Waiting for my entitlement

It was the year of the ‘screw you’ Budget delivered with a puff of cigar smoke in our faces. That was 2014. Nice things happened in 2014, but not much in public life.

It was the year of the ‘screw you’ Budget delivered with a puff of cigar smoke in our faces. That was 2014. Nice things happened in 2014, but not much in public life. Our leaders fell short of our expectations. If Gough Whitlam had not been such an old man, I would have said he left in disgust. More freedoms were eroded; more rights were renamed as privileges. I think our G20 guests looked embarrassed, as you do when you walk into a dinner party where the hosts are having an argument. Expecting to experience the Lucky Country, several of the visiting heads of state found us an unhappy little nation on the edge of nowhere, all the while doing something very nasty out of sight to men, women and, alas, little children, who had thrown themselves on our mercy. And then it was as though the hosts barely stopped fighting long enough to mutter, “Show them some koalas, for Chrissake”. The photo opportunities were testament to the tensions. The Prime Minister invaded Angela Merkel’s space, whinged about his own citizens in his speech; the crisscross hands thing was grotesque. Putin defined himself well out of it, which was not what was planned at all. We were meant to make him look bad, but we ended up looking and sounding bad ourselves. Wouldn’t we like to wind back that reel and try again? The funniest thing this year was being told that the age of entitlement was over – because half the nation, the female half, sat up, wide-eyed and stumped, realising that they had missed something. The age of entitlement had never even begun for them. Oh, the cheek of red-faced men in suits talking about ending entitlement, which they invented exclusively for themselves, yet now included women among those guilty of exploiting it – women, who feel so little entitled to anything that they tolerate the incontestable inequities of the gender pay gap. Women don’t feel entitled to anything much at all. I heard a woman on one of those graphic reality-birthing programs on ABC TV recently, begging for a whiff of gas. She didn’t get it. Where’s the entitlement to childcare, to equal membership of boards, to half the seats in parliament, to be members of cabinet, to wear what we damn well choose? And don’t get me started on what feelings of entitlement old women have. In nursing homes or shops, they are not entitled enough to be called by their own name. “Love” or “dear” is the lazy short cut old women suffer every day of their life. What do I feel “entitled” to that this government believes I must now sacrifice? Nothing, that I haven’t paid for in advance by means of taxes – decades of them. Medicare and such other services we need are paid for by taxes, despite the fact that politicians try to convince us that we are robbing them and the country blind. One old bloke said to me that he thought there might be some point in paying $7 for the doctor – though he would have to sacrifice his regular check-ups – “because nothing should be free”. Conned completely – and perhaps likely to die of it if he misses his GP appointments. Journalist Paul Bongiorno put it as well as anyone in a blistering Tweet on November 28: “For God’s sake there is no free doctor for most of us. Anyone heard of the Medicare levy?…” That’s politics. Now for religion. The Pope has been rude about grannies. Calling them infertile, old, useless, weary, not vibrant. As he’s a man, why didn’t he choose granddads to construct his laboured metaphor for Europe’s decline? Grannies don’t take us into stupid wars, crash economies and invent means of torture. Some granddaddies have been total bastards, but not many grannies. Grannies, your Holiness, have simply not had the power – the entitlement – to beat up the world as men so often have. I sense a fear of female bishops behind this unfortunate metaphor, but he was rude to speak this way. I take it personally, being the same age as Pope Frank. If only I had his entitlement, I would be a lot less weary, and jolly vibrant, too. Neighbours have strung some little coloured lights over a rose arch outside my bedroom. I get up in the night to look at them. They give me great pleasure. The cat stretches and complains as I stumble past her to the window then back to bed again to sleep. So much nicer than fireworks, although I remember hoarding a few divine-smelling “crackers” for Empire Night in a brown paper bag when I was a child and hunting for the spent relics next day. Now fireworks are vast, like worlds clashing, and set to rather nasty music. Charmless, unlike my little coloured lights. Small pleasures. Keep them alive in third age, even if you hardly tell a soul. Happy New Year. @mollyfisher4

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