Privilege is a funny thing, because the privileged often fail to see their privilege and just think that it’s their right. Take the recent discussion around religious freedoms. I’m sure that many of those arguing that their religious freedom should be enshrined in law would have a problem with Russell Kruckman.
When a lot of people talk about religious freedom being a right, they usually mean their own and, in Australia, they usually mean the Christian religion and, in particular, their own special version of it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all Christians believe that they’re entitled to do whatever they want, but some certainly do. I’m thinking of one in particular but I don’t want to say anything that could get me into trouble or lead to defamation proceedings.
Whatever I’ve never been sure about the phrase “politics of envy”.
I mean, the very fact that someone is envious does suggest that there’s a discrepancy in the respective fortunes of the two people. I suspect that it’s only used when there’s no reasonable argument to make.
“Why was Morrison given one of the first injections?”
”Look, I’m sick of the politics of envy here!”
”Some people are going hungry while others are buying handbags that cost enough to feed a family for a year.”
”Politics of envy. Why don’t they force themselves to eat?”
I guess the thing about privilege is that if you have it, it’s hard to see it. Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as rich, but I don’t ever consider going hungry for reasons of poverty, I’m confident of making next week’s mortgage payment and I probably won’t go into debt to pay my energy bills unless I’ve used more electricity searching for a way to expose the Morrison government than I thought. (Actually, I can probably stop searching; they’ve been exposed so many times that I think the only thing that’ll bring them down is when the economy slips back a gear and they try to tell us that it’s all fine!)
When I was younger and in severe financial stress, I observed first hand how people didn’t notice their privilege. When expressing my dissatisfaction with my lack of money, a friend advised me to just forget about it and go out. I reminded her that I just explained that I had no money. “You mean you have NO money?” No, I replied, nothing till I next get paid.
Ok, at least I was going to get paid and that would enable me to keep my head above water for long enough to take a breath, so I guess even I had a privilege that I didn’t see.
All of which brings me to the recent changes to JobSeeker.
A cynical person would suspect that they made the changes to create controversy about something other than all the other topics that aren’t going well, but whatever their reasoning, there’s some wonderful examples of people not seeing their privilege.
First of all, let’s take a moment to note that all those saying that the increase is barely enough for a loaf of bread. Yes, the person on benefits is still way below the poverty line, but when you talk about how insignificant another $3.50 a day is, you’re actually showing something about your privilege. For some people, it means that they’ll be able to afford that loaf of bread. Just like Jolly Joe Hockey, who complained that taking his son for an x-ray only cost him $32. When you have the money, it doesn’t seem like much. If you don’t, however…
Of course, the Coalition government didn’t see it as a meagre amount because they resent any money going to people who don’t buy tickets to their fundraising dinners. They think they’ve been generous. Why those on the dole get a fortnightly handout which is more than they get for a daily meal allowance… Ok, not much more, but the pol-bludgers in Canberra think that they deserve any taxpayer money they get, while anyone on JobSeeker is obviously not “having a go” so they shouldn’t “get a go”.
To ensure that they aren’t too work-shy, employers will be encouraged to “dob in a bludger”. In order to facilitate this, a hotline will be established which brings me back to the whole idea of privilege.
Why can’t the employer just ring Centrelink? After all, I seem to remember Alan Tudge saying that the wait time was only eight minutes.
Well, anybody who’s ever tried to ring Centrelink will be rolling on the floor with sarcastic laughter. Nobody would ring Centrelink if they didn’t have to, and no employer should be expected to waste their time sitting on a phone for hours. See, the idea of employer privilege is embedded in the whole concept even before you start to ask why there isn’t a hotline for job applicants to dob in employers who offer less than the award, or indulge in other unsavoury practices?
But I guess if anyone complains about the employers getting a special hotline, it’s just the politics of envy.
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