Welcome to 'Middle Ground View' where we seek to find reason, common sense and clarity in all matters of life. It is our firm belief that no matter how muddled a topic is or how emotionally charged, with a bit of investigation a sensible Middle Ground position can always be found.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I am moving, please follow me

Dear friends, this blog is moving to another location. Please follow me to:

www.middlegroundview.wordpress.com

I hope you will come in for a visit. I am plannig to post heaps in next few days, especially on National Broadband money waste.

You will also be able to read my book there (soon).

Please tune in.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Labour's new thought bubble


I am sure you have seen it by now - staring at you from bus stops and billboards, bothering you in print media and on TV: bubble-people telling you to eat better, exercise more and look after yourself. Sigh! Here we go again. Remember the 'Life - be in it' campaign that ran for 20 years or so? The animation was less flash but it delivered the same old, droning message. As if there is still someone left in this country who doesn't know that going for a walk is better then sitting on the couch, that eating an apple is better then ordering fried chips. Alas, if only it was that easy. My wife told me the other day that all the Government needs to do is fix the public transport. Think about it - there would be less congestion on the roads, people would walk more, it would even help combat that Climate Change that they say they so care about. Except that the public transport system is a disaster. The system is so broken that no-one would seriously trust it to get anywhere on time. So broken that most people I know would be too frightened to go near a train station at any time other then peak hour. Therefore fixing it would be hard. Very, very hard. But throwing some taxpayer money at an ad campaign is just so easy. I only hope that next time Australians will see through the spin and burst this stupid Government's bubble. Until then you can just keep reading my ad-free blog.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Desalination plant crazyness

To all those of you not from Victoria the Sunshine State, let me catch you up. We the Victorians have been paying through the nose for a certain Desalination plant that was meant to save us from slow Climate Change-induced dehydration.

The problem is - it's been raining non-stop last 6 months or so and the plant's construction hasn't progressed much.

Now we find out that the Wanthaggi Desal plant workers have been getting $50 an hour more (not $50 an hour - $50 an hour MORE) then workers in the same jobs elsewhere.

This has made me so mad that I had to write a poem about it. Maybe one of the readers can put it to music. Here it goes:

DESALINATION BLUES
Put back your hard hat and steel cap shoes
while the rain is coming down.
I've got Desalination Blues -
it's the biggest game in town.

Wonthaggi's tills are ringing mad
It's a jackpot - full and proper
while I'm putting Victoria in the red
with taxpayer-funded copper.

You see my friends, I'm not a dweeb.
With my Union's might and power
I sit and watch the raindrops drip
at 100 bucks an hour.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Where are the worms?!




Here is some good news for all those who like something for nothing (that means all of us). The Nillumbik Council will teach you to compost and even give you a compost bin or a worm farm, all for nothing. The programme is paid for by Victorian State Government.




Now there are lots of things we all would love to learn. I personally would love to improve my backstroke, take up knitting or fly a para glider. But why on earth does the State Government feel the need to pick up the bill for those of us who want to compost? Why is composting different from, say mountain climbing. And one more thing, the articles that 'Worms are not included with the worm farm'. So that tapping you are hearing is me composing a letter:


'Dear State Government, I demand an explanation where are the worms?'

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

China stockpiling iron ore - Australia should take note

What's the one thing that can send Australia broke in a matter of weeks. No it's not a natural disaster. We car recover from that. I am talking about the possibility of China cutting of commodity imports. If that happens Australian economy may not recover. The frightening thing is, right now China is rapidly building stockpiles of iron ore, coal and other commodities. Why? To protect Chinese economy, maybe. To exert pressure upon commodity suppliers like Australia? Is that so impossible to imagine? This year's federal budget is completely reliant of Chinese export duties. What if the exports stop? Very frightening.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Red cross endorses an act of petty violence

Peter Gray, the man who threw a shoe at John Howard on Q&A will have his shoe auctioned off by the Red Cross.

It's easy to throw shoes at John Howard or George W Bush. There is no risk, no danger of facing torture and imprisonment as you would in the Arab World. The question is, why would the Red Cross indirectly endorse such a man and such a low act? I thought that Red Cross is suppose to fight violence, not promote it.

