Hardly a day goes by when I’m not confronted by some idiotic “celebrity commentator”opining on the plight of the poor.
Jamie Oliver on large televisions, and bread.
Edwina Curry on owning pets, and foodbank “opportunism”.
Esther McVey on house alterations.
They posit that all of these things are something the poor should utilise better, or forgo, because (I assume in their subconscious) ” beggars cannot be choosers”.
People are having to choose between heating and eating, and existing on toast(made from bread so cheap it doesn’t go stale, it rots).
People returning food to charities because they cannot afford to cook it.
The bedroom tax forcing many vulnerable people to relinquish their only companions to animal shelters, because the lack of smaller properties is forcing a choice between feeding their pets, or affording the rent, and where they can move, pets are not allowed.
And so many other heartbreaking stories, none apocryphal.
Rickets is back.
I’m betting scurvy will be too, before long.
I remember one politician, Roy Hattersley* I believe , recounting how his own father was left penniless for weeks after his dole was stopped. Why? Because he was caught in the pub with a cigarette and a half pint of bitter, for which he’d saved for,for weeks.
I also recall the same thing happening to my great grandmother, after being seen with shopping bags full of groceries.
She’d lent some of what little she had, to those with less, in times of trouble, without once expecting to be paid back.
And when she did get paid back, and could finally afford a “big shop”, she was reported to the dole.
These two stories are not apocryphal either.
I could fill pages with such.
It wasn’t so long ago, within three generations, that when a person applied for welfare assistance they were “means tested”. Not in the modern sense, where a person’s finances are assessed.
An assessor would visit you at home and literally count your possessions.
Too many blankets? Never mind the coming winter, sell. Too many chairs? Sell.
Too many clothes(see blankets)? Sell. Even if this meant selling summer clothes and uniforms that would only have to be bought back a couple of months later.
Too many plates, too much cutlery, pans, pots, cups? Sell.
Never mind that the person applying for assistance would likely have done all this before, and was now on “last resort highway”.
It wasn’t so long ago, within living memory, that we had workhouses, and Magdalen Laundries(even the Anglicans did this, in England, of that make no mistake)
Lloyd George,Clem Atlee , Nye Bevan, William Beveridge et al, all opined at some point that poverty often stripped a man’s dignity.
I quote Beveridge, verbatim as follows;
“Organisation of social insurance should be treated as one part only of a comprehensive policy of social progress. Social insurance fully developed may provide income security; it is an attack upon Want. But Want is one only of five giants on the road of reconstruction and in some ways the easiest to attack. The others are Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.”
So, Jamie, Esther, Edwina et al, and all your applauding hyenas in the rightwing press, I ask you this…
Are you REALLY advocating a system that forces the poor into virtual destitution before they “qualify” for assistance?
Do you REALLY want to return to a time (in many families, living, memory) when the poor were subconsciously regarded as untermenschen?
Do you REALLY want a society in which mammon is deified, and those without, are regarded as “godless” and ergo, less human?
Do you REALLY want a return of the “five giants”?(they’re knocking on the door)
And don’t blather on about charities and their role in alleviating some of this, the “Big Society”. That’s self serving tripe, to make the rich feel better.
On this I quote Atlee;
“Charity is a cold grey loveless thing- if a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim”
“In a civilised community, although it may be composed of self-reliant individuals, there will be some persons who will be unable at some period of their lives to look after themselves, and the question of what is to happen to them may be solved in three ways – they may be neglected, they may be cared for by the organised community as of right, or they may be left to the goodwill of individuals in the community. The first way is intolerable, and as for the third: Charity is only possible without loss of dignity between equals. A right established by law, such as that to an old age pension, is less galling than an allowance made by a rich man to a poor one, dependent on his view of the recipient’s character, and terminable at his caprice”
Back to Oliver et al. All of those things, and so many more, strip a poor person of their dignity,shred by tiny shred, until there’s nothing but rags and rage.
And what for?
Tax cuts for, and continuing tax avoidance by, the rich.
Whom, if they paid their taxes in full, would still be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
That’s not just an assault on an individual’s dignity.
It’s an assault on the NATION’S dignity.
And we should be ashamed.
1 *feel free to correct me if it wasn’t Roy Hattersley. Either way, it’s a true story.
2 when quoting Atlee on charity, I feel I must point out that he didn’t mean to slur those who give for and work in charities, as they’re very often poor themselves , and all the more generous given that.
Rather, he meant that charity is very dependent on the vagaries of the monies charities can garner, fashion, and the belief systems of their parent organisations, donors, and the ego of “philanthropists” , however generous and well meaning.
And unlike tax sourced social security , can be withdrawn as quickly as it