Archives for category: Family

The only mention made of death in our society is usually through the old saying that taxes and death are the only two certainties in life. The rest of the time it seems to be a taboo subject. The only certainty about it is that it will happen, yet for most of us the how, where and when are not only complete uncertainties but not discussed.

I’m trying to work out how long I will last, given my current age, life expectancy for my age group and restrictions such as chronic illness. This sounds really potent yet seems to be the medical name for diabetes and other common diseases which affect life expectancy. I felt really doomed when I first heard the expression, but life has gone back to normal since then!

For older people it probably makes life a bit easier if we can work out a rough, probably inaccurate time limit. It gives us a bit of a time-line for things we would like to achieve before then, such as tidying up and sorting through possessions (called rather cutely ‘downsizing’!). It doesn’t seem to work for me, having recently passed on a whole lot of books I knew I would never read to charity, then restocking with other books I thought I might read!

The other uncertainties we face are the how  and where. Most people say they would like to die at home but few do. I suspect that this could be caused by medicos trying to use their new devises and medications on us when we would prefer to just quietly leave this world.

The big problem is the current discussion we are currently having in Australia about being allowed to do have a hand in our death and allow us to advance it when medication is not currently available to so painlessly. Euthanasia has almost been a taboo topic and is often described as murder. There are quite a few countries intelligent enough to allow it under very strict conditions and it seems to work well, with the conditions imposed preventing abuse. The opponents to this practise seem to base their objections on reasoning which is not based on intelligence and knowledge. These are often the same people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. The problem is that although their ranks are being reduced because more people are applying reason and logic to arguments, based on modern knowledge, these groups still have a traditional influence which they inflict on all of us.

If people oppose those of us who want to be able to die to escape excruciating pain, why should this minority be allowed to dictate what we choose to do? If I still looked at the world through religious eyes I suspect I would think that if God hadn’t yet released to us the knowledge to reduce all pain to a bearable level, then why shouldn’t we use the God-given knowledge we already have to choose to end our suffering? How heartless are these people if they are prepared to force their own families to have to watch them suffer needlessly, often for weeks and months? Not my idea of a Christian, loving world in which we really care about those we love, as well as our neighbours, in its full definition.

Dying would be less of a worrying uncertainty if people didn’t have to face the possibility of unrelieved excruciating pain accompanying it. Lets at least make this a certainty.

This week I listened to a discussion about a new report on the adequacy of the pension in Australia. It is a very complex problem which is probably why it is a rarely tackled. The last attempt I am aware of was by a university researcher who ended up having to make so many assumptions the end result wasn’t really meaningful. This time the authors set themselves plenty of time and enlisted the help of a number of organisations involved with the elderly, such as the Council for the Ageing (COTA). The main value of the exercise to me was the inclusion of someone with many years of experience with ageing groups and is himself celebrating his 85th year this year. He was a member  of a three person panel speaking about the issue. It was a refreshing change to see a panel not just discussing an age related  topic but with one member actively, personally involved. They were not just studying the ageing but involved with us. It took away the weakness of so many discussions on ageing which talk about us, not with us.

So what emerged from the study? As expected it is a particularly complex issue but some problems cropped up frequently, particularly the topic of good dental health. Not having the money to pay for dental treatment leads to older people having to mash their food as their teeth are too painful for them to chew, or are none existent due to the expense of dentures. To me, this should be a separate issue. We have a free health system in Australia so I can’t see why this can’t be extended to dental health. The other issue which was not raised was the health costs of not taking action. If people are unable to eat properly for whatever reason, including inadequate money for food, then their general health will suffer, a situation which the health system will have to cover, particularly if they end up in the hospital system.

Another major issue was that of the family home not being included in a person’s assets. This problem arises when someone has lived in the family home for decades and its value has risen greatly. The person may not want to leave because, for example, it holds many memories. They also may feel that this is a legacy to leave their children who may be looking forward to it. The problem arises when maintenance costs rise and the older person is obliged to pay out of their pension. They may be left to live in poverty in a hugely valuable home.

These are among the many complex issues the study group looked at. There is obviously much discussion on the issue ahead. At least it is good to know that future talks will be held with older people. not just about us.

I liked the suggestion that the issue of the value of the pension be set by an independent body. The politicians’ response that the country couldn’t afford it was met by ‘but that’s how your salary’s are set”!

Those are just some of our problems in Australia.  What about those countries which don’t have any pension?

 

Earlier this week Playschool, an Australian children’s TV programme, celebrated 50 years of providing entertainment and learning to Australia’s youngest people. The programme has been, and hopefully always will be, under the guidance of experts in early education. A brilliant idea that children should have the best right from the beginning. If you mention the word ‘Playschool’ to millions of Australians the opening tune pops up in their heads. Not only did the program teach that it’s OK to be different but included such differences through the presenters themselves and the participating children. Music, dancing and singing, which I believe are essential to all human beings, were, and are, a major part of each episode. To those Australians trying to deny their connections to this programme I only have to mention Big Ted and Jemima to bring back memories.

