A Fair Go for Whom?

As Australians, we have been brought up on stories of giving everyone a fair go. It’s part of our culture and is a value that we hold most dear.

My European ancestors came to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century looking for a fair go. They came from times of hardship, unemployment and poverty. They hoped that in this new country they could make a reasonable life for themselves and their children. Their descendants are now spread far and wide, leading by comparison comfortable lives in middle Australia. Someone gave them a fair go.

There are historical examples that support our belief.  The miners fought for a fair go at the Eureka Stockade, some of them giving their lives for it. A few decades later, Australia was the first country to both give women the vote and to grant them the right to stand for election.  We were brought up on stories such as the bravery of John Simpson and his donkey, bravely providing first aid and carrying the wounded until he himself was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign at Anzac Cove. Heart-stirring stuff.

1856 saw the introduction of the 8-hour day for stonemasons in Victoria, granting them Saturday afternoons off.  This was fought for on the basis of not sacrificing health and shortening the duration of human life; allowing working men the time to develop their minds through education; and allowing tradesmen to be better husbands and fathers.  In time, these working conditions spread throughout the workforce.

We have believed that education is the right of all Australian children and that access to affordable health care should be given to everyone. We like to think that if anyone puts their mind to it, they can do anything.

Post WW2, there was mass migration to Australia from war-ravaged Europe.  Those people didn’t always have an easy time of their re-settlement, but they and their children have helped to make Australia the multi-cultural society that it is today.  In spite of calling them Wogs, Eyties, Ethnics, Poms and various other names, we like to think that we gave them a fair go and often use those names affectionately today.

It is true that our concept of a fair go was often biased. Our indigenous Aborigines rarely got a fair go and many struggle to do so today. Immigration policies restricted Asian neighbours from migrating here, although early Chinese migration played a significant role in the development of nineteenth-century Victoria.

Common sense and a review of history tells us that the concept of ‘fair go’ is very subjective. It is reserved for PLUs – People Like Us.  We are the ones who deserve it and as for the others – they just have to buckle down and earn it or else learn to change their ways and to become PLUs – if we let them of course.

In recent years, even the righteous and deserving are questioning what has happened to the fundamental value which underpins our way of life.  We have seen government and commercial actions which have threatened our Australian pride.

We imprison people who have fled their homelands as conditions there have become untenable or worse, life-threatening. We deny them adequate health care, education, and the opportunity to lead a meaningful life and to contribute to meaningful society. Even worse, we deny them any form of hope for the future. When we are being particularly scornful, we accuse them of being just ‘economic refugees’. Since when is that a crime?  So were my ancestors economic refugees, and one of them even jumped ship to remain in Australia.

We erode the benefits and working conditions of the most vulnerable of our workers. We also have begun the process by which penalty rates are reduced, a move that will spread to many industries. It seems that we no longer deserve compensation for giving up our evenings or traditional family time.

We are increasing the cost of education, ignoring the fact that for us to truly be a lucky country, we need a skilled and educated workforce. We need our scientists, our teachers and our technicians. We need to invest in our people if we are going to innovate, to develop industries, and to keep up with other nations. The return on this investment is a clever society and dare I say it, a fairer society. It is one in which everyone has the opportunity of developing their skills and talents for the benefit of us all. Increasingly, only the wealthy are able to educate their children.

We refuse to pay our job-seekers a livable sum of money, choosing to label them leaners and bludgers in spite of the fact that changes in technology and the economic environment has seen many jobs disappear.  Some are too inexperienced, some are over-experienced, some are too you and some are too old. Some no longer have skills in demand and others have never had the opportunity to develop them in the first place.  Whatever the reason, it is their fault that they can’t find a job and they don’t deserve our charity.

Just to make sure that life is really difficult, we restrict their eligibility to social security benefits on the theory that this will make them try harder. Bad luck that they can no longer afford the costs of applying for work, nor can they afford to pay rent or keep up the mortgage payments while they search. They just need to try harder.  We also reduce the number of staff within Centrelink and make it more difficult for those who need social security assistance to access information and accurate advice.

We hound our social security recipients on the theory that they are all out to defraud the government and therefore the tax-payer of valuable funds. We use poorly defined algorithms to decide just who is a miscreant and put the onus of proof on them in establishing their innocence. We then use bullying tactics and private debt collectors to enforce payment, whether they actually owe it or not.

Our political leaders, with the self-assurance that they are acting on behalf of us all, explain that it is a system that is working well, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. In the meantime, their colleagues are caught out rorting their entitlements to the tune of thousands of dollars. If they lose their parliamentary seat, they can seek comfort in the knowledge that entitlements and a comfortable superannuation payment will follow them into private life. After all, they deserve it. It’s only fair.

