ocean view is like sex or money
majestic egalitarianism of the law, which forbids the rich and the
poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal
French novelist Anatole France wrote that sometime last century. He
died in 1924, but in the broad sweep of things not much has changed
since his day.
thought of France on Saturday afternoon as Joadja and I sat on the rocks
at Shelly Beach where we had been forced by an invasion of bluebottles
which drifted into the Manly surf on the stiff easterly breeze.
you read some of those horrid letters in the papers about that poor
boy who hung himself after they gaoled him for stealing a few Textas
and paints", Joadja said. "They were rabid with hate! They
said it was his own fault. My God, he was only 15 and the way they went
on you'd think the young fella had murdered a dozen people in cold blood.
Those redneck halfwits who run the Northern Territory have got hundreds
of people in gaol, mostly koories, for stealing things worth a few dollars."
and I was reading that there are two million people in gaol in the US
of A. They say in terms of population, prison is now the 32nd state
of the Union. That's where mandatory sentencing gets you."
there are thousands on death row, and probably hundreds of them are
90 per cent of them would have come from pretty bad circumstances."
lapsed into silence. I gazed across the sparkling aqua blue water at
the mansions on Bower Street and something made me think of Professor
Jill Ker Conway, the chief executive of Lend Lease, who seems hell-bent
on getting herself dubbed "Madam Avarice". Last year her wage
packet came to a mere $386,736, which is somewhat on the modest side
for a CEO but it's seven times the average wage and ten or twelve times
what a factory worker would earn, nearly twice as much as the Prime
Minister, and not the only wage she gets, but she doesn't think it's
enough. "While the world is happy to pay athletes, rock stars,
movie stars and entertainers ... I'm quite happy to compensate executives
who perform at the same level", she said, according to the Sydney
can see Professor Conway's point of course. Barbara Streisand gets paid
$40 million for an Australian tour and Tiger Woods will "earn"
$51 million for a five year deal to promote Nike, the giant sportswear
multinational, of which Conway is a director. Why should she rake in
any less than them? How do you compare these things anyway? Streisand
will sing a few songs and Tiger Woods will say a few things and smile
like a winner and Conway will sign off on some corporate decisions.
How can you tell what any of those things are "worth"? It's
just what you can screw out of the system.
to put it into perspective, $51 million is something like 35 times what
an Australian factory worker or a tradesman or even a middle manager
could earn in a whole lifetime of work and a hundred thousand times
what one of the hapless Third World suckers who work in Nike's sweatshops
earn for a year's relentless toil, actually making the shoes.
greed gone mad, a huge rip-off. None of these people are worth that
much, but it's their system and it looks after them. If they step out
of line they get beaten with a feather. I've run a few shonky "entrepreneurs"
and crooked company directors to ground in my years as a PI. They ripped
people off for tens of millions, but some got off on technicalities
and none of them ever got more than four years and they were all out
after 18 months. Anatole France also said: "Justice is the means
by which established injustices are sanctioned".
looked up again at the mansions on the hillside, perched above the blue
Pacific. The people who live in them probably never look at that view.
It's just an upmarket backdrop to them. An ocean view is like sex, or
money they say: when you've got it, you don't need it.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 2000