The term 金飯碗 literally means Gold Rice Bowl in Chinese. It is a metaphor for a job you cannot lose but not necessarily a well paid job as you might imagine. In fact in Hong Kong where I was born, it used to describe a government job: it meant that if you are in the public service, you are secure for life.
This harks back to those days of imperial China or perhaps I should say imperial Britain, since Hong Kong was once a British colony, when feudalism was imposed. Those who served the emperor or the queen can lord it over mere citizens.
There ends the association with ‘gold’; for the person with a ‘Gold Rice Bowl’ is not expected to possess the integrity or any other quality of the precious metal. Perhaps the term was coined by someone with the taste of sour grapes in his mouth–for though the term is often spoken in a tone of envy, more often it carries a trace of scorn. The gold rice bowl often comes with a gold handshake and often all respect goes out the window when those who failed at their office leaves with their bottomless rice bowl studded with diamonds.
Today we still say someone has a Gold Rice Bowl if they are in the public service. Sometimes the term refers to drones that are present in large numbers in Government departments. These drones call themselves ‘clerks’.
“I’m just a clerk” – I heard this twice recently from two drones in two government departments. In other words, “don’t expect us to think”.
I queried an invoice that insisted that a $220 pressure garment was $1,145. Almost twelve hundred dollars for what is essentially an elastic bandage? Anyone with a smidgen of grey matter would question the validity of this amount. Not so our drones/clerks. The item was ordered for me by Enable New South Wales, a health department entity that provides funding for those with chronic health problems and in need of medical equipment. I qualified for 80% funding so I must now pay 20% of $1,145 which is $229–more than what I used to pay at 100%. Can this be right?
“Don’t ask me–I’m just a clerk” said the drones with the Gold Rice Bowls and turned away. They’ve paid over nine hundred dollars of taxpayers’ money to the supplier and I must pay the $229. As if I should be grateful.
I contacted the the Health Minister’s office, whose drones referred me back to Enable NSW. Someone there admits it was a mistake that will be amended in future. Meanwhile, please pay 20% of $1,145.
At last I went to the Health Care Complaints Commission. There they were able to seek out the head troubleshooter for Drones @ Enable, someone who may listen. I called him; he listened and like others he promised to get back to me. This has been going on for months during which I’ve had numerous payment reminders and even phone calls asking for the money.
I refused to pay. I told them on the phone and in writing by email. Made no difference; I was still having to speak to money collecting drones last week and told my story once again. Today the troubleshooter tells me to go no further when I told him I have the Department of Fair Trading and the media left in my arsenal. If I have to storm the Health Minister’s office, I will do it. I’m just waiting.