Poverty isn’t a choice you make

by Veronica on May 16, 2014

in Headfuck, Soapbox

I watched Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply Speech last night, quietly cheering from my couch as he addressed issues which concerned me. Youth Newstart, poverty, the medicare co-payment. I sat there, waiting for him to go in to bat for young disabled Australians.

Only he didn’t.

Sure, he mentioned pensioners multiple times, but unless recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) have suddenly morphed into senior citizens, he wasn’t talking about us.

Yet again, the disabled are relegated to the corners, out of sight out of mind. We don’t count – not in a visceral way. Surely people in wheelchairs can work? After all, they’re sitting down all day anyway.

There is despair in my household today.

The solar panels we installed to hopefully cut our energy costs aren’t helping us out and my power bill arrived. $670 I have to find from somewhere, while also paying off the stupid panels. Multiple phone calls to the solar company complaining have netted me a lot of reassurance about “we’ll have to check your contract and see what we promised we’d deliver” and “we’re looking into it”, but that doesn’t stop my bills arriving, or the money being paid off the panels leaving my bank account.

I can tell you there is a vast difference between what we were promised, and what has been delivered.

I was reading the Griffith Review this morning; a powerful piece about poverty.

It hit home, hard.

Poverty isn’t a choice you make. It’s the result of a series of impossible choices thrust upon you. Food on the table today, or money for a train ticket to a job interview. Getting the kids school uniforms, or buying a work shirt. Petrol for the car or money for power. A prescription, or food.

And I understand it.

The difference between those women and my situation is a fine line. There’s no domestic violence here, and no addiction to hold us hostage. A very fine line. I’m not beholden to market place rent, just interest rates. I don’t have to worry about a landlord kicking us out onto the street.

I am lucky, and how lucky I am. I chose a man who doesn’t beat me. It seems like it should be an easy choice, but look around you. Domestic violence is everywhere, fueled by the hopelessness and despair of poverty and the addictions that take hold when you try to forget how bad your situation is.

Poverty is insidious and it isn’t as simple as asking us to choose not to be poor. It’s more than the ‘just get a job’ rhetoric. Youth uneployment in Tasmania is 20%. You can’t tell me there are enough jobs to go around.

My car is at the mechanic today, having wheel bearings replaced. It’s a necessary thing – there’s no public transport here and we need a car. But it’s also an extra chunk out of the budget I would have preferred to spend on things like groceries and new shoes for the kids.

A fine line between surviving and not.

We will be fine, but many other people will not be.

In September, I’m due to open up my shop to sales. We had planned to launch in November, but we’re moving it up because we can’t afford to wait the extra two months. We’re hopeful our networks will support us, and our business will grow and thrive.

Like I said yesterday, I have options many people do not. I can write articles and pitch to magazines. I can make soap and sell it. I can put my head down and push through until things look brighter.

I can make my work fit around my disability.

I could not make my disability fit around my work.

And that is what is wrong with the politicians right now. They truly believe we can make our disabilities fit around a job. This shows an intrinsic misunderstanding of the nature of disability, which is a complex and nuanced issue. We’re not all in wheelchairs. We’re not all mobility impaired. We’re not all paralysed.

What we are right now though, is hopeless. Filled with despair at what our future might hold.

Tired from fighting it.

That’s what we are.

Fiona May 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Wonderfully capturing it as always xoxoxxx

Alison May 17, 2014 at 8:44 am

I am so tired and heartsick and weary of people attacking poor people. Even those who aren’t wealthy buy into the lies the rich perpetuate about poor people.

I’ve been poor. I no longer am. A lot of that was luck. It always is. The wealthy rarely seems to realise that fact. But, as I have said before, wealth often turns people into monsters – and there are even studies now to prove it. http://dailyoftheday.com/new-study-at-cal-berkeley-shows-that-rich-people-are-jerks/

The world is SO wealthy. There is no reason why one single person in the world should not have a roof over their head, enough to eat and decent medical care. I don’t care what people think they know about poor people or how they delude themselves into believing they deserve better than the person they just sneered at.

If the world were fairly divided, the Rabbits and Hockeys of this world would be homeless and indigent, instead of living in palatial wealth and constantly screeching abuse at and attacking those less fortunate than themselves in a desperate effort to shore up their own broken, inhumane and outdated belief systems.

But then again, if the world were fairly divided and the decent people were in charge, we would never force someone into crippling, terrifying poverty while we chose which car to drive today as we left our palace on the beach.

river May 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

When I hear stuff like this from pollies making yet another speech, I often wish a few of them had truly disabled kids, husbands, wives, then they’d understand better that what they’re spouting isn’t always right. Some disabled people can work, but many more can’t. I worked as a cleaner once for a facility that hired disabled people, most were mentally disabled, a couple physically as well, and I suppose politicians would pat themselves on the back that these people were employed, all they were doing was putting plastic components in plastic bags and they were happy enough to be doing it because they didn’t know better and they were very proud to be “earning ten cents an hour”!

Kate May 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Veronica, Forgive me if you’ve already considered this, but have you looked into the option of the NEIS scheme to support you while starting your business? I don’t know if this is available in your part of Tassie, but it’s well worth looking into the nearest provider. I have just started researching the NEIS scheme this week for myself, and it struck me that you would be the perfect candidate.

Alison May 23, 2014 at 7:27 am

PS, isn’t it nice that Rabbit’s daughter was giving a $60,000 (cough) “scholarship”. Clearly she is very talented and in need of a financial boost.

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