Australia's selfish society needs a reality check

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Ignorant people packed closed beaches in droves despite advice about the importance of isolation (Screenshot via YouTube)

While Australia is enduring a severe crisis, many people are putting their own problems first and not considering others worse off, writes Noely Neate.

TIMES ARE SCARY, there's no getting away from that. Everyone seems to be responding in different ways — some of us are almost paralysed with fear, some are angry, some are so anxious as to what new day will bring, some are going into their shells and some are just living in denial. All those feelings are valid, we are living in uncertain times and we all react differently.

The true nature of people is showing. People you have known for years, who you thought would be there when you needed them, people you thought cared about others showing their true colours. The privilege is really getting to me.

It comes from the top, of course. Our PM and government helping business before people was just the beginning. As funny as many memes are, the toilet paper hoarding was a good indicator of the true Australia, the “I’m all right, Jack, stuff you”.

We then had thousands upon thousands lining up for Centrelink. That is heartbreaking, but again, we see this need to divide between those who were already on Centrelink and those now joining it. The people who had the “misfortune” to lose their job “through no fault of their own” were somehow more worthy of assistance than those who had the misfortune to lose their job through no fault of their own prior to this virus. Really? No, they are not.

Now we have people returning from overseas who are being quarantined in hotels, something that should have happened weeks ago. Yet to see people complaining about being forced to stay in a hotel for 14 days is seriously pathetic. We have treated asylum seekers cruelly for years, a family who did no wrong jailed on Christmas Island and the original quarantined from China. But now we have comfy white Australians who had the funds to have a holiday and their only hardship after enjoying that holiday is having to spend 14 days in a hotel to safeguard the rest of the population. Thoughts and bloody prayers.

Just this morning, I saw a comment about the “poor landlords” now that the Government has finally announced a moratorium on evictions — though no mention if tenants can still be added to a blacklist. This had to happen. More than 40 per cent of Australians live pay period to pay period. If you were sacked last week, you are not paying rent the week after — you physically can’t. Centrelink will not be paying you for weeks yet, so again, you don’t have the funds. Yet I have seen so many whining “what about me?”

I get it, I know many who have a rental are not wealthy and use that rental as their income. But perspective, please — worst case is that you may have to go to Centrelink like every other Australian who lost their income. If you have a mortgage on your investment, banks are deferring so you should be less impacted. As a landlord and multiple home owner, at least you have a stable roof over your head, which is more than a lot of other people at the moment. So, forgive me if I care more about those who are worried about being homeless if they could not pay their rent the next week.

We are going to have a massive generational issue after this is all over. I went down a rabbit hole on Reddit the other day — I wish I hadn’t, it was terrifying. In some cases, the outright hatred displayed towards older Australians is pretty scary. Younger Australians are the majority of renters, they are the ones who have lost their casual jobs – in some cases, more than one casual job that they needed to survive on – they have no superannuation, they have not had the ability to have savings.

For those at university, they are already saddled with debt and facing an uncertain future before this virus even hit. Many already felt abandoned, thinking those who are older don’t care about their future as they won’t take climate change seriously and many don’t ever think they will own a home.

Now they are being told that even though they have no money and won’t get help from Centrelink for another month, may not have a roof over their head because they can’t pay rent, they are also horrible because they are putting older people in danger. Relentlessly told that.

Politicians – and particularly media amplifying those politicians – flogging “young people” ignoring self-isolation and putting others in danger is not helpful. Pictures of crowded Bondi and St Kilda are not a good look, but they are not indicative of the whole nation. I can tell you now, I live in an older area and it is those over 60 who are not taking this seriously. Just on Saturday, picking up a takeaway coffee I came across a group of over 60s who had pulled their chairs together outside the café – which had been spaced nicely for those waiting for their coffee, mind you – and were complaining about “kids putting them in danger by not doing as they were told self-isolating”.

From what I can see, there are segments of all demographics who are either blatantly ignoring the self-isolation rules or, due to so many mixed messages from the Government, just not taking them seriously enough.

Demonising young people will not be forgotten and just divide this nation more.

It is almost like so many think that their lives should not change, the amount of money they get per week should not change, that should happen to “others”.

Well, no. This is a worldwide disaster. Everyone will be affected in some way.

It may be less money in your super due to stock markets tanking. It may be your net worth is less. It may be you are stuck at home suddenly appreciating the job teachers do. It may be suddenly having to adjust to learning a new level of tech to work from home. It may just be the loneliness that comes with being stuck at home. It may be the terror of being stuck home with an abuser. It may be worry you can’t buy food next week. It may be looking at your ceiling and wondering if it will be the same next month. You might be concerned if you will see your family, parent or kids again.

Whatever your age, life has been reduced to priorities. With food, shelter and health being at the very top of those needs — not wants and not choices.

Whatever your new normal is, there are people worse off.

Please think of this and please consider your privilege. I know we have been groomed over recent decades to be a selfish society thanks to many government examples, but we honestly will have to help each other to get through this and if we don’t address our empathy deficit before worrying about any economic deficit you may not like the new normal we end up with.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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