Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 37

Today is the third of a series of four lectures organised by the contact group 55+ of the neighborhood I live in. The contact group is part of the neighborhood association.

The lecture is given by a very nice art historian, who shows us many paintings on power point. The subject today is portraits. She is very enthusiastic and has given courses for the contact group for many years. This is the second time I have taken a course. I never did very much with the contact group 55+ because I suspected that most members would be very much older than 55. When I turned 70 I thought the time had come to take part in some activities. Indeed, I am still one of the younger participants if not the youngest.

The teacher begins by saying a few words about Speedwell. Speedwell is a firm which organises day trips in The Netherlands and longer trips abroad and it has very recently announced its merger with a bus company. Esther has also told me about it. I have joined Esther a few times on day trips and they were not only very well organised and interesting, the bus drivers were also more than helpful for the passengers, most of whom were older and quite often some of them had to use walking aids, which they were bringing on the trip.

After the merger there will be no more day trips. Obviously a lot of older people regret this and our course leader, who has often accompanied Speedwell’s day trips to museums, also regrets it. She has her own business and organises trips abroad, but she is not sure she would like to take over the day trips and organise them herself. We will have to wait and see what happens.

The same day I receive the programme with the activities for the coming month of the contact group 55+. They are in a fix: they have vacancies on the organising committee, one of the members has made a bad fall and is in hospital and another is in the process of moving house. There is hardly anyone left to run the group.

I have also noticed that the association of inhabitants (an association which organises activities in our neighborhood and negotiates among others with local government about plans and developments for our neighborhood) have trouble finding members for their board. Such organisations are very useful, but it is difficult to find people who are willing to run them. It is voluntary work, but it can be quite demanding. People who serve on the board must be able to discuss the plans with the experts and politicians on the level of these professionals and therefore need a certain degree of expertise. We have plenty of capable people in this neighborhood but for some reason or other they don’t volunteer for the association of inhabitants nor for the contact group.

Today the Minister of Social Affairs announces that he suggests to the social partners (i.e. the employers organisations and the trade unions) not to increase the wages in the coming year. The trade unions immediately react saying this is unacceptable. I am a bit surprised. If there are no pay rises, the prices will not go up either (inflation is already decreasing) and then it won’t hurt to keep wages and pensions at the present level.

Obviously the idea of growth is now so ingrained, that it is unconceivable to live without increasing wealth. Is it because I have lived through World War II and have known times of scarcity, that I think there is nothing against stopping growth for a while? What is needed is a better sharing of wealth. Some people are too rich, whereas others still live in poverty.

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