Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Is there anything sadder than a government add campaign self-consciously endeavouring to relate to Teh Young Peoples? I mean, seriously – how stupid do these people think teenagers are? I don’t care how it was back in the Good Old Days Of Yore, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and John Howard was still the lifeblood of the Young Liberals, because nowadays, people don’t look upon advertising as a natural Goddamm phenomenon. It’s not like the weather. It doesn’t just exist in some pristine, impartial state. This is not the 1950s. We know where advertising comes from, and what it is for. The fact that the government is endeavouring to promote law rather than a product grants them a unique legitimacy, especially as the intended consequence here is to save lives. But these ads, right here? They are the televised equivalent of entering a valid argument in full possession of the relevant moral highground, and then proceding to answer every statement with inane schoolyard insults. The government is trying to relate to young people, but instead, it is insulting their intelligence.

A small interlude, by way of comparison. Consider the following recent ad, wherein ANZ has created the (admittedly amusing) strawman of Barbara, a bank manager who lives in Bank World, and who is described as being the diametric opposite of an ANZ employee. I laugh when I watch this ad, because I have encountered people like Barbara in my travels, but I am not fooled into thinking that ANZ’s recognition of the stereotype equates to their having eradicated it. The point being, I am meant to find Barbara repulsive, because the ad works on the assumption that I, its intended audience, am not a Barbara myself. Furthermore, I do not want to be Barbara; I am not friends with a Barbara; I should, in fact, have nothing to do with her (wait for it) barbarous kind, and therefore – it is hoped – the humour and disgust I feel when looking at Barbara will lull me into accepting the premise of the ad, which is that ANZ is home to bunnies and light and sweetness, while all other banks are slavering, scabrous bastions of cruelty and disease. Or, like, not.

But.

The government, in its infinite wisdom, has elected to mock emos and redheads as part of its campaign. Question from the gallery: are there emos and redheads among the teenage population? Ding ding ding, that’s an affirmative, Captain! And are they friends and associates of¬† other teenagers who, although neither emo nor redheaded themselves, are likely to be outraged on their behalf? Double jackpot! And now, for the winner: assuming the remaining population of phone-wielding teenage drivers who like to mouth off their hatred of emos and redheads find these ads funny, what are the chances that their mirth will translate into careful driving practices, rather than – as seems infinitely more likely – serving as justification for their bigoted trashtalking? Do I hear cries of slim to none from the audience? Hallelujah! Thanks for playing another tedious round of Yet More Proof The Government Is Run By Crazy People With Little Or No Grasp On Reality And The Social Intelligence Of A Concussed Trout! I mean, Sweet Zombie Jesus!

Some days, I hate everything.

Look, dudes-in-government: there’s no shame in being so hopelessly out of touch as to qualify you as having only four working senses. Well, tell a lie – maybe there’s a little shame, but that’s only because you can’t bear to admit it. You like the idea of being in touch, because you’ve made a career out of popularity, and deep down in the tiny, scum-encrusted carapace of your stunted souls, you can’t bear to think that there’s a demographic alive you might not be able to sway, should you desire it – but you are not in touch. And most of the time, we, the Thinking People Under Thirty, don’t particularly care, because it’s what we expect. But when you do something like this, it makes us sit up and take notice, and not in a good way. Suddenly, we smell the lies on you, the way dogs smell fear; we curl our lips and remember why we are so fucking disinclined, by and large, to take your advice in the first place. You, with your forced joviality and condescention, you make yourselves resemble a set of creatures we have no wish to become; but inevitably, we will grow up, and when that happens, we do not wish to be scrambling for the approval of our juniors, as you so clearly are, but earning it through a demonstration of the idea that maybe, just maybe, our older selves are something worth imitating.

Today, you failed at that. You failed hard.

Try and learn from it.

During the unillustrious days of the Howard government, one of the many areas selected for funding cuts was tertiary education. Although VSU was still yet to come, lessening the budget had an immediate knock-on effect, with the consequence that, at Sydney Unviersity and others, the most expensive-to-run courses were axed, or at best retained at significantly diminished capacity.

Concurrently, the media and general public were sinking their teeth into the problem of hospital shortages: in particular, the notable dearth of midwives and nurses. While concern over the number of available beds was also an issue, this, at least, has eased a little with time. Given a few years, it’s possible to add new wings to this hospital or that, but it’s not possible to train more nurses and midwives than universities have placement for.

You see where I’m going with this: because the courses most hard-hit by the withdrawal of federal funding were – surprise, surprise! – nursing and midwifery.

That was four years ago. Fast forward to today’s news, in which the Royal Women’s Hospital has been forced to initiate a pull-back plan on its maternity services due to a lack of midwives. The next phase redirects low-risk pregnancies to Sunshine hospital; but Sunshine itself is still 10 midwives short.

So let’s do the math. Bigger hospitals and a rising birthrate = greater demand for nurses and midwives. Until or unless VSU is revoked and federal university funding increases (hint, hint, Mr Rudd), diminished training capacity = fewer nurses and midwives. Result: demand outstrips supply, and given how long it takes to train competent nurses compared to putting up a building or conceiving a child, the sooner we fix things, the better.

