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Issue #1607      August 21, 2013

Culture & Life

Housing – luxurious, makeshift and haunted

Wherever you go in this country at present, more and more people are doing it tough. And regardless of who wins the federal election, whether it’s Labor or the Liberals, the economic situation is just going to get tougher. (Of course, if Abbott becomes PM, it will actually get very much tougher, although workers will be made to bear the brunt whoever wins.)

Meanwhile, in their usual heedless way, the moneyed classes go on their merry way as if everything was all right with the world and there were no threatening clouds on the horizon in any direction. Climate change can be ignored, the de-industrialisation of the country can be ignored, the growing impoverishment of the people can be ignored; every negative indicator can be ignored as long as we’ve got money – that’s the way the well-off view the world.

And why wouldn’t they? After all, it was by viewing the world like this that enabled them (or their Daddies or Grand-daddies) to thrust their way into the ranks of the propertied classes in the first place. If they’d been born with a strong sense of morality and concern for other people, they would never have made it to the top – at least not under capitalism.

So, while lots of people are doing it tough, and charities are issuing urgent calls for help because of the greatly increased number of families needing assistance with food, shelter and clothing, some people are paying $4.5 million for a suburban house in Sydney, or $1 million for a combined horse-float and caravan in Queensland.

Yes, horse float. The three-storey horse float, built in West Gosford, was made to order for a North Queensland cattle-property owner. Towed by a prime mover, its first level accommodates 14 horses and two strappers; the second level houses the family in a two-bedroom area with lounge/kitchen. And when parked, the roof pops up to become the third-level viewing platform with awning, for watching rodeos and agricultural shows, one assumes.

Needless to say, everything inside is luxurious. The vehicle sleeps six and is air-conditioned, of course. That story appeared in the Central Coast Wyong Express Advocate on June 14. One month later, on July 12, the same paper ran another story about housing on the Central Coast. The headline was self-explanatory: “Homeless battlers turn to shipping containers.”

The accompanying story deals with people living in shipping containers in a former caravan park that has gone into liquidation. Ms Shane Silvers, operations manager with Coast Shelter, told the paper: “Basically they [the containers] are illegal, but where do you go when you have nowhere else to go? At least they have a roof over their head.

“Unless you own your own home, we are all just a few pay packets away from homelessness. At a rough estimate, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 people a night sleeping homeless on the coast. … You name a suburb anywhere across the coast and there is a family sleeping in a car.”

According to recent statistics, one in 200 people across Australia are homeless. Last year, Coast Shelter accommodated 495 people in refuges, who stayed an average of 111 days, up on the previous year when the average stay was 102 days. “There is very little low-cost accommodation available,” says Shane Silvers. “People have nowhere else to go.”

Changing the subject completely: when I was in high school, I used to go every Saturday morning to the City Of Sydney Municipal Library in the Queen Victoria Building (before its restoration). The lady who ran the cloak-room at the library was a pleasant, chatty English woman who believed in ghosts. She once proudly showed me a B&W photo of a “poltergeist brick” sailing through the air in someone’s backyard. The neighbour who presumably threw the brick is not visible.

There is no point in arguing with people who believe in “the paranormal”, because they want to believe that “there are things that science can’t explain”. They actually want the world to be at least partially unknowable. It seems to make them more comfortable: if they are ignorant it’s not because they won’t make the effort to learn, it’s because they “aren’t meant to know” some things.

Nevertheless, wilful ignorance and self-delusion is hard to observe without wincing. However, we should not be surprised that so many people in this day and age still believe in evil spirits, witches and sorcerers, angels and demons, and of course your old-fashioned ghosts. After all, they have never been taught to think rationally about anything, they are constantly reminded through the capitalist-controlled mass media that everything that happens in the world is irrational and random or else is only understandable to God.

If the mass media were to be enlisted in a campaign to educate people to better understand the principles of science, so they can see these irrational beliefs in demons and angels etc for the relics of ancient superstitions that they are, the media would be embroiled in a vicious battle with at least some of the established churches.

A recent edition of the Central Coast Wyong Express Advocate devoted a page to plugging the activities of a husband and wife team of ghost removers (he clears the house of the disgruntled spirits and his wife films the process). “Essentially,” says Simon Down of North Avoca, “I free trapped spirits who are Earthbound.

“I am able to help move them on by connecting with a God source, or whatever spiritual source, and call in angels and helpers to encourage the spirit or entity to go, move on.” That there are a lot of gullible people out there anxious for something “spiritual” to grasp hold of is shown by the fact that Simon has performed hundreds of “clearances” in the last eight years. In fact, he performs on average one “house clearing” every week on the Central Coast.

And some people think the population of Sicily is superstitious!   

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