Letters Personal

A Fortunate Life

If I live to next March, I will be joining the Octogenarian Club.  I was born in 1941 when WW2 was in full swing which means I am one of the Silent Generation.  I missed the Great Depression of the 1930s, the pre-war antics of Adolph Hitler and the start of World War 2.  I have no memories of the bombings, the air raid sirens, the blackouts, the gas masks, the air raid shelters.  My first memory of the War was when I went out of the front door of my Grandmother’s house in England and saw a row of tables down the middle of the road covered in food and drink.  It was VE Day – Victory in Europe.

I won the most important lottery in the world when I was born because I was born Caucasian in a first world developed country.  And as I look back over my life, I think I may just have won another very important lottery.

War time surveys in England showed public opinion wanting wide social reform and the first General Election, after the war was over, saw the voters kick Winston Churchill and his party out of office which was a great surprise to many people.  The introduction of the National Health Service under Clement Atlee, the Labour Prime Minister, promised to give cradle to the grave free hospital and medical care for everyone regardless of income.  While I lived in England, I never had to pay for a visit to the doctor or dentist.  There was no charge when I had my appendix removed in 1951.

I hate to think what might have been had Churchill beaten Attlee in 1945.

I passed the annual Eleven Plus exam and was offered a place at the local grammar school.  There were no school fees and the books were provided.  All we had to pay for were the uniforms.  But even that meant that I almost didn’t go because my step-father said he couldn’t afford to buy the uniforms.  We were very poor.  But my dear grandmother stepped in and bought the school uniforms for me and demanded that I go to the grammar school.

Over the years, the quality of life improved all the time.  Shops became more interesting, coffee shops and cafes grew in number.  Businesses were making good profits.  And the big improver, of course, was technology leading to what we enjoy today.  Travel became more popular and cheaper.  Man walked on the moon. Now they are talking of putting a man (or woman) on Mars.  Social media controls our lives and our mobile phones are more powerful than yesterday’s large computer systems.  For quite a number of years we have mostly enjoyed a much better life than we imagined when we were young children.

But I do believe that we have reached the top of the arc and are now heading downwards.  For many years now, the world has experienced severe bushfires, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, the melting of the ice caps and so on.  And now we have this dreadful pandemic Covid 19.  Everyone is rushing to get a vaccine and they are cutting corners.  Remember Thalidomide?  But even if we do manage to control Covid 19, very few people will accept the fact that they are going to earn a lot less money than they did pre Covid 19.

The world was in a mess long before the Covid-19 virus reared its ugly head.  We were all greedy and demanded more.  Because it was unprecedented, no-one knew how to manage this virus.  It soon became clear, all around the world, that severe measures would be needed to combat Covid-19 and as a result, many businesses were doomed to fail, many employees were going to lose their jobs, and many people were going to die.  Here in Australia, the Federal government has had to introduce several measures in an attempt to help businesses survive and for ordinary Australian employees to put food on the table for their families and to pay mortgages and the necessary utility bills, some of which are quietly increasing.  And as a result, we are incurring a massive debt that we may never be able to repay.

If everyone had been paid a fair wage and if big businesses hadn’t been so greedy, the task facing the Prime Minister would not be so difficult.  But I keep hearing comments like – when life returns to normal.  Life isn’t going to return to normal, and in my mind mustn’t, return to normal.  Just one example:

The average Australian earns about $48, 360 a year before tax. The Prime Minister of Australia gets paid about $550,000 a year. The Premier of Victoria gets paid about $441,500 a year. The average annual wage for a surgeon is about $400,000 a year. Dustin Martin is believed to be earning about $1.25 million a year. Buddy Franklin earns more than $1m a year. Many AFL coaches are paid close to $1m a year. Nick Kyrgios, the bad boy of tennis, earns approximately $4 million a year from his game and endorsements. In 2019 Roger Federer earned US$106 million in pre-tax earnings. As of 2019, world number 1 golfer Justin Thomas was worth more than US$30 million. Tiger Woods career earnings total is around US$1.5 billion. Serena Williams has earned more than US$93 million in prize money. Lionel Messi is reputed to have earned more than US $560 million dollars in his career.  He is averaging about US$35 million a year or $US646,000 a week. The highest paid American basketballer for 2019-2020 was LeBron James at about US$100 million with a net worth of about US$480 million.

Elon Musk’s net worth is US$70.7 billion, Bill Gates’ net worth is US$112.7 billion and Jeff Bezos’ net worth is a staggering US$192 billion and growing by the day.  Even Donald Trump is worth US$2 billion.

The list is endless.

I find it hard to accept that anyone, especially sportspeople, are paid more than the President of the United States, the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of England, the President of France, the Secretary General of the United Nations.  Again – the list is endless.  And to think that Lionel Messi earns more in a week than all of the above earn in a year.

Those earning these obscene amounts of money are not going to give it up.

And then there is another factor.  All around the world, many countries are experiencing hard right politics in control.  Even here in Australia, the hard right has had too much influence for too long.  The only person who tried to halt that was brutally knifed in the back by our present marketing wonder-man of a Prime Minister, a man who professes a serious belief in God yet he keeps refugees stranded on Manus Island and Nauru for years, including children who only know life in captivity.

For a long time now, the President of the United States of America has been the most powerful person in the world.  One would think that such a person would be a person of high calibre and strong moral values.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Added to that, too many countries now have dictatorial Heads of State.  At the top we have President Xi Jinping who is President for life, a tenure that is totally unacceptable in a democratic world.  And he is hell bent on becoming the most powerful person in the world.  Then we have President Putin – although he isn’t President for life, he isn’t far from it and will probably achieve it.  He also wants to be the most powerful person in the world.  Then there is President Trump who is hoping to be elected for another four years but is also hankering to be President for life.  Surely he is not the most suitable person to be considered as the most powerful person in the world.

Then we have people like Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad, Recep Erdogan, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte and many others who crave power.  A combination of these dictatorial people, unbending right wing politicians in democratic countries and Covid 19 – they won’t care if people die, if disadvantaged people suffer, if the working class gets paid less and less – as long as they are in control, can exert their power and make their fortunes.

Here in Australia we live in a representative democracy.  We elect people to deliberate and decide on legislation.  By doing so, we expect that they will be legislating for the good of the country.  It’s irrelevant as to which party an elected representative belongs – Liberal, Labor or any of the minor parties or independents.  They all have one goal in common – what is best for them in order to get re-elected at the next election.  I am convinced that they all go to night school to learn how to avoid answering direct questions and how to tell lies without being caught out.

To me – living in a so called democracy, we should accept the results of an election and let the government get on with it.  The majority of people have made their decision so we should accept it.  But sadly that is rarely the case.  Even today with this wretched Covid-19, many politicians are playing political games and point scoring and many people on the streets are reluctant to accept many of the decisions that have been taken during this pandemic.

I don’t think we are living in a real democracy.

So what is the other lottery I may have won?  It surely is the fact that as a member of the Silent Generation, I have enjoyed unparalleled quality of life through my almost eighty years and will be bowing out and meeting my Maker at a time when the future is looking grim.