Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

May 2007 # 1

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Back to Editorials 2007

Madam Economy

I met The Economy the other day. She was sitting at a bar in a little pub I sometimes frequent when interstate. She looked rather weary and her eyes had that ‘almost one too many’ look about them. I pulled up a chair and asked her how things were. 

“I’ve been a bad girl.” She said, looking me squarely in the eyes. “I feel so used. So dirty.” I asked what had brought about such a negative self appraisal. “Oh. It’s only the drink talking.” She said. “I’m just not feeling myself today. Too many worries and too much pressure from Spring and Macquarie street types.” “Tell me more.” I said. 

“Well, I’ve been getting out and about more often and it seems like I am getting used as an excuse for everything.” “Some puffed up, self important business guy in a suit tells me he’d like to take me home, then tells me it’s my fault you lot cant fix climate change. I mean, come on, do I really look like the type who sleeps around indiscriminately and will take the blame for every little thing?” 

I had to agree, she certainly was taking the heat for just about every human woe. Whether it’s obesity, unemployment, welfare mums, tax cheats, the crime rate, deforestation, it didn’t seem to matter. Whenever one of the power brokers wanted something or didn’t want something, her name was dragged up. 

“Look,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. Well, I try and love my job. I look at all the good things I can do but it seems that the real tarts get away without a blemish.” “You know who I’m talking about.” She said with that wicked little twinkle in her eye. 

“Did I tell you I was at the nursing home the other day?” She inquired. “It was fantastic. There were volunteers helping out and some of the spritely ones were helping with the book reading program. Why, they’ve even got this little co-op going where people swap the presents their rellies bring in if they don’t want them. I felt the spirit of my long departed sister alive and well there.” 

Her face took on an odd, far away look as I recalled the conversations, well arguments really, she and her sister used to have. They would bicker for hours over the legitimacy of co-operatives and swap meets and foodbanks and underground trading groups.  

“Ah,” she murmured, coming back to the here and now. “I feel so lonely sometimes.” “They keep me under strict surveillance nowadays. They give me the run around and tell me I’m sick when I’m not, ailing when I’ve never felt better and then they get personal. Do you know what I hate most?” She asked. 

Seeing the quizzical look on my face she launched into a tirade. “When all else fails they attack me personally. I get bullish, they tell me. Now, I’ve spent years trimming my diet and working out and they attack my weight! As if to add insult to injury they keep making threats that I’ll be the one that gets hurt if such and such doesn’t get their own way. Bah! The old boys club want me, they desire me and they do all they can to woo me but they never want to share me. I keep telling them, “I’m not your toy” but they just don’t listen. I need another drink. Your shout.” And with that I was dispatched to the bar for the next round. 

By the time I got back to our table she had mellowed somewhat. Perhaps more from the Drambuie than from the company. She took her drink and washed it around in her mouth. Her lips puckering up and her eyes closing half way. She looked much younger and much sexier when she made that face and I’m sure she knew it. She’d been around and I’m sure her experience left most men for dead. Swallowing the liqueur she opened her eyes and patted me on the hand, reminding me of some long lost aunt about to impart words of wisdom, beginning with the phrase, “back in my day.” However, for  The Economy, I knew this would never be the case. 

“You know Shane,” she said drilling into me with her gaze. “I was told that the best service to human kind was to be kind. I’ve been around far too long and know that many who want me are unkind and that just as many start off with the right intentions but by the time they’ve lifted my skirts and experienced the bliss I can bring, they loose the plot.”  

“I’ve been doing my best but it’s just so hard when all the ones who can help me are off doing their own thing and leaving so many out in the cold. Just last week I visited the refuge out west. Those mums, all they want is to be safe but those butt heads in Canberra and Spring Street and Macquarie street, do you know what they want to do? They want to see more metrics. Callous bastards. These women need help relocating and the bean counters want more research and facts.” 

“I get out there and talk with these women and the disabled and the under employed and the poor and I know what is going on. But as soon as I get into a meeting with the men in suits, all they want to talk about is returns on investment and lowering taxes for their mates and punishing some young bloke from Punchbowl who was two days late putting in his dole form.” 

I could see the fire in her eyes and the passion she had for protecting the most needy. I could also feel, almost oozing from every pore, the contempt she had for the ways she’d been used by the men in suits.  

We drank on for some time. Much too soon I had to leave. As I was standing to say my goodbye, she reached out and grabbed my arm, dragging me back close to her. She raised her face and I half expected one of her warm and tender kisses. 

“I love you all. I consider you all my children and I want to do more but I can’t go on. Too many demands and too many trying to call the shots. I think I’m having a breakdown.” 

For the first time in as long as I’ve known her, The Economy, looked as if the wind had been punched from her stomach. I tried to think of something to say. Some, perhaps, witty comeback that would lift her spirits but nothing came out. I think she saw my confusion and concern. 

“Oh don’t worry about me.” She said. “I’ll be fine. It’s you and the others I worry about, not me.” “Can you keep a secret?” She asked. “Sure” I replied”. 

“I’m about to take a long holiday. Let’s see how the men in suits handle a world without me. Should be fun. I’ll send you a postcard.” 

And with that, she kissed me on the mouth and dismissed me. I wonder when I’ll see her again.

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