Saturday, June 25, 2011

About my next child

So B has been a bit broody (rising *mumbles* so the hormones are telling her her breeding days are ending) but don't panic, no way am I ever having another kid. So I tell her that, and she's like, yeah but it would be a handsome kid. Which it would. I have some great genes and all my kids are choice looking. Hers aren't bad either: she's quite pretty if the light's coming from the right direction.

So we were discussing kids' names and we agreed on Shark Mindfuck because we're both unemployed weedsmoking bogans, so what else would we call him? (And yes it would be a him. I only have man spunk left.) Thinking about Shark has sparked B's creative nerve, and now she has a full picture of him. She pictures him after his birth, being offered the boob and refusing it, demanding warm blood.

I said, well, he'll have the Rule cock gene (skipped a generation but Naughtyman has a wang that would make many grown men envious--I don't get complaints but no one faints on seeing it, let's put it like that) and that means double-figure inches. He wouldn't be a vegetarian. In fact, just like all my kids, he wouldn't go near a vegetable. He'd thrive on steak. Or other children's legs. "Shark," we'd say, "where did you get that bone?" Not that he'd answer. We wouldn't know whether Shark was meeting his developmental milestones in talking because he'd prefer to communicate in grunts.

We imagine the school phoning us. "We're sorry, Mr R, but we have to ask you to remove Shark from our school. We were willing to put up with him scaring other boys with his penis and assaulting his teacher, but he spent second break yesterday with his teeth fastened around little Jasmine's jugular. You do know he files his teeth?"

Not that he'd need an education. He'd steal anything he wanted, or pulverise anyone who got in his way. B says Shark would be giving the education, teaching us things we'd never dreamt of. Like how to get brains out of the carpet.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rotten RACQ

So I was delighted when a bit more than a week ago, some guy rang from RACQ Insurance to tell me that the owner of the car I hit on Wecker Road had claimed, and everything would be taken care of. A guy would go out to assess my car and would ring me in the next couple of days to let me know the score and to take me through the next part of the process.

So I didn't hear anything and after maybe five working days I phoned them and said, hey, no one got back to me. Oh, the guy tried on this number, they said, reeling off a number that obviously wasn't mine. But why didn't you use my mobile, I said, which you've used more than once? Oh well, the guy said, anyway, I'll get the guy to phone you. Won't be today, he'll be in touch tomorrow. This was Wednesday.

So by this afternoon, I was beginning to think I'd have to phone them again. But they phoned me. Hi, they said, we have a settlement for you. And we got a wrecker to give a quote. By the way, you'd better get the car out of the holding yard because they're going to charge you a fee.

WTF?

So "we'll take care of everything" turns out to mean "we'll fuck you over". It's impossible to sort out a different wrecking company this afternoon -- the Friday before a long weekend, and if I don't get the car towed out of the holding yard first thing on Tuesday, it starts costing me a lot of money.

I was pretty upset so I wrote an email to complain. The same guy rang back to tell me he'd done everything by the book and basically tough shit.

So I ask to speak the guy's supervisor. She rings me back. She tells me I'm lying about the RACQ arranging a tow, I misunderstood when they said they'd take care of everything, they have no responsibility for the car or anything else.

So I said, why waste your time and mine with this shit? You just want me to go away so I will go away. So I have to add RACQ Insurance to my list of terrible businesses here who love to take your money but do not much like helping you when you need it (or giving good service to their insured, which in this case was the other guy; but I would hate someone to be treated the way I have if I ever cause an accident).

I am particularly unhappy that this woman just flat denied arranging the tow. The only reason my car is in the goddamn holding yard is these cunts had it towed there. No one asked me what I wanted. No one told me I would be stuck with an undriveable car not in my garage space, not in my yard, but in some guy's yard in Cooper's Plains. Instead, they all told me, it's fine, the insurance will take care of it. But no.

I hate Australia. I hate that people will lie to you to make you go away one day and then lie about the lies they told you the next. I hate living in a place where a guy tells you he will get back to you about a job and then never bothers, and then when you contact him, he says he'll get back soon; three weeks later, you are on the ignore list. That's Australia in a nutshell: a place where people think you're shit if they can't get anything out of you, where you basically have a dollar value, no more no less.

Monday, June 6, 2011

About power

So I was thinking about relationships the other day and how they boil down to a constant ebb and flow of power. I think of a functioning relationship as a continuing trade in power: each empowers the other in some way, or disempowers them if they feel they need to.

We understand this implicitly in the early days of relationships, of course. Who calls, who goes to whose house, who does what the other likes, these are all transactions that empower the other or ourselves. If you ring someone and invite them on a date, you are for sure empowering them. They can take you or leave you as they choose. Naturally, so long as you are reasonably active in dating, you do not have much invested, so the exercise of that power is not crushing. If, however, you are like some who I know, and obsess over one person at a time, that obsessing empowers the other to an extent that is not healthy.

