Defining the “Essentials” of Living

Week two of the Poverty course, and the pre-lecture discussion this week is about what things we would consider to be everyday essentials for everyone. We’ve gone through some items from the Australian Living Standards Survey (ALSS), 2017, Poverty and Exclusion in Modern Australia (PEMA) Survey, 2010 and as a comparison the Hong Kong Measuring Poverty and Social Exclusion Questionnaire, 2011 and chosen whether they’re essential for everyone, whether we have them and if we don’t is it because we chose not to have them or can’t afford them.

Some items, like clothes dryers and dishwashers are generally seen as non-essential. However with the two weeks of rain we’ve had here on the east coast I could go a drier right now, and the dishwasher we somehow have in this rental cuts my dishwashing time so much, time and spoons I can allocate elsewhere. Not a luxury, not and essential for me, but nice to have.

Others have discussed whether home internet is essential, and I would argue it is for nearly everyone these days, how else would any of us be able to do an inline course after dark without it? But then, doing a course such as this one is a little luxury in itself. Being able to extend knowledge in a field you work in every day, to gain more insight, more theoretical and practical understanding of what you’re actually dealing with. I’ve many friends and comrades in the antipoverty movement who rely on their home or mobile internet to connect, to lobby, to seek help, to learn and further themselves and their causes. They may be able to make do with a phone only – I can’t just do phone if I want to read anything longer than a tweet, but to say that essential internet stuff can be dealt with on an hour booked time on a local library PC is really restrictive and doesn’t take into account what people need to do online to live these days.

Dental care is essential, but not available to many. Same with health care – the Hong Kong survey asked if being able to take a taxi to and from hospital was essential – here we would most likely have a friend or family member with a car to take us home, even if we were able to have an ambulance ride in – but whether that’s even an option varies by state, concessions and insurances.

Speaking of insurance – home contents and comprehensive car insurance were on the questionnaire for Australia. I personally don’t have either, I flinched hard enough at the quote for greenslips to simply re-register my car. But are they essential? I’m sure other drivers would like to know the others on the road were insured. And if we lost our home to a fire we’d be starting from scratch. But to insure our wombled household goods? So hard to justify.

Other items and conditions, such as a house without mold, adequate heating or cooling, the means to afford those power bills, are all everyday discussion in my threads. All to be treasured when you have them and to push for others to have too. How could you argue they’re not essential but those in power still hesitate to mandate them.

I’ve had a busy morning, taking a  months recycling out to the point, starting some of my Antipoverty Centre duties and trying to finish these readings. The 6-8pm timeframe of lectures is rough, but I can make it through that. I’m a bit tired, the cool weather just makes me want to sleep more too. The rain makes juggling the dog’s begging to go out and the washing backing up hard. At least Maxi’s skin irritations have settled.

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