I met up with a friend the other day, at a café across town.
Although I call her friend I use the term loosely when I refer to her this way because even though she is in some ways a friend – we talk about our lives, our ups and our downs – we aren’t close companions. It’s become more of a habit to meet up at random coffee houses and restaurants all over town – something to do to pass the time when there is nothing else going on in our lives – yet I’m not bothered by our lack of dedication to this friendship. I sense a selfishness in her that I want no part of and so I keep my distance whilst still appearing like I care.
She was in good spirits that afternoon, filling me in on all the things that had been happening in her life from her break up from her husband to her best friends upcoming wedding. I listened to her prattle on, nodding at all the right intervals and smiling during the rest when suddenly she stops midway in conversation and pulls something out from her purse.
“Oh yeah. I forgot to tell you. I bought an iPhone 4!” she gushed excitedly and I forced a smile to my face whilst biting my tongue to prevent an angry retort from leaving my mouth. It is at this point that I am absolutely seething inside with rage you see.
Now why I am furious isn’t at all to do with jealously because I too own an iPhone 4 and am quite proud to be able to afford it but the difference here is that I have a full-time job and the friend sitting across the table from me does not. She is on a disability pension. A government benefit that is funded by the Australian tax payer. The reasons she is on a disability pension are unknown to me because other than her being overweight, she seems in good health and is quite capable of getting around to visit her friends a number of times during the week but what I do know is that she was able to purchase this brand new iPhone 4 worth close to a thousand dollars outright on this allowance.
So how does someone on a disability pension afford such a luxury item you might asking yourself? Especially when you hear constantly on the news that the single pension doesn’t pay enough to feed, clothe and put a roof over their head let alone allow them to purchase luxury goods on top? How am I to believe stories like those when sitting across from me is a person who is on a pension who can afford to splash out on such an extravagance?
To put it simply, I just cannot.
If you can afford to buy something like that on a government benefit then to me you are obviously being paid too much money. To me a government benefit is to provide people with the basic necessities – food, clothing and a roof over your head. It is not there to finance your costly electronic indulgences. What made me angrier about this whole scenario also was the fact that she then went on to get some food vouchers from the Salvation army. Food vouchers that she would not of needed had she not spent her money on a iPhone 4!
When I see people blatantly abusing their government benefits like this it makes a complete mockery of those pensioners out there who genuinely struggle to put food on their table every week. The same pensioners I see at the check out with barely enough food to cover the bottom of their trolley. Imagine how much a thousand dollars would have meant to them?
Government benefits. Privilege or a right? What do you think?