I have nothing to add other than to say, to the man I never knew, thank you.
You have had lots of pets. Remember how you spent a whole year looking after a dragonfly nymph? It was the easiest pet you could ever own. Put it in water, and watch it grow was about all you had to do. The tadpoles that grew legs and walked away were not much harder to manage. A little trickier were the minnows especially as you had to walk a couple of kilometres to carry home a supply of fresh brackish water. Truly the most troublesome water creature in your life was the axolotl. We never did understand it’s needs.
How well do you remember the bite of the ferrets? It is as easily remembered as the smell of their cage. It is much harder to remember any catch they made when you sent them into a rabbit warren. Possibly because you hadn’t closed off all entrances from which the rabbits found exits.
The first pet you had the sole responsibly for was Dalray. He was a thoroughbred black Labrador. Within his first year he won a ribbon in the Camperdown Agricultural Show. Your lack of dog training skill ensured Dalray was never shown again. The pair of you roamed all over the district instead. You even set rabbit traps together – many decades before they were outlawed for their cruelty to animals.
Life lessons show it is parents that seem to end up looking after their children’s pets. At least that is what happened to yours. And Dalray shuffled off under their care. In our case our children left us to look after Friend. Their tabby cat. As can only happen in families, we also adopted the pet that once lived with another family. And that is how we ended with the other tabby called Pugsley. He and Friend never knew one another but they might well have been twins. They were both oversized lazy boy types that give cats bad headlines.
Of all the things pets gave you, The worst was the unsubstantiated charge from the judicial officer daughter who falsely accuses you of killing them. As the defendant you have to admit this is not a pleasant acquisition. How you defend the charge is to give the pedantic response of the livestock grower.
Like most things the rationale for the response comes from your past. It was the observation of the adults in your life when they had to call the Veterinarian that set your sail. Too often you heard the vet say, we will give this – or that – a go, only to have the animal die, to respond with, “The only way I can be sure what caused its death is to carry out an autopsy. “
“No thank you, says the stoic farmer, I will phone the Knacker.”
A day or so later in the mail the farmer would be faced with a bill the size of a replacement animal.
These deep memories allow you to defend having a beloved pet put down when reason demands it.
These events are regrettable yet they allow an animal to die in dignity without it carrying the burden of it being forever anthropomorphised.
Given your years, the roll call of departed animal companions is long, but none is really forgotten. Not that foxy your grand parents had that would secretly nip you when you least expected it. Or the ancient collie, Laddie, that came into you life with the girl you married. The cross little Scottie Wee Drap that thought it was a Doberman and it would attack dogs five times it’s size until it really did go too far. Even the vet said it was undeserving of a reprieve.
A retirement change to suburban living meant deciding to live without animals, nevertheless you have given in and now you support little creatures once more. That happened, as many things do in your life, when you bought home an orphan lotus plant from The Heights. First you had to buy a water feature to help the plants grow. Then you bought some fish to keep the mosquitoes down. Next, in order for the fish to live you then had to aerate the water. That meant purchasing a pump. Now you have a new round of daily, let alone extra weekly jobs, just to keep them happy. And you can’t even see them in the deep water until they are fed.
Dalray was named after the 1952 winner of the Melbourne Cup
Thanks for reading. Tell me about your pet.
Mrs James was a big woman.
At Church socials,
I now ask,
Did she deliberately
Attempt to kill young boys?
To mix the crowd
We changed partners in the,
Pride of Erin,
And by progressive twirls,
The Barn Dance.
I had been
Unwillingly jammed tight
At those dances.
I use name Christine
Calls her ample bosoms
Many decades later.)
As she approached –
She would again
Crush my face betwixt
My boyhood fear
Wedged in the flesh
The music stopped
The unfounded fear
Was want of
I am still waiting. Strictly speaking once I was – but now I have given up. Apparently it is vey easy to grow Oyster Mushrooms in coffee grounds. That is what I have read. Going back a few years ago, for weeks I collected coffee grounds from a local cafe. When I had collected 20 kilograms or so I bought some fungi infused plugs and I popped a few of them into the grounds as Mr Youtube suggested and I waited. As I have stated I am still waiting for the mushrooms to grow.