So what does a fair go meant today?  On the evidence available, it means to strongly define who deserves it and who doesn’t. Those who deserve it are the ones who get to decide who don’t. Those who don’t, only have themselves to blame for their situation. If only they were a PLU (employed, educated, and fit) they might be deserving also. That’s only fair.

Do you think that we still abide by the maxim of a fair go?

Blog Spam

Aren’t you sick of it?  Isn’t it just so infuriating? Every time that I upload a new post to my blog, the ‘likes’ start to flow into my in-box.  The message from Word Press says:

     Fred liked your post. 

     He thought the post was pretty awesome.

     You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!  

That’s nice, I think to myself.  Somebody likes my post.  I should return the favour and look at theirs.  Perhaps we’ll have something in common.

We don’t, and that’s not surprising because when I look at my blog stats, I can see that none of those likes have actually read my blog.  All the spammer has done is gone fishing to gain my response so that I will increase the visitation levels on their blog.

And that’s not all.  Their blog is likely part of an on-line multi-level marketing scheme, focussed on making money from signing bloggers up for a fee to learn more about money-making ventures via affiliate relationships, and through signing up others to the scheme.  Information is provided by hyper linked videos which show cool-looking dudes in their early twenties who spruik the perfect money-making ventures, if only you will sign up.

I have no objections to anyone making money from blogging, from affiliate associations, advertising, or any other means.  What I do object to is being spammed with the empty likes and trying to entice me to read the spammer’s blog without the courtesy of having read mine.  It makes me feel used and I don’t like it.

Am I alone here?  Have others felt the same way about these spam bloggers and their likes?

Building a Retirement Village

I often think about retirement years, where and how I’ll live and with whom.  I’m not partnered so of course the ‘with whom’ questions might be easy to answer:  I’ll live alone.  That might not always be possible though, and I might not always want it either. 

So what are my options?  I have thrown ideas around in my head for a while and had over-coffee discussions with friends that have given rise to general agreement but have gone nowhere specific.  All of us value our autonomy and independence and want to live an active life for as long as we are able, part of the community still and definitely not located in a closed retirement enclave.  We don’t want to live our lives by the rules that we typically associate with retirement villages.

For this reason, I was interested in the discussion that took place on ABC Radio National this morning on ‘To move or not to move?”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/to-move2c-or-not-to-move-as-you-get-older3f/4640128

Guests on the program and those who rang in discussed many of those issues that I have cited: the need for control and autonomy; remaining part of the community but living in a supportive environment and having access to the support and facilities that they also required.

It seems that we are all thinking along the same lines.  I love the house that I have built, but I know that it will be too expensive for me to run and maintain in coming years, plus I don’t want to spend all my time working on or maintaining the house.  Ideally, I would develop a solution that is environmentally sensitive and as a consequence cheaper to run and maintain.  Besides the facility that I have now – lots of storage, cleanable surfaces, welcoming character and atmosphere – I would like to build a place also that has those sacred and secret places either inside or outside.  I would like to be able to entertain guests or dare I hope, one day the grandchildren.  My secret indulgent wish is that I could also have a heated lap pool as I love swimming.

There are advantages to looking at a combined development – one that takes you into the future with shared facilities (I’m happy to share the pool), reduced costs, shared maintenance costs and with other like-minded people.  My preference would be for a metropolitan village, as I am a city-based girl.  I like having access to cinemas and cafés and a range of cultural and artistic facilities.  If feasible, I would live in an inner-city location.  That could be achieved with buying up a cluster of houses that back onto each other and demolishing the dividing fences and creating shared areas.

Alternatively, and preferably if one had the financial resources, another option would be to demolish those houses and to start again, with purpose-built housing solutions and a site that was master-planned from the beginning.  Those who were interviewed in the radio program seemed to be taking the rural option, building their village on a green field site close to a town so that they still had access to facilities, but had enough land available to provide each dwelling with some acreage.

They all seemed to have similar ideas.  I liked the provision of gopher tracks so in times of reduced mobility, the residents could ride their gophers to the local town as well as around their ‘village’.  There was talk of communal gardens and shared tradespeople and bulk purchasing, all of which sounds sensible.  Every proposal talked of eco-sensitive design which was going to result in sustainable development and reduced running costs.  One project sensibly talked about a central guest accommodation unit so that there was somewhere for visitors to stay, and meaning that individual houses did not need to be as big.  Something to contemplate although I would still like to have visitors staying with me.

Although frequent mention was made of like-minded people, it was also stressed that the community did not need to be of a homogenous age group and that having interaction with a variety of ages was also important.  That could have be with visitors or local community interaction, or even people of varied age groups living permanently within the community.

I like the concepts that have been discussed here and have been mulling over the options for some time.  I haven’t yet come to grips with how to get other people on board and how to decide on the type of development.  I still have time to play around with the idea.