Sending immigrants to Malaysia is a very bad idea

Malaysia is a country with a dual legal system: one system for Moslems, one for non-Moslems. Moslems are forbidden by law from eating on Ramadan, drinking alcohol and secluding themselves with a person of opposite sex. Last year at Valentine's day Malaysian police swooped on hotels in the capital arresting Moslems found alone with non-related persons. This is the kind of country Australian government is sending migrants to. What if an Afgani asylum seeker decides to also seek asylum from Malasia after being sent for processing there by? I don't know what the law in this situation would be but the lawyers are guaranteed to have a field day.

'Scienceworks' on the rocks

I took my kids to 'Scienceworks' few weekends ago. It's the kind of thing a father would do with his children but to be honest I was looking forward to it myself. The name implied hands-on science stuff and even though my hairline is receding, I am still a kid at heart. The trip went off without a hitch and the kids had a good time but to be honest, I felt a little disappointed. Somehow the place didn't feel right. One exhibit in particular - about storm water and recycling, left an odd feeling of discomfort. It took a bit of thinking but I eventually worked out why. In the exhibit the smog and rubbish are 'bad' and recycling is 'good'. The 'bad guys' even have suitably scary make-up and voices. This is fine if you are presenting to four-year-olds about toilet etiquette or crossing the road. But these are pre-teens, capable of coming to their own conclusions. And this is science. Science is meant to be about education, not indoctrination. Science is mean to be about understanding the facts, not 'good' and 'bad'. Funny thing is, when I quizzed my seven-year-old son at the end of the day he recalled easily the train display, the historic sewerage pumps but didn't remember a thing about recycling. Herein, I suspect lies the great failure of the education system. Treat children like toddlers and they will forget. Treat them like adults and they will remember.

If you love them - guide them

I was sitting in the lunch room at work one day having a chat about life, politics and gossip. As it often does, the conversation travelled to family and kids when a colleague of my complained that her four year old daughter has started developing body image issues. When visiting the local pool the girl would sit in a corner covered with a towel and shout 'Don't look at me.' 'It's all that stuff they pick up at school.' Said the mother 'And TV. They get it all from TV.' And then as happens to me all too often, I spoke up without giving the situation much thought. 'So if you think the TV is to blame' I said 'why don't you just turn it off?' There was a stunned silence in the room. The woman stared at me for a moment as if I was an alien from Mars and then said incredulously 'Turn it off? What are you saying? You mean turn the TV completely off? Are you serious?'

How much are we prepared to do for our children? Anything it takes, the saying goes. Usually that implies jumping into a raging torrent to save them or giving them the last seat in a life-raft. Thankfully those situations don't come around very often. What does happen, and very frequently, is the multitude of benign situations when the benefit of the child is weighted up against the parent's convenience. We all know that processed food is bad for our children and consequently the sales of 'natural'-labelled food products are booming. That's wonderful. We also recognise that the Television content is bad for them, that violent video game images harm their development, that internet on their computers and now also on their mobile phones can place them in danger. Yet despite this, you would struggle to find a child without almost unlimited access to all of the above. Why the inconsistency? Does anyone think that the emotional diet of sex and violence harms the developing mind any less then junk food harms the body? Or is it just easier to reach for the 'low GI' brand in the supermarket isle then to tackle the fundamentals of lifestyle and behaviour that affect our leisure time choices? Most children of the families I know attend their local Government school. Does this represent the best fit for those children's emotional and developmental needs or is it simply a choice of parental convenience? 'Bullying is just a part of growing up' and 'home environment is what really counts' are some of the more popular excuses given to justify keeping a child in an unhealthy and harmful school environment. But few parents realise just how much harm an unhealthy social environment could do and how different things are from the days when we went to school ourselves. A Government funded 'Headspace' study has found that up to a quarter of young people aged 18 to 25 have mental illness. That's higher then the national average. And in an age group brought up in the age of most regulated food industry, strictest safety standards and most advanced medical care at any time in history. The study also found high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and violent behaviour. Indeed we have a lot to be concerned about. So how is it that despite unprecedented safety, affluence and education opportunities our young people appear to increasingly make choices that lock them out of society?

