Darren and I went out this morning and wandered around Melbourne, doing a bit of pseudo-xmas shopping and spending the morning together. (I say “pseudo-xmas shopping” because we don’t really wait until xmas day to give each other presents, and we don’t necessarily buy things as xmas presents for one another – it’s just what we want, around December, becomes an xmas present).
While I had a great time, there was also a strong edge of sadness to it, as I noticed the number of charity collectors and homeless people asking for money seemed to have significantly ratcheted up.
And as I shook my head in the negative at yet another person trying to collect money from me (I rarely, if ever, have any cash money on me), I got mad. Why are they collecting? I found myself thinking. Now, before you get upset with me, I’m probably not heading in the direction you think I’m heading.
Why are they collecting?, I thought, Why can’t our government do something about this?
Quite simply – why should I need to agonise over which charity to give money to at xmas? Why should xmas be any different from any other day of the year? And why should there even be charities?
Why aren’t we living in a society where government taxes are sufficient to ensure that people who need help get it?
Crikey estimated that Australia spends $40 million dollars PER gold medal earned at the Olympics. If this is true (and there’s no reason for it not to be), it’s a national disgrace. That’s government money, being channeled into the pursuit of world records, world acclaim and personal glory for a few individuals this country puts up on a pedestal and collectively worships. Sure, sport is part of the national ethos, and some government funding should be channelled into it, but that should happen after we’ve made sure everyone in the country has eaten at least one decent meal every day.
I would have thought that these would have been better world records to aim for:
- First western country where no-one needs to go homeless;
- First western country where any homeless person can without fail go to a shelter for a bed for the night without being turned away;
- First western country where any homeless person or person in need can go and get food without fear that it will have run out;
- First western country in the world where every kid is guaranteed at least one present at xmas time.
The continued reliance of society on non-government charities is a sad inditement on personal greed. Collectively people listen to politicians who argue for tax cuts and baby bonuses. There’s a sense of entitlement: “KRudd where’s my NEXT $900?” was a popular group on Facebook. Imagine that, people whinging and bitching because at the start of the Global Financial Crisis the government gave lower income earners up to $900 to spend on whatever they wanted – and it immediately created a selfish narcissistic demand that it should happen again.
We should be demanding an end to private and religious based charities; not because charity shouldn’t happen, but because we should all be willing to contribute, via taxes, to ensure that everyone in this country is looked after. Our national attitude shouldn’t be “make ’em work” or “fend for yourself” – the entire country supposedly is founded on mateship, yet that seems to entail random acts of kindness by people who have money on them at the time they’re asked.
Fuck this. Raise my taxes 2% and give all the extra money to a fund that distributes it amongst people in need and the homeless. And do it to every other Australian too who earns more than a specific amount of money. Build mateship and a helping hand into our national budget. Show every person in this country that we value them, we want to help them, and we want to ensure they have dignity.
Until then, xmas will just continue to depress me.