Anecdotes re USA, and other things
My boss returned from the USA this week. She was there for about 6 months (?) doing a course at Harvard, and travelling around to conferences and such.
At the staff meeting this morning, she was actually in tears saying how happy she was to be back in Australia, as the standard of living here (and the weather), as bad as it is for a lot of people, is still better than in the US. And the worst thing is - they don't even know it. They seriously have NO world news over there - they are lucky to see what happens in the next state on their news services.
The conferences that she did go to were Trade Union related of course, but let me tell you a story that she heard first hand over there.
A young woman (30ish) stood up to tell her story of what her workplace was like. She was a Trade Union delegate. She works in a large processing factory, something like the size of two football fields. One day, the company's "internal police" came up to her and handcuffed her. They dragged her across the whole length of the building and took her to the company's "internal questioning" room. They interrogated her for 7 hours over an alleged stealing. When she said she needed to go home to her kids, they hit her.
This did not surprise the conference of some 2000 attendees. But the mention of what John Howard is doing in Australia did! They could not believe that a country like Australia, which has a good reputation of Industrial laws, was having these type of laws go through. A lot of people are saying that our new laws are worse than in parts of the United States.
These workers have no choice but to stay with their employer because of their dependence on basic health insurance - I'll get to that later.
A failing Government:
She also mentioned that over 8 months after Hurricane Katrina there are still up to 80 % of the main areas affected without power or waterâ€¦ and in doing my own reading, to combat looting, the Government started a "shoot to kill" policy on "African Americans"!
She continued on to say that around half of Americans have no, or inadequate health insurance. Which means if you have a sick baby, the choice is whether to eat (for the WEEK!) or go see a doctor. They have radio ads over there telling people when to bring sick babies to see a doctor - ie when a temperature reaches over X amount - because people simply don't go to the doctor as they can't afford it. They have a REAL problem of unneccesary deaths over there. Darwin's theory of "Survival of the fittest" really does ring true in America.
Sure, for the upper middle class and higher citizens, life is a breeze. Mostly. You can have a really decent job, but without health insurance, you're basically stuffed!
Getting back to New Orleans - the government took the opportunity to close about 95% of the public schools there because they weren't up to standard. They've now been privatised, and 25,000 teachers have been sacked. Most don't even know it, as they aren't contactable. They don't even know that they have lost their health insurance - almost more important than money over there - and I go back to what I said earlier, and reiterate that half of Americans have no, or inadequate, health insurance!
In Australia, John Howard and his Liberal Right-Wing Government are gradually eating away at things like Medicare, Social Welfare, Public Education & Health, Broadcasting & Publishing laws, and Freedom of Speech/Association, and just plain trying to kill things like Worker's Rights and Asylum Seeker's rights - in favour of a Privatised, Institutionalised, Individualised, Criminalised, Terrorised... G-G-G-G-Grease Lightening... uhh, I mean society. Sorry, that kinda wrecked it!
On a related note, "V for Vendetta" is such an important political commentary, on a very real possiblity for the future of paranoid western countries like the USA, Australia and Britain.
I will finish by saying that John Howard's vision for Australia - one that is idealised on what America is politically - achieved through politics of division, blatant deception and fear-mongering, is a very scary thought indeed.