Next time you go shopping spend ad extra moment examining the items in the 'Toys' department and you will notice a curious transformation. It all begins harmlessly enough with the products targeted to the age group up to about four years old. There the colours are soft, the words are gentle, the neatly sanitised babies are smiling at you from every box and the key selling point can be summed up in one word - 'educational'. But as you travel up the age bracket, a strange transition begins to take place. For the boys 'educational' gradually gives way to a profile of a hooded, sideways-cap wearing, overtly threatening and antisocial juvenile delinquent whose violence is never explicit but always implied, simmering just under the surface. For the girls 'educational' is replaced by hypesexualised, high heel and fish-net stocking wearing, anorexic and collagen enhanced caricature of female availability. This transition from a child to a stereotype of gender-related antisocial behaviour occurs suddenly and at an age group when most children are still at work mastering the alphabet. I believe that in developmental terms it represents the precise psychological moment at which the parent chooses to withdraw their input, remove their guidance in regard to the choice of toys, activities and entertainment. A point at which fighting the continuous 'I want' becomes simply too hard. A kind of invisible 'opting out'. I am not for a moment suggesting that children's' toys are to blame for the epidemic of mental illness and antisocial behaviour. That would be ludicrous. But for me, the transformation of toys is a kind of symbol. A marker of parental indifference. A proof that those same parents who would never let their children make unguided choices of diet, would and do leave them on their own when it comes to choices of entertainment and play. To those parents I say - stop and reconsider. If you leave them on their own they will reach for the most harmful - it's the nature of children. So don't let go so soon. If you love them - guide them. And whatever small sacrifice it will take on your part, surely it will be worth the effort.

If you love them - help them

Sunday, 8 May 2011

If idiocy was a piece of paper...

I got this letter from 'South Eastern Energy' my local energy company. It appears to be at war with itself. In case you are having trouble seeing let me explain it for you - in the top left corner you got an article about 'Water Efficiency', in the bottom left corner is the article about the flood and opposite are the top tips for using less water in your garden, which is easy to do because my garden is flooded right now as are most of the gardens on my street. It's because of the floods, stupid. Which brings me to the bottom right article - from July this year the water price will increase by 9.9%. Now I would have thought with all this extra free water falling out of the sky... oh well maybe they will explain it better in the next letter. I recommend a flow chart.

Power-board from hell

Let me save you counting time - that power-board has 27 sockets. Guess what my first thought was when I saw it - that's right, the owner of this will have major problems meeting their Carbon Tax obligations. Now let's see if you can work out where I took the photo. Here are the options:

a) A cannabis plantation
b) Aluminium smelting factory
c) Primary school 

Yes, you guessed it - Primary School. Which brings me to my next question. Schools are major consumers of energy. They have air conditioning, computer labs, etc. Yet no-one is talking about compensation. So how do you think schools will recoup their Carbon losses? That's right by charging the parents and that means you and I. The private schools will put up their fees and the Public schools will make new fees. Let's think of a good name ... I know - 'Planet protection fee'. I am sure that will stick.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The opposite of trees

I went to a funeral today. The mother of a good friend has passed away after a long illness. The atmosphere of the outdoors service was appropriately somber. The undertaker wore his professional expression of grief. In front of the sobbing family he began to speak about life as a circle in which it's the journey and not the destination that matters. About how nothing is forever and how the old must give way to the new.  About the cycle of death and rebirth. There were other clich├ęd references but I don't remember them all. Any way, you get the idea.  I suspect that the same words were used for every funeral. For a moment it appeared to me that I was hearing a speech not about I person I knew, that I was hearing a eulogy written not for people but for .... trees. You know - it all started many moons ago with a fragile sapling, the time moved on and before you know, it was a season of flowering in full glorious bloom, then the time to bear fruit. And so it went one season after another until one day, the thickening bark, the falling leaves, it was a turn of the new ahead of the old, another season will come, and so on and so on. But people are not trees.

The botanists tell us that the distribution of foliage on a plant is not random but precisely arranged. And it's not just about getting the most sun - the leaves also serve to shade over the other plants, to starve them of light. So next time you find a spot of pretty vegetation in you local park - remember that what you are seeing is the battle for survival. And in this battle it's every tree for itself. There are people who live lives just like that. Spending all their time pushing others out of the way. But we are human beings and can choose to live not like trees. To be the opposite of trees. Nurturing and supporting others. Children come to mind of course. But also friends, co-workers, pupils, neighbors, everyone we meet on the journey. And in the process our own physical selves become inevitably diminished. Every parent when prompted will readily narrate the story of things unfulfilled - hobbies put on hold, places never visited. All for the sake of the children. After all when it comes to parenting, sacrifice is not an optional extra. It's not even part of the job. It IS the job. And yet as we become physically diminished, we acquire something else. Something intangible and infinitely more precious. It's a kind of immortality for a small part of our selves - the part we gift away to others. It's often said that life is a journey not a destination, and in a way that is true of course. But after a long arduous journey wouldn't it be nice to arrive at some place that is special and worthwhile? Or better still to know that the journey didn't end, that others are setting off with your precious cargo on board even as your own travel time runs out. When we touch lives of other, there is a part of us that travels on with them - maybe that is the ultimate consolation. I find this view, this picture of a journey that need not ever end a far more comforting image then anything that a professional eulogy can offer.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Children