Anything else is a recipe for disaster.

Apparently, America’s military isn’t strong enough for the 20th century.

This is a bit like saying that if lions were bigger, they could hunt elephants. Of course they could! But in the meantime, they are still lions, replete with claws, jaws, teeth, muscles and power enough to maintain a place at the tippy-top of the food chain, and incidentally to dispatch, in fair combat, just about anything else on the planet desirous of messing with them. However, even if a coterie of mad scientists were keen on breeding a strain of Giant Super-Lions with atomic brains and laser-eyes, I would still prefer this to America developing the real-world equivalent of a death ray.

Y’know why? ‘Coz lions, awesome predators though they may be, are still in no danger of blowing up the entire fucking planet.

Behold my staggering lack of confidence in human restraint, mercy and sanity when it comes to pushing the Big Red Button, as personified by this quote from the above article:

“To be sure, there are serious arguments both for and against developing such a system. Part of the justification is that the U.S. military already has such a capability. Unfortunately, it’s nuclear, which renders it worthless for anything but Armageddon.”

Let’s tackle this statement one sentence at a time. First off, there are “serious arguments” for such a system? As in, in favour of? Pro? Sweet Frickety Moses. I can¬†argue seriously to be paid a $100,000 salary to stay home, write books and watch Dr Who¬† (incidentally, if anyone does want to pay me for this, please contact ASAP), but that doesn’t mean it’s a good argument, no matter how serious I am.

Similarly, very small children can argue quite vociferously for their right to stay up late, hit each other with Tonka trucks and eat sugar until they vomit, but that doesn’t mean any right-thinking adult should let them. In this instance, at least, there are signs of prevailing¬†intelligence, Congress having blocked George Bush from building his new toy two years in a row. The article phrases this as:¬†“Lawmakers are concerned that Russia, and soon China, might mistake the launch of a conventionally-armed Trident with the start of a nuclear war against them ‚ÄĒ and respond in kind before realizing they were mistaken.”¬† (My emphasis.)

Secondly: part of the justification for building an Awesome New Weapon (ANW) is that – wait for it – they already have one. Is it lonely, do you think? Are they trying to get it a mate? If the ANW were a giant panda, I can see why finding it a¬†friend and eagerly awaiting the¬†pitter-patter of little panda paws would be a good thing. There would be cute photos, and women worldwide would go, “Awwww.” But we are discussing high-tech, city-destroying weaponry, and¬†not a photogenic variety of large, endangered fauna, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.

Thirdly: this existing ANW is nuclear. Oh – this makes it better. The Awesome New Weapon is too awesome. They want permission to build a slightly less powerful variant (i.e. one which will leave vast stretches of God’s Green Earth inhabitable for Americans after they’ve won the Next Great War, but still destroy the lives of countless millions) and use that instead. How do they describe it? Safe as houses, aye: “The lack of any explosive would generate precise mayhem, “comparable to the type of limited damage caused by meteor strikes.””

Meteor strikes? Meteor strikes. This is their benign military¬†alternative to nuclear Ragnarok? This, according to the article, “Sounds nifty, until you read the fine print”?

Nifty?

Jesus.

The fine print (for those who are wildly curious) means, essentially, that the weapon “represents only a “niche capability” designed to attack stationary terrorists or nuclear weapons or supplies,” and not, say, anything that moves. As weapons go, I almost like the sound of that, except (warning, warning, Danger Will Robinson) “there remains the challenge of finding a target in the first place”. (Translation: we can, potentially, hit anything – just not necessarily what we were aiming at.)

The next paragraph lists two (notably specific) scenarios in which the system “could” be perfect for saving the day – except that this still “raises at least the possibility of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon”.

All in all, I think they’d be better off with a pointed stick and maybe a cartoon anvil. Possibly, under strict supervision, they can use the adult scissors. Or, here’s an idea, we could not blow each other up.

Now that, I like.

Or at least, some branches of government.

After less than a week of temporary employ, I was today fired from the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions. My sin: unprofessional conduct. How this came about is, in my opinion, faintly ludicrous, but here, for your enjoyment, is the full tale.

Near the end of my holiday, I was contacted by my temp agency about a potential job. They were not sure I would get it, as the position required an inteview and I was, at that exact moment, in a different state; nonetheless, after describing it as a general administrative position and right up my alley, they promised to do their best. The following day, I received a second phone call, informing me that the client, upon reading my CV, had declared me a suitable employee for the next two months. I would start work on Monday at 9 AM, and thus was the matter settled.

In fact, on the day itself, I arrived early. In due course, I was shown around, introduced, taught the rudiments of using an internal database and then, after approximately two hours, given a very large whack of photocopying indeed. For those unfamiliar with corporate or legal-grade photocopying, understand that it is no mere button-press, on-your-merry-way exercise. Instead, you are presented with a folder (or folders) the approximate thickness of two good-sized Bibles and told to go forth and multiply, which activity involves standing beside a very large, very loud machine for upwards of an hour and not doing anything else. In my case, the magic number of copies was 23, with a side-order of exquisitely time-consuming tricky bits. This project consumed the remaining five hours of Monday, all of Tuesday and just over half of Wednesday: roughly seventeen hours spent in a narrow hall beside a photocopier.

