Frank van Pamelen: Existential crisis
Comedian, writer, poet, grand artist and alumnus Frank van Pamelen reflects on livelihood security.
Ill fares the land, methinks, when the upcoming general elections are dominated by something called existential uncertainty. It used to be that electoral campaigns were about our livelihoods, but these days, apparently, our very existence is on the line. Anyhoo, if there is one thing we can be absolutely certain of it is that the government is positively unable to offer certainty.
A few years ago, when my eldest daughter started college, she was told that she could take out a student loan at 0% interest, that the interest rate might eventually climb to a paltry 0.5% but that she had nothing to worry about. Really? Really. Now that she has a degree and owes the government a not-so-paltry sum of money, the prospect of an unexpectedly high interest rate is hanging over her (and many thousands like her), and, to add insult to injury, the interest rate rise will effectively be backdated. Try that with mortgage loans and there won’t be a Lib voter who isn’t incoherent with outrage. But apparently it’s okay for students, fresh graduates among them, to be saddled with an even greater burden of existential uncertainty just like that. Words fail me. And the madness of it all is that it is up to them to try and avert even greater uncertainties, ones that threaten our continued existence.
I fear my generation won’t be saving the Earth or distribute prosperity more equally. The future of the planet relies on bright and inventive young people. The last thing we should want to do is burden them with debt; we should foster them. Pay rather than punish them. Boost rather than bully them. It would be to the new government’s credit if it drew inspiration from the Cobbenhagen philosophy of being mindful of all, of science making the world a better place, and of the dire necessity of investing in research and people. Because these investments remain shockingly inadequate. And that is what makes this country fare ill. Life-threateningly ill.
Date of publication: 21 November 2023