Possibly, in my haste to get started, I missed an important step that might have ensured success. I intend to return to the matter when the mood next strikes me. Today I want to discuss coffee and something about the environmental issues that flow from our daily drink.
We never see how much waste our cup costs the planet. Here are some of the things you should know. Rather than start with my cup I would prefer we visit the steamy hills where coffee cherries grow. Grown naturally the coffee plant grows in the shade of a mixture of other trees. This means coffee growing is a hit and miss type of subsistence farming. The coffee plant are interspersed across the landscape. When the cherries are red the coffee bean is mature. If they are picked too soon the beans will not make first grade coffee. Therefore it is up to the farmer to pick, and re-pick only the fruit that is ready. Not interested in maturing all at once the plant creates lots of work.
Normally the cherries then leave the farm and the farmer gets a few cents for each kilo. In other circumstances the farmer will earn more if the fruit is taken from the bean on site. When this is done only the valuable beans need to travel beyond the farm gate.
Either way it points to the first part in the story of coffee waste. The cherry fruit is not usually eaten and must be discarded. If it happens on farm then it will make good mulch. If it goes to a factory then it is often burnt to create biomass.
The ideal growing conditions for coffee beans is in the shade but that has not stopped the monoculture of them. In parts of the world large areas are cleared and trees are planted under shade cloth. This means more coffee can be grown per acre but it seldom results in better returns for the small grower. Because big farms make it easier to crop the ground with machinery, the harvested crop so often is. This means farms have fruit at various stages of maturity when it is harvested. This results in more waste and beans of greater and lesser value mixed together. It just highlights the stupidity of monoculture being advanced as the best way to farm.
I cannot envision the scale of size of a figure I discovered when preparing this essay. Only a tiny amount of water is needed to extract the best flavours from the coffee bean. It means that for every cup made there is a heap of grounds to dispose of. The annual crop is around 8.4 million Metric tonnes of coffee. (Incidentally this is almost as much plastic waste the enters the oceans each year.) As I say, you might have a better way of imagining it, but it is around eight and a half large cargo ships of coffee that are used once and discarded – every year. It is a mountain of coffee. Each year the problem gets bigger because of the demand for more, and more.
Some people are promoting small business opportunities for the unemployed. They promote the growing of mushrooms because mushroom mycelium loves to grow in it. How much could be used this way is only a tiny part of what is available. Coffee grounds can be great for the garden, yet for it to really help it must first be composed for several weeks. When it has partly broken down it really does help to grow things. Some coffee shops will give away their grounds, but far too many send it to the tip because they cannot get rid of it fast enough. Fortunately, instant coffee manufacturers use this waste to produce energy.
This could be the end of the story instead it all becomes grimier from here. Many people now get their buzz at home from Pod machines. Nespresso introduce the pod machine to Europe in 1996. On the face of it it makes a lot of sense. No coffee beans are wasted because the householder gets a precise dose of coffee every time. But the pods are a problem. They are made from plastic. Thirty seconds after the coffee is made the household has 18 grams of coffee and plastic to dispose of. None of it can go into the garden. It just goes into the waste bin.
America started using pod machines about twelve months after Europe. They produce so much waste the inventor regrets the damage his invention produces.
Despite that – pod machines seem to be here to stay. Some argue the neatest solution is to use aluminium pods because they can be recycled. The energy needed to do that is unsustainable. The spent coffee may well be the correct dose but it has to be removed before the aluminium can be recycled.
Which leads me to an event that stirred me to write to the chairman of the largest shipping company in the world. We were on a month long cruise. On it we visited many wonderful places. In each country we visited we were able to go to some of the most interesting sites selected by UNESCO as world treasures. Our ship was small and on it there were people of many different nationalities. In the end it didn’t seem to matter which country they came from they all wanted a brewed coffee. The service standard on the ship was such anyone, on any deck of the ship could ask and be delivered a steaming cup of coffee without moving.
Yet every day the same people went directly to the barista to get a cup of coffee so fresh the beans had been roasted at seven am that morning. Guests could choose any type of China, or glass vessel, for their coffee and still half of them wanted a paper cup to carry the drink to their place of choice to drink. What I saw was what has become a bigger problem than pods of coffee. This usage was just part of the mountains of plastic – lined, one use cups, thrown away every day. On board we were told they were burnt. Across the globe people throw them anywhere. They have become a major part of the plastic waste the world now has to deal with.
