Thursday, April 04, 2013

Poor of Australia: Stand Behind Broggers!

Thanks, John Brogden, for defining the problem.

There you were on the ABC show 730, valiantly toiling in your paid occupation as apologist for Porsche Cayenne buyers the nation over, the negative-gearing doctors'-wives of Double Bay, and so on …

Doing quite well until you had to try and convince people, whose superannuation won't buy a second-hand Honda Postie and whose entire wardrobe is worth less than your damn pinstripes, should grab pitchforks and torches to defend the interests of your clients.

Against what?

Against the old, poor, sick, the cancer patients with no private cover, the desperates trying to work four jobs to pay both the mortgage and the chemist bills, the staggering Alzheimer patients who can manage to get a prescription filled if there's a friend to help them, the single parents who somehow manage to get a couple of hours cash-in-hand at a cafe without either super or leave.

John, I won't even try to make this nice: your egregious, patronising, insulting and offensive plea to egalitarianism, that superannuation policy should be about “all Australians” – like hearing a Tsarist serf-owner of the 19th century say “it's about all of Russia!” – is beyond crapulous.

Your threat to take up arms of advertising against the government is just odious, and completely out of touch. So here's a quick sample of the life of people who you're happy to have take the kicks on your behalf.

  1. Can they skip the trip to the chemist? Before the safety net level, even familiar prescriptions can cost a bomb. Does the asthma feel okay, or do they head for the discount butcher to buy the preventer?
  2. Darn. Need to register the car. That means the insurance, four tyres, and plastic that's already maxed. Wonder if the parents can lend a grand to tide things over?
  3. Can't call mum to ask, because the phone got cut off and there's not the spare cash to buy a $20 prepaid voucher. Bugger.
  4. Hang on, why the final demand? I paid that bill” “No dear, that was the previous one.”
  5. I hate porridge!” “I know dear, but until Dad's working again, we really can't lay out $7 a box for Nutri-Grain. It won't be long.”

In among all this, I can just imagine the unsuperannuated rising in outrage at the unfair treatment that you and your peers might suffer – not will suffer, because we don't actually know what's in the budget until it arrives – not because the government will raid your superannuation accounts, but merely because they'll remove a tax break.

And there they will be: risking the sack for sneaking away from work early, losing benefits because Stand Behind Broggers is more important than turning up at Centrelink for ritual humiliation, laying out three nights' dinner-money on burgers to join the rally.

You can be sure that Jones will deliver a foam-flecked rant; instead of naff hand-drawn signs, someone from an ad agency has kindly thrown in a couple of hours for a nifty new Witch logo, and there's always a mate who runs a printing company so that things can be done properly.

And there they will be: the poor, the starving, the broke and the huddling, holding your signs and chanting your slogans to make sure that no Australian has to start retirement living without at least a Princess Crusies trip of some kind or other.

I can just see it. Can't you?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Greg Sheridan: stop it

Yeah, I know. He's A Serious Foreign Correspondent.

He's also a shameless fear-monger.

You see, Mister Sheridan, I'm of A Certain Age – when I was young, your predecessors in fear-spreading would find an excuse about once a year to draw maps of “nuclear devastation”. You know the kind: Vaporised at X kilometres, killed by the blast at Y kilometres, dead in the firestorm at Z kilometres, everyone in the last circle to die horribly from radiation sickness, and so on.

I have no way to assess how many kids got how depressed at this constant You-Will-Die theme.

The prophets of doom have been utterly miserable since the end of the Cold War. Oh, they try to stir up a good head of steam about Islam's Ultimate Plans for A Worldwide Caliphate, but their heart isn't in it. What satisfaction is there in frightening people who are already nuts enough to believe that Al Qaeda can take over the world?

North Korea is a gift from Rupert: nuclear-armed, belligerent and insane, and the belligerent howlers want us to all return to the appropriate state of atavistic fear that we abandoned when the Berlin Wall fell.

Take it from an old hand: don't fall for it.

I have no idea what motivates the Greg Sheridans of the world. Whatever makes someone want to see other people fearful, miserable and blighted is a disorder too deep for me to even discuss. The same bleak, hellfire Calvanist heart beats underneath the chest of the cyber-war fear-monger, the “here comes the Great Depression of three months from now”, the End-is-Nigh sandwich-board wearers, and on and miserably on.

So I'm calling this out. Greg, people are not “right” to be afraid of North Korea, no more than they're “right” to fear that they're going to get MRSA tomorrow and lose limbs, die in a crashing Qantas airliner, or be hit by a meteor.

What if North Korea launches a nuclear strike against the USA?

That ends North Korea as a problem. Is China going to go to international thermonuclear war over Pyong Yang? One that involves bombing, say, Sydney – just because there are a few spare missiles hanging around?

Don't be ridiculous.

If it did happen, what on Earth can you or I do about it? Worry? Oh, well, there's the cure for Dear Leader's mental malady right there?

Teach my children to worry, like I did when the odious, unprincipled bastards of another era scored sales by spreading misery?

I refuse.

What's the point of worrying about whether Pyong Yang is insane?

Save your worries, your concerns, your sleepless nights – save them for things that matter. The people around you, since you can't guarantee that your lives and loves will last the next 24 hours, with or without North Korea or Cassandra Sheridan. Worry about the mortgage or the business, the boss or the kids' HSC, not missing the next episode of Game of Thrones, what to have for dinner – the small, the close, the personal, the things you can hold and trust and love.

Don't listen to Sheridan: if you do, it won't improve either your life or your epitaph.

And anyhow, North Korea isn't about to bomb Sydney.