Living by a simple philosophy
“1983 … Business of survival. With the death of Richard I must now manage alone, on one pension. The house seems in good condition. No large account, only the small loan I had taken out, which finishes in June 1985. Must try not to take out anymore loans, to (sic) much drain on my low income. I must try to live on produce from garden, with eggs to help out. Try to cut down on weekly food bills, most of all on meat. The animals take quite a lot (money) for food, reg, etc. As the fowls are all getting old, must breed up some new hens.“
That quote was from an aged pensioner’s diary. Sure, we know she was not going to die of hunger or homelessness. Or do we? She certainly was afraid of some vague uncertainty, and therein lies the simple truth: “A lifetime of habit, creates a certainty of belief … a moment of uncertainty doubts a lifetime of belief ”. For that lady, her entire life was constructed around hard work. The old-age pension that Labor and the unions put in place gave her a measure of security so she could live out her final years in dignity. That is a word well worth praising; “Dignity”. Let’s put that up there at the top of the page of Labor principles.
And damn if a person who applies their pension to contribute toward the social betterment of their family, friends and neighbours. They are denied that most basic of respects; Dignity! And it only comes from others who have walked that same path. The speculator, always on the make, always on the lookout for the next “win”, the next “deal”, has neither wish nor capacity for dignity. He has traded it away with a Faustian deal with capital. No need to look to him for a “fair go”, his motto is; “Opportunity”. But does he seriously believe that if he did not exist, there would be no work to do?
Actually, the name that lady called her late husband was not quite correct. His name really was Riccardo. He was an Italian, she was born in Australia of Irish/Cornish stock (now there‘s a mix!) But it is not at all uncommon. Of the three sisters in that lady’s family, after the war, one married an Italian, one married a German (third generation Australian) and the third a Polish man. This idea that we are just lately become a multi-cultural nation is not true; for many years there has been intermarriage in the community. Sure, the surnames may be Anglo, but there is mixed ethnic in the family somewhere, and we should be proud of this. Love knows no boundaries, children know no race.
Anyway, moving on …
I keep hearing this catch-cry; ”What does Labor stand for?” To my mind, Labor stands for what it was raised for; a simple measure of dignity … in work, in leisure, in the fair go for all people. I remember when I was about ten years old – with my older brother – selling newspapers at the Royal Show. The manager would allocate you so many papers for the day, you’d sell them, putting all the coins into a leather bag at your hip and at the end of the day you’d give the bag over to that manager and he’d count out what you owed for the papers and any over (you’d get tips, but most times didn’t have the time to separate the tip from the coinage) including tips he’d give back to you along with your pay. But there was this one big bastard manager one year who’d keep most of your tips. My older brother, being a stroppy sort of young fellow, challenged him (my brother was canny enough to keep a careful watch on his tips) and the manager got angry, saying; ”If you don’t like the way I do things, you can get off with yourself !” … and thatincluded me. So a thirteen and a ten year old couple of kids get cheated by an unscrupulous manager (News Limited, by the way!). Nothing new, neither then nor now! MacDonalds do it all the time. It’s called “cheap labour” But to cheat kids! what sort of people are these? Vermin who steal the rights of their fellows. Labor, with the unions, stand up for those rights. Let’s put that up on the list.
And damn if a person applies their advantageous position to cheat even paper-boys. What sort of bastards are we up against? And they ask; “What does Labor stand for?” Labor stands for what it was raised to stand for: the Rights of the everyday people to stop the vermin from ripping off the wages of all people and to bestow on all of us what Gough Whitlam called for and what Labor calls for now: “A fair go”.
Moving on again …
Labor must think carefully before they pass these new “security laws” put up by Brandis and co. They are not to protect us from terrorism, but are deliberately being put in place to track and control our own citizens. It is as obvious as the nose on your face. There has to be a measure of restraint in how far we go to cower and threaten the populace. There has to be a measure of dignity and rights in our confrontation of any threat. Better we offer safe harbour to the majority of whom have been driven from their homelands in fear of their lives or livelihood, like those three men-folk above, than attempt to cower and oppress a minority for little more than their own particular culture.