This may not be my last word on the topic, but it is time we put aside our want for items that are only used once. Currently about 4,000 places in Australia will offer a price discount on a cup of coffee if the customer brings along a cup. The discount is not what motivates most of these customers, it is the care they want to show the environment. To reuse a product is much more sensible that to recycle, or repurpose.
Just down from the Mercer St Corner, opposite the Myer Store in Yarra St Geelong, was a cafe. In the cafe, on the tables, sat woven straw – covered glass Chianti bottles. Lodged in each bottle was a candle. At night the candles lit the otherwise gloomy room. Behind the counter the staff busied themselves serving their customers cups of steaming cappuccino. Such was the mystery of this enticing bohemian facade – all too frequently I postponed preparing my trainee teacher class lessons, due the next day, to sup late in the wicked atmosphere. This was my first mischievous deed in the world of adults three generations ago.
It was not my first cappuccino. I had had one earlier at Circular Quay in Sydney a few week before. On that occasion I met my sister Elizabeth traveling home on the liner “Oransay” after her first visit to Scotland. These big noisy drink makers took sometime to change the drinking patterns of this nation but they did. Before they became ubiquitous we endured some terrible brews. Let me introduce you to a journey through coffee.
We were (we are still) first a tea drinking family but our pretence at sophistication meant coffee was served on special occasions way back – when? War time privations meant coffee was unavailable- especially to families like ours. We made do with a delicious drink – Bushels Essence of Coffee and Chicory. This syrup was poured into a cup, to complete the ritual you then poured hot milk or water over that – And you were expected to enjoy it. Yuk.
It really was bad. If you would like to transport yourself back seventy years it is still possible to buy its modern substitute. Bushels Coffee Essence with added Caramel is still sold in supermarkets. (If you like the product you should stick to your choice, just don’t confuse it with a drink of coffee.)
By the time I left to start a home of my own the coffee we drank depended on how stretched our budget was. When it came to coffee we drank Instant Coffee. (It was only when I started to write this entry I made the discovery instant coffee was introduced around the years our fathers were born.) Possibly the biggest name internationally was Nescafe. In our time we have drunk litres of coffee infused by this brand. At various times we have tried dozens of other brands. You might know, or remember them. Some of them were awful. How would you rate Maxwell Hose, Pablo, International Roast, Moccona, Nescafé, Lavazza?
Sixty countries, or seventy – if Wikipedia is your source, grow coffee. The most common varieties grown are c, robusta and c. arabica. It is assumed they all originated in Ethiopia. Robusta, is to my taste, more bitter. Perhaps that is why Turkish coffee is so sweet. Perhaps it explains why an espresso in Europe is so short. Similarly no one can reasonably explain why an Americano tastes as it does. Here in this blazing dry land when it comes to fresh coffee most of us are served Arabica.
Coffee has heaped my ignorance into mountains at various times. I remember with pride producing my first coffee made in the eight cup, Sunbeam electric percolator we purchased. To make it I ground some expensive beans in a manual grinder. It took the best part of half an hour to turn out half a cup of coffee grounds. That was the quantity needed to fill the infuser. After filling the body with water, I turned it on and it percolated until the brew was as black as coal and just as tasty. We kept that thing for many years. The longer we had it the less it was needed. No one liked what it produced.
From that point I decided against filtered coffee and eventually bought a two cup Bialetti Stove Top Coffee maker. This was the first machine that we had that produced a reasonable drink. We kept that little gadget for ages. In fact we kept it until I was the only one in the house drinking coffee. By that stage I was addicted to my one strong cup a day. On Tuesday’s I lashed out and spent an hour with my former work colleague H. For nearly thirty years we have been chewing the fat over a Flat White each week in coffee shop after coffee shop.
Some time ago I expressed my individuality and spent more money than a “one-cup-day” drinker should and I bought a Rancillio Silva manual coffee machine. Now everyone will join me when I make my coffee each morning. My Faerie will have one with me if it is an Italian sweet called an Afagatto. This little drink is a double espresso poured over a serve of ice cream. (Hasn’t that caused some trouble over the years?) When we first started journeying around the country it was impossible to get one. The best reason given for not making one was given to us in a small cafe in Charlton. The waitress give us the pragmatic answer to our question. She said, “This is Charlton – not Carlton.” (Carlton is known as a centre for all things Italian.) Now it is possible to find one almost anywhere as most places can afford to buy an automatic espresso machine. However not all coffee is equal.