I do not know which is worse, that they should know it or that they shouldn't. In the former case, they are as much burdened as empowered, because they do not necessarily want the power you have entrusted them with; in the latter, they can hurt you a great deal without consideration, where had they been able to consider, they might have spared you some. Let's say that a person is not sure whether they want to go out with you; you are on the borderline. Would you rather they knew you were desperate to go out with them, and that obliged them, creating a little sourness in any relationship you might have, which would never be sweetened but would always remain -- and a huge imbalance in power that you would never be able to recover from ("I only went out with you because you really wanted it" is incredibly disempowering) or would you rather they did not know and could crush you without a thought, which they would not wish to do, because they could have decided either way?

One of the major ways to empower yourself is to be more able to quit the other. Often, this is because you are more desirable than your partner, and can replace them more easily. Take ex-Mrs Zen. When we first married, she felt powerless. She thought I was much more desirable than she was, and could easily quit her if I wanted to. (Strangely, she didn't feel empowered by the reverse of that thought: that being chosen by someone you feel need not choose you empowers you.) Much of her conduct of our relationship was an effort to make me abandon that perceived power, to restrict my ability to flaunt it. Once we had kids, of course, it was restricted in the course of things. She realised my kids were an anchor, that they empowered her because I could not leave them, whatever I felt about her. Whoever says children bring you closer together clearly never had any.

Take Bella as another instance. Although she claimed to love me, to need me, to want to be with me, she had Jesus. She could use Jesus as a tool to leave me at any point. Her message, appended to all transactions with me, was "you don't have me; I can care more about Jesus if I choose".

Once you are stuck with an imbalance in power, what can you do? Sometimes you can compensate your partner in one way or another. You can give them satisfaction that isn't easy to get elsewhere: sometimes a partner will abase themselves, become a demi-slave to try to keep it together; you can ignore the exercise of power, so that for instance if your partner cheats on you, you can pretend it's okay. Mostly, you just suffer until it is done. Largely I think this is why we try to empower ourselves, because we do not want to be passively suffering as our relationships fall apart: we would rather be in the driver's seat than watch as someone else puts the thing in the ditch.

Isn't this one reason we cheat on our partners? Isn't it a way of saying "I don't need you" that is fundamentally untrue? Because we are only empowering ourselves because we want our relationship to continue. Perverse as it sounds, it seems to me that we do not cheat because we lack something that our partner could give us, but because we lack something in ourselves. Among other reasons, I suppose.

Can the tension in a relationship be resolved? In principle, I imagine it can, but it would require the ability to empower your partner equally as they empower you. There seem to me various ways you could do that but I have run out of energy and explaining what I think they are will have to wait on another day.

June 6

June the 6th, I did nothing. I watched the day pass by, a few chores, a computer game, making myself numb so I don't have to think about how hopeless it is.

I try not to think about what I could have done with my life. This is what I've done. I try not to think about what I might have been able to do. When I enumerate my abilities, they don't amount to much. It seems I am doing just what I was able and that was nothing at all.

No one has a use for me. Yet when I think about it, I understand what's going on. I interpret the world and not everyone can do that. I see what it is. But I never gained any ability to do anything about it. It always seemed like something I was outside, wishing someone would let me in.

No one has a use for me and I'm useless on my own. It's surely not such a sin, to need others to come alive? It takes you to places you maybe never wanted to go, sure, but that only hurts yourself.

***

I was going to write something about Bella, how she decided she loved Jesus more than she loved me, but to be honest, I'm just sick to the core of selfish cunts and dwelling on one or another won't make me feel any better. My views remain the same: only the real is worth fighting for, dying for, living for, loving. The abstract nonsense that we use to shield ourselves from looking at the real only has what impact on our lives we wish it to. In my case, not a great deal; in hers, enough to make her life torturous. So that's that.

Ex-Mrs Zen was the same: she wished only to communicate about a list of things that she was entitled to, never about what we actually had. Still, I sometimes feel I should have been less contrary, insisted less on real life and given her more of what she wanted. The problem is, these women are like terrorists. It is not enough to give them something and hope they will negotiate. They will take it for weakness and demand more. Tell Bella you respect her religious beliefs and she demands you do not talk about science; that you give up wonderment, just as she has given it up, and find that respectable. Tell ex-Mrs Zen that you will give something up for her, the next day there is something else you have to give up, and in the meantime, she is still the same bitch she was before.

You spend, and you buy nothing.

Not everyone can be like that. I mean, I am left hoping it's just Australian women -- because let's face it, it's all the Australian women I've known -- and that one day I'll be able to return home and find someone who believes I am worth more than that (not that I claim to be worth much: I simply feel that loving someone cannot be a matter simply of finding some abstract thing to bash them with).

I know B will think that unfair. But her abstractions are ultimately even more insuperable than Bella's. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and say fuck it.

***

But don't I believe in an abstraction, yearn for it even though it is contrary to anything I can expect? Of course I do, but I do not punish you for it. I know mine is impossible. I am complicated in that I have to see everything as a transaction, a trade in power (I will blog that shortly, I think), yet I want simplicity.

