The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Low Value Of Community …
February 10, 2009, 8:59 am
Filed under: Comment

This post is written purely on [blind] emotion so I know from an economic – and possibly legal – point of view, there are holes in my argument all over the place, but I make no apologies because this is about life.

Photo: Candiceecidnac

Like everyone else, I am very upset at the devastation being caused by the Victorian bush fires.

And like everyone else who either lives – or has lived – in Australia, I have friends who have been affected by the terror and horror that is going on there.

One of my friends, Tom, has lost everything.

His home has been destroyed, leaving nothing but the clothes he and his family were wearing when they managed to escape the fire that came towards them at a speed they found hard to comprehend.

Tom is being fairly upbeat.

As much as the guy has lost 40+ years of possessions, his family are alive and unharmed, which is more than can be said for some of his neighbours.

He accepts he lived in a higher-risk bush fire area. He accepts living there meant he was always going to be charged eye-wateringly high premiums on his house insurance. He accepts that one day his worst nightmares could come true.

But he asks for no money or support – because he believes there are other people out there that need and deserve it more.

Tom is the best of Australia.

Now let’s look at another situation.

Like everyone else, I am very upset at the devastation being caused by the economic collapse.

A loose acquaintance of mine, Steven, has lost everything.

His house, car and furniture has been taken away from him, leaving him nothing to do but to move back into his parents house at the age of 42.

Seeing all the trappings of his credit card taken away, Steven is angry, miserable and upset.

He doesn’t accept he lived a life built on financial sand. He doesn’t accept he should be forced out of the over-priced, image based home he bought. He doesn’t accept that all financial bubbles burst at some point.

Which is why he asks for money and support – because he thinks he needs and deserves it as much as anyone else.

Steven is a total wanker.

So how come the Australian Government are pumping billions [that’s with a ‘B’] to help people like Steven and yet have only put forward a fund of AU$10 million [that’s with a ‘M’] to help people like Tom?

I appreciate that in harsh terms, more people may be affected by the economic collapse than the bushfires – good, decent people who are about as different as Steven as you can get. I accept Australia’s prosperity is more linked to keeping the economy afloat than stopping houses and communities from being burnt down to the ground. I accept there are chaos-theory implications to the economy rather than the bushfires … but for all the tears and claims of arsonists being murderers, the fact is that the financial response to the people like Tom is a slap in the face – a demonstration that the urban wealthy are worth more than the calm community – and whilst I am sure the donations will come piling in from the good people of Australia [forcing the Government to stump up more cash to ensure embarrassment is kept to a minimum] I still find the inequality in the value of human misery terrible.

I know you can’t truly compare like-with-like – but at a time where Governments all around the World are talking ‘billions’ like it’s loose change, I find it tragic that at a time of genuine tragedy, they only think talking interms of ‘millions’ is necessary, even though the banks and utility companies will still expect their mortgage payments to be made on time as usual.

It’s only because people like Tom are such decent folk they can get away with it.

30 Comments so far
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10 million? Is that all? We’re watching the terrible events going on in Australia with open mouths. You can hear a pin drop when it’s on because people are just so shocked at the devastation. I hope things get better soon but I know some families are facing a future of hardship financially and emotionally.

Raw post Robert, but a good one.

Comment by Pete

Who cares if you have written this post from the heart, you raise a valid point. Hope Tom and his family get back on their feet soon.

Comment by George

good post campbell but being a piece of shit i wonder how aussies would react if their government said they were putting up taxes to help victims and communities get back on their feet?

its all very fucking easy to demand companies write off their income but its another thing when people are asked to join in the loss of income as well. im not saying aussies would be against this and if they were its probably because they dont trust their government but i thought id pose the question in a selfless act to let everyfuckers angst be released

i know, im a fucking saint

Comment by andy@cynic

You actually raise an interesting point Andy – would people be happy if their taxes were raised to help those who have suffered at the hands of the fire?

I actually think they would – the issue would be ‘how much’ because like you said, the level of trust towards Government [almost anywhere in the World] is pretty close to the level of trust of the average used car salesman and there would be a feeling of ‘is this money really going to those who need it?’.

Or maybe I’m just being cynical. Again.

I must admit I am very glad I haven’t heard the phrase “It’s being Australian” to descibe the level of kindness and compassion being demonstrated by the country.

