Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Maslow and Marketism

Marketism is defined by Wikipedia as – “a loose aggregation of beliefs that generally oppose government and favour private enterprise in the form of free-as-in-unregulated market principles”.

Sounds about right….

Let’s have a look at the effect of Marketism on two national sectors, both of which have been newsworthy of late. I’m referring to housing and energy.

Housing has become very expensive, reaching the point where for many young people, the dream of owning a home in one of the state capitals is a fantasy. This article from the domain website illustrates it pretty well.

The housing market over the decades has morphed from a service to people starting a family and looking for somewhere to live, to a safe investment option. In the process, prices have skyrocketed. The functional relationship between shelter and investment has always been uneasy. Now it is completely out of kilter.

We have heard a great deal recently about both the rising costs of energy (especially electricity and gas) and the threat to future supplies. Blame is attributed to either a move towards renewable energy supply, or “gold plating” of infrastructure, depending on the politics of those making the case for one over the other.

I can vividly remember paying less than $200 per quarter for electricity when we had a family of six consumers, and comparing that with the $600 plus per quarter we’re paying now with three people in the house.

The source of our power (coal fired generators) hasn’t changed, which rules out blaming renewables. What was different back in the day of the $200 power bills was that electricity generation was publicly owned and was described as a service (a utility) and not a market.

Again, back in the day when we bought our first home in a state capital (which cost, from memory, $24000) the word “market” wasn’t used to describe housing, or if used, was in the lexicon of Real Estate agents, not your average punter.

So the language, the perception, and the understanding of the reality of establishing the foundations of a stable and comfortable life in this land of Oz has fundamentally changed. We are to see housing and energy now as functions of a market, aspects of life to be bought and sold, and if possible, from which to derive profit.

That’s crazy. It doesn’t work, and people suffer. Didn’t that bloke called Maslow describe a hierarchy in which the most basic (bottom) rungs comprised food, shelter and security? Electricity and housing are vital components of these.

He didn’t describe them as a market - he saw them as basic human needs. He knew what he was talking about. Neither did he discuss greed, simple uncomplicated soul that he was.

He would be spinning in his grave…..

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Western Reflections

Roma Sunrise

Last week was my once per school term Charleville loop.

It takes in much more than Charleville – Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Augathella and Tambo, to be precise, covering a distance of about 2500 km, and I continue to enjoy it immensely. This is a problem, as I will have to give it away soon. On the cusp, as I am, of three score years and ten, the unfortunate reality is that this kind of activity is the province of younger people. I’m not getting any younger.

So, I’ll reflect on why working west of Roma has been such an enjoyable way to spend the bulk of my sixties.

First of all, the kids and the schools are brilliant. Bush schools are something else. Somehow, they have retained the essence of what enthused me as a young teacher when first I began to teach. That’s a long time ago – nearly half a century to be precise, since I first fronted a class (of 45) at Goondiwindi State School in 1968.

Goondiwindi 1968

The kids really haven’t changed. Embedded as they are in a world generally free of the frustrations and fripperies of urban existence, they present an enthusiasm for life and general and learning in particular often absent in city kids.

Sure, there are frustrations in their lives, but these are typically factors entirely beyond their control such as drought and the seasons, so they tend to take them in their stride, rather than whinge and moan to anybody who will give them a hearing.
The communities are strong and resilient, and they hang together in a way unknown in the city. This sense of solidarity becomes obvious when you attend an inter school sports day in the bush. The loyalty to school and community is intense. 

These tight communities can, of course, become a barrier to newly arrived teachers if they can’t develop trust with the locals, but generally if you’re fair dinkum, you’re accepted. Bush people are accustomed to staff turnover rates unknown in the city.

The rural kids have another characteristic – that of independence. Given that independence is so important to kids with disabilities and their future quality of life, they are well placed in bush schools. In addition, because of the lack of specialist infrastructure, support for these kids is everybody’s daily business – not left to the designated “special educator”. There isn’t one, most of the time.

I’ll use that word “enthusiasm” again, and apply it to the teachers. Part of it comes from their youth, and the fact that they have generally come west because they really want to teach. They will take the posting to get permanency. Young teachers, if properly supported, are a breath of fresh air in any school community. Sure, they make mistakes – but if they’re metaphorically dusted off and returned to the fray by supportive colleagues, they will learn valuable lessons from these mistakes.

Then there’s the country.

There’s lots of references in the Old Testament to the cleansing of the soul to be found in the wilderness (or the desert). Those Old Testament bods knew a thing or two. There’s nothing like the big sky, the blazing sun, and the silence of the west to contribute to a sense of clarity. You can’t be bothered by insignificance when confronted with these landscapes.

And last, but not least, I guess my own experience contributes. During the time I was in Vietnam, we lived the routine of patrolling. This meant we set out with a mission to complete and returned when it was done. My mission wasn’t necessarily the same as the army’s (I was intent on staying alive) but there was a clear sense of purpose, and a feeling of pride and relief when it was over. Weirdly perhaps, some of that sense of mission for me persists.

Five years in the North West (based Mt Isa) also taught me a great deal about what the people in remote communities value, and I’ve probably been able to hone these understandings during the last ten years on the road.

I will miss it when I retire. Having failed retirement once, I will need to try harder next time.

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