查看完整版本 : A very well-written article in my opinion

chicken1980 2012-12-21 06:38 AM

A very well-written article in my opinion

The following appeared on a Australian Newspaper yesterday, for those who aren't familiar with social issues in Australia the word "Centrelink" refers to Social Security Payments to the low income/ unemployed citizens.

Here's the link but in case it's got removed I copied and pasted the whole thing below


Around Christmas last year I became unexpectedly unemployed.

The whole thing played out stereotypically, like it was a script we were following. There was packing up my things in a cardboard box and pressing the button on the elevator with my elbow and wondering how I was going to get all this stuff home.

There I was phoning a friend because I could not carry the boxes and I was crying and it was Christmas and I was now unemployed without much in the way of savings. Then Christmas and a huddled conference with my brothers on the porch where they said, sotto voce, ''You cannot tell mum and dad. It will upset them too much and ruin Christmas''.

For the next few days whenever anyone would ask me about my job I would feel sad and frightened and say, ''It's going OK." In the new year, I started looking for a job and made an appointment at Centrelink - guards on the door, queues, boredom, carpet that gives you small electric shocks, with patterns in it that suggest a weak acid trip.

You get to know people in the queues and they give you tips - come early in the morning, Wednesday is the best day and always, always be polite to staff. The staff usually looked tired - even on Wednesday - even early in the morning.

In the boredom of the queues sometimes stuff would happen: couples would bicker, people would talk angrily to themselves, tinny hip-hop leaking too loudly out of headphones would trigger fights. Once a man collapsed and an ambulance came and took him outside and they started working on his heart.

Even this was barely enough to raise the temperature of the queue. We shuffled forward, the tempo still a clip-clop of boredom and dread. The real drama, the real dread stemmed from variations of this particular scenario: someone hadn't gotten their money and they were expecting their money and Centrelink couldn't help them with it right now.

There is a special sort of stress that comes with this - the stress of feeling stretched very, very tightly and there is nothing in you that can last one more day, one more hour, without money. That the money when it lands is like a cool drink in a desert, and the stress, the debts, the hunger, just soak it up.

These are the people who have borrowed, gone without food, risked fare evasion on public transport.

When the relief doesn't come, the thing that was stretching, snaps. Because Centrelink payments aren't enough. You will never die of starvation on Centrelink - but to run with the great human race, to enjoy the things that make you feel proper and proud - are out of reach.

Like being able to enjoy a meal out, go to the movies, take public transport or run a car, buy healthy food, afford secure and habitable housing. Things that most people take for granted unless you are on the dole, in which case they take on the out-of-reach glamour of Xanadu.

When you are excluded from the things and experiences others take for granted, it's hard to resist feeling resentment and shame. It's a toxic mix and from it you can trace how an underclass is created. I can't afford the fare so I'll just evade; I can't afford the meat so I'll shoplift. I can't afford the cinema, so I'll just sit at home in my pyjamas and watch ten hours of television. It's safe there at home in front of the television, with no one judging, no one airily declaring "Oh, we'll just split the bill," while the unemployed, entree-only-eating person feels the blood drain from their face.

In Australia, unlike, say, the US, the middle class is not meeting up with the underclass just yet, but it will. As more and more jobs in the professions such as publishing, law, IT and retail disappear thanks to technology, more and more people who have existed largely in an untroubled financial universe will seek help from the state - and realise it's no way to live.

US website Gawker has been running a series called Unemployment Stories which makes for harrowing reading. The contributors are usually college educated and have lost work or been unable to find work in the downturn. A strong theme running through it is how dependent they have had to be on others, after the state withdraws its limited benefits. They are moving back home with elderly parents, relying on churches and charity and borrowing money from relatives. Many who write in are depressed; some are contemplating suicide.

Happily I have enough work now to be self-sufficient.

But some things from that time on the dole will never leave me, such as saving furiously most of what I earn because I do not trust that the future will provide. There'll always be an invisible axe hovering just beyond my sight line.

Awareness of the axe is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes me think differently about everything. I've formed habits that I should have formed a decade ago; sensible stuff such as bringing lunch to work, and no taking taxis, buying expensive clothes and spontaneous trips interstate.

And remembering every person during that bad time who brought me lunch, or coffees, lent me money, were gracious and didn't make me feel bad, who covered my share of the bill. Because Centrelink is just not enough.
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查看完整版本: A very well-written article in my opinion