I hate when that sort of thing is said – it implies only Australian’s have such compassion towards others in times of need, which is obviously rubbish. The reaction of people in these sorts of situations has little to do with nationality and all to do with the humanity – and whilst I am happy to see the best of society coming to the fore, I wish it was there [on such a mass scale] at all other times as well.

This comment may have come out as an ‘anti-Aussie’ – it absolutely wasn’t meant to be and if it’s read that way, it’s my inability to express myself correctly because what is going on in Victoria is horrendous but what is going on in the hearts, minds and actions of the Australian population is wonderful.

Comment by Rob

just read an article on aussie corporations who are donating. some are giving a fuckload more than others so why dont we rev up the competitive gene in companies and push them to donate more and more which will push the government to give real amounts rather than token fucking gestures?

we should all buy shares in these companies then push for extraordinary agms so we can demand greater donations by asking shareholders to walk away from their dividends for 09 but wed have to insist the companies keep their fucking prices the same because i know theyd be looking for ways to recoup their “generous offer” somewhere down the fucking line

who the fuck cares if companies end up doing it just for their fucked egos if it helps it helps

Comment by andy@cynic

I like that – I like that alot – you evil, manipulative bastard. Can you actually call for an extraordinary AGM’s on one share and if you can’t, how many do you need before you screw up the system for good?

Comment by Rob

As a Victorian, i can honestly say that i’ve rarely been compelled to donate money in the past. I’ll happily send clothes food etc, but money… hmmmm, its just something i’ve always been a bit suss of donating – “how much finds it way where it should?”

This is different.

I’ve already forfeited a percentage of next months pay (a gesture my company – which cops a lot of shit on this blog – has agreed to match). In a day alone we’ve raised over 20k. And me and friends are having a BBQ instead of going to the Grape Grazing Festival this weekend where we plan to raise some cash. (well to be honest, one of the wineries we were scheduled to visit burnt down, true story)

Yesterday Telstra were at the shelters handing out free pre-paid phones. I thought this was opportunistic at the time… but one of the girls in my office hasn’t heard from her father since Sunday. How fucking important does a single phone call become in a situation like this? I actually think Telstra are doing an amazing thing now.

This post has angered me because it’s so fkn spot on Rob. And you’re completely right Andy… it’ll come down to the PEOPLE almost competing to do more… even when the Gov has let us down. Call it mistrust, i couldnt care less as long as the right thing gets done somehow.

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I think the Gov would be cursing this fire. For PM Rudd, riding high as the hero after his unprecedented economic stimulus package, this is bad BAD timing. Not because of the loss of life and livelihood, but because the cost of fixing this will prolly tip us into that recession they’ve been so careful to avoid.

Comment by Age

Thanks for this Age, I appreciate your comment and your honesty. I know I have given your company stick in the past – but good on them for doing something, though I’d be interested to hear who came up with the idea – them or the staff?

I have to stick up for Telstra.

Even though they are a monolithic dinosaur with all the subtely of a brick down a pair of cycle shorts, at times of crisis they tend to come through. Sometimes they could do it abit better – but having seen what they did for a friend of mine who lost his sister in the Sept 11th attacks – they get abit of a break from my ranting.

That doesn’t mean they’re perfect – but for what they did [and the fact they didn’t make a big song and promotional dance out of it] cuts them some slack.

As for Australia and the recession …

To be honest I think some states have been in financial ruin for a while. Sydney especially has suffered and each time I’ve gone back in the last year, I’ve been shocked at how quiet everywhere is.

Even Balmain – the home of the [wannabe] bohemian yuppie [and odd wharfy who can still just about afford to live there] is seeing restaurants and shops close – which for a place that has prospered on the spirit of the ‘village economy’ is shocking.

Accepting I haven’t got any facts to back this up, but I can’t help but feel that without the thriving Western Australia mining economy, Australia would be already in the same place as the UK and the US, even if the pain might be less severe.

That doesn’t mean the Government shouldn’t pump money into the lives of those who have suffered, it just means the Government shouldn’t have pumped money into the lifestyles that people couldn’t really afford in the first place.

Comment by Rob

It was the MD who raised the idea – at least here in Melbourne – on Monday morning.

You’re right about WA too… without all that good stuff in the ground over there, we’d have absolutely sweet FA to offer anyone… apart from Shane Warne The Musical.