Good beans are more necessary than a good machine. Country stores are still reluctant to purchase good coffee, what scientists tell us it will soon become very expensive.The first reason is – coffee has replaced tea as the drink of choice. The second reason is – as the globe warms traditional places where coffee grows will become too hot. Growers are now searching the globe for new regions in which to grow it. Another major problem is the great distances the beans have to travel. Currently we are buying our Fairtrade beans from Timor Leste. This still means a journey of 5,000 kilometers before we get them.
Interestingly coffee waste is worthy of a story of its own. This will be my next story. Please revisit my site and learn a little more about this busy bean.
Painting by Christine Dobson 2008 Reflexions No 3
Known to us as Looking into retirement
Only a fool would write around the subject Shakespeare succinctly summarised centuries ago. As the fool you are you now tiptoe in the footprints left in fields of giants unaware how silly you are.
Stage 1 Infancy
I first became aware I was to share my childhood with a new child in Camperdown. (Janice was still being nursed when we moved there.) She didn’t interfere with my life at all. I demanded the things I felt entitled to and yet the small creature in mum and dads bedroom seemed to absorb more attention than the other girls. From that time I grew up without any real involvement with infants.
I realised the miracle of birth when Elizabeth introduced me to Helen. Clearly she was not the first baby I had met, but it took the moment I became an uncle for me to register how extraordinary new life is. It is so helplessly dependant on the care only a mother is capable of personifying. The tiny limbs so small they comfortably rest in the palm of a hand no bigger than the adult fingers holding them. It is no wonder people of all ages like to meet a new born.
The first months are all absorbing. “The child needs feeding.” Shoosh “The baby is sleeping.” “ It’s crying because it needs changing.” “It’s crying because it is teething.” “I didn’t get any sleep last night because the baby kept me awake all night.” “ It’s time for a bath.” “It’s time for a nap.” “ I have to take the child for this, or that, to the Dr.” “Will you hold him/her I want to …”
The baby has to grow and the parents fuss over every gain. “She gained four ounces/grams.” He is now 25 inches, 650 centimetres. (Old weights and measures are as commonplace in my speech as were pounds and shillings from the mouth of my grandmother.)
It seems impossible how quickly the babies you seldom see grow. Whereas your own off spring seem to take forever to develop, until your routine with them is broken and you tell yourself they have had a growth spurt in your absence.
The movement, the crawling, the tentative standing, all culminate in the magical first steps the child in your life makes. The baby talk gives way to the first words da da and mum ma. Soon you are astonished the child answers you back. And the first stage of life gathers its own momentum and infancy comes to an end.
One of the glories of living a long life is the opportunity to discover for yourself the rhythm of life.
Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Stage 2. The schoolboy
My own boyhood was not unlike the boyhood Shakespeare recorded. I reluctantly went to school because I felt I never really fitted in. Scholarship was not natural to me. Naivety meant I was frequently too slow to pick up what the other children were speaking about. New to my school in Camperdown I was asked what football team I supported.
(It had never crossed my mind I should choose a team and I was unprepared for the question but I gave an answer without being aware every choice has a consequence. Fortunately I remembered John Coleman had kicked a swag of goals for Essendon the previous weekend.)
I answered, Essendon. I chose the wrong side. Almost every other kid supported Geelong because the current team had three former Camperdown players among its greats.
Dismissed from the in crowd I did find a few other lost souls and we played together in our time at school. Occasionally one would have permission to come home with me to play after school. On one occasion I almost blinded him playing cowboys and Indians, I had made a bow and arrow and shot an arrow at him hitting him on the face.
I enjoyed climbing trees. One of the tallest trees in our backyard was a cypress tree and I discovered I could easily climb to the top of it. One day my friend and I both climbed the tree. My friend was not so good at climbing and when we got near the top we climbed out on a branch. The branch gave way and we both fell to the ground. Miraculously neither of us was hurt because as we fell we landed on the branch below one after another. When it felt our weigh it drooped to the branch below and we sort of cascaded down to outer edges of the broad tree. I remember being relieved and shaken.
