Tuesday, July 16, 2013
With our Australian Federal election approaching, one of the contenders for office is Clive Palmer, who founded the Palmer Uniting Party and hopes to take government, with himself as Prime Minister presumably. Interesting. He is a mining magnate, very wealthy, with his own vision of how Australia should run. He's quite a character, too. He announced plans to build a replica of the "Titanic" , and have it finish the voyage it never did, and of course he will sell tickets to people who want to travel on it. Much as I love history and recreations of it, I was struck by what seems to me an absurd money wasting folly. If he wants to spend that sort of money, he might remember that there are old age pensioners in Australia struggling to support themselves at all. Power prices have gone up and some elderly people and low income earners have to choose between paying power bills or having food. There are homeless people in Australia, partly because there is a shortage of housing in some major cities. There are people who can't afford to visit a dentist so they go without essential treatment. Of course this is not original. Hundreds of people have said things in this vein. But if something is true we may see reason to keep saying it. A very good friend of mine remarked on when Prince Frederick of Denmark married Mary Donaldson, an Australian lady (so it made big news in Australia) millions of dollars was spent refurbishing one of the Danish royal palaces, for them to take up as their official home; and that money could have been spent on the welfare of those who are struggling to put a roof over their heads at all. I had to agree. No-one needs to have a great ornate palace to live in, and there is a need to help those who are starving, sometimes without it being their own fault at all. There are those who worked as well as they could and did the right thing by those around them, but have not prospered and find it difficult to manage in old age. There are others born disabled or who became disabled who have never been able to earn a lot and make themselves comfortable. This is not original, we have all heard it before, but it is still true. The counter argument is that charity is a bottomless pit. No matter how much money is spent the need will be there again before long. This may be true, but if you are going to spend money spend it on something other than a vanity trip. I keep remembering the parable of rich Dives and Lazarus the starving beggar. How do you justify spending huge sums of money on vanity and ostentation when someone in plain sight is struggling to stay alive? We need something for ourselves. Our children need a house to live in, so I have to spend on that before I contribute to others. But our family have never lived in a showy home or driven a luxury car; and we can get a life without those things. Don't millions of people? I'm not a communist, so I don't believe in seizing the fortunes of rich people and giving their money to others. Government interventions is a second rate substitute for civic minded generosity by individual people anyway. But I'm struck by the blindness of those who throw their cash into things that gratify their need for attention, and don't give any attention to the misery of others in plain sight.