Comment by Age

If I am correct, I believe shareholders can only force an EGM if they collectively own a minimum of 1/10th of the paid up voting share capital. Because of this, Andrew’s devious suggestion needs some more thought but the concept is interesting and typically pragmatic.

Another excellent post Robert, I feel you are raising an issue that many Australians will soon be asking themselves.

Comment by Lee Hill

Don’t get me started on this…

Amen though

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No Mr M … I want you to get started, I want that very, very much …

Comment by Rob

What if you nationalize the principal of Kiva, that would incentivise people to give more?

give a fuck and make a buck (those who give and those who get; no stigma of handout and stuff). plus it makes shit personal instead of donating to gov agency and getting tax deduct.

this does however seem a opportunity to lobby that more “social goods” product be created

Comment by niko

At dinner maybe…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Money talks. Stephen and the financial institutions that caused this problem are like a cancer on society.
I’m not talking as much about the personal banks who went under in the fallout, but the investment wanks, the asset wanks, the trading wanks who all wanted quick money with fuck all regard to the consequences. (Of course not every person at these places was like this, but enough were to cause this mess)

So self interested as to not give a flying fuck if the whole world burnt down. The type of arseholes who would light a match in the Aussie bush so they could light a cigar.
Absolute scum of the first rate.

But our twisted form of capitalism doesn’t let the rich fix their mess, or even get punished for it. Thats always down to us. Tom has no board jobs for MP’s, no financial influence, no political influence (yet). So why should anybody care?

Gordon Brown might be under the water now, but I have the utmost respect for his targeting bankers bonuses. It might be a very small step, but he is about the only one going upwards, even now, even after all thats happened.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

fuck me mortimer, youre giving me the horn talking like that. good fucking man

Comment by andy@cynic

when i saw the pictures of the flames, burnt cars and people being shocked and despaired, i immediately thought that they probably cannot even let their friends and families know that they are alive… so i think what telstra did really helped.

i ve been looking around to find out how much companies are donating. i found that each member of the mercedes board of management is spending $1000. as good as this is, but they earn around €10 million a year…

on the other hand, $1000 is what the government is giving to the victims. i don t really get why children only deserve $400. only because they are smaller doesn t mean costs for them are lower.
pm rudd said meanwhile that they are going to rebuild the towns (in the flooded north, too). point is, he never spoke about the homes. and $22000 the gov. is giving people who lost their homes in the fire, wont build a new one and pay off the mortgage of the destroyed old, i guess.

this is all very sad. and i do hope that people will receive enough help – from the government and companies- to get a life back.

Comment by peggy

now youre making sense peggy but where the fuck did you get that 1000/mercedes figure from?

is that the global board or the local aussie distributor because i cant believe some redneck aussie selling overpriced german tat is on 10 big ones a year. if they are where the fuck do i sign?

Comment by andy@cynic

what a lovely morning full of google entertainment i got myself into with last night’s comment…

the 1000 is from here and here
the global board of management (daimler ag) has got seven members. well, one is assigned, but will join later. and the seven members of the “company” donating are likely not to be members of the daimler board of management as this mercedes press release implies (couldnt find that one on their websites)

oh, and the daimler board of management has only received between €2.806 and €3.669 million, except dr. zetsche with €8.55 million in 2007. i thought i better get that right before lawyers come to get me. dr. zetsche (chairman of the board of management daimler ag/head of mercedes-benz cars) is the ceo and president of mercedes-benz australia/pacific pty ltd. mbaup is importer and wholesaler 🙂

so each of the mbaup directors donates $1000. i m not sure anymore if dr. zetsche is amongst the seven diretors and therefore donating too. i hope he is donating.

good morning.

Comment by peggy

And the winner of Ms Procrastinator 2009 is …..


[Crowd roars!]

Comment by Rob

i want to thank my management, [whiny] my pa who always [sobbing] brings me a fresh coffee, my family and my friends [weeping] and god for all their support. and i thank all my fans. thank you. thank you so much. thank you all!

Comment by peggy

Peggy is the new Marcus …

Comment by Rob

*bursting into tears*

[crowd: boo! get off the stage you whiny chick!]

Comment by peggy

You’re not good at identifying compliments are you Peggy? First Andy and now me. Or maybe we’re shit at giving them – we are men afterall!