The other day a woman approached me as I was doing some last minute shopping with my children, and told me that I am an irresponsible parent. Now, I fancy myself quite a good father. Other then an occasional sleep in or a verge out on the couch I spend hours of quality time with my children, maintain a comfortable roof over their head (and a whopping mortgage), feed them nutritious meals (which my wife cooks so well). So after all that you might think that some credit to me as a father may be overdue. Not so. You see, I have four children and that's about two more than a family is allowed in today's civilised society. Don't believe me? Just watch the indignant stares we get while walking down the street.
Once upon a time 'responsible' meant looking well after you children. Today it means not having any. Maybe one or two if you must, but no more. 
It all began when the western civilisation decided to away with that Religion thing. There were some good things about it, of course: charity, social justice and the like, but they could  be had without worrying about God and the after-life. That theory seemed good, but it had one flaw. You can be a good person, responsible, well adjusted, kind. But sooner or later the question pops up. If the universe is just a blind non-system of random events, then what's the point of it all? Why should I get out of bed in the morning? Teenagers usually go through this stage: 'I am worthless, the world would be better off without me'. And then they grow up. The generation of western atheists never grew up. They were forever trapped inside a feeling of vague, restless inadequacy. In this twisted mindset it's the whole of mankind which is worthless, and Nature would be better off without it. Never before in human history did a society achieve so much in combating man's ancient enemies - hunger, disease, natural disasters. Never before did a society yearn so much to see itself annihilated, destroyed, evicted from planet earth. The victory was a hollow one. But it doesn't have to be like that. I believe in the world's purpose shaping every facet of creation, every soul of humanity. I love my four children and will probably have more. And you know what? Whichever way I look at it, it's the only view that makes sense.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Oh boy, so many 'opportunities'

A taxi-driver friend of mine recently enrolled into a teaching degree. He says he wants to fight 'disadvantage' in schools where it begins. I do understand him. In the taxi business the only time you encounter 'disadvantage' is when a non-paying customer smashes a beer bottle on the back of your head. As a teacher you expect you encounters would be a little less traumatic. One would hope. The unfortunate thing is that even if my friend tries his best as a teacher, not a few of his pupils will probably graduate to smashing bottles over unfortunate taxi drivers' heads. The story of why that is has to do with 'disadvantage' - not what the word means but how it is used within the education system. What is 'disadvantage' anyway? If we are running a marathon and you start fifty meters behind the rest of the field, that's called a disadvantage. It's not you - it's your starting position. Now lets say you walk into a typical public school classroom somewhere in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne. Down the back are a few kids whose dads are drunk by mid-afternoon. That's called alcoholism. In the corner is a boy who covered in bruises. That's called physical abuse. At the front are a couple of kids on Ritilin. That's called ADHD. And the rest of the room is peppered with the pupils whose dad went out one day and never came back. That's called broken families. Or you could lump all of those problems together and call it 'disadvantage', but that wouldn't tell you anything other then 'That class at the and of the corridor - stay away from it.'

The education sector is famous for eviscerating the meaning of words. Violence becomes 'impulsive behaviour' and bigotry is renamed 'cultural stereoptypes'. But this verbal deception is more then just misleading. The education system can not possibly correct unacceptable behaviour if it can not even call that behaviour by its' name.

A teacher-friend of mine once remarked that the education gurus once took exception to the words 'problem child'. That's labelling, and we can't have that, can we. Instead of 'problems' they started using the wold 'challenges'. Fast forward five years and 'challenges' wasn't good enough either, so the new buzz-word was 'opportunities'. In the staff room the teachers would joke with each other: "I had so many 'opportunities' today in my class. Look at all the bruises I got." "Oh, that's nothing. I had so many 'opportunities', I barely got out alive." Changing the words around doesn't make the problem go away. It just makes it that much more difficult to fix. Right now the school system is facing quite a few challenges of how to turn children into well adjusted and responsible adults. And no, I wouldn't be calling them 'opportunities'. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Israel-Egypt war?

