Economically Unviable

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

According to the Melbourne Institute’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, the majority of Aussies are better off now than they were ten years ago.  I am not one of those people.

I am in the process of applying for a disability pension.  It is horrible enough filling in page after page of personal details for faceless bureaucracy.  If I wasn't feeling small and losery and ashamed to begin with, this process would instill in me the levels of shame required for those who will claim support from the government.  After all, you cannot make this process too easy or else everybody will be rushing from their cubicles onto the social security bandwagon.

As a further insult to my flaccid confidence levels, as part of my application I have to provide details of my sole trader economic status for the transcription work I've been doing from home for the past three years.  Problem with that is that I haven't been keeping up with my tax payments.  Money’s tight, especially when you have a chronic illness, and managing my money well has never been one of my strong suits.  Which adds to my already flailing confidence because we are expected to juggle fiscal balls along with all the others  imposed upon us by a system that serves those at the top far better than it suits me at the bottom.  If we don't perform well in the areas that have been assigned to us as recognised markers of adultness – like being able to earn dosh – then we are failures, even if we happen to write some pretty good poetry, even if we say so ourselves.

This system pits its slaves one against the other, so that rather than feel sympathy for someone who’s struggling some may well be inclined to look down on me for being a financial mismanager.  It may be an occasion for them to pat themselves on the back, glad that they are not me.  It will also serve the purpose of getting them to focus on me, instead of the system we live under.  It serves its purpose well, (although there are signs of it crumpling round the edges as more and more of us question why the way we live is so completely alienating to us, the tellers of our own stories).

Some may be inclined to be glad they’re not me because of my chronic illness/pension-claiming/tax-dodging status.  Hell, I would.  Being me is not something you aspire to.  Unemployable (apparently, if job applications are anything to go by), I have been out on the edge of financial vulnerability for years.  I am the type of person who perpetuates that starving artist in the garret scenario by stupidly choosing as their passion writing, which does not pay well, if at all, and which is notoriously difficult to break into, requiring a hide of steel that was not made available to my genetic subset.  But then again, we do not seem to choose our passions;  they choose us.

I am the type of person who feels sorry for themselves, who complains on my blog about my situation instead of sucking it up and getting on with it.  But that's the problem with chronic illness – you can't always suck it up because you're ... well, you're not well.  I am the type of person who you cannot begin to understand because my illness is invisible and it's chronic and you can look at me and say, "But you look so well!" while I feel sick, and poisoned, and toxic and unhealthy.  I'm the type of person who is in bed for part of the day and then suddenly cleaning the bathroom at 10pm because I'm feeling up to it and feeling good and I want to contribute, and be useful, not a liability.

But I am the kind of person who has got myself into a bind so that before I can impose my small and defeated self upon the Department of Human Services I first have to fill in three tax returns and lodge them before I make a claim to the ATO to tell them that yes, paying this tax would mean that I would be not buying food or paying rent or paying for medications for myself.  Yes, it surely would, and would they mind it if I didn't pay it at all, or else if I paid it in lump sum installments?  And some most likely faceless person working in the cogs of those machinations will decide my future.  And whichever way it pans out, I will feel shit.  And some will judge me for not contributing.

Because there’s nothing we’re scared of more than someone else getting away with something we can’t.

But if it makes you feel better, whatever the ATO decides I will feel like I want to curl up into a small ball in the corner, a ball so small that I will complete some amazing magic trick of scientific law-defying and disappear into my very own black hole of economic unviability.


  1. Sue, your post is intelligent, heartfelt, honest, brave.

    Surveys. I believe they are merely an indication. Not a true account. I sometimes think they are put out to give the populous false hope/contentment/ideals. So that the people continue to feel assured that all is well in their country. And, continue to buy/take out bank loans – grow the economy.
    I think there is more that they’re NOT telling us.

    The public service system is flawed and self-serving – but only at the upper levels. And the bloody ATO is a toothless tiger.
    The collective name “public service” is a joke. They do nothing to serve the public with anything other than disdain. Courtesy and consideration be damned.
    We’re just a name on a piece of paper among thousands of pieces of paper. Or, these days, thousands of names registered on data entry documents.

    There is no humanity required when dealing with faceless names.
    They really might as well be robots, these departmental “human resources”.
    Most of them hate their jobs and maybe even their very own existence.
    For, perhaps the system has turned on them too. Cracking the virtual whip over their heads and reducing any shred of humanity by forcing them to perform their tasks without question. “If the applicant doesn’t tick all the right boxes, they are denied/disqualified”.
    A swipe of a pen or click of a button at one end can almost destroy any self worth at the other end.

    Sorry. My cynicism has increased as I get older. I no longer have the naïveté of my youth.

    So, why shouldn’t you “complain on your blog”? It’s your blog. Your voice. Your connection to those who can relate and empathise with you.
    At least, technology has given us that. The world can feel very lonely without it.

    “The arts” is a difficult field to earn money from, with low government funding and high competition. The financial font is shallow and seems only available to the chosen few. It’s so often not what you know but…

    Though, if we “creative types” don’t express through our chosen medium, we implode.
    Setting mine aside for years of repetitive desk work in cold, conservative offices, just to keep the bank happy, exacted its creative toll.

