Tarago Diaries #17 – Money

Mark reflects on the role of money in our lives.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 13 October 2019.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/2198329073606753?__tn__=K-R


Article Text

Body language ‘round ATMs is a dead give-away.

Watching humans get their cash..

Some sidle up, look ‘round at the last moment, bend in, squint, then bolt like junkies. Some hang back, show respect, or curse the lack of funds. Others stand tall, legs slightly apart and roast it slowly.

Masters of the universe. Solid. Accountable.

But there are those who never go near a cash point. Or own keys for that matter. They have no need. Doors are opened by someone else and the dividends simply arrive in the little black box of credit.

Throughout life’s ups and downs, marriage, divorce, wars of every description, awkward natural eruptions, earthquakes, tornadoes, bushfires etc., Humans show great fortitude and love.

But the need for dosh never ends, however you get it.

Your relationship with money is constant, to death. No exceptions. Warn your children. Feelings will come into it.

My mother once said to me.. “You’ll never have any money.” Hmm. Hardly constructive advice you’d have to say but at least she laid down one abiding truth in that ‘round about fatalistic Irish way she had…

Coming to grips with money is a skill that must be learnt and the way people do that is like a window into the soul.

Put it this way. There are options and some aren’t pretty.

There might be times when you come to hate cash simply for the lack of it. Witness the punter smashing the cashpoint with a blunt instrument or more often a fist.. clearly at a low point in life’s churn.

But let’s not make light of this particular form of suffering.

‘Money problems’ are no small thing. Billions have them. Hourly. Across the globe.

Witness the latest stat from Foodbank Australia:

‘One in five Aussies ran out of food at least once in the past year and were unable to buy more’

Which is why, when you encounter the odd rock star, who landed the billboard hit, became ludicrously wealthy, lived on a songwriter’s stipend and passed it onto his children, then spent the rest of his life getting OVER the guilt of not being able to repeat the stunt that got him there in the first place.

Spouts the old chestnut:

“It wasn’t about the money man! I did it for the ART!”

Not wanting to appear venal..

See, if the bloke’s going to kick up a fuss about how hard it is being ‘misunderstood’, from the deck overlooking Wategos, chances are your average shop assistant, drive-through attendant, brickie’s laborer or some poor desperate asylum seeker who’s stranded on Manus

Won’t be buying it..

What? You got rich by accident?

Well actually, that’s entirely possible. Wealth is routinely delivered from the top down if said artist, or budding venture capitalist for that matter, is deemed to be a sound investment.

It’s called ‘getting made’.

And the glue that set the deal may well have been just one cool move across a room full of pretty people.. and nothing to do with ART at all. In fact, there may have been several others poised, ready to pounce..

You may have been thinking about poetry at the time, or the quality of the canape you were stuffing in to your mouth but hey, you had to get your mojo over the line somehow. Just by, you know, being social, going up to said exec honcho to compare watches. Or something to that effect. You were only being nice after all.

Or maybe it was a phone call. Or lots of phone calls. Getting to know the ‘right people”. What? That old chestnut? Well yes. I’m afraid so.

So it’s that is it? This getting’ rich bizzo? It’s a tribal thing. The art of hangin’ out and fittin’ in. The right school, suburb or even, dare I say, the right football club? Don’t tell me the deck is actually stacked? Gasp!

Surely not?

Not about work you say? You happened to squeak a bit louder than anybody else, back in the day, just that one time. Come on. You’d never tell a journo that now would you?

It’s too random. Then again maybe you would. Go the irony route. Good for a laugh. It was just luck in the end right? There was no connivance whatsoever!

The idea that your success might only be marginally about your ‘work’ and almost as much about the whole social structure you were born into or at the very least, the room you found yourself in, because your clothes were right, or your skin colour. There are many variables on the road to glory..

Come on. Chin up! There’s always a window. The genius lies in catching it while it’s open.

There must be any number of billionaire bond managers who appear utterly normal and gracious on the surface who routinely seeth over missing out on a few mill simply because they went for a piss at the wrong time.

‘Psst. Don’t tell him..’

Because there is that myth right? You often hear it.

“Oh, she’s always been really good at making money.”

Like it’s some kind of mystery that ‘ordinary’ people don’t grasp.. whoever the hell ‘ordinary’ people actually are.

Still, one way or another, money is truthful. There is always a reckoning. Again, it’s a ‘bit like death really. You have to come to grips with it.