Now read these comments and tell me they are irrelevant today:
“ As rivers glisten in different colours, but a common sewer everywhere looks like itself … so the all powerful rule of capital ruined the middle class, raised trade and corporate agriculture to the highest prosperity, and ultimately led to a – hypocritically whitewashed – moral and political corruption of the nation…”
“The leisure class lives by the industrial community rather than in it. Its relations to industry are of a financial rather than an industrial kind. Admission to the class is gained by exercise of the financial aptitudes—aptitudes for acquisition rather than for serviceability. There is, therefore, a continued selective sifting of the human material that makes up the leisure class, and this selection proceeds on the ground of fitness for financial pursuits.”
Both the above pieces are over one hundred years old. The first, by Theodor Mommsen on ancient Rome, the second by Thorsten Veblen on post Victorian capitalism. Yet they could both have been written today. Why is it that such rational observations go unheeded in our society? I read such and take them in and use them (as you see here) as moral and ethical fodder in my own life. Where do we see such civilized observations used widely? I don’t know. I don’t hear or see it in everyday life. Where is the scholarly debate among political higher learning in this nation? Education abandoned, that’s where. Let’s put that word up there too …
And damn if the multitude of tomes of wisdom that have been written in the tears of humanity over millennium get abandoned for stupid, facil , quick-fix slogans. What sort of people are these who, flaunting their higher education, claim the high ground of public debate, yet cannot or will not learn from history and will not read from the wisdom of the ages? There are those who cannot claim education beyond the third year high school, who read and revere such books … their shelves a proud display of well-thumbed volumes. And some ask “what should Labor stand for?” Education. Labor stands for what it was raised for: Education for all peoples, not the abandonment of an age of learning, but education.
The many different ethnic groups that come to these shores, from the earliest to the latest have one goal in mind: ”Betterment” … of their family fortunes, their security and their children’s education. It is that simple, sure, (and I mean no disrespect, only metaphor) … they brought their metwurst and salami and tabouli and prayers with them. That is their immediate security. We all take a bit of “home” when we go on holiday: How many Victorians have gone on the summer holidays to the Merrimbula Caravan Park with a couple of dozen slabs of “Vic’ Bitter” in the boot? When one is driven in haste and fear from one’s house, what would you grab? A piece, any piece of home? That is what “culture “ is … a little piece of the past to carry with oneself into the future. In the worst case it could be but a poem, a prayer, a song from the motherland. In the best case it is the family. How can one reject the call of assistance, not charity, but assistance to a family in need and still shelter under the common name of humanity?
So there are the players, and there are the situations. We know what the problems are today, but what can be the solution?
There is a secret desire; the realization that there is really a need for time off from work. But it can be more than that. It can be the barricade between capital demand and producer compliance. A demarcation line between demand and supply. I have never liked sacrificing my weekends for overtime, ever! Damn their work. No-one should be compelled to work on the weekend, and if they must – as in the emergency services – then they ought to be suitably, very suitably rewarded. Work will be around a long time after we are all dead and gone! And there can be the solution to differentiating labour from capita … the inviolate weekend … the compulsory time off for R&R. For as long as one stays healthy, one can always earn money. But time is of the essence. You will run out of time before you run out of money. Take the time. Screw the money. Let capital know it has no price for your free-time. And they still ask what Labor stands for. Labor stands for what it was raised for: honouring the eight hour day (or its modern equivalent) – honouring family time, personal time, resting time. Those who would try to reduce the vulnerable to a kind of 24hr slavery would love to claim ownership of the whole of our weekend. Bugger them! They can’t have it!
The solution is that we who are the producers, the consumers, the life and breath of business, take control of our working lives. We draw a demarcation line between being compelled to work and a time for life. We stop the machine for a pause in production so we can enjoy our family and friendships. I say we take back our lives and deny the vermin their pound of flesh! It has never been the speculator who physically laid the foundations, never the stock-broker who mixed the mortar, never the wealthy who carried the “hod of bricks” to build our house. They don’t own it … they don’t own us … they owe us!
That, is Labor policy. Dignity, rights, and education, and whatever else flows automatically from those simple entitlements. Stake your ground, claim your rights and serve your people.
”The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes“ … (Shakespeare).