The Centrelink Visit

Note for Out-Of-Australia readers: Centrelink is the Australian federal government office that dispenses welfare payments to many people for many reasons. Much of what it does is possibly duplicated or overborne by the Repatriation Department and the Native Welfare Department, but it still has the bulk of the administrative tasks.

It has a spotted name amongst the people who access its services – some of them want more help than they get and more money than they receive. Some complain of long delays and administrative cock-ups. Others find that it is very helpful. The prospect of approaching it can be daunting – there are horror stories of what seems to be enmity between this office and the needy.

This year I experienced my first contact with it. Heretofore I have never interacted much with our federal government – I was not judged eligible for any student loans nor wanted for the navy. I paid taxes regularly but received no pension at all. But this time I was prompted to apply for a senior’s health card as an assistance to general living. It won’t mean too much – a few dollars off medicines – and I don’t take many medicines. A few dollars off a driver’s license. Perhaps a few more marginal perks. But I was terrified at the possible bureaucracy that might be entailed…Like I say, you hear stories.

The approach to the counter was normal – the ID procedure quite sensible with my Medicare card and a driver’s license – and the waiting room chairs in the big centre quite comfy. Lots of people and an hour’s wait, but no real hardship for a man with a book to read.

The one real hiccup was the procedure of calling my name – instead of using a tannoy or notice board, the staff member who was to deal with me came out the front and called it out. If they had a soft voice or my earwax was bad, I could have missed the chance.

As it was, the young woman dealt with the form work very efficiently  and with good humour. We awaitd the outcome of the application for a few weeks, but the experience of the federal department interface was quite positive. Perhaps Centrelink does not deserve the bad rap.

Addendum: The health card came through on schedule and has been invoked to deal with some of the rates on the house and part of the car insurance. I may not need to pay for my next driver’s licence. I am as happy as I can be.

Advertisements

Ultracilious Beats Supercilious

Blockages are interesting. Whether it is in a Post office queue or a digestive system, slow-down speeds up the natural bad manners of people and their organs and then reveals it to all about the place.

Yesterday in the servo ( Australian for service station ) I put $ 20 of petrol in the Suzuki. I was at the front pump of the line and went in to pay. The person in front of me in the pay line was a pink-haired RBF who waved a card vaguely in the direction of the machine and dashed out again. I paid in cash with the correct change. Then I walked back out to the Suzuki and got flashed.

No, not that kind of a flash. Not at my age. Flashed with car lights from the large 4WD behind me. Guess who…Pink Hair. I was blocking her passage. And yes, I do know that joke…

You are required to wear seat belts in Western Australia and to have your mirrors adjusted correctly before you drive. Also you must use indicators to signal the other drivers of your intention on the roads. I made sure mine worked. Pink Hair’s car lights apparently worked, too. A lot.

As I pulled away – correctly – I noted that she turned into the path of another 4WD approaching from the other direction. I heard no crash, but then my ears are not what they were. I do hope she calmed down before she got to her next appointment at the morgue. No-one likes an angry corpse.

Treasure The Honest Shopkeeper

If you find a shopkeeper who will refuse to sell you something on the basis that it is not right for you, you have a gem.

These people may be hard to find – but if you enter into conversation with them over a regular basis -and if it is a genuine and respectful exchange…you can find a whole new world of intelligent help out there.

I talk regularly to the family who run our local post office agency – and to the lady and the chap who run the Asian food store in the shopping centre. I talk to the man who runs the bottle shop, and to the lady who is teller at my local bank. The result is I get told how to cook well with the Asian ingredients, when to change my deposits for good interest rates, and how to send postal items safely at low cost.

Occasionally the bottle shop man warns me off a dud or mentions a good deal. I am always repaid for listening.

Moral: Your local retailers are human beings who appreciate being treated as such and who  will  make your life better if you recognise the fact.

Has You Been?

No, I’m not talking about today and the All Bran. Your digestive tract is none of my concern. I’m talking about your career and your past successes. Things that you may legitimately cherish.

But a hint: Cherish them to yourself, in private. You’ll do far better in the social scene if you keep up to date with what is going on and don’t hearken to or harp upon the past. Others may know of your history and celebrate it, but as soon as you join in the praise of you there is a danger that they will fall silent. And eventually so will you, in shame.

It will go even worse for you if you come and cry your decline. It may be real, and if so people will perceive it. You need not tell it like a tragic opera.

I was reminded of this at a trade fair where I met several former practitioners of professional photography who have settled into a pattern of retailing their past business history and bewailing their current retirement and/or failures. I feel for them, but if they continue to tell of the woes of getting old I am tempted to feel for a sharp knife to cure that problem.

It was exactly the same for me after my retirement from dentistry – now when I meet an old colleague I try to celebrate our hard-won escape from the profession and I do not go on as if I pine for it. In truth, I do not, and am pleasantly surprised to find that most of my old classmates are of a similar mind.

I find I can bore people wonderfully with new topics and do not need to use the old ammunition. Most of it was duds anyway.

