Thursday, 7 May 2009

Foresight in hindsight

Doing a bit of a clean out of the desktop I found this lurking in an unnamed file, written prior to the demise of the evil gnome. Can't remember if I ever posted it at Jspace, but it's worth another look since the world has ended up in the situation it imagines. I do remember sending it to Julia Gillard at the time, who actually bothered to write back with a short and sweet, "Thanks".

Suddenly its not looking too flash out there in aspiration-land. It appears that people's houses are beginning to be repossessed, and the IR laws are starting to cost people their jobs. But is it really that surprising? Those pre-election IR ads certainly didn't resemble any work place I've ever endured - just where did those clever ad men find all those happy, happy peasants smiling so hard their teeth hurt? Couldn't have been an extras agency perhaps? That would account for all those healthy gums I guess - you don't get those in the real world where real people on really low wages stuck in really crap, dead end jobs like the ones in the ad live - their wages certainly don't stretch to dental care - just ask any of the kiddies at McFields - or the back blocks of Brissy for that matter. 

And they don't look like any of the working people I've ever pulled beers for in pubs and RSLs, where the dusty, the exhausted, and the depressed desperately drink themselves into a stupor thick enough to suffocate the frustration that there is no escape from the social and financial hole in which they find themselves buried. They bitch to the barmaid that the wife's never home since she went out and got a job while the wives feed coin after coin into the gaping mouths of pokies to fill up that edgy feeling of emptiness, and bitch to each other about how he's never home any more. The Kids? Oh, they're fine, they're at home watching the DVD she bought with the baby bribe - and what's the matter with that?

In fact, I'm starting to suspect that this IR legislation and the unseemly haste with which it was bulldozed though is one of the greatest acts of bastardry ever perpetrated upon the working people of Australia. What can our fearless leader see in his US secret-service illuminated crystal ball that we can't? What does the coincidence of a hocked-up-to-the-eye-balls balance of trade deficit and a sudden and desperate need to become involved in war add up to pray tell?

You don't really need a crystal ball or even a conspiracy theory to put two and two together, and, it involves these new terror laws too - they are part and parcel of the same pact. It's been some time now folks, and like rain, well overdue. They've been staving it off with sporadic spot fires here and there, but ladies and gentlemen, it's time. 
I reckon we are due of the mother and father of all recessions - can't you feel it? Something's got to give. Sooner or later, whether it is the impact of China that upsets the US economy's apple cart, or the US public wises up to itself and realises that there is nothing actually in the cupboard after the fleecing it has been given by the Neo-cons (con being the operative word here), it will all come tumbling down. And we, tied as we are to the US by our sycophantic snivelling gutless wonder of a PM, will no doubt take a bit of a tumble too. When it happens our valiant treasurer will fill the airwaves with how the economy will need to make a drastic correction, probably undertake a massive downsize, shore up its core operations, liquidate key assets and somehow ride out the storm. 

Unfortunately, what these euphemisms mean to real people in the real world is, thanks to the fact that the IR laws got though just in the nick of time (whew!), that unwanted staff may be jettisoned without having to pay out any redundancy payments; the remaining staff will need to take up the slack and work as many hours as the employer sees fit; the wife's job will be the sole income in the household because hubby's refused the employer's reduction in conditions in his new workplace agreement and given him the sack and seeing as she now has no bargaining power because someone has to pay the mortgage, she'll be forced to accept any old pittance and anyway, she's always been cheaper to employ than him.  

He does go on the dole for a minute, but the only work he is trained for is two hundred miles away and he refuses to leave his wife and kids, so they chuck him off welfare, and that means the mortgage won't get paid because her wage simply wont service it, so they have to look for a housing commission flat, but seeing as everyone else has been foreclosed for the same reasons, there's not enough public housing to go round. 

Suddenly there's a run on savings, not that they had much stashed away for a rainy day, but the banks have already freaked out because no one is paying their mortgages, and no one is buying either, so they've got no cash, and the insurance companies are no help because they're not getting anything in from house, contents and car insurance because no one's paying them because everything's been repossessed - even the DVD! And the kids? They're getting pretty toey - TV withdrawal to start with, but soon there's no Maccas, no Nintendo - no tucker. 

Oh dear -  that beautiful lie we all believed, where all the insane consumption and opulent displays of obscene wealth are attainable by the average dag is going up in a puff of Winfield blues - and then there's no money for them either, or a beer with the boys, and the wife, (f****g bitch), has taken the kids and moved in with her mum and it's all gone badly wrong, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. 

Scariest of all in this scary little scenario is that instead of being pissed by closing time, he and the boys are now clear headed and edgy from substance withdrawal - no one can afford the drink, amphetamines have dried up due to lack of raw materials, and you can't get pot because no one can afford to buy petrol to get it into town from the bush, and the power grid is so bad only hospitals and essential services have electricity, and what, with the water shortage, hydro is off the menu too. So instead of staring over the heads of each other at an endless parade of sport. on FOX, they start talking about what's going on, and the natives begin to get restless. 

They begin to suspect that their little mate Johnny, friend of the battler, champion of ordinariness and cricket tragics is not one of the boys.  They work out that he doesn't actually have their best interests at heart - that he's really on the side of the merchant bankers, newspaper moguls, big mining consortiums and the guys who make the radioactive shrapnel that goes into the daisy cutters that mow down civilians in third world countries or oil producing Middle Eastern states. 

