I informed the dole people the other day that I was heading to Sydney to see someone about work and grabbed on of those $40 virginblue flights. Lets hear it for consumer capitalism! Instead of locking myself up in a gas-guzzler for ten hours, or being trapped on a train full of tourists for twelve, I was being taxied away to Redfern in the comfort of a mates Forrester in under two hours, including departure lounge time.
To be honest, if someone had offered me a job there I think I might have stayed, despite how gushy you’ve heard me be about Melbourne in the past. But, we’re putting that one down to ‘tourist glamour’, that feeling that anyplace new if the greatest city on Earth. It can actually be Beirut or Baghdad, but while that feeling of something fantastic lurking along the street waiting to be discovered lasts, you’ll never want to be anywhere else. It must be my ‘gypsy roots’, because there’s nothing like it. Must talk to my barber about that one. Being five degrees warmer than Melbourne helped too.
Tell you what, getting away for a mere three days was probably the best thing I could have done. Melbourne’s not exactly London, but it’s been pretty bleak around here for the past couple of months, and being on the dole doesn’t exactly help. In combination with sitting on my arse reading every day the lack of people contact can make a bloke crazy. If you’re reading this and thinking of writing a Ph.D., don’t. Have kids. They’ll take up less time and be more rewarding. And after two years without a significant holiday, I should know.
So, being on the dole and studying is like writing yourself a social death wish. Hence the trip to Sydney. At least the last time I was making trips to social welfare for free cash I could spend it on ‘cones’ to help pass the time. No longer but. And let me tell you, if I ever have to try and survive on other peoples money again, I’m going back to it.
I don’t know that the latest speak in New Zealand is, but over here the buzzword for dole bludgers seems to be, ‘mutual obligation’. The give you a few weeks of money gratis, and then the obligation thingo kicks in. Honestly? I don’t think it’s such a bad concept. Something has got to get some of the munters you see arsing around in the dole office out there doing something.
I shouldn’t be too harsh mind, some people are unemployed because they have serious problems and make them the kind of people you don’t want to be cooped up in an office/factory with. Having worked for almost two years as a dishwasher to fund the study, I can attest to the fact that some people are just plain ‘difficult’. Chefs being the obvious example.
The big problem with this free money thing though is dealing with the bureaucrats. What I remember most from being on the old rock and roll in New Zealand was the constant presence of social welfare. Even under the Aussie system the stream of paperwork and demands to attend various offices in person is a little daunting. As part of this mutual obligation thingo you’re required to apply for a certain number of jobs a week and get back to being a productive and useful member of society. Me? No problem with that. But the feeling that these people are constantly on your back would be a hassle if was a weeney bit more paranoid, or just plain stupid.
Maybe the only way to explain it is to use a phrase like police presence. If you don’t know what it’s like to notice that cops are around, you can’t really know what it’s like being “inside the machine”. But, that constant awareness of being monitored, even if you aren’t, isn’t so much scary as annoying. A better description perhaps is bumping into your ex’s friends. Smile, acknowledge, move on, and know they’ll be telling her that you’re in the pub instead of making money to get back into the game.
What’s really fortunate about my situation is that I don’t have to suffer the dependency problems that other do. At least I know that I will be able to do something when I finish the study. Even if I am the most highly qualified courier in the country. But, I also know that there are stacks of people for whom this dole business is something that the community owes them. For that I have no answer. But at least I figured out from experience that ‘lazy bugger’ and ‘unemployed’ aren’t the same thing.
To digress for a moment though, the friends I stayed with in Sydney and I had a realisation about our old mate John Howard. Now, this is straying into conspiracy theory, but its still rings strangely true. Lets face facts. Being a good religious type John hates horses hoofs. But, we think he tries to restrict them for a very good reason.
Gay people are fairly likely to be educated and have above average incomes (or so I’ve been told). Also, they only infrequently have or support children. This leads us to believe that, as a stereotype, gay people are likely to have high incomes, pay higher rates of taxation, but also have higher amounts of discretionary spending. What this means is that you have a ‘core’ or individuals within your society who will always be economic contributors in a consumption society like ours.
The phrase is I believe, ‘cash cow’. Think about it.