Comment by Rob

oh, why is that? i was bursting into tears because i was moved. like gwyneth paltrow at the oscars.

Comment by peggy

Andy, you should watch Zero Punctuation, games reviews that sound exactly like they come from you.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

So there’s lots of swearing in it then eh!

Comment by Rob

i was overseas having an amazing time when i heard about the fires and it was awful hearing about it in dribs and drabs – pics on flickr, tweets and emails. thank goodness for global roaming and skype to my family (who live not far from some of the early outbreaks).

and when i flew in yesterday over the apocalyptic landscape, it was shocking. like i was properly speechless (which says something) – we came out of clouds over a blanket of smoke thicker and larger than the clouds themselves. and the feeling throughout the place at the moment is tangibly spooked.

but i’m going to throw good sense and caution to this nor-easterly and suggest that, while i don’t really understand the government’s economic blow job business, i’m seeing that there’s something about the government not giving enough to the bushfire victims that has enabled the people to do stuff. i know, ‘leaders not providing in order for the population to’ is fucked, but that’s kind of what has happened.

i’m sure support would have happened anyway, but would mccanns (say) have gotten involved if k-rudd has said “it’s alright boys and girls, we’ve got it covered, here’s a wad of cash, here’s all the food you need, it’s going to be fine”. that would have been nice to hear, but given the rather empty coffers, it has left space for everyone (i mean everyone) to get involved and lend a hand, raising as much as possible. and no effort has been deemed too little, either. in a fucked-up way, i find this strangely encouraging.

and for all you social media unicorns out there – the “power of the people” behind this cause has been amped through blogs, flickr, twitter and facebook. in fact, besides a bad translation from the parisian ‘direct matin’, all my news (and subsequent emotional reactions) came from those sites..

Comment by lauren

I know what you’re saying Lauren – and I do agree it is somewhat positive in the sense it has ‘kick started’ humanity/community again – but this post wasn’t about that, I appreciate how good it is to see society rise to the occasion, my issue is that there is a ridiculous disparity between the Governments injection of capital to help the banks [which is the issue here, even if it is a direct line to protecting the economy] and helping those who have lost more than any amount of money could truly help recompense.

For all the tears and claims of ‘muderers’ that all the politicians are putting out to the World press, this is one situation where the Government would be better to lead by their wallets than just their words.

As any parent will tell you [as long as it’s not about their child, ha!] ‘help’ doesn’t mean doing it all – it means putting their kids in a situation where they can do it for themselves. Ten million couldn’t cover the cost of replanting one forest, let alone cover the debts the homeless are going to be burdened with before they can even think of finding a new home.

I do find it interesting the banks were so quick to offer money to the charities – but in the big scheme of things, 1 million bucks per major financial institution is less than probably one individual had in loans/mortgages with them. Given the money they’ve had given to them in the way of ‘economic investment’, that amount of cash is patronising to the extreme.Still it’s better than MYER who said they’d match their customers donations upto AU$500,000. Using a ‘promotional tactic’ to drive sales [because no one knows when this mythical 500k limit has been reached] makes me sick and makes a mockery of this ‘we’re in it together’ attitude being banded about by corporate Australia.

Comment by Rob

you’re right rob – this post wasn’t about how ace it has been that the people have supported their fellow people. the difference between the two amounts is astounding, as is the attitude of steve (although unsurprising),

and i guess what i was thinking was that, in not solely relying on the government to do everything for them, perhaps it’s easier for the people to take charge of the kind of society they’d like to live in by giving, rather than taking away.

i know that i’m out of touch and i don’t understand economics nearly as much as i’d like, but when the whole financial boom crash opera happened, i had no idea what i could do, as an individual, to make a difference. however, as soon as the fires hit, i knew exactly what i could do. even before the info started, i knew that there would be charities on the ground who would need my money. and i knew that it would be possible for me to do so, without any special knowledge or information.

so, what i’m saying is that perhaps the disparity isn’t just a typical, capitalist, boys club thing, but actually a result of directing government powered funds into areas in which ‘the public’ didn’t have clout, and providing space for there to be public power where able.

or perhaps i’m just naive and trying to find some method in the madness ‘cos i’m so tired of the same old rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer story.

either way, perhaps steven needs to get out there and volunteer for the red cross for a day or two – they could do with a hand i hear.

Comment by lauren

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