One of them jumps up onto the pool table and shouts above the heads in a what would have been a shop steward's rousing shout if anyone could remember what a shop steward was, and all eyes focus on him as he speaks to the crowd. 
Brothers and sisters! 
Eyebrows shoot up - they haven't heard themselves referred to in this way since they were children, but somehow, it feels all gooey and warm and comforting, and he is encouraged to go on:
We know we've only got ourselves to blame for this situation we find ourselves in
We were greedy! 
We aspired to make enough money to vote liberal! 
We wanted their stuff, their water front houses, their 4WDs, their speedboats, their poncy private schools, and what have we got now? 
There is a sheepish silence as they look from one to another.
Nothing! We are back where we started!
It was never intended that we have anything more than that.
The crowed grumbles in agreement:
Well my friends, we've always had nothing we're used to it.
We're used to the struggle to make ends meet. 
We worked our guts out, believed their bullshit and shelled out our readies - for what? 
No one is sure now - but they still listen:
Slavery - that's what they gave us brother's and sisters 
Wage slavery - keeping that carrot just in front of our noses - enough is never enough! No matter how much you earn, you'll always need that little bit more to stay ahead of the cost of living. Well, we've had enough, what do you say people? Will we show them what it's like to have everything taken away? 
What have we got to lose brothers and sisters?
Finally, they all get it at once and the whole pub yells its head off as one voice: 
A pool cue is snapped in half, bottles are seized from behind the bar and smashed in half, the jagged edges raised defiantly in the air as a band of young women smash open a pokie with the metal legs of a bar stool, first gleefully taking out its spinning eyes, then going for its bloated guts. The whole crowd transforms itself from a rabble of disheartened and angry individuals into a fire breathing spine tingling mob - no premiership-winning footy crowd ever felt as invincible as this.

Now, here's where your anti-terror laws come in. All that talk of being able to lock down suburbs? Bringing in the army? Shoot to kill? You thought it was to keep a lid on those bogey men 'the terrorists', didn't you? Let's go back to the pub...

They're pouring out into the street now, shouting, following the chant set up by the young unemployed sheet metal worker who'd stirred them to action with, "None for us, none for all! The ruling class is going to fall" and other catchy little cries - he was pretty clever this boyo, quick - his mum always said he should go into advertising.

They swell up the main drag, stopping in at a leagues club, then the local RiSsoLe, and those who still have mobiles are on them, furiously dialling, then holding them up in the air to share the moment with mates, telling them to get their lazy fat arses over to where the action is.

By he time they hit the high street they meet the local constabulary who have already staked out a thin blue line, corralled the media into a huddle with an excellent but long distance view, and it looks like the whole suburb is about to explode into a riot, which is naturally what does happen when the army turns up and which, fired up with either fear, stupidity or an order from the top brass saying throw the first punch, chucks a match into the smouldering anger and resentment of the crowd. There is a large show of charging the mob and in the melee, a young man of 'middle eastern' appearance is shot. Then, of course, it's on....

In a statement to a muffled press pack:
"The situation is now under the control of the Australian army SAS special terrorism taskforce. You will have to leave the area for your own safety. Under the legislation, we are locking down this entire area - you may not report any details of this incident or you will be prosecuted under the provisions of the act. You may however report that we have shot and killed one of the leaders of the riot, a terrorist suspect who has been under surveillance for the past month. It is expected that order will be resumed within the hour. Thankyou. There will be no further questions."

Don't be afraid folks - it's only a story! Of course, this could never happen here, but you can see how such a scenario could get out of hand, can't you? I bet the French weren't expecting it. The press and governments love to point to race and say oooh, bad identifiable ethnic group, but let's face it - it's poverty the rioters are pissed off about, and exclusion and lack of social mobility that lights the fuse. 

Beneath the gloss of popular culture's pavlova and circuses, there is a silent army of working 'stiffs' out there - many of them living next door to you, and its ranks are growing, day by day. We're not encouraged to think of ourselves amongst them - we're all individuals, buoyant and secure in our insurance policies, immune in our creature-comfy cocoons watching the latest Hollywood remake on our DVDs, aren't we? 

Relax. There's bound to be an air bag, or at least a life-jacket with a light and a whistle under the couch when the floodwaters of the inevitable economic crash finally do seep through the floorboards. Hopefully we won't be up to our necks in it before we notice?


  1. Panem et circem: that's all it ever comes down to. Two thousand years of governance, and we're no better off than the Romans.

  2. Some interesting point Annette. I do wonder if we will see democracy fall in our lifetimes.

  3. OK..I went FUCK ME!, excuse the profanity, but you seem to have slammed several nails into and through the timber there!. All too possible and certain aspects from my own perspective are downright bloody scary.

    Hmmm, yes, just how much better off are , REALLY! it begs being answered doesn't it!

  4. Ain't it grand when you can go back to previous musings on the future and see how its panning out?
    Just a quick one - I was on strike once. We'd met up in Hyde Parka nd marched down Elizabeth Street to where the public service chiefs were housed at Chifley Square. Our march had the usual banners and people with megaphones
    "What do want?"
    "Wage Justice!"
    "When do we want it?"
    Having partaken of dubious cigarettes in the park and catching a glimpse of a bus shelter ad featuring a certain Bill Murray movie I amended our response to "What do we want" to
    "Ghostbusters!". The call was taken up by a dozen or so others. We thought it was fucking hilarious, naturally.
    Next day it featured in Column 8 in the Herald.
    I think the opening line was "There were some confused public servants at a rally yesterday..."

  5. Nice one hughsey, full of invective. The irony is that it's not the rodent who's now in control but the Boy Kevin who's even less forgiving of people who disagree with him.

    It seems that social democratic parties are more likely now to institue laws which negatively affect our freedoms than the parties of the right. Oh and of course the ALP state gov's who've pretty much screwed the pooch whilst the rodent was in power...

    What do you do when centre left and centre right can't suceed well then you look to the fringes, and as the far left are too wierd people start to eye the right...

  6. jaysus...what a post. think you should transform this into a short story, it's half way there already, or even a sort of semi futuristic novel, take us into a hypothetical five years' time...