TALKING INEQUALITY AND PRIVILEGE… AGAIN

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Fair Work recently announced an $18.80-a-week minimum wage increase for the lowest-paid workers. For some reason any discussion about minimum wages or raising JobSeeker attracts opposition to such measures from their privileged corners. Out they come, all guns blazing about how no one ever gave them anything, how they had to work their way up, how society can’t afford it, and how the government could better spend that money on tax cuts. How quickly they forget how they got where they are now.

I try to avoid getting dragged into these discussions, but as a fellow past beneficiary of free university education, student tertiary financial support, medical and dental services and for a short period many years ago, unemployment benefits, I’m grateful for these and the opportunities they opened up for me, and am of the belief that our society can and should provide these to current and future generations.

So yes, the lack of recognition of the huge advantage many people around my age gained through these wonderful socialist democratic initiatives bothers me, and occasionally I bite – like this conversation below:

Them: “The free market should be allowed to determine the minimum wage”

Me: “You make the rich and powerful so happy when you repeat this message for them. In the meantime we’ve been desensitised to the mechanisms of inequality to the point that, not only do we not even notice them anymore, they seem fair.”

Them: “Equality? Everyone should make their equality”

Me: “It’s a sad day when you can’t see your own privilege, or acknowledge the part it has played in the comfortable life you and your family now enjoy”

Them: “Well I never had a minimum wage”

Me: “Legislating a liveable minimum wage is an indication of a society’s moral evolution.”

This is where I tend to bail – I’ve made my point and if the other person can’t see their privilege even now, it might take more persuasion than I have the energy for.

But perhaps living on sub-minimum wages or JobSeeker for a while might do it?

Derek Green, Managing Editor (editor@thewestsider.com.au)

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