You may well be driven by a fair thing as most of us are, like food for your children, the mortgage, the cost of health care..

but even the rich suffer. They have their reasons, obscure though they might be. There’s bound to be pressure.

Hmm. Maybe not about food though.

Even being responsible is costly. Like, you may get the full worm farm pit dug in your yard, home grow your veggies, chooks, fish pond, the tesla battery, twenty kilowatt rooftop solar. It’ll stack up. Don’t you worry. Going off the grid isn’t cheap.

But there’ll come a time when you’ll need to potter off down to the shop for a tin of bake beans.

Woolworths wins again.

The devil is always in the detail.

And like the little ATM dance, there’s character even in the way you handle your cash. The way you count it, fingering the leaves as you extract them one by one from your wallet, mouthing the numbers under your breath, turning discretely to the side so your mates can’t see how much you’re actually holding.

Ahh, the feel of a fresh lobster. Lovely!

Or the way people divvy up a restaurant bill. Some are ok to go equal. Maybe it’s natural generosity or maybe it’s because they’re loaded. They can even get smug about it. Make it a thing, sermonize about being egalitarian, knowing full well there’ll be others who’ll go the other way because they have to. Or because they’re just arseholes. Who knows which? That’s the thing about money. It finds its own level regardless of your motives.

“Beware the hip-pocket nerve”.. Mum again.

Stuff rises to the surface in people. The high ground disintegrates. Every one becomes a wanker. Left and right. In May, parents rang their children:

“Don’t vote labor! Shorten’s coming after your inheritance.”

A lie of course.. but it worked. In spades.

Then there’ll be those lovelies who’ll have the exact amount in cash ready, long before the conversation even started, who will bravely assert their right to stand alone in the face of outrage.

You never know. It could be because they’re actually skint. The mortgage is a killer and the kids are costing a fortune. And besides, you had more beer than anybody else so you need to pay for that yourself.. PAL!

“I spent this much. Chicken parma and a chardy. That’s twenty-six fifty.”

Slam down the lobbie, the fiver, the one dollar coin and fifty cents in ten five cent pieces, from a wallet with a zip.

Then again, you might try to slide it discretely under the bread and butter plate, then stand up to go so there’s no argument from the wanker on the other side of the table who’s still banging on about his ‘labor credentials’…

There’s a queue in the mall at the ANZ cashpoint, right outside the King of Knives. Three punters are going at it, their little heads crowding the window. A lady in her mid-forties, holding super market bags in each hand but she’s leaning in hard, badgering another lady who’s much older, grey haired with a walking frame. And the teen-age grand-son dressed in black with a fringe, tooling on his Samsung. Three generations in fiscal crisis. The old one’s head is shaking as she grapples with the tech, tapping at the glass..

The money won’t come out.

She pushes at the younger one with her free hand. Voices are raised, high pitched, embarrassed. The son looks in over her shoulder then turns away shaking his head. Bored shitless. Grandma’s at sea. The daughter’s hissing instructions now but Grandma’s not having any. It’s her money. Stand back. Something is horribly wrong.

Is it them, or is it the friggin’ machine? Or worse. It’s the bank. And it’s food money.

The queue’s getting twitchy. It’s backed up to five now. There’s a butcher at the back with blood on his apron and the girl from Specsavers across the mall. They’re glancing at each other now. The daughter looks up at the crowd… Grimaces. Mouths ‘Sorry’. Grandma’s head goes deeper into the screen.

It’s the age-old quandary. You don’t want to step in and help because it’s about somebody’s cash. Nothing’s more personal than that right? Simple really.

God. They might even be.. POOR PEOPLE.

And that’s the outrageous truth of it. We are all servants of capital. Even Bill Gates. Lovely man apparently. He’s so twitchy about his stash he gives bits of it away.

Still, Bill eats.

But the saga is getting heated. Mum’s in tears now. Finally Specsaver girl steps up, smiling, gracious, hands proffered, ready to help.

“Is everything ok?”

Grandma’s walking away, head down.

“Mum!” Says daughter.

Then to Specsaver girl: “Yes. I think so. We went through it all twice ‘cos it didn’t work the first time. Must’ve pressed the wrong button.”

The Darlek whirrs suddenly. Gate opens. Gives birth to a thick wad of pineapples.

Grandma turns on the sound and goes the big snatch. Scowls at daughter.

“Come on Simon! Stop fiddling with that damned thing,” she snarls.

Checks the crowd out..

“Sorry!” she mutters and they’re gone.