There's No Future In Thinking You Have A Future


At the risk of affecting the mighty, godlike position which I hold in the hearts and minds of my vast readership, I have a personal revelation to make: this was not my first choice of career.

Yes, it is true. My current vocation of critically acclaimed journalistic megastar, prince of humour and bête noire of the political establishment was not that which I originally envisioned myself pursuing. I had dreams of a far different nature.

For many years I clung to hopes of becoming a professional cricketer, hopes dashed by an unfortunate incident at the age of 24 when, without warning, I realised I possessed no cricketing ability whatsoever and that the journey from Langwarrin Ninths to the MCG was becoming an ever more arduous one. I had other ambitions, of course: my plan to become a zoologist was foiled by my failure to study zoology; my idea of becoming a chef was scuttled by my complete lack of interest in the field. Which just left the Army Reserve, but that dream didn’t work out either, destroyed by a combination of my uncompromising love of weekends and the gradual understanding that it was a really stupid idea.

So in the end, with aspiration upon aspiration ground into the dust of reality, I was forced to fall back on my innate literary genius and quicksilver ability to call Peter Costello a goblin. Which is why I understand exactly what Mark "Sweatshop" Arbib was getting at when he told young people to accept awful jobs rather than hold out for the impossible dream.

This is a major problem with young people today. Those of us who can remember the dark days of the Keating prime ministership, when unemployment was well over 70 per cent and the Reserve Bank raised interest rates on a bi-weekly basis, know that there’s no future in thinking you have a future.

As Arbib says, even if a job is not ideal, you should take it, because who knows when the ideal job will come along? Well, let’s be honest, we all know: never. I’m afraid it is time to face up to the fact that Generation Y is, on the whole, an untalented and slow-witted bunch, fit for only the most menial and basic of tasks, their only distinguishing feature a Walter Mitty-esque ability to fantasise about glorious careers that are far beyond the reach of their feeble, Twitter-addled brains.

That’s what sets them apart from previous generations, of course. The Baby Boomers are genuine high achievers, their ranks packed with giants of human endeavour like Bill Clinton, Dennis Lillee and Suzi Quatro. Generation X, while inherently lazy and depressive, had very good taste in music and a cool name. Pre-Boomer generations are mostly dead, so little is known about them, but pictorial evidence suggests they were extremely hard-working and violent, constantly inventing lightbulbs and colonising natives and suchlike.

But Generation Y? Pshaw! Their overweening vanity is matched only by their astonishing ineptitude, incorrigible coarseness, and sickeningly loose morals. Arbib’s advice is well overdue: time for these shiftless mouth-breathers to hitch up their pants, turn off their Lady Gaga, and go embrace their inner fry cook.

For inspiration, they need look no further than the folks who built this nation: the convicts who dreamed of careers as starving pickpockets but were willing to settle for being scurvy-riddled labourers. Australia was founded on the principles of wanting to be something but settling for less, and why shouldn’t our young folk embrace their heritage?

Of course there are some who will protest. "Shouldn’t we encourage our youngsters to aim high?" they will wheedle. "Shouldn’t we be telling them to reach for the stars?" The answer to these questions, of course, is no. Encouraging young people is the first step toward catastrophe. Exhibit One: The Hitler Youth. Case closed.

In any case, the current political landscape illustrates perfectly the benefits of not being a job snob. Malcolm Turnbull himself responded to Arbib’s comments — in accordance with his daring oppositional strategy of agreeing with the Government — by pointing out that his own first job, way back before he whipped his first serf, was loading bananas at the Ultimo markets. "Taught me a lot about life," Turnbull said, and you can well imagine the life lessons you could get out of a job like that. The man must be a veritable encyclopaedia of information on ripening and peel consistency.

But the point is, he probably didn’t want to be a banana-loader. He probably dreamed of being the man who packed the strawberries. But he knuckled down, did the hard yards, and today he is among the top 10 most popular opposition leaders of the 21st century.

Want more examples? Look at Kevin Rudd himself! He has found a way to contribute to society as prime minister, despite never having been able to achieve his real ambition: to work in tech support.

Even Mark Arbib has demonstrated the principle he recommends. Like many idealistic young men, he no doubt dreamed of one day finding a job combining personal fulfilment, material reward, social status and tangible influence, but pragmatically and admirably, he has shelved those dreams and become Employment Participation Minister. What does the Employment Participation Minister even do? Nobody knows! Not even Mark Arbib! But that’s not going to stop him giving it his very best shot, bless his little heart.

One just hopes that his message is not lost, the way it was with Tony Abbott during his stint as Employment Minister, when he was pilloried in the press just for making the mild and factual observation that most welfare recipients were pathological drug-addicted liars. One hopes we are now a more enlightened society and that we will listen to Mark Arbib’s commonsense declarations, in spite of the fact that his presence in parliament technically violates section 18 of the Constitution, which states, "no person with a suspiciously Muslim-sounding name shall be eligible for public office." One hopes that we are mature enough as a country not to let a man’s probable terrorist leanings stop us from attending to his message.

Because it’s a vital message. Out there are thousands upon thousands of 20-something dullards, telling people they’re writing a novel, going to auditions, entering the real estate market, fantasising about working in human-rights law. They need to learn. They need to be told: it ain’t gonna happen. Put down the books. Turn off the laptop. Stop scanning the stock listings and throw out those useless, useless paintbrushes.

Pick up your brooms, don your hairnets, man your registers and get down to your local call centre. This is grown-up time, Y kids, and your country wants YOU to let your dreams die a natural death.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.