On the actual birthday ABC TV aired their Q and A programme featuring the leader of a political party based on highlighting political and religious differences, and fostering a lack of understanding between them, a group which has recently re-entered our parliament. France has just suffered yet another mass murder based once again on religious differences. And in the US a money addict has been anointed head of one of their major parties and will stand for President later in the year. Not a happy and prosperous world.

If only all these people had started their early lives, and education, by learning that people are different and that these differences should be respected. We all have the right to live together working towards a common good. We all have the right to be different and pull together, through understanding each other, to create a prosperous and safe world for us all. These were the messages that Playschool taught millions of young Australians through love and understanding. I wonder if that is why we live in such a relatively peaceful country today? Thanks Playschool for what you have done for us individually, for our families and for what you contributed to Australia for over 50 years.

 

 

 

 

 

The last couple of decades in particular have seen us make huge advances in communication and other areas of technology which seem to have affected the lives of many people in the world. The ones who have missed out are those who seem to miss out on everything- food, clothing, shelter and medical expertise. And we don’t seem to care.

Does humanity have to be like this? Is there one country in the world which is going against the trend and reducing the gap between the top rich 1% and the bottom poor 1%? If there is such a country I would guess that its leaders are not rich, as are currently the leaders, and potential leaders, in the most influential countries in the world.

Citizens in the USA seem to be heading in the direction of having to choose between two rich citizens for their next leader even though I am sure that there are many, many, people who would make better leaders because they have more knowledge and ability and are not tainted by being money addicts.

So many countries in the world have this problem of admiring the rich, presumably because they wish they were in that position themselves. In Australia the media is listing the top people on our rich list presumably lauding them for having this particular trait, which in the field of medicine would be labelled an addiction. In the past so many rich people have used their wealth to honour their names and families by putting their money into charitable trusts or noteworthy buildings, both of which honoured their memories for generations to come. Today’s rich seem more intent on spending as much of their wealth on themselves and leaving their offspring in the same situation rather than leaving a lasting memory. Is this because the Christian church, which encouraged the former behaviour, is no longer as influential as it was?

Is there no one today with the power and influence to encourage a fairer sharing of resources? Could I be right in feeling that if we did have fewer rich people and fewer poor people the world would be a much better place? We can’t just assume that those at the bottom leg of the ladder are brainless and untalented. Many of those who have reached the top today have done so because they got a leg up and opportunities from their rich families, rarely just from their own abilities.

Could we measure the degree of success of today’s world by the extent to which the basic necessities are available to all, and all have access to a good education and the opportunity to make use of it to the best of their ability? If we could make such a measurement I suspect today’s world  would end up with a big ‘FAIL’.

This isn’t good enough. In the past the plague affected everyone, rich and poor, and today’s superbugs are threatening to do the same. We need to pull together to make this world a happier successful place which we all share. Technology and other modern advances can’t do this on their own- it needs a caring human race to facilitate it.

Australia is currently preparing for a general election at the beginning of July. This time it is for the whole of both houses because the prime minister told upper house members that if they didn’t vote for two pieces of his legislation he would cause a spill of all their positions. Bills should be passed on their merits, not because members are being bullied to pass them or risk losing their jobs. This undemocratic behaviour was accepted without a word of dissent by parliamentarians and members of the public. Is bullying so entrenched in our society that we don’t even recognise it?

A couple of years ago one lady saw her former husband murder their son very publically- he then killed himself so he avoided retribution. She had suffered years of bullying from him before this event and had a police order against him approaching her. Unfortunately the death of her son took place at a public event ( cricket practice) so the order would have been difficult to apply.

As a result of her ordeal she set up a campaign to raise awareness of physical bullying which has now resulted in a series of television ads showing scenes of physical bullying. I think that this is a wonderful outcome of the mother’s suffering and will result in their being less of this type of violence. It also shows how one ordinary citizen can make a difference to other people’s lives.

My concern is that there are two types of bullying- physical and mental and unfortunately the latter is harder to recognise and prevent, hence the ease with which the prime minister got away with it, even though it violated our democracy.

One of the huge problems with the present situation is that to my knowledge there is no research into what makes a bully, which it is why it is hard to recognise and deal with. As a teacher I was aware of it, particularly amongst the staff. It was mental bullying, in which these people were determined to establish their superiority, which is what motivates bullying of either type. It was so successful that one teacher rose to be head of one of the largest public schools. He certainly didn’t have the normal leadership qualities.

We need to recognise this cancer within our society, and through recognition, eliminate it. It isn’t good for society and is a detriment to genuine progress. It is going to be interesting to see the outcomes of the election – whether the prime minister’s bullying paid off or not  and whether it eliminated what he felt was an obstructionist upper house, or strengthened it, and whether he himself is re-elected.

To finish off my story about the two bullies I worked with. Both of them were called in to their sons’ primary schools over bullying issues- one son was also being a bully, the other was being bullied (apparently his behaviour attracted the school’s bullies). Is this where bullying is learned, at home?

