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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas - what does it mean now?

Christmas - this time of year means different things to many people. To a Jewish acquaintance of mine for example, it means a festival that puts her on the outer with most of the people she usually associates with. One thing that it has increasingly meant is garish displays of decorations at family homes. Contests are run to find the 'best'. Tours are scheduled to travel around the more lavishly decorated. Locations of decorated homes are often published in local newspapers.

If someone wants to decorate their home, then in general principle that is fine with me provided of course that it isn't something truly offensive like a neo-nazi display or a salute to serial killers. But there is another aspect to the story.

Are we not in a time when we should be considering the environmental impacts of pretty much everything? The nations of the world have only recently concluded an angst-ridden conference to tackle the issue of global warming. Yet each December, we start on an orgy of excess consumption of fossil-fuel-powered electricity to light up garish garden displays of lights of all sorts. Largely plastic decorations - yet more petrochemical consumption - are invested in and displayed all over the place. Yet more consumption of fuel for the trails of motor vehicles going around the 'tours' of garden Christmas 'decorations'. How many light globes alone, are consumed each year in this exercise?

There are those that find putting together this display a thing of joy to do. Someone that I knew, sadly passed away now far too young, absolutely delighted in putting together a Christmas display in her front garden. But her motivation was a little different. She and her siblings didn't have much of a Christmas such as that most of us take for granted. Sure, there were presents etc, but they were on open display for long beforehand, not even wrapped. There was not even an attempt at a Santa Claus pretense. So Sandra was determined to give her children the sort of Christmas she and her siblings were basically denied. That sort of motivation I can understand.

Sadly, understandable motivations like that would appear to becoming less of the norm. Instead, we see a growing trend of 'keeping up with the Joneses.'

"Look honey - the neighbours have seven more lights than we do. Get yourself over to Bunnings immediately and don't come back until you have at least three more full strings of lights to put across the front of our place. And another couple of plastic reindeer. Do you think everyone can see our plastic Santa doing the limbo or should I turn the volume up to Three on the Richter Scale?"

When creating garish eyesores as supposed decorations becomes essentially a fashion statement, it is high time to put the whole stupid lot away - for good. If nothing else, ask yourself how much those excess decorations are adding to the greenhouse gas emissions - not just the power consumption of lights but also the resources consumed in manufacturing, transporting etc. Or consider how much more good could have been done by investing the same funds into welfare programs? Or even just as donations to charity? Or helping those we know who may be going through hard times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ageism is alive and well

Don’t let anyone kid you that ageism doesn’t exist in our society. It is very much alive and well.

I was forced to leave the labour force at age 44 through no fault of mine, on invalidity. It as a matter of record that the health injury concerned was directly linked to the workplace although no regulatory body is the slightest bit interested in the fact that my dodgy, former employer, part of the public sector, quite wrongfully pursued a program of denying any such finding being made. So I was eventually forced out.

Interestingly, representatives of my former employer tried to tell me what a wonderful life I was about to start enjoying as an invalid pensioner and how easy it was going to be to be employed once more once my health improved. Not that I believed it for a moment.

The reality is that there are virtually no prospects for someone once they are over forty and have the slightest hint of disability. And on almost every single occasion when I just ‘miss’ out, it is beyond mere coincidence that the successful applicant is younger than me. Now I am intelligent enough to realise that a great many applicants are going to be younger than me so it stands to reason that a large number of successful applicants shall be younger than me. But when it happens on each and every occasion?

Mind you, ageism is nothing new. I did my accounting degree in the early 1990s as a mature age student finishing at the grand old age of 29. During my final year, along with a lot of other commerce students, I attended an open day for the accounting profession at the Ballarat University. There, the Education and Recruitment Director for the Institute of Chartered Accountants blatantly told several students including me, that we were too old. “The profession doesn’t want you,” she said. Those incredibly inappropriate words are burned into my brain. At 29, I was too old? I spat the dummy and spent the rest of the afternoon sulking in the student bar.

Her words proved quite prophetic. When I began applying to the major accounting firms, there was no interest despite good results. My mistake? I admitted to being 29 in my applications. I whinged about it to some of the senior accounting staff at the uni who sympathised. As far as they were concerned, this was a common occurrence. The first thing that the major firms looked at was an applicant’s age. If it was more than in their early twenties, an automatic rejection occurred. Of course the profession would hotly deny it, but any analysis of their hiring practices would tell a different story.

I put all that behind me and started a new life. But at 44, I was thrown in the scrap heap. I refused to accept it. I retrained, improving my qualifications and experience. All for nothing.

Now because my pension is paid from a superannuation fund, not via Centrelink, I am automatically disqualified from various forms of assistance. My pension is just enough to disqualify me from yet other forms of assistance such as a health care card, never mind that I carry not one but two disabilities, but nowhere near enough to be able to rent somewhere myself. So I am unable to live anywhere other than community housing in the company of junkies etc. I cannot even get into public housing, although they did tell me that as a single person, even if they were able to house me, it would most like just to be placed in one of the notorious public housing drug dens which is as bad if not worse than where I am now.

Not long before starting to type this entry, I had to call the police because in the adjoining block, a drug user was screaming threats at another resident and the police intervention was required. Of course now I am a going to be target for being a ‘dog’ and calling the cops.

Thanks to stunning degrees of misinformation and, ultimately, outright lies at the hands of my former employer, I was denied workers compensation on a technicality, thereby denying me access to required medical treatment that I certainly cannot afford. That makes my attempts to re-enter the workplace even harder again.

The key to putting all of this behind me is to simply get back into work. More money and I can move to better surroundings. I can afford more of the required medical treatment. I can make myself an even more desirable job seeker. Yet after considerable efforts, this is proving a staggering waste of time. A multi-qualified individual with a strong set of experiences and skills, I could not even get so much as a poxy casual job with the Christmas casuals. I now cannot even afford to travel down to spend Christmas with my aging parents this year. I have no idea how I am going to break that news to them.

For some reason, nobody gives a damn about those who fall through the cracks and seemingly nothing but insurmountable obstacles are placed in the way of them if they try to rise above it all.

The moral of the story is, if anyone over 40 is ever in danger of being forced out of the workplace on health grounds, do anything and everything to fight it. Cling on by your fingernails. Use every single possible means of fighting it. Find and use any and all avenues of appeal. Because once you have been thrown onto that scrap heap, you’re going to stay there.

The end of the job network saga

I posted some entries about the ludicrous nonsense I was put through in trying to join a job network under the Job Search Australia program. Time to post the final outcome.

I was finally admitted to the program that I had tried to join back in July. However as a direct result the staggering degrees of messing around that were only resolved after I had to resort to the DEEEWR complaints line, I was only finally admitted to the desired service so late in the year, that there is virtually nothing that they can do to assist me until next year. The job market simply dries up this time of year.

I received a written apology from the job network that took me on but not only didn’t have anyone to assign me to, but then initially refused to allow my file to be transferred to my preferred supplier.

I have written to the assessment service that not only caused the problem in the first place but then gave me entirely incorrect information that started me having to commence everything through Centrelink again. I was forced to make many pointless telephone calls to Sydney at STD rates. I am yet to receive a response let alone any dialogue on reimbursing me for me unnecessary STD telephone calls.

If matters had been handled properly in the first place, I may well have been in work by now as a result of that support that is available. But now there is nothing that they can do for me until the Canberra business world starts ‘working’ again next year. And my own attempts at finding work have been a staggering failure for some time now.