So I am siting at home today with my girlfriend and some mates, waiting for the Triple j Hottest 100 to start. The world’s largest music democracy is an interesting thing; it alienates and confuses some, while others (including myself) can’t get enough.
So why is it so controversial?
People who listen to Triple j, and many who don’t, have a say on their favourite songs of the previous year (the release date must fall within the last calendar year). People get confused when their favourite song from commercial radio doesn’t make the list. There are many reasons for this, including several rules about not being allowed to have commercial arrangements to drum up votes (even when they aren’t organised by the artist or anyone affiliated with them – sorry Tay Tay!).
Still people crack the sads and can be disappointed by the results.
There is one thing that can explain this. I believe is the most important factor. It’s democracy.
Democracy means everyone
That’s right, the vote; everyone – even non Triple j listeners – can vote, and this defines what is different between the commercial charts and the Hottest 100. Everyone gets to vote.
This means that even those without enough coin in their pockets can have a say about what is popular. It gives us a real picture about what the nation (let’s be serious; more like the ‘Triple j nation’) loved listening to in the last year.
It’s a true democracy, like our government elections; every citizen gets a vote, no matter their financial means or social status. The commercial charts don’t have this kind of street cred.
Why is society less democratic than this?
But why isn’t the rest of society this fair? In the past (and somewhat more so in recent times), those with little means have been blamed for their own misfortune. We live in what we like to see as a meritocracy; we say ‘we are where we are because of our hard work’, or ‘because we studied hard we made the right choices’. We deserve to be where we are –
– or do we?
This idea that folks are where they deserve to be because of hard work and ability forgets that we are constantly under the influence of circumstances beyond our control. I was subject to this just two weeks ago, when I was made redundant from my job. Not sacked, but my position was removed as part of a rationalisation process – a company restructure.
Now, in order to remove the immediate threat of financial woes, I need to start a job hunt and apply for social security. It’s a demoralising process. Many of us have been through it before, either while a student or due to a fall from grace; there is no real problem with this. But if we believe people are where they are because of their own efforts, this brings that world into question. We use words like ‘dole bludger’ to explain the attitudes of a very few people, but what we do to combat ‘bludgers’ affects those who are temporarily having to go through the system due to factors beyond their control.
The realities of this make the system overly complicated and exceedingly slow. I got a pay out, and so have a bridge; many don’t. Some folks get let go from casual jobs without notice or explanation – business reasons are cited as enough.
But then the punishment begins. The job market fluctuates over time and it’s not always as simple as ‘just getting a job’. It can take time to find one, let alone the right one or one that supports the lifestyle you once had.
We’re all a little vulnerable
Yet in the last few years our politicians have sought to reduce the amount of support available or even introduce wait times before you are eligible. As much as those of us in a job can say ‘that’s not too bad, my savings can last me that long’, what if you were low on savings having just came back from holiday and your boss gives you 2 weeks’ notice on your return? Your boss doesn’t know your financial situation, neither does the government. So why do they assume such changes are OK?
Life has its ups and downs. Even if the politicians think they can’t pay for so many of us stumbling occasionally, it’s still going to happen. We obtain food, a roof over our heads and a little dignity with money. What happens when this runs out is the reason why some people are on the streets; they don’t necessarily want or deserve to be there because they were a ‘bludger’ or too stupid to help themselves. A society is judged by how they treat their most vulnerable. We are all a little vulnerable from time to time.
Is the solution UBI?
If we want a fair and supportive society we need to help folks to get back up when they stumble. Allow them to have another go. Like the Hottest 100, everyone should have the ability to have their say, a say means a roof over their heads, a warm meal and the security to know they can get on with life and even a job search with dignity.
I advocate for a Universal Basic Income as a way to achieve this. An income that is there not a month after you fall, but when you fall. Paid to all citizens, all the time. It’s offset by your taxes, and replaces the tax free threshold so that when you work you pay it all back, plus a little more as your bit to help others when they end up in the same scenario.
Some will say, ‘What about those who will try to exploit the system?’
What about them? Even if you try control their spending, their behaviour, their lives – what gives you that right? It makes little impact, and costs more to police than it saves; this is not about principle, it’s about a practical system. People can always sell their restricted purchases for cash, or use someone else’s receipt to return them for cash. Why waste our resources impinging on the liberty of others, where the same treatment for yourself would rouse anger?
A future where we help each other have full access to our great democracy is a good aim. No matter how well you are doing right now, we all benefit.
And now – back to the tunes.