The remainder of my boyhood was spent at routine activities I have written of previously.
What a piece of work is man.
Stage 3. The teenager
My teenage years were spent like many other boys. Observing as an adult I have noticed the kids next door start bringing home their friends. The young boys are content to play cricket our football with lots of vigour. They might scruff each other about wrestling with one another. Generally testing their strength playing in much the same ways as half grown animals do. It looks aggressive. It probably is but the aggression is not meant to hurt. It is a test of courage and strength.
At least when I wrestled other boys it was. It was a test to see whether you could unbalance your opponent, bring him to the ground, and lock him in a Greco Roman hold. I did that to a boy from Derrinallum at school one lunchtime. The next day he said,”Don’t tell anyone but I broke a rib wrestling with you yesterday.”
Next the boys will gather at a street corner sitting on their bicycle seats talking, until they have decided what they plan to do as a group. Today’s young teenagers are becoming more independent than they once were, but you still find young boys being led along by their peers. All dreaming they will someday have a car , or a motor bike, and appear attractive enough to to attract the person of their dreams.
The angst of youth I thought was mine alone is seen in all generations. The pairs and partnering is much more commonly obvious than it once was. However I am sure the same uncertainties still occur. With texting and social media the uncertainty of youth often overwhelms the youth of today to a point where mental health suffers and harm is heaped upon the damaged young souls.
Sixty years ago. Young people were given the responsibility of adults. This was not done out of malice – it happened because there was work to be done and the able handed youth was often given responsibility beyond their years. The country needed workers to grow. Children of fourteen left school to begin trade apprenticeships. Children of fifteen became police in training working with experienced officers by their sides. At sixteen they became cadet journalists, bookkeepers and tellers in banks. By seventeen they were studying at university. At eighteen if they hadn’t done anything at all most males commenced national service in the military.
The growing up occurred at workplaces. At community dances it happened. In social clubs it caught them. The socialising continued in sporting clubs. Semi privacy was found in cars while watching movies at a drive-in theatre.. By the time adolescents were given the key to the door at twenty-one they had had many years of semi mature living. Their pre maturity years were spent in respectable denial that while they may not have been old enough to vote, or to drink, they were old enough to die for king and country.
In time we cut the cords that bound us to our homes, and set out on our un-lived lives as young adults.
Father and son.
Stage 4. Youth
Shakespeare paints the young adult as a soldier. Because of conscription that was the sorry lot for too many of the lads born on the wrong date a few years after me. People like Gunner Ian Scott who lived across the road from my retired parents. The boy was in the same school year as my sister Margaret until he left school. The government bought his body home – and as a show of his gallantry, his body was carried down the Main Street of Camperdown by a marching body, to muted drum beats on an open gun carriage. It brought home to our community the senselessness that of one of our number was sent across the world to a war in Vietnam to appease America.
His death moved me to voluntarily join the Citizens Military Forces (CMF). (My father often said the army would be the making of me.) I joined the 10 Medium Regiment as a gunner. The army considered my education appropriate and allowed me to train as an officer. So I escaped much of the drudgery a trainee lived attending lectures in Melbourne. I was much older than the cohort who served part time. Many of the group I trained with were conscripted, but they were able to escape direct duty because they were employed in essential services. It took just one annual camp in Puckapunyal for me to realise artillery was not my thing. However I remained a “weekend warrior “ longer than was good for me, and after a couple of years I ceased voluntary service frustrated it was a waste to stay.
A decade after we married we moved into our own home thanks to the Number 4 Teachers Housing Cooperative. The cooperative halved the housing interest rate to 4% and this enabled us to build our first home. (It is no wonder I love the ideals of the socialist founder of the co operative movement Robert Owen.) Most of our contemporaries had financed their first home years before us but this home, in Elliminyt, I designed it to house all five of us. It fitted us well with its panoramic views over Colac. . Driven by a desire to escape the man within – within a year and a half we rented it to a colleague and headed to Scotland for eighteen months. We only used it for another twelve months on our return.
