This post was prompted by Deb Hunt’s post Bad Smell. You’ll find it here.
Most people just want to live their lives, I think. Nothing complicated: family, friends, a roof over their heads, enough money to pay the bills. They want to have lives as well as jobs – to watch the sunset, see the seasons turn, play with their children, laugh, smell a rose or two from time to time…
But it seems now that that isn’t allowed to be enough. We have been pushed into ‘wanting’, or even ‘needing’, in order to satisfy someone else’s greed. We must all become pawns in the game of consumerism pushing us to exploit every last drop of the world’s finite resources, lest those at the top of the commercial pyramid fail to turn the most dollars possible in the fastest possible time. Greed has consumed basic human intelligence and commonsense. Marketing has stepped in to fill the void and convince us that happiness depends on products.
It’s all so stupid it makes me want to weep. We are destroying the earth under our feet, the air we breathe and the water essential to our survival, to meet ‘needs’ that in many cases aren’t needs at all, but ‘wants’ artificially created for corporate financial benefit. Less destructive methods of meeting genuine needs – such as energy, for example – are rejected as being too costly. For whom? For this generation’s corporations, for whom maximum profit is the pinnacle of human endeavour.
But the ultimate stupidity is that the inmates have now taken over the asylum, certainly in Australia, and apparently in the US, the UK and Canada as well. In these countries as least, money has bought power, and the unholy alliance is setting out to make its monopoly unbreakable. Any government that withdraws or withholds funding from public education is making its ideology and its intention crystal clear: the masses must be kept in their place; only the privileged should be encouraged to lead; taking is more satisfying than giving.
But every fibre of my being rebels against that, and here’s why.
My father was the son of an out-of-work tram driver. (He was knocked down by a tram and lost his job before workers’ compensation existed.) My father intended to leave school as soon as possible and work to support the family, but his mother insisted he stay. He finished his schooling with the help of a State Bursary, obtained a first class degree at Sydney University thanks to a Teachers College Scholarship, and a doctorate at Oxford thanks to a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. He went on to become a highly respected educationist, was the architect and pioneer of distance and adult education in Australia, and was ultimately honoured for his contribution to Australian education. In the current political climate, he would have left school at 16.
At no time in his life was he ever in danger of losing sight of the values he considered important. He would have been appalled at the suggestion that success made him worthier than anyone else doing their best in whatever capacity. The standards he taught us are at total variance to the behaviour of current leaders: never tell a lie; never break a promise; that human worth has nothing to do with status; that power must always be balanced by humility and a willingness to listen and learn; that arrogance is never justifiable; that privilege always entails responsibility.
Perhaps he was old-fashioned. Perhaps I am. But if so, I don’t apologise. It’s taken me almost three months to realise that my current depression owes as much to our recent blatantly elitist budget as it does to my regular horror of winter. Usually I can shrug these things off. It’s the nature of budgets that someone will always feel wronged. But this is different. It sets out systematically to undermine Australian egalitarianism, and any pretence of ‘a fair go’. It thumbs its nose with cavalier arrogance at two basic rights essential for equal opportunity – free healthcare and free education – and at the same time, effectively muzzles the one media body pledged to give a balanced view of news and current affairs. It sets up a power/money stranglehold that will be almost impossible to break, given that those wishing to break it will have minimal access to funds, and no funds at all to repair the damage. It promises an Australia I will no longer recognise, or be proud to call home.
For me personally (before you ask) – it won’t affect me much, at least financially. But it brings me face to face with the fact that human values and ethical standards no longer seem to matter. That perhaps intelligence no longer matters when greed rules the world, obdurately blind to its own stupidity. That those of us who’ve worked hard to live honest and honourable lives have become fools.
But then again, look at it this way: most people just want to live their lives. Nothing complicated.
When gangland killer Carl Williams died, his family imported a gold-plated coffin for him. It didn’t make him any less dead. He’d spent his life ruthlessly amassing money, but that didn’t make him any less dead either, and even he couldn’t take it with him. So what was it all for?