    I for one don’t feel any smugness over your plight – I wouldn’t dare. I’ve been perilously close to dire circumstances, and at the mercy of others, to even consider it.
    And, I won’t even get started on the, “but you look so well” comments – I could write a tome on THAT alone, lol!!

    But, I know many who do have haughty attitudes. What they don’t think of, is that their position can change at any moment. Sudden ill health or a poor financial decision can wipe out overnight their feelings of superiority. They really need to think with more care.
    But, privilege seems to be an effective barrier.

    So, write on sista. At least, we are here. And we hear you. x

    1. Hello, fellow conspiracy theories :)

      I agree. It's not what you know but ... which reminds me, on a tangent, I have been reading My Brilliant Career and its sequel, My Career Goes Bung. Both of them are semi-autobiographical to a degree, with the second one being a fictionalised account of what happened to the narrator of the first book after that book was published, and her dealings with Sydney "society" of the early 1900's. And there is so much of that. I mean, who are the rich elite? The ones who were born into it. That's an antiquated sort of a concept but it still holds true in so many areas. And yes, not what you know but who you know. What happens with all of those writers who are locked away being introspective and who don't know a whole lot of people? I guess e-publishing, hehe :)

      Thanks for your support and comments. It means a lot coming from a fellow arty soul (I really must get back to playing with clay soon myself. A babe in arms but I do feel like it's my medium :)

  2. What Vicki said, Sue. You are one of my heroes for the way you deal with your stuff. I've been what many would see as a 'drain on the system' most of my life, but then I've come to see, in a curious way, that that's exactly what the system needs - to go down the tubes and be reborn into something resembling true compassion. I will never 'fit in' to a system that ain't fit for nothin', but will find a better way, and maybe inspire others to a similar course. It's the eccentrics who make the best revolutionaries, although it's no easy road, going 'gainst the flow:)

  3. You are so kind. Comments like yours and Vicki's are priceless, really. I don't feel like I deal with my stuff very well. But I do know that doing something with it and writing about it redeems it. Perhaps it even makes it appear as if I'm dealing with my stuff better than I am, haha!

    What a wonderful way to look at being a "drain on the system" - I love the pun. It's so true! This system does need to go down the tubes and be reborn. And I do feel like that is happening on an energetic level. If that's so, then soon we will begin seeing it more and more on an outer level - and there are many wonderful people out there doing countercultural things already.

    Sail on fellow eccentric. And thanks for your philosophical tweets :)

  4. "who are the rich elite?"

    There's "old money" and then there's the nouveau riche.
    Not sure which are worse.
    Those born into privilege and who only rub shoulders with their uber-rich peers, as they cast scornful glances at the "lower" classes.
    Or, those who've come into a fortune within their lifetime, spending their money so conspicuously - and so often, gaudily - as they desperately try to climb the social ladder to the elite playgrounds.

    Then there's the pseudo-rich. Doing everything to give the appearance they are wealthy - but, it's all on credit.

    None of the above would I like to keep company with. They wouldn't know reality if it bit them with a thousand piranha like teeth on the arse.

    "My Career Goes Bung", sounds interesting. Will have to look it up. Sadly, the days of going into a real bookstore have dwindled. Maybe a second hand store will have a copy. And, there's always online. But I like the second hand shops.

    From what I hear, many people are self-publishing. Seems worth a go for sure. You should consider it maybe. You are a very good writer.
    You know what "they" say about, "nothing ventured..."

    Always wondered who "they" are. They sure seem to know alot about, well, A LOT :)

  5. Right there with you. I've heard a term called "decision fatigue" that exists among the "poor but working middle class". Essentially, every day we (myself included) are confronted with decisions about how to spread our money around. "Do I buy food or pay the electric?". Health insurance or mortgage? Taxes or medicine? Those terrible decisions that we have to make when the money doesn't go far enough. And, then, even the little do I buy 6 bananas or 6 bags of corn chips? How can I make the money go far enough? How can I eat healthy and still eat enough on a small budget? It sucks, and if I knew a way out of this hellhole, I'd tell you. Unfortunately, just being employed isn't enough anymore, because everything is so much more damned expensive. If there is something in the "system" that can make things easier for you, there's no shame in that. We've done it repeatedly these last 3 years.

    1. What frustrates me is that it's needless suffering that doesn't need to be [-(. It's suffering imposed by a system designed by others to suit them, not us and certainly not the earth. I think that's what makes it all doubly hard, at least for me.

      I'm sorry that you are stuck in there too. Here's to a different future for us all, Ms Erin cheer

    2. Unfortunately, economic inequality is as old as civilization. There is this primal urge that if you "have" you must "have more", or at least maintain your "have". However, we no longer live (well, most of us) in a hunter-gatherer society, where failure to be selfish results in our demise. No longer is selfishness about mere survival...instead, we live in a world where it's all about the collection of bigger and better things. In order for that to happen, wealth has to shift. And, I can tangibly feel the shifting of my own minimal "have" away from me over the last decade, and into the hands of my health insurance company, my mortgage company, and my utilities. Sigh. Here's to a better world...may we live to see it.

  6. This might help...

  7. Thank you, previous dweller of the subhuman classes and now exhibiting artist to return to the depths to offer some words of consolation. I don't know where or what the intensive support list is, but I'll see if I can get on that one too.


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