For the first time on over thirty years Israeli Army is making preparations for a war with Egypt. 


It is a tragic irony that once again the fulfilment of United States foreign policy objectives will lead to the Middle East and the world becoming a far, far more dangerous place.

We Are All In This Bed Together

Senator Bob Brown is angry and the target of his anger is an unusual suspect. The President of the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes has sad that he will not support the carbon tax if even just one job is lost and that got Bob Brown into a spin. He has accused Howes of being 'ignorant' backward' and 'in bed with big business' and we can't have that can we?

Now I am no great fan of big business or the fat cats that run it. Just the other day an Audi driver cut me off on the freeway. I was so angry I almost screamed. 'You bustards!' I fumed 'You own the big businesses, the expensive cars, now you think you own the road too!'

In truth, the thought of the big end of town paying a bit more tax doesn't upset me much and I suspect a lot of Australians feel the same. The problem is, I just don't think it will work like that. Let's just say we bring in a Carbon price of $20 a ton or $30 a kilo or whatever they are telling us it will be and the business has to find the money to pay. What will your boss do? Well he trade in his Audi for a Toyota? Maybe. Put a wind turbine on the roof? It's possible. Or will he just sell up and relocate to China? In a world where a manager is as good as his last  financial report, I suspect that more then a few of us employed folks should be feeling worried. I am reminded about this every time I make a tech support call. Just think - years of marching for workers' rights thousands of strikes in the fight for minimum wages, penalty rates, equal pay, all so that when my computer breaks I get to talk to some guy in Bungalore who works for five cents an hour, doesn't speak English and never even had a bite a Vegemite. You think that's funny? Next week that same guy could be doing your job. Now if I was a union leader, I too would realize that this is a battle worth fighting, if only because unemployed people don't pay union fees. The union may be getting into bed with big business but that bed might be the warmest place to be if you want to keep your job. To paraphrase Anna Bligh after the Queensland floods: 'We are all in this bed together.' If I was a Greens Senator, I might hold off on some of the harsher adjectives, especially when publicly disciplining a fellow activist of the Left. As for me, next time a guy in a Lexus cuts me off at the lights, I will remind myself that he may be giving a job to some fellow just like me. But not after the Carbon Tax comes in because by then I might not have a job to drive to.  

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Human Footprint

In recent times a new concern has crept into people's lives. Increasingly people judge their actions in light of how much Carbon their living generates. Reducing the 'Carbon footprint' has become a measure of one's concern for the environment. Where once children were taught to be polite, to vacate a seat to an elderly person, to not litter or be rude... These days it's all about five minute showers, the 'half flush' toilet and solar power. Concrete expressions of civility and kindness have been replaced by virtue whose value is little more then symbolic. The claim of 'It all adds up' fails to account for were exactly does it all add up, on whose account and for whose benefit.

Saving the Amazon and decreasing global temperature by 0.001C in our granchildren's days may be worthy goals but what about our own 'environment'? The people we live next to, the streets we live on, the sidewalks we step on. Aren't they worthy of protection and care? I propose a new definition. Let us call it 'the Human footprint'. The Human footprint is that impact we make withing the hearts and lives of other people. Just as caring to keep the Carbon footprint small so too we must work our hardest to keep our Human footprint as large as possible. We must strive to make a positive and meaningful impact on our fellow human beings at every interaction, no matter how brief and insignificant. We must become conscious and awake to the impact that our words and actions carry on our family, friends, work colleagues, even strangers. We must learn to be sensitive to their feelings, always civil, never dismissive, always ready do back up words with action. Only by treating other with civility and kindness, only by being genuinely concerned with the welfare of those close to us can we hope to enrich the human universe we live in. And isn't that the environment worthy of protection?

Government sponsored fun

I was driving in the car the other day when I heard this promotion for 'The Great Garage Sale Trail'.The idea is that a whole bunch of people get together and hold garage sales on the same weekend. I though this was a fantastic thought until I heard the words 'This project is being supported by a number of Local Councils.' I was so curious about this 'support' that I had to check the website and as expected the 'support' was of the financial nature, as well as free advertising, giveaways and the like. After all, it's good for the environment, isn't it?