The Morality Machine – Part Four – One Size Doesn’t Fit All

No-one today can be unaware of the gulf between the requirements of Muslim moral codes  and those of some other cultures or religions. Oh, they may run rather in parallel with those of other fundamentalist religions and some severe non-religious institutions, but there is still a wide berth on many grounds.

Many Muslim people will tell you they are correct and many non-Muslim people will tell you that they are not – and you must decide for yourself how much truth either of these sides is telling. If you are a Muslim person yourself you may not have a chance to debate the question or even to change your mind about it without danger to yourself- but that is another story. I suspect that may be the case for other religions or social structures too, in some cases.

But we are not here to judge a particular religion for its tenets – we’re here to bag all of ’em. And atheism too – honest to Godless, some of the atheists make me want to scream…

If you can’t get one single absolute moral rule that goes everywhere for everyone – and you can’t* – what can you get? You can get the sort of thing with which every ward-heeler, British politician, and Southern Democrat is most comfortable; the compromise. You’ll need to agree to this before I tell you what it is…just breathe regularly and I’ll take that as full agreement.

You need to do the most good for the greatest number in a reasonable time in a defined area. This sounds a lot like 18th century enlightenment, and so it is. I propose that it also be combined with the Teddy Roosevelt dictum of doing what you can with what you have, where you are. In short – if you are going to drive world, do it with a pragmatic transmission. It’s easier to get it to go over a cliff.

This means that you have be prepared to put up with the Sultan of Brunei chopping off hands or the Pope piously wringing his with the same aplomb. You need to be able to accept Donald Trump walling off the Mexicans if you equally want the Hungarians to tear down their border fence. You must be able to take the sweet with the sour – except in the case of the British Royal Succession. We’re starting a petition to have the country ruled by Basil Brush after Her Majesty passes on.

*  Is inhospitable murder universally abhorred? Not in the Andaman islands…

Do We Know Who Our Enemies Are?

And I am not talking about political enemies, class enemies, or national enemies…You can leave those to the government to deal with. They’ll make ’em for you and then arrange for you to meet them when it is most inconvenient.

I’m not even including hostile institutions or businesses – the organisations or groups that plot your destruction during secret meetings in dark caverns. These are a normal facet of life.

I’m thinking about personal enemies – private individuals who hate you. People who would get at you if they only could. They come in different varieties:

a. Someone whom you have wronged. Stolen their treasure, perhaps, or murdered their father in a duel. Seduced their wife/husband/partner/lawnmower man. These are persons who contemplate a blood feud but cannot decide yet which of your veins to open.

b. Someone whom you have done a favour or service for. This can be a potent source of enmity, particularly if the good deed was observed by others and required an equally good deed in return…that was never done. Your enemy is enclosed in a guilt-edged cage.

c. Someone of whom you have been contemptuous. Even if this is no more than a word or a glance, you can be sure that it is the deepest poisoned cut of all. If you have made your contempt amply plain in public, expect no abatement of their anger.

d. An ugly person, if you are beautiful, or a beautiful person, if you are ugly. Whatever a mirror might reveal, your enemy can see themselves in you, and they hate what they see.

Now, what do you do about enemies?

If you cannot think of one, leave it go at that. They’ll still be there, but if you don’t see them, it’s like having mice in the wainscotting.

If you suspect someone is an enemy, go to them and ask them if they are. If they aren’t, they’ll say ” No ” and if they are, they’ll say ” No”. Then they’ll ask you why you asked…and you can tell them that you were worried about it. Then they’ll have to start being overly friendly to defuse the awkward situation. Make them pay for coffee.

If you have proof positive that someone is an enemy, treasure this. An enemy is a very valuable person. They will always be interested in you and the best ones will know where you are at all times. You can ring them up and they’ll always answer – try this at 3:00 AM and see how true it is. Remember that as you are their enemy they worry about you far more than anyone else does.

Sort of touching, in a way.

The Divine Joy Of Distance

Have you ever wondered at the principles of the Buddhist faith? At the detachment that many of the faithful present in the face of difficulties? Does it seem all an act?

It may be…and like all acts, it can be well or ill done…but the very motions and disciplines that the Buddhists go through serve them in any case. it is like the Jews doing rituals that make them think about morality – sometimes it works.

But distance is the thing. If you can master the use of distance, you can make daily life so much better for yourself and others:

a. Distance yourself from inordinate desires. Feed yourself, of course. Clothe, house, and entertain yourself. Educate yourself. Ensure yourself against disease if possible. But do not chase wealth, power, sex, or sensation too avidly. You may be forced to catch it.

b. Distance yourself from people who distress you. Running away is necessary sometimes and staying away even more so.

c. Distance yourself from dangerous places, people, and activities. See (b. ) above.

d. Distance yourself from argument. Not just from arguments that others are engaging in, but from argument that you start. Most things are not worth arguing about.

e. Distance yourself from idiocy. Not all folly is idiotic, as Erasmus of Rotterdam might say, and not all folly is harmful…but sheer idiotic behaviour is never good for anyone. You can rarely stop it, but you can anticipate it, and be somewhere else listening to the sirens in the night.

If this all seems to make you…well…distant – use your new-found reputation as a cool head to advantage. It may be so for yourself and others – you may be a calming or moral  influence far beyond what you do for yourself.