My friend boots -- whatever happened to boots? -- would tell me about his cabin in the wintertime. I did not believe his cabin was anything but wholly imaginary. He would talk about clearing snow, cutting wood, getting by on a little, just him and Mrs boots.

I did not believe it was anything but imaginary because it seemed like he was describing a dream. Because who really could be satisfied with that, this side of ex-Mrs Zen's dad? (Who does not have what I want -- although his life is simple, it is not warm, far from it, and warmth is the key to my dream. In boots' cabin, a stove roared and he basked in the warmth.)

I do believe in an abstraction. I believe in love. I believe it illuminates the darkness, even if the darkness must ultimately win. I know I am foolish. What did my beliefs ever get me but broke, hopeless and scared in a suburb of a hick town without a heart?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Basic

So the other day I attended a jobseek seminar. Sounds like fun, eh? In actuality, I simply turned up, was ticked off a list and was free to go. I stayed and chatted for a few minutes with a fellow "jobseeker" but that was that.

Someone arranged the letter that reminded me of the appointment time. Someone put the list together. A woman wastes her days ticking people off lists. There is a huge welfare bureaucracy here.

Of course the government has to humiliate you when you are out of work. The neoliberal myth is that we are at full employment. (The theory -- disproved so many times by, you know, reality that you'd think no sane economist would put it forward, let alone that it should be the basis of policy in the Western world -- is that inflation and unemployment are in a balance, and there is an equilibrium point -- NAIRU: allow unemployment to fall below it and inflation is inevitable; allow inflation to rise above it and unemployment is inevitable. The reasoning is that if everyone has a job, labour becomes a scarce resource and the price for it rises -- in other words, there is wage inflation -- and consequently prices for goods rise. Does this mean that true full employment would require carefully crafted policies to manage inflation? Yes. But does it mean that we need to keep 5% of the population out of work on purpose? No, it doesn't. But that is Australia's policy.) So there are jobs everywhere and if you don't have one, you are a shirker. This lie appeals to the public, because Australians are conservative on the whole and strongly believe in the dignity of labour (except for the rich: it's curious that those who need the state's help in hard times are "spongers", but "investors" who simply skim wealth from the economy without giving a thing in exchange are not only not spongers but are consider "high-worth" individuals).

As it happens, unemployment in Australia is 5%, with a further 8% underemployed (people who would work full time if they could but cannot get the hours). This is just those who are part of the workforce -- it ignores all the people who would return to work if there was work, but for one reason or another cannot or do not sign on. By calling this "full employment", the government can pat itself on the back for a good economic job well done, and ignore its responsibility for ensuring that there is work for all. I mean, what else is a government for? Why is it permitted to influence the economy if not for that end?

Is inflation even particularly undesirable? I will note that most of us are net debtors, so it affects us positively. Yes, goods may rise in price but this is not actually the concern of neoliberals. When they say they want to restrict inflation, what they mean is that they want to keep wages down. They want to prevent our share of the national income from rising. And if your wages rise, you can pay higher prices for goods without too much concern. The cool thing is that inflation lessens debt (because it effectively devalues the amount owed). Of course the rich don't want this (it effectively devalues their piles of cash too), but I often think to myself, why should the majority care a less about that?

It's only by lying to us that the neoliberals who run our countries can deflect our attention from our own interests. It is clearly better for most of us that there should be work for everyone who wants it than that savings are protected, given that most of us do not even have net savings (yes, many of us have modest amounts of deferred spending but we also have much greater levels of debt: few of us have savings greater than our mortgages).

It's one of the more pernicious lies that there is plenty of work and only those who don't want to work sign on. I mean, they pay me less than my rent! Of course I'd rather work. But there isn't any.

In any case, as I've noted before, I favour a "citizen's income". We could save a great deal of bureaucracy, accept our responsibility to support each other and provide a method of fiscal support to the economy that allows individuals to make decisions over resources instead of bureaucracy (the latter is the reason this approach has often been favoured by the right: the left, which tends to support bureaucracy because it creates jobs, has not favoured it so much -- indeed, President Nixon came very close to introducing a basic income and scrapping welfare). My allowance for being unemployed is about $600 a fortnight. The government could simply pay $300 a week to every Australian adult. Scrap the tax-free allowance (which is ridiculous anyway) and other tax breaks and tax from the first dollar of income (even better, tax land not income). No need for means testing, no hoops to jump through, no bureaucracy needed (money paid to everyone on the electoral register, ez game). I'd also pay money for each child (scrapping the various family benefits).

Wouldn't it all cost the government a lot of money? Yes, but luckily Australia is the sovereign issuer of its own currency and is not constrained by revenue. It can pay for anything it wishes in its own currency.

But it will never happen. It's easy to predict what the opposition to it would be. Even though none of the opposition would actually make sense, who cares about that? We live in a world of myths and lies, and it suits the people the government serves well. The rest of us, well, we sleepwalk through it, and until you are in need yourself, you don't have to think about it.