In order not to go insane during this time, I listened to my iPod (having first, as a matter of course, asked for and been granted permission to do so), read snatches of a book and toyed with assorted newspaper puzzles (the crossword, sudoku)¬†rescued from beside a nearby recycling bin, none of which impeded the actual copying. Rather, with no other pending work, it made sense: I copied,¬†collated, highlighted and filed as ordered, making the occasional wry remark as¬†passing office-dwellers exclaimed over¬†my large¬†collection of paper and otherwise getting on with it. On finally completing this mammoth task, I was given more photocopying, such that the¬†promised moniker of ‘general administration’ was beginning to sound a bit thin: five large folders, each to be copied five times. That took the rest of Wednesday and most of this – that is to say, Thursday – morning, whereupon, after a brief excursion to a nearby court (20 minutes, tops), I was given another file to copy.

Needless to say, I was not thrilled; but copy I did. Idly,¬†while the pages printed, I wrote¬†out two poems from memory onto pieces of paper – one anonymously attributed, one by e. e. cummings – and pinned them beside the machine, reasoning that, as I was spending a lot of time in¬†its general vicinity,¬†some friendly words might be nice. Job done, I returned to my desk, typed a letter (or rather, typed less than ten words into an existing document template), printed it¬†and sat, waiting for my boss to return from wherever it was she’d gone. When she did return, it was with a smile and the news that, coincidentally, the head of HR wanted to see me. This was the¬†man who’d welcomed and inducted me¬†in on Monday. Off I went.

Inside his office, I sat down. Stern-faced, the head of HR lost no time in informing me that my supervisor was not happy with my performance and unprofessional behaviour. I had, he said, been chilling out to my iPod, clearly not focused on photocopying. During this time, I had also dared to put my feet up on the bench, a charge I did not deny, although able to see how this, at least, might have caused some contention. Furthermore, I had made disparaging remarks about photocopying, which caused me to blink a bit, given that:

(a) so had several other employees, usually in sympathy to my workload; and

(b) this is a psychologically healthy reaction to photocopying, especially if one is also laughing at the same time. (I was.)

He then drew two pieces of¬†paper from a¬†nearby pile and pushed them, with deliberate slowness, across¬†the desk: the poems I’d put up.

‘Are you,’ he asked, ‘responsible for these?’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘ I wrote them up, yes, but I didn’t write them.’

‘You were seen,’ he said gravely – if somewhat redundantly, as I had just admitted¬†as much¬†– ‘putting these up.’

This¬†behaviour, I was told, was unprofessional. My disdain for the position and the work it entailed were such that I was to be let go, immediately, before the end of the day, as they – being, one assumes, the HR manager and his immediate fellows – would much rather pay somone who was happy to be there, and incidentally,¬†I needn’t come back to his office again. The actual quality and timeliness of my work was not discussed; pointedly so.

All of which gave the distinct impression that, from my CV, the head of HR had been expecting rather a different sort of person: pencil-skirted and sleek, perhaps, with an eye to bureaucratic formality, and not the sort of person to wear a leather jacket or ThinkGeek shirt.

‘Fair enough,’ I said.

Following this frank exchange of views (and trying, admittedly, very hard not to grin, and sometimes succeeding) I went back upstairs to locate my now-ex-boss. Smiling prettily, she agreed to sign my timesheet, laughed over our joint inability to add up my hours correctly, and in all aspects behaved as though she had not just dobbed me in for a dressing-down and firing. She said it had been a pleasure working with me, but this I found hard to believe, given her stern disapproval of my behaviour as recently expressed elsewhere.

In the doorway to her office, I stopped, hand on the frame, and looked her in the eye. I am quite able to endure being dressed-down for possessing corporate eccentricities, because the absurdity of it makes me grin inwardly; but I do not appreciate the jovial pretense that such has not happened Рor rather, the smiling assertion of the velvet glove that the iron hand is nothing to do with them. It is for this reason that, rather than walking straight out, I smiled in turn and related the following (truthful) anecdote, which I will approximate here:

When my father was fresh out of school Рand this is a while ago, because my father is in his seventies Рhe took a job at a bank, as was done back then. In his spare time, he wrote odd limmericks on some of the bank notepads. Nothing rude; just poems. Passing the time. And one day, the bank manager Рyou can imagine, a large, older, balding man, run to fat Рcalled him into his office, demanding to know why my father was writing obscenities on bank property. And standing there, my father decided Рnot out loud, but in the privacy of his thoughts Рthat anyone who would call a limmerick obscene simply for being a limmerick was a humourless person not worth working for. And very soon after, he quit, and found happiness elsewhere.

I finished by saying that I, apparently, was following in his footsteps, except for the bit about choosing to leave. My now-ex-boss smiled her same, pretty smile, except perhaps it was a bit tigher this time, and said ‘Really?’ in what, under different circumstances,¬†might have passed for a genuinely¬†curious tone of voice.

‘Really,’ I said.

And then, without further ado, I went back to my desk, packed up my bag, put on my coat and left.

And that, as they say, was that.