If others have thoughts along these lines, or know of other retirement communities, I would love to hear about it.

 

 

On the Brink

2013 promises to be a defining year for me – to some degree anyway.  This is the year that I turn 60.  I have only just adjusted – sort of – to the description of middle-aged being applied to me.  OK, I don’t exactly feel ‘young’ any more but middle-aged sounds staid and matronly and it is a term that I have been happy to ignore in relation to myself.

Embarking on my seventh decade though is both confronting and scary.  It is also a time for acknowledging realities:

  • I am not going to be Prime Minister of Australia.  This was a teenage ambition but I never did have the required degree of focus and intellectual retention.  Probably the main person who takes me seriously is myself.
  • I am not going to meet my Knight in Shining Armour (KISA).  If it hasn’t happened by now, then it is unlikely to do so and I remain one of life’s unclaimed treasures.  Sadly, his armour is probably all rusted up anyway.
  • I am not going to be rich, or even just comfortably wealthy.  This is assuming of course that richness is measured in monetary terms.  I am certainly rich in other aspects of my life.
  • The attractiveness that was evident in younger years (never great and never conventional) is fading fast as my waistline thickens, my hair thins and there are jowls framing my numerous chins.
  • I am becoming invisible and a person whose opinion is of diminishing importance.  (Being patronised by someone whose nappy you changed is a bit irritating.)
  • Suddenly it is considered not appropriate to shop for clothes in boutiques that I have patronised for years – OK decades.  Apparently some clothes are the prerogative of the young and I should now be confining myself to elasticised waists and florals.

Still, I am sure I can cope with all of that.  In my usual style, I’ll just ignore it and go on behaving, dressing and dreaming as I always have.

This looming birthday is just one of the issues that I am confronting in 2013, but the others can wait for a later blog. 

The Finer Points of Dining

I have had occasion to eat out several times this week.  These were social events and the opportunity to share company and break bread with friends and family.  All good.  My waistline and purse are suffering a bit, but hopefully this is not a permanent state of affairs.

I had some wonderful food, served with attention to service and detail.  Good experiences. You can hear the BUT coming though can’t you and there is a bone of contention in all this.  There is a practice now in many restaurants of not providing vegetables with a meal (whether cooked or salad variety).  You are provided with a piece of meat or a piece of chicken or a stack of vegetarian equivalent, tastefully displayed with a sauce or jus or perhaps some cauliflower foam, and a decorative garnish.  If you want vegetables with that, then they are ordered and paid for separately.

The restaurant I dined at last night did not do combined vegetables, so it was another $10 for a plate of beans, lightly sauteed in butter and served with toasted slivered almonds, or another $10 for chunks or roasted potatoes, seasoned with sea salt and rosemary, and then there was the usual roast beetroot and rocket salad – probably another $10 but I forget how much exactly.  Admittedly, these dishes each provided enough vegetable to be shared between two people, but given the cost of my main dish, I would have expected that an array of vegetables would have accompanied it.

The preceding night, I dined at a fish restaurant – new and with very positive reviews.  The service again was wonderful, but a platter of fish and the ubiquitous chips only was supplied.  A Greek or Green Salad had to be ordered extra.  No bread was provided – that had to be ordered extra as well.  The owner of this restaurant spent many years assisting his parents to run a Fish Cafe – great and unpretentious food with lots of repeat customers.  Eventually the parents got tired and decided that it was time to retire and their son moved on to his own restaurant.  He must be focusing on a different clientele.

On a positive note though, we did not realise when booking at this restaurant that it was run by the son (who also cooks).  My father had become quite well-known at the Fish Cafe, as he was a regular patron and always ordered the same thing.  Battered Garfish, with one fillet on the plate and one in a bag to take home as he could never eat the two.  (His appetite has declined in recent years.) When they saw him come in the door, the staff anticipated his requirements.

At the restaurant, Dad again ordered battered Garfish.  When it arrived, it came with a take-away box and the waiter explained that there was an extra fillet provided and that we would understand what the box was for.  It was only then that we discovered whose restaurant it was and were tickled that not only did the owner recognise my father, but that he catered for him as he did.  We will probably only go back on special occasions, given the cost but the gesture in looking after my father (in his nineties) was much appreciated.  That as much as anything will draw us back.

Am I alone in feeling that restaurants are gouging in pricing their meals as separate components, or am I exhibiting a lack of understanding in how costs are rising for restaurant managers?

