The Boomer’s Lament

Eileen Clark: 

In his Budget speech of 2014, then Treasurer Joe Hockey used the phrase ‘lifters and leaners’ to distinguish between those who made a contribution to the nation’s economy and those perceived as retarding the nation’s financial growth. The phrase was seized on by right-wing commentators who quickly found scapegoats to blame for the country’s economic woes. Among these were Baby Boomers, those people born from about 1945 to 1955 who were approaching retirement. A rhetoric of blame soon developed in which these older Australians were criticised for everything from wanting income support through to living too long and becoming old and frail.

As a self-confessed member of the Boomer generation, I found this rhetoric offensive and selective. Yes, we had the benefit of starting work when jobs were full-time and permanent, and houses were cheap (but very small by today’s standards). But there were other things that today are taken for granted but which we missed out on. In those years before I studied sociology, I didn’t question why the Award stipulated that my wages were to be only 75% of those earned by the man at the next desk, nor why he was eligible to join the pension fund and I was not. I expected to get married and have a family and I ‘knew’ that when kids came along I would become a full-time housewife, because there was no maternity leave or child care available and, in any case, my wages didn’t matter because banks only took a man’s salary into account when deciding on mortgages.

A good dose of sociology sorted out my thinking and one day, as I got angry listening to more claptrap about leaners and lifters, I wrote the following:

 

Don’t blame me for living so long

The War had just ended when I came along

Free milk and school dinners gave me good health

Even though they eroded the nation’s wealth

Don’t blame me for living so long

I didn’t know I was costing a song

 

Time to find work, jobs a-plenty, they say,

Oh good, she’s a woman, only three-quarters pay!

No pension for her, she’ll be gone before long

We’ll make her leave when the kids come along

Please don’t blame me for living so long

I didn’t know it would be so wrong

 

My husband’s run off so I go back to work

There’s a mortgage to pay, no time to shirk

But with child care, ‘super’ and the Medicare levy

My equal pay packet isn’t so heavy

So I work longer hours and struggle along

Please don’t blame me for living so long

 

Then early retirement was forced upon me

Although it was really redundancy

My savings won’t go far, I’ve little to spend

So on the age pension I’ll have to depend

But there’s too many of us, an ageing grey throng

And the government blames us for living so long

 

 

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