I finished school in 1978, and since then, I have been unemployed for six weeks (not counting one blessed between-jobs interregnum when I actually treated myself to a two-week holiday with my wife).
I have worked at anything that came to hand, because it offends me not to be able to eat from my own income (or at least what credit I can raise by convincing a bank that there will be income!). I carry no grudge against the unemployed: it’s just that I so vastly prefer idleness to activity that I need a spur to my flank.
At the moment, by any normal definition, I have three jobs: I am a journalist; I am a data analyst specializing in telecommunications (tariffs and prices) and geo-analysis (which should be more valuable than it turns out to be). And I own and (with my wife) operate a small tourism business.
In the off-hours, I also care for my wife, who is seriously ill and currently living on a precarious balance between a life without treatment (which would be short) and a life with treatment (the side-effects of which, both theoretical and real, include cancers). We do what we can.
Gina: you wouldn’t know shit from sugar if you think “get out of the pub and work harder” is all you need to do to be more rich.
I can’t exactly recall my last visit to a pub: it was sometime in the 1990s. It’s not that I don’t drink: just that I never really enjoyed pubs (I don't include the family's enjoyable dinners at the Hotel Grand View at Wentworth Falls - friends all, but not the same as "some guy boozing in the pub").
Give up socializing of all kinds? Truly, I’d rather die.
Work harder? Actually, I’d lay a bet that it’s a lot harder to put in the hours for two jobs to subsidize a sometimes-marginal third business; plus raise two sane and capable sons without the help of trust funds, private schools and home help; plus cast around for extra work; plus make the tours of six – count them, six – medical specialists … than to give orders to minions.
There are treasures.
I have a blessing in my marriage. The heat of imminent death has welded my wife and I together; instead of fracturing, we cleaved. It would have been easier to separate us when life was easy: today, only unarguable necessity (say, a spell in hospital, or something with money in it) will draw us apart for even a few hours.
I have two blessings in my sons. When they were very young, the kinds of people you’d probably approve of promised us miserable criminals; instead, the elder is a stellar university student, the younger is finding his interests in late high school – and both can be relied on to work hard in the family business.
I have, as long as the bank’s forbearance and my ability to pay the mortgage both hold, the privilege to have a small slice of Australia that is as beautiful as my heart can contain, my brain comprehend or my words describe.
And I have as much work as anyone could accomplish, with or without the occasional trip to the pub.
What have I learned out of all of this?
The business of getting rich is not, and never was, about how much you’re willing to work: it was always whether you could earn more for your hour than it can possibly be worth.
I could sell myself and my corner of Australia to people like you, Gina, with only a little investment. I don’t wish to: because I can bet on a Ford Falcon carrying people who want to enjoy themselves, while a Mercedes-Benz will mostly contain whining princelings and princesses that cost more to satisfy than they’re ever willing to pay.
As I write this, people whose contracts would buy my business for cash are struggling over possession of a ball on TV. They train harder than I do, but do they work harder? Are they more abstinent (like hell)? Smarter? Or, differently to you but still comparable, were they merely favoured by genes and circumstances?
That’s just how life is. It’s not that I particularly resent your wealth: it’s merely the way of the world.
But I do resent you slinging out insults from your gilded cloister, as if you possess some understanding about life among the ordinaries – the workers, the white-collar strugglers, the blue-collars, the teachers, nurses, truckies and brickies – that is unique to you alone.
Partly through some examples that I had the fortune to study up close, I learned and rejected the secret of great wealth.
You only need one characteristic (apart from luck): the capacity to devote every brain cell, every waking moment, every thought and energy to one objective: the accumulation of money.
I have few close friends, but I would not sell any of them for one mining lease.
I have one wife, and for the time we have left together, I intend to treasure it.
My sons amaze me, and I would rather eat soap than alienate them over cash.
And even if I lose my corners of Australia, I will still know where they are and why they matter.
Gina: I have little to give up.
But what I have, you cannot possibly buy.