 

Centuries seem to be a convenient measuring unit for our history with each being accredited with specific human progress. The 19th century was the breeding ground for the industrial revolution, the 20th for two world wars followed by remarkable progress in technology which led to all parts of the world being instantly connected.

Are we now sufficiently civilised and knowledgeable to decide what we would like to achieve in the 21st century (we are now well into it) or will we just randomly move in whatever direction fate takes us? I would argue that since the whole world is connected in terms of easy communication we should be able to move from the selfish ‘I want’ of each country to a worldwide ‘We want’ of the world population. Diseases (pandemics) and climate change are making it very evident that the latter view is the only one that will work. If we accept this argument then can we take human history into our own hands and set goals to try to achieve it? It’s not a new idea, after all that is what the United Nations was set up to achieve, but that was in a different time, with different communications restrictions and different world values, particularly in terms of equality.

Is this early part of the 21st century an appropriate time for the world to decide that the legacy today’s people should leave is one of thinking in terms of a shared earth and setting goals for what we as its inhabitants want to leave for the generations who come after us? Do we want to set the agenda, as far as we can, for the 21st century and our legacy for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.? Given the enormous skills, knowledge and abilities we have inherited from those who have gone before us let’s use them to create a unified, shared planet. Let’s not leave the legacy of the 21st century to chance but rather decide that this is the way to go to benefit the whole world population and plan to achieve that.

Wars, such as those currently in several parts of the world, benefit no-one except a few people’s ego’s and this is usually short lived. The damage to people’s lives lasts for far longer. The current situation where there are millions of displaced people across the world is a sad reflection on our skills as global population managers. We can do better than this. We just need a few people with a genuine passion for a better world for all to unite to push for new goals. In the 21st century we have the knowledge, skills and ability to achieve it. What are we waiting for?

 

Lets spell this out. I suspect most of us want a world in which we can live in peace, knowing that we and our loved ones are safe except against natural hazards. Even with the latter we would like as much protection as possible through warnings of tsunamis, earthquakes etc. and given assistance with evacuations and other protection. Such a world would enable us to utilise all our abilities and talents for the good of our communities and earth itself.

Daily events suggest that we are a very long way from this. As humans we have made enormous advances in so many areas such as space travel and knowledge and prevention of diseases yet on a daily level we fail miserably. So many people still live in poverty and fear. Not only do we not take action to alleviate these but we add to them.

I don’t believe anyone has the right to take another person’s life and any country which allows this is behind the standard of civilisation reached by other countries which have banned it. The recent approved killing of a religious leader in one country has led to increased threats of violence in neighbouring countries. The ordinary people in all countries have the right to a better life than this.

Even in countries which have less violence there are still problems. The US president is opposed to his country’s gun laws but is prevented from taking action. There are so many places in the world where people are not allowed to be armed where the policy works peacefully yet, presumably, the US gun lobby is allowed to rule in that country in spite of it being labelled a democracy.

In Australia we are currently having problems with the behaviour of our elected members, including Parliamentary ministers. There has to be something wrong with an election system which lets these people stand. How can people be elected when they regard women as second class citizens and their language is that of the gutter? Meanwhile there is still plenty of poverty in the country which is being ignored.

We have such a long way to go before we can achieve the ideal world I started out with. I’d like to think that this is the century when we achieve world peace and prosperity yet we are quite a long way into it and don’t seem very far along the journey. We have a lot of work to do but if we do it collectively we can achieve it. A big problem will be identifying those who hop on board because they think there is something in it for them, either in terms of money or power. There are already too many of those running different countries in the world. They prevent us from reaching our full potential.

This is a very special time of year for Christians and for those brought up in countries in which the main religion is Christianity. Its a time when families get together over a traditionally European family meal.

There are two major changes happening to this event. Firstly as cuisine becomes more international the old meat and 2 vegetables (or other traditional but similar European food) is being replaced, possibly by dishes from all over the world. The second change is in the people themselves. Both travel by choice to other countries, often loosening ties with family, and the mass immigration from so many countries by refugees in which family is left behind, mean that those in countries which celebrate Xmas can be people from very different religions and backgrounds. Many will be from areas where Christianity is not practised so the concept of Christmas is not understood.

For the latter group, for whatever reason they moved, Christmas will not have the same impact. For those who have moved from Christian countries it will be a time of homesickness, in which thoughts will turn back to ‘the old days’ and families and rituals left behind.

The very celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the family is the main support for all humans and for those who are deprived of this it becomes a time of regret and sadness.

Let those of us who will be celebrating with our families; let’s realise that we are the lucky ones on earth. For those who aren’t with their families for whatever reason let’s hope that they can find substitute families so that no-one is entirely alone. Whatever our circumstances let’s work together to make the world a better place in which we can all feel that we are in a place where we belong. May we all work towards families being able to stay in the country they call home, not separated through the evil of others.