These are the best of times. They’re the worst of times. They’re times of great affluence and times of terrible poverty. They are times of great pride and they’re times of awful shame; times of great hopes and times of terrible despair. In short, this age is like every other …. and like no other before it. Its an age filled with blessings and with trials …. Its whatever kind of age we choose to make of it; just like every other age before or to come.
Australia in 2014, it seems to me, stands at yet another crossroads in its journey into the future. We are still groping, still stumbling blindly; still searching for a sense of identity and of belonging … for a sense of what it means to be an Australian in the brave new world of tomorrow.
We are a relatively new nation and yet we are the oldest land on the planet. We are now, more than ever before, a nation of contradictions and of confusion.
Australia in 2014 is a land where one Australian is pitted against another, where one sex is in eternal conflict with the other and where an endless battle rages between economic classes which, while not acknowledged, nevertheless divide our population into castes and classes that are every bit as rigid and exclusionist as eighteenth century India or nineteenth century Britain.
We have a political landscape which seeks to imbue us with a sense of nationhood and national pride, of cohesiveness and solidarity. At the same time, it is driving wedges between segments of our society, based on perceived distinctions that are as fanciful and artificial as the notion that we are one happy multicultural nation.
We see our nation divided on the basis of race, with a strange, wavy, variegated line between that which is ‘indigenous’ …. and that which is not. It seems, we are a nation of nations with no single national flag and our society seems to be engaging in a most amazing contortion where it seeks to be one, by encouraging division! Anyone who dares to challenge the validity or the logic of the wavy, variegated line is demonised and castigated.
Our society is locked in what seems to be an eternal battle between Australians, based upon gender. We are all of a single species. While nature has developed the difference that we call gender for the sole purpose of procreation, we use it as some form of artificial dividing line ….. a battle line upon which the very concept of a fulfilling and wholesome relationship between a man and a woman is viewed as some kind of treason by both against their own sex.
And increasingly within the Australian political environment, we see stark and indelible lines being drawn between Australians, based solely upon their economic circumstances. There’s an ever widening rift between the haves, the have nots, the have-a-shit-loads and the have-nothing-at-alls! At this present time, there seems to be a political tide that is swinging against those Australians whose financial circumstances and employment prospects are seen to be sub par. In a land where individuals are able to amass personal fortunes in the billions of dollars, a growing proportion of our society is becoming disenfranchised, dispossessed and now, it seems … disowned as well. Those hapless Australians who have had the effrontery to reach old age without having provided for their financial future are suddenly seen as a liability to the rest of society. Where once, elderly Australians were revered for their wisdom and appreciated for the contributions that they had made to the general prosperity, old age is now reviled ….. except if you happen to have a solid superannuation plan and a healthy portfolio of ‘investments’.
We now live in a society where it is OK (and even laudable) to acquire assets far beyond one’s personal needs and where its considered respectable to live off the interest from your ‘investments’ without ever necessarily making any contribution to society at all. And the perpetuation of inherited wealth … of dynastic privilege ensures that we will have a growing population of idle rich who will never be required to make any meaningful contribution to Australia. Meanwhile, those Australians at the opposite end of the economy are reviled for allowing themselves to be dependent upon the general wealth of their nation. Their previous contributions are to be held of little account.
Currently, we are hearing about an evil sector of society that is unwilling to work. And all the while, we are supposed not to notice, that there simply aren’t enough jobs available for many of these people … jobs that they would be capable of performing. Our employment sector has less and less need of unskilled persons of lesser education while our education system has been allowing massive numbers of people to emerge from their school career, barely able to read or write! A scan of social media readily demonstrates the educational standard of a large segment of our society.
Politics in Australia increasingly serves the interests of the privileged few. While preaching a mantra of economic prosperity for all, the rich are growing richer and the poor are … well ….. a bloody nuisance.
In our society it seems, the more rhetoric we endure about the evils of racism, the more we are seeing racism … a back to front kind of racism …being encouraged and entrenched within our society. The more we are subjected to the endless rhetoric favoring sexual equality and harmony, the more we see the growth of sexism, sexual discrimination and sexual prejudice. And the more we hear about a fair go for all Australians, the more we are seeing sections of our society marginalised and dispossessed.
We live in a society that can’t seem to decide what it actually believes. In a society that decries racism as evil, sexual discrimination as wrong, greed as unseemly and economic disadvantage as unacceptable ……. we seem to have a covert and growing enthusiasm for all of these things.
It isn’t that we aren’t capable of achieving a nation where racial discrimination is unknown, where everyone has enough and nobody seeks to have too much and where men and women can enjoy and celebrate their gender differences for what they are and to see one another as fellow human beings beyond that. The reality seems to be that we probably don’t want to be that way. And there are plenty of us at the moment, doing very nicely out of maintaining the present status quo.
I am one of those most contemptible of Australians …. a caucasian sixty year old male without a super plan, with no employment prospects and no assets beyond my family home. My plan is to downsize my home and hopefully free up some capital to see me through the very modest needs of my remaining years. Unlike so many of my so-called fellow Australians, I don’t expect to live my remaining years touring around in an RV, maintaining a city residence, ending my days in a swanky nursing home and still leaving a nice estate to my kids ….. while all the while drawing an age pension! I have long dreamed of living in an Australia that really is a free and happy nation …. free of racism, of sexual discrimination and free of greed. I expect I’m going to die disappointed.
If our current politicians were more honest, they could do worse than to establish facilities where old dogs like me could check in to check out, peacefully and with dignity …… just like that scene in the ‘Soylent Green’ movie of yesteryear. It seems our politicians have a limitless capacity to preach to the masses about the growing burden of an aging population. But I don’t see a single one who has the courage to suggest what is an obvious and simple solution, for those of us who don’t wish to become a part of that burden.
For as long as I’m here though, I will continue to be a disappointment to what I see as the Australian ideal. I refuse to believe that any one Australian is more Australian than any other. I was born in this wonderful land … and I had exactly the same amount of say in the matter as did my ‘indigenous’ brothers and sisters. Give us a flag that we can all stand under. I don’t much care what it looks like ….. just so we all share the same one. I refuse to differentiate between one Australian and another, based on gender identity. Beyond the fact that I adore womankind for the beautiful pinnacle of creation that I see her as …. her gender doesn’t make her any more or any less human than me. Her needs and her rights are no more, no less and no different to my own. And I refuse to spend my life, bowed down to the sick notion that the measure of my worth as a human being is reflected in my bank statement. I refuse to participate in a society that is based purely on greed and where the greediest bastards of the lot are those who are held in highest esteem.
Andrew Caddle 2014-05-11 (With apologies to Mr Dickens!)
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Thank you, Andrew.