Thank God it’s Friday

Just as well it was a short week this week (holiday Monday) as I had an attack of the blahs and the week dragged.  Probably adjusting to the earlier rising with Daylight Saving contributed to the feeling, plus ongoing altercations with young Donald.  He insists that he is still going to school, that he will not get a job and that I cannot make him do otherwise.  Just quietly, he is probably right, but if his intention is to go to school, then he actually has to do that.  I have told him that I am not intervening on his behalf with the school.  It is up to him to do so if he wants to try to talk his way back in.

Normally I ride my bicycle to work, or if the weather is inclement then I ride Jeffrey, my motor scooter.  Very occasionally I take the car, but this means that I must remember to keep shifting it through the day as there is a two-hour limit on car parks.  Thursday morning, I decided to drive as I was feeling tired and lethargic and also the weather was drizzly.  I was running rather late, so when I rushed outside to actually leave, I was not impressed to discover that the car was not in the driveway.  Nor was Donald in the house.  He had slipped out after I had gone to sleep and driven to Daisy’s house.  Needless to say I blew my top and left a very hostile message on his mobile phone.  At times like this I am beside myself with fury.  It’s that casual assumption that he can just take the car whenever he likes that upsets me.  I was also cross with myself that I had left the keys out where he could take them.  I shouldn’t have to hide them though.

The nice surprise for the week was receiving an email from a woman who I last saw thirty years ago.  We both met, some years before that when we both worked in a bar in Alice Springs.  K was only a couple of years older than me, but by comparison I was very innocent and naive.  She was the most overtly sexual woman I had ever met.  She wore skimpy skirts and low-cut tops, and her long hair, parted on the side seductively grazed those pouting lips.  As the male customers walked into our restaurant each evening, she would look them over critically and assess which were worth pursuing that evening.  Whichever man she chose, she usually got.  He didn’t have a chance.

K half terrified me and half fascinated me.  For some reason she took a shine to me and took me under her wing.  We were chalk and cheese but became good friends anyway.  We had many hilarious nights in the restaurant, and of course after work we would hit the town, living it up until the early hours and exhaustion hit.  I recall skinny dipping in the motel swimming pool at midnight, wearing sunglasses and our knickers on our heads as a disguise.  We probably kept half the guests awake with our raucous laughter and rude jokes.

She took me to my first bush race meeting, giving me more of a run-down on the men that were there than on the horses on the track.  It was their form that she was more concerned with anyway, though of course we did have a bet on the horses as well.  I recall when one famous Australian rock star, well known for his musical roles as well, hit town for a concert.  K took one look at the statuesque figure and said, ‘Duckie, I’m going to have him!’ and she did.  I gather it was a night to remember, for she said to me the next morning, ‘Boy, he wasn’t hiding behind the door when they were handed out!’  By her reports, he was very well endowed.  I think of that every time I see him on TV.

Although she had grown up in Alice, there came a time when she wanted a change, and she decided to move to Townsville.  I visited her a few times and still enjoyed her company although the relationship that she had at that time had brought about an element of more sedate behaviour.  Well, of a sort.

Something intriguing happened on one of those visits.  K and her sister had recently lost their father and were consulting a medium for some belated consultation with their parent.  There were unresolved issues from memory and they wanted to make contact with him.  This was taking place at the sister’s house, after which K and I were going out on the town.  At the appointed time, I drove over to the sister’s house to pick up K.  As I approached the back door, I could hear the conversation happening inside and deduced that the consultation was still in progress.  I didn’t knock, not wanting to create a disturbance but quietly opened the door, crept inside and sat down.

The man was talking in a focused fashion with his eyes closed to aid concentration or to better hear the voices I assume.  Suddenly, he stopped talking and went quiet.  He shifted in his seat and then started talking again.  He said that a young lady has just entered the room, and there is someone here who wishes to speak to her.  He described a young man who had died a short time previously and gave details of the death and my reactions to the news.  The description fitted a friend of mine, and he gave accurate detail of the circumstances and the impact on myself and the fact that I had sent a silent prayer to this friend.  I was told that the friend had received this prayer and wished to thank me.  Nobody in that room knew of my friend’s death, and I had never told K about it.  To say that I was rendered speechless at this encounter would be an understatement.  I wished later that I had thought to ask some questions, the answers to which only my friend and I would know the answers but was not quick enough.

K is now married and living a retired and settled life.  She had a young son (as a single mother) when I first knew her and now she has a granddaughter a little older than my son.  She always had a passion for animals and it seems that she still has a menagerie, with a focus on birds and parrots now – intelligent birds that are as demanding as little children.

I was delighted that she made contact with me.  I had often wondered what had become of her, but as she had married and changed her name, had no way of contacting her.  We shared news and photographs and promised to keep in touch.  She says that she has put on a bit more weight than she used to carry, but then haven’t we all?  In my mind’s eye though, I will still see the vamp that challenged and scared the pants off me when I first met her.  Can’t wait to catch up with her again.