Now let me admit that I love a good garage sale. I hosted a couple myself after moving house and not a few of my things were purchased at one. The difference that in my memory when you wanted to run a garage sale you just drew the signs, put you stuff out on the front lawn and got on with it. There was no word of Council 'support' being offered. Every quarter when I open my Council rates bill I have a mini heart attack. It feels like every time I blink my rate fees are growing. This is despite my rubbish bin shrinking by half and the local park looking more and more like a safety hazard. But I now realise that my council has found much better things to do with my money then the old rubbish removal and park maintenance. My council now offers sustainability grants, runs a writing competition and in my local library kids can sign up for free Play Station sessions. That has to be good for their academic development. I have never voted in the city mayor on the platform of free computer game playing or approved a special garage sale maintenance surcharge but the Council has made those financial decisions on my behalf anyway. So please allow me to ask: Has the community spirit sunk so low that we can't even hold a garage sale without the provision of Council funding? Is subsidised game playing really the best thing our teenagers need? Sometimes I wonder if all this local government 'support' is killing the real community spirit. After all, do we really need state money sponsorship just to have fun?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Have you voted yet?

Have you voted yet? No, I don't mean the Federal election due this year. I mean the election 30 year away. That's right that election due to be held circa 2040, just around the time you will be lying in bed drooling on a napkin in some nursing home somewhere (that's if you are one of the lucky ones to avoid the dreaded heart attack). Confused? Don't see what that's got to do with your comfortable present-day life?
Let me explain. You like where you are in life right now, right? I mean, it's not perfect, but there are a lot of things you are proud off, things you want to preserve. Things like your community, family, values, mp3 collection, you name it.  If someone came along and took it all away you would feel pretty angry. Now, these things are all secure while you are around but you know that it wouldn't stay that way forever. After all, the live we build is a product of multitude of decisions we all make every day. The life of a city, a state, a continent is an orchestra woven with the voices of its' citizens. The never ending ballot of minute decisions building our communal existence into a common melody. Right now you have a voice in that melody. A say in how the lives of the people around you will be shaped, but one day that voice will be silenced and someone else will get your voting rights. Who will that be? Will he (she) care about the things you passionately care about right now? Or will the fruits of your life's work be undone in an instant? Some people will say 'What do I care after I'm gone?' And maybe if you are one of them, you should stop reading the rest of this article (you probably already did and started watching 'funny cat videos' on Youtube). But chances are you don't feel that way. Chances are you feel the cumulative legacy of your lifetime to be a damn worthwhile thing to just throw away and the things and people you care about too precious to abandon. In that case I got a good news for you! Notice something? You are still around. Able bodied, breathing, reading this article. Wake up! It's a big job ahead of you so don't delay. Start imparting, teaching, communicating... To your kids of course, who else? They will be the ones left standing at the poling booth when you are gone. Show them why it's good to vote the way you did. None is watching, observing you more then they do so show them why the things you care about are worth it. It's a hard job and sometimes I think one lifetime is just not enough time to do it right. But if you succeed, in the eternity of human existence there will be a proxy vote reserved for you.

Steve and I


Good day, let me introduce myself. I am a thirty something professional with a wife,

kids, mortgage and a nine to five job. Well, it's meant to be nine to five if not for the

deadlines, performance targets, my boss's idiosyncratic moods... but I am getting

sidetracked. After all, this story isn't just about me. It is also about another man, let's call

him Steve. Steve lives in a ramshackle hut with leaking roof and broken windows. He

doesn't have a job and spends most of his time on the couch watching TV with a stubby

in his hand. When he is not drunk, he is on drugs, or at the pub, or explaining his latest

misdemeanor to a Magistrate. The problem is, for reasons I don't understand the

Government likes Steve much more then me. Let me explain. I work hard paying the

mortgage, bills and school fees but every year at tax time I get a shock realizing just how

much of my hard-earned money the Government has taken away. And not a small

amount of that money seems to end up in Steve's pocket. Since he doesn't work, he gets

the unemployment benefits, rent assistance, free doctors' visits and cheap public transport

tickets. Whenever he gets in trouble with the law, the Government helpfully offers him a

lawyer, a social worker and a councilor, all free of charge of course. If during one of his

drunken escapades Steve were to sire a unwanted child in whose life he will take no

interest, the Government will kindly step in with free childcare, schooling and parenting

payments. At no point in all this will Steve be asked to grow up, start acting like an adult

and take responsibility for himself. Which brings me to the following request: Dear

Government, I don't know what I have done to offend you and why you treat me so

poorly. I also don't know what it is Steve has done to get into your good books, but

please, please forgive me for whatever it is I have done and let's start afresh. Surely

whatever it is Steve is doing for you, I could do too.