My boss had gone out to lunch and I took the immediate job of running 'screen', which is one of those delightful terms borrowed from American football and which means to throw bodies in front of the quarterback so that they can do their job unmolested. I am pretty good at this because I take the attitude that if you are at lunch, then I don't care if you are a lawyer, the Prime Minister, the Queen, or Martin Skrtel¹, any problem that you have unless it is immediately life threatening can wait.
The world is already so sufficiently stressful, complex and difficult, that people do not need to be switched on all the time. Lawyers especially like to offload their stress by passing it on to others because they think that sharing is caring?
One lawyer who we deal with on a semi regular basis, wanted to know where my boss was, which I then refused to answer, and then asked me why I wasn't at a dinner thing which was held last week, which my boss was at. I think that that is a strange thing to ask someone but then again, I am under no illusions that manners are the invention of the upper class to make the middle class conform while at the same time they will ignore them. I explained that I had no idea that it was on and I wasn't invited to it either (all while thinking 'why would I be invited to a function which people in the legal profession went to, anyway?).
I then sat patiently on the phone while I was given a lecture about why people like them and people like me shouldn't associate with each other, on the basis that people like me should know our place and that we should be happy to be servants. The problem with society apparently, was that too many people had risen above their station in the natural order of things and that the world was slowly being put right again with the dismantling of the welfare state.
I bit my tongue and remembered the inscription which Vespasian had placed upon the toilets in Ancient Rome "Pecunia non olet" which when translated means "Money does not stink". When I played the recording of the phone call for my boss after he had returned from lunch, he sort of shrugged and said that callousness is on the rise; which on reflection is the awful truth.
I do not see this kind of thing amongst my fellow commuters as we travel forth and back across this swirling conurbation we call Sydney. As commuters, we are literally forced to rub shoulders with each other. The train that I am on while writing this post, smells like sweat and peppermint chewing gum and horrible flavoured potato chips, and farts because these are the smells of a shared humanity. We are all tired, we are all probably just as stressed as the people above us, and many of us will flake on and take a nap on the train.
The people who actually run the world, are not here. I'm not even talking about the political class who occasionally make a show by riding on public transport because they at least have to keep up some kind of pretence that they are part of the people. The people who actually run the world, that is the people who make decisions that matter, either drive themselves or are driven to work, and as I've found out don't want to run into us accidentally².
It is instances like this which I never saw a decade ago, which makes me think that Trump, Johnson, Morrison, Macron, are inevitable. Only last week it was reported that the Berejiklian Government was going to privatise the three remaining areas of Sydney Buses that were still owned and operated by the government. This isn't being done because the Government wants to provide a better and more efficient set of bus services but rather that private parties saw a potential to make private profits and they simply do not care about the people who otherwise might own those things (the good and fair people of NSW). Instances like my experience make me think that we have entered a period of actual vindictiveness by policy; using the mechanics of government as a weapon³.
We now have people who live off the interest of interest and yet ascribe that to their own effort. I find it insane that there has been a 1.1% year on year gain on labour productivity for more than a decade, which is about 12% overall, yet real wages have only risen by about 0.1% and organisations like the Business Council of Australia have convinced governments that a 0.5% rise in superannuation is unaffordable.
Is this what late stage capitalism looks like before saccharine feudalism returns? Australia likes to pretend that it doesn't have a class system but I am very clearly reminded that it does; especially by those of very substantial means. I wonder if France was like this before the French Revolution. If the peasants have no bread, then let them eat cake?
¹Martin Skrtel can walk into any story he chooses
²though I suspect that they might enjoy running over us deliberately and repeatedly
³it is handy to have government as a weapon in class warfare