It was obvious to me when I arrived back in Australia that the country had changed for the worse. I’d been away eighteen years. I remember a fairly good system of universal healthcare. Affordable food and housing. In 2003, life in Australia was the envy of the world.
But in my absense, the neoliberals did a number on it. What is neoliberalism? I won’t get into it here; but Margaret Thatcher was neoliberal. They’re philosophically opposed to things like universal healthcare, for instance. Australia’s been Americanizing its healthcare system. It’s also become an incredibly expensive place to live.
I happened to be in a seven-eleven a few weeks ago. A small tub of 500ml Ben and Jerry’s Icecream was $15.30 AUD – that’s $9.97 USD, for half a liter. There is here, like everywhere else, a crisis of rising costs. It’s not because of inflation, but because large businesses and grocery chains are hiking prices, algorithymically squeezing the middle class as much as mathematically possible.
In Brisbane, where I live and (mostly) grew up, a remarkably small number of people can afford to buy a house. Young people pay rent to the older generation. But critically, they difference is that they know they will probably never own their own home. They will live and work – as two-income families – in professional jobs, and pay rent until they die.
I have a friend whose mother owns in excess of ten houses, most of which were purchased after her husband retired. They were a single income family; he retired in the nineties, back when you could buy houses for 100-200k. And, because Australia has some perfectly ridiculous tax laws (too lengthy to explain here, but you might google ’negative gearing’, but prepare to become incensed) which have resulted in an entire generation of babyboomers buying up all the houses and forcing millions of young people to pay exorbitant rental fees.
So, today in Australia there exists an undercurrent of animosity about the old people. There are probably millions of Australians who consider the old people to be this sort of overall horrible collective, filled with santimony and greed. My own mother agrees with this sentiment; she’s eighty-two, and was never greedy or avaricous in the slightest. Her only ambition was to live quietly and read. She often talks about how angry her generation seems to be, and says she doesn’t know why, considering how easy their lives had been, compared to young people today.
So, in my eighteen year absense, this is one of the most remarkable differences. There is a generation here, about whom few are fond. The attitude ranges between contempt and revulsion.
I’ve had friends admit with a shrug, that everything will be easier when their parents die. Which is fascinating.