Before becoming a writer, I trained in anthropology, a discipline traditionally concerned with ritual. This training has served me unexpectedly well over nearly ten years of involvement in left-wing organising: the left is a space heavy with codified language and actions, and governed by a set of intricate, unwritten rules usually viewed by outsiders as mysterious, ridiculous, or both. In particular, I have recently found myself considering the ritualistic way in which people on the left feel compelled to offer apologies for having a relatively stable, relatively plentiful life – often glossed as various forms of ‘privilege’.
This settler nation was built on the norm of waged labour. Participating in the formal economy was and still is the only way that someone can be counted as a productive member of society. This norm is reflected in attitudes towards welfare: access to social security was always conditional on whether you were deemed to have contributed to the country, such as through work or taxes. This is why some academics refer to Australia as a ‘workers’ welfare state’.