Living in a growth area, as we now do, I am reminded of the incredibly busy lives we led by observing the lives of the newer arrivals to our township. Without knowing who they are or what they do it appears many of our new neighbours commute to other destinations each day to work. When I see new mothers running about with their babies in strollers I am reminded of the busyness required to get kids to school, attend to the matters of work, to race home to feed, bathe, and settle the family in time to repeat those actions again in the morning.
It was a very good year.
Stage 5. Middle Age
The book Wareham’s Way by John Wareham is about escaping the Judas trap. This simple book discusses how it is an illusion to think we can escape the modelling we received from our parents. His book tells how many well known Australians fell into the pattern of life set for them in childhood. This book takes Freud and behaviourism to weave a story from the behaviour of destiny set in the crib through to the inevitable conclusion of the lived life. The former headhunter encourages us to examine our self belief and says we are only free when we break the nexus of burden we carry.
The book came to me long after I had accepted I had used my forties to examine the reasons why I existed. The early mid adulthood was spent chasing career, more qualifications, while all the time seeking the recognition I thought I was due. I am sure I broke the expectation Wareham wrote about without knowledge of it. As our children grew I became more restless and unprepared to acknowledge the deep seated things that disturbed my ego. My midlife crisis was a little late in arriving but quite traumatic to all around me. Fortunately our children, they now they have reached there middle years themselves, and they show none of the uncertainty Wareham predicted..
Stage 6. Old age.
In the years leading to old age our lives became more settled. One by one our children flew the nest and we became Darby and Joan. We both worked hard to reestablish what we lost materially in the decade before. Our work day began with a trip from the suburbs to the central business district of Melbourne. Before we set foot in our offices we paused to drink coffee and give some time to each other. Work was not without stress but the pressure valve was released in this morning ritual.
Our only plan was to ensure we owned our own home before we retired. Despite interest rate hikes our salaries rose and enabled us to reach that goal. Yet despite our lives being comfortable – I changed jobs – and was bullied relentlessly but an insecure national manager who unsettled me with demands he micro control my office from Brisbane. Eventually my health suffered and I became paralysed by post traumatic stress disorder. At the age of fifty-nine I was made redundant.
In the next couple of years I was lucky to receive the psychological help I needed to settle my mind. This was especially helped by the a Royal Commission into childhood sexual abuse.
Meanwhile my tireless life partner took her wifely duty to the extreme and worked until she reached seventy.
By that stage we had spent thirteen years by the seaside. We were part of the local scene. We had become involved in many community groups. Our week was busy doing things. It was interspersed with walks along the seashore. Walking in the water and running to escape the rogue waves that liked to lick our clothing when our back was turned. We were entering the time when hours turn into days, yet we were not ready. So we did the next best thing and commenced a period of seeing the world.
We have floated down the Danube and listened to orchestras in abbeys and churches. We have spent weeks in Paris. Days have been lost wandering around Italy. Some further weeks disappeared exploring the outer reaches of Scotland. We have cruised to many beautiful cities in the Mediterranean and The Middle East. Our life has been expanded by the generosity of our children, their partners and our delightful grandchildren as we crisscrossed the globe.
Dance me to the end of Love.
Stage 7. Extreme Old Age
We are on the cusp of extreme old age – still learning how to live. Uncertain of what may come next, but buoyed by the full lives our mothers lived until their end days. Neither considered herself old long past the lives of her contemporaries. Neither were they bowed to the despair and ruin by the portrait Shakespeare painted.
Using the example our mothers set when it happens we will sing this song while we busily begin another project.
Silver threads among the gold.
These lines (if discovered) enable us to we march off to a remembered life to the tune that became our signature.
(Shakespeare summed all this up in 23 lines)
Thanks for reading. Please make your comments and help me improve my writing.
Today Boeing acknowledged that it had made mistakes with its MAX 737 aeroplanes. It transpires after two crashes. they were quick to blame the deceased pilots for errors they made. Now they accept they were due to the company itself underperforming. It was forced to make this announcement when their planes were grounded – literally for months. In those months the reputational damage has almost sent the company to the wall. The announcement is expected to give the company time to reverse its fortune but great damage has been done.
If this company was alone it would be shocking. I am not a shareholder in Boeing, but likely as not you might be. If you have superannuation you might indirectly have an interest in this and many hundreds of other companies. I have a small shareholding in some companies, and is in my interest the shares do well. This is the lot of retirees. We all want the biggest return we can get from whatever money we have put aside, yet I believe, none of us want the companies we are invested in to cause harm.
