The TikTok starts with a middle-aged Australian woman, Liz, staring frazzled into the camera.
“‘I’ve got a little bit of a whinge,” she says. “Not sure if you’re interested …”
Well, maybe Liz should have listened to that instinct and stopped there. But she didn’t and instead treated viewers to a 60-second long rant about how the 20-something-year-old tenants who rent her “tiny block of land” in Sydney haven’t paid rent for the past month.
Liz has been through some life stuff – death in the family, difficulties with work and annual leave – and is feeling the pinch.
“F*** you,” she says, angrily giving the camera her middle finger, “for causing me more pressure in my life when I didn’t need it! Because you, 20-something-year-olds with no life experience and no pressures, wouldn’t give a f**ing sh** that we are struggling right now.”
The TikTok ends with her demonstrating this struggle. She picks up a drink, waves it at the camera and says, “I’m having to drink from a plastic cup!” The struggle is indeed real.
I’m not even going to bother stating the obvious here about the cost of living pressures that are making all of us – those with the most privilege and those with the least – having to tighten our belts. But what Liz and the unfortunately large number of other landlords who have taken to social media to rant about their tenants don’t seem to recognise is that their belts were loose. They’re not feeling the pinch; they’re just a little more snug than usual.
For tenants, the unemployed, the vulnerable, their belts are getting to the point where they can’t breathe. So Liz’s plastic cup (which looked perfectly functional to my eyes) is not really comparable to the difficulties some Australians are facing.
The thing that struck me, though, is how effectively the rhetoric of neoliberal capitalism has infiltrated our society, that people like Liz have absolutely no sense of awareness that if they’re struggling, the people renting from them are probably struggling even more. That just as she decries her tenants adding to the pressures in her life, she is unable to consider that the pressures on their lives are likely to be even harder. That perhaps they aren’t responding to the real estate agent because they’re panicking and shutting down the way that many people do in a crisis.
Of course, I have no idea what the reality of their circumstances are, but the complete lack of empathy feels indicative of more than just Liz’s personality.
The ‘have a go to get a go’ mentality has been normalised to the point where no one seems to consider that the level of ‘go’ you can have is determined by so many factors you have no control over. The wealth and education level of your parents is the primary indicator of your future success. Yes, we all make choices as individuals that impact our life outcomes, but the choices we have access to are not the same across the board.
Where did the sense of community that saw my family through our early years in Australia go? When our landlords would be kind to us and help us find secondhand furniture etc when we were just getting started? Or the kindness that I’ve seen those in my networks with investment properties show to their tenants, not raising rents through COVID and even now because they can see the impact it’s going to have on their tenants and don’t want to cause that stress or uncertainty?
It’s true that TikTok is not the place to go if you want to see the best side of humanity, but it can be the place to go to see the full breadth of views out there. And Liz’s views, I’m sorry to say, are too common amongst those who always feel like they’re being shortchanged.