words and the misery-packed way in which she sang them were at surreal odds with one another. She seemed to be sharing her suffering nation's pain.
This refreshing strangeness moves one to ask what if, instead of our anthem being a one-performance-fits-all-occasions-all-national-moods-and-national-situations ditty there was scope for it to have nuanced performances? Might it be an adjustable anthem, perhaps not only sung in different ways to fit different national moods but even with fitting new verses to make the anthem a better fit with its times?
The anthem's merry words and the misery-packed way in which she sang them were at surreal odds with one another. She seemed to be sharing her suffering nation's pain.
The present anthem, always irritatingly full of terrible, glorifying fibs about who and what Australians are and Australia is, is now rendered delusionally daft (all that smug, sanguine bragging about our superabundance of nature's gifts) by what climate change is doing to us now and the horrors it has imminently in store.
Even had it ever been true that Australia was a land uniquely abounding in nature's gifts it is now the case, Big Ideas panellist Dr Joelle Gergis stressed, that our land abounds with nature's disadvantages.
"Australia is actually the most vulnerable nation in the developed world when it comes to climate change," she explained.
"[That's] because we are a big, arid country with really limited moisture availability. We are especially susceptible to climate variety and extremes. We are seeing this play out in real time ... on our watch. With just just 1.1 degree of warming we're already starting to see large-scale ecosystem collapse. We're seeing these horrendous bushfire conditions that will become average by 2040 ... The Black Summer [of 2019-2020] is a good example of what's just around the corner with climate change in a country like Australia ... In just one bushfire season we saw a quarter of all Australian forests burn, three billion animals were burned or displaced. We [see] the Great Barrier Reef is dying ... and it's not going to come back."
Discussion of when (not if), soon, presently populated parts of Australia will become literally "uninhabitable" peppered the panel's diagnoses of Australia's plight.
Perhaps Gordi's probably unintentionally disconsolate, grieving way of performing the national anthem is the way it should always intentionally be performed, now. At worst it will be only a masturbatory wallow in sad nostalgia for the boundlessly rejoicing times when our soil seemed eternally golden, when our future promised to be forever fair.
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