The other day as I watched Treasurer Morrison read out what we were doing with our almost $500 billion federal budget I thought about David Simon, writer of the television series, The Wire, who said the definition of society is what we do with the money, and it felt like we had just defined ourselves as a pretty short-sighted, disinclined to share, not particularly brave group of people. And more recently as our leaders have pulled on their hi-vizes and hit the election hustings we don’t seem to be making that definition any more inspiring.
It’s not an indictment of Turnbull, Shorten and the rest; what do we expect of a system of national administration where the participants are beholden to political donors, stuck forever pedalling on 24 hour news-cycles and having to fight each other every three years to keep their jobs. It just seems, despite the best efforts of many, we have a system not very conducive to sensible outcomes.
There is, however, another budgetary process whereby our inner-treasurers are defining our society on a daily basis through the allocation of our personal financial resources. And within our purvey there is a particular budget area which affords us access to the handles of enormously powerful economic levers. The area of course is the roughly 25% of our weekly budget we spend on food (includes eating out, takeaway coffees…and caramel slices).
Our inner treasury food budget decisions include but are not limited to:
– the level of support we give to Coles or Woolworths, both recently convicted and fined for unconscionable treatment of suppliers or whether to allocate more of our hard earned to independent grocers, farmer’s markets or local buying groups who treat suppliers fairly and also don’t produce appalling TV ads trying to convince us they do.
– eating at franchise restaurants owned by multinational corporations whose business models depend on employing workers on 457 visas at sub-minimum wage levels and/or sourcing ingredients at the cheapest possible price no matter what impact or we could devote our dollars to eating out at somewhere like Tamil Feasts (tables available for this Tuesday apparently) that employs asylum seekers, sources food locally and raises our spirits with weekly stories of perseverance and human kindness.
– the amount of and type of meat you eat (if any) and its impact on our climate and whether its existence before it became last weekend’s Mother’s Day breakfast was one of unrelenting misery or more like how we’d like to be treated if we were reincarnated as a chicken, pig, cow, sheep etc.
– the level of packaging, transport, refrigeration, processing, added chemicals and each’s contribution to resource degradation, pollution and climate change.
– how insane, unfit, obese and generally unhealthy or otherwise will this product make me and/or my children.
Yes, all these choices can sometimes weigh like the grinding responsibility that made the Cyphercharacter on The Matrix want his memory erased and go back to an artificial life of comfortable ignorance that was literally sucking the life out of humanity, but when we help create a society where what we buy doesn’t pollute, where businesses don’t exploit each other, where workers are employed fairly, where animals are raised with respect and where our children’s health comes before company bottom lines then we are truly more powerful than Treasurer ScoMo himself.
Have a great week