Perhaps the reason they do is the understanding directors have a moral duty to put the interests of the shareholders first. However if directors do this without consideration of the social responsibility their companies have then they are complicit in the destruction of their community and need to be held to account. How else can the Fair Work Ombudsman have collected fines of over $200 million in the last twelve months from other unscrupulous companies?
(The story of industrial relations in Australia is long and tortuous but it is worth reading. However it is too difficult to weave into this simple essay – of how greed now determines action.)
I have worked for the government, and I have worked for major corporations. When I was working I wanted (my) business to succeed. I still want business to succeed today. Despite this when it comes to business I am totally lost as to what has happened to institutions the community once implicitly trusted. ( I no longer trust business to do the right thing, and I have learned governments put the interests of business petitioners before voters.)
What has happened with Boeing might just be a blip, but when multiplied by all the other blips in business, as it is practised today, it becomes a flood of bad practice. In Australia we are working through the damage a Royal Commission into Banking has uncovered. The right wing government we have, argued for years an inquiry was not going to find anything. It could all be corrected by regulation they said. In the end to appease the middle ground they were forced to agree to one. Since the Royal Commission they have had to limp along through the embarrassing findings against banks and recognise its worth and condemn the businesses they said poised no difficulty.
The banking royal commission is a big sign all is not well. Despite this the government believes, when big business does well everyone does well. Their argument is the profits earned by business will flow through the economy to the meekest of workers if it is unregulated.
Regulation today is a bad word, and yet it was once considered necessary because it harmonised the world we knew. When I paid attention in my Economics class we were told the government worked for its populace. It provided housing for the homeless. It provided water and power. It played a significant part in communications. We had the Postmaster General Office – from that service we got telephone and mail. Government regulated the price of basic food including milk and bread. The opposite view is “ let the market decide” and it gives no thought about basic human needs.
You don’t have to be an economist to see things are broken. The news that one of our largest companies Woolworths Ltd has underpaid workers, perhaps $300 million over nine years, is hot on the heels of the news a couple of celebrated chefs have been caught doing the same thing for $7 million and $10 million. The argument used is they were too busy to understand the complex employment rules.
I can go on and reference Seven Eleven, Retail Food Group, and even the Australian Broadcast Commission itself has failed in the same way. Each claims the underpayment to their workforce was an unprecedented error. Surprisingly the underpayments were as a result of accounting mistakes. Not so astonishingly no major company appears to have made an error of magnitude where mistakes have lead to overpayment.
With the demise of the unions we have seen a casualisation of the work force. When companies chose executives without life experience, staff are seen as a cost of production. When that happens the contract between labour and production is broken. Loyalty unrewarded means a loss of pride in staff output. Work becomes a means to an end to employer and staff. Jobs are lost. People are under employed and those that are not can have their work terminated simply by falling off the work roster – especially if they cannot work whenever it suits the employer.
Surprisingly the world has returned to the inequalities of the period the Austin women, especially those books of Jane and Honore de Balzac, as they wrote about in the early eighthteenth century. Their world was a period where wealth was concentrated in the hands of few. Since the end of WW11 the spread of wealth has reduced. Today less than 1% of the people on earth control almost half of all the wealth. In reverse – about 70% of the global population have less than $10,000 in assets. Is it any wonder the Panama Papers uncovered so many people and companies hiding their wealth from regulators rather than do the correct thing and pay taxes?
At the time of the Austin’s and Balzac the country of Wales produced Robert Owen. He was an industrialist with extreme wealth, yet he understood if he improved the lives of his workers it would not cost him but reward him. He started schools for his workers. He built a model town. (It stands today as New Lanark in Scotland.) This model town showed wealth was best spent on improving the lives of people. (His is a life worth understanding.)
The first fifth of the twenty-first century is gone. The world needs a new Robert Owen much more than it needs weapons and nationalism. It is my belief wealth is not wrong but it would be better if it reverted to the state at the end of life. Inherited wealth is a curse to mankind because the beneficiaries lose. What they lose is an understanding of the equality of mankind.
I have had my say. I will remain ignorant there are other sides to my statements if you do not tell me. Write a few words and explain where I have got it wrong. I will thank you.