Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Toil and Trouble


Scene from Metropolis by Pants


I'm thinking of getting a little gold disc for around my neck with the words 'do not resuscitate' etched on it in sweet little curlicue script. One minute Matron is telling us 'mature' Australians we must run ourselves ragged to stay fit and healthy and the next Master is berating us for the future crime of living so long we'll be a drain on the state if we can't manage to navigate the complex work/life balance into extreme dotage to the benefit of GDP.

Dear Kevin, I do not intend to live to be 90, even if it is the new 80. In fact if intellectual life in this country gets any worse, I may be on a plane to Mexico before winter. I really don't think I can relive this Blair/Brown model of idiocy all over again. Yes, I have heard it all before, this hysterical, baseless earnestness to build a better world. The one we have is quite adequate provided it's kept regularly serviced.

They want us to work until we're 67 even though no one will employ us if we're over 50. They want us to live statistically longer but only if we're in perfect health and our retirement is self-funding. 

The Australian Government frets over everything, especially those things that might never happen. The population of this country is currently 22 million and is projected to rise to about 35 million by 2050, a situation which it claims is 'unsustainable'. You can see right away why this does not seem like much of a problem to me, but, putting aside my self-interest, I still think it's daft.

People are always telling me that England fits into the State of Victoria eight times. The population of Victoria is around 5 million and the population of England is more than 50 million. I have been over most of Victoria and quite a lot of it appears to be habitable. Even with 50 million people and a great many roads - the Romans were into infrastructure in a big way - there are still quite a lot of forests and meadows and dales and rivers left in England to frolic in, on and by and one or two cash crops as well. 

Dear Kevin - if you do run out of space some more people can come and live at my house. I could do with a few extra tomato eaters right now. It would help if one of them didn't mind a spot of mowing.

Another big money-draining fret is 'preventing' illness. It seems to me that if you are well then you are successfully preventing illness. But this is not good enough. Health professionals, and presumably the drugs companies who ensure their symptom 'awareness' levels are operating at peak efficiency, constantly campaign to get people to visit their doctor just in case one day there will be something wrong with them. The Americans are already trying to market lack of ill-health as medical denial.

'Fatigue' is an indicator for every possible disease. Consequently, it is frequently mistaken for notice of termination. I always think it's a good idea if I'm feeling tired to try to remember if I stayed up a bit late and/or had an inadvisable third glass of wine before racing off to the clinic. 

Dear Kevin - I'm unlikely to be a 'heavy user' of health services, no matter how long I live. I've been to a doctor twice in the last twenty years and one of those times was to get shots for India. You have permission to shoot me if my productivity quotient falls below acceptable levels.

I went for a job once in Britain for an older people's health project called 'Live Long and Prosper'. I didn't get it, even though I could do the Vulcan greeting with either hand.

There's an 'initiative' announced today from Government called the Productive Ageing Package which will apparently 'harness the tremendous skills and experience of older Australians'. According to Treasurer Wayne Swan, 

“This package provides practical support to older Australians who want to stay in the workforce by investing in quality job training for mature job seekers and supporting mature workers mentoring young Australians. We all benefit from the immense value that older Australians add to our workplaces and our economy, not just in terms of skills and work experience, but also life experience.”

This package is worth $43m. You can dick people about quite a bit with that sort of money and this is what will happen. Half of it will be spent on computers for the gormless third sector organisations that administer 'job services' for the Government. These people advise you to 'look in the local paper' and 'ask at all the shops' for stimulating employment. All very hi-tech. The computers are used to 'log on' to the same useless private sector recruitment agencies you can access at home. The other half of the money will go on 'assessment' (handing over your CV) and 'job training' (a choice between First Aid and Computing for Beginners).

Dear Kevin - if you appreciate our skills and experience so much, why are you always trying to get us to take up a different line of work? 

And life experience? Yes, young people will line up to hear all about your trip to Kuta in the 1970s before it went all hideously commercial and your recent bout with haemorrhoids, I can assure you my fellow maturies. Perhaps you could become a Golden Guru. This is a wonderful idea dreamt up by Cate Blanchett and her newborn baby Ignatius at a hugely expensive but very worthwhile conference in which notables who know nothing about anything were asked their views about absolutely everything. Basically, you get to work for nothing and be called a silly name.

Dear Kevin - wealthy people always like the idea of everyone else working for nothing. You don't really need to shell out for canap├ęs to learn this.

It's impossible to take this stuff seriously. If the Government really wanted to create flexible employment opportunities for older people, it would put the money towards developing a system to distribute and manage online work. I'd be very happy if someone sent me out online editing to do for e.g. Plenty of organisations need it judging by the quality of the printed material that circulates these days. You try finding that sort of work. Impossible.

Dear Kevin - Why don't you give up trying to fix the future and get the tools to what's broken now. A stitch in time and all that. I would rather have my quality of life now rather than when I'm too ga-ga to enjoy it. 

I think I will get that little gold disc. I've always said if some disease wants me that badly, it can have me.