Being signed off work recovering from a stroke and cancer means long periods of staring at the internet for some enlightenment to pass the hours of unrelentless tedium. The other day I came across an article on Cracked which in amongst the clickbait often prints some superb stuff. This one was entitled ”5 reasons why the middle class doesn’t understand poverty”. It used to be called ‘5 ways the middle class are taught to despise the poor” which was a tad harsh, but then again truth often is.
It’s a fascinating read as this is an American perspective yet it is as much relevant to the UK as it is across the Atlantic so take point 5;
We’re Constantly Told That “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”
If you’re poor you’re told that money isn’t the cure for all your problems. It isn’t, but if you’re sitting on a tenner for a fortnight it’ll certainly make a lot of your problems go away, and then you’ll be happier. As we live in a capitalist society this is what we have to do, and if you’re middle class you maybe aspire to climb the social ladder but you really don’t want to be poor. There’s a sense of entitlement in being middle class for some, and if you end up poor you may well end up saying it wasn’t meant to be like that.
Yet if you’re middle class you get to define what poverty is to you.You get called ‘‘JAMS’‘ by political party leaders You’re still listened to. If you’re poor, I mean, really poor, you won’t be heard and most politicians couldn’t care less about you. Sure, Nigel Farage says he cares for the common man but this is someone who at first opportunity took his chance to sit in front of Donald Trump in a golden throne and weld himself to his anal sphincter. After all people like Farage didn’t get where he is today by doing ”menial” work!
Which brings me to the next point…
We’re Taught To Associate Low-Paying Jobs With Failure
Look how many times you hear people sneer about ‘shelf stackers”? I’ve done it. You’ve done it. I looked up a job at Tesco’s here in Glasgow and looked at the hours. They suck. You do a job like this, you lose control. Your life is in the hands of the company you work for. No cheap last minute holidays in Paris or New York. No sneaky weekends in the country. You have to work, and anyhow, you won’t be able to afford to do anything anymore glamorous than a bottle or seven of WKD at your local neon clad bar.
If you’re in a job that doesn’t pay well and just about keeps food in your stomach and a roof over your head you’re struggling. But you’re in a ‘menial’ job. You stack shelves!! You pack lorries!! Can’t you do something productive like being a ‘content provider’?
Fact is we need supermarket shelves stacked. We need lorries to be packed. These aren’t ‘menial’ jobs but vitally important and in fact, there’s a very good argument that jobs like ‘content providers’ are in themselves, not just needless, but actually menial but if your family has bought you an education you take things for granted.
There Are Always Certain Things We Take For Granted
I once worked with a girl who had never paid for her own bills in her life. Her dad paid for everything. She took everything for granted and never worried about say, deciding whether to eat or pay that bill sitting on the bed that needed to be paid a month ago.
Then again the problem is that in 2017 communities are no longer as mixed as they once were. Or as Cracked says.
We Don’t Witness Poverty, So We Don’t Understand It
I recently moved back to Glasgow from Bristol to recuperate from illness. I went to a part of the city for physio back in January and was shocked by the level of poverty I saw. I’d been so long away from this level of poverty that I’d forgotten that it existed, and in fact, my own personal definition of poverty was redefined.
See the class structure used to be like this.
Now it’s more like this.
Unless you see the bottom end of the chain you’ve no idea what it’s like. You want to be near the top and you don’t want to take too much shit as after all, that’s for further down the line to do.
It’s harsh but unless we understand poverty we can’t fight it. It becomes then an abstract concept that can be shifted depending upon whoever’s single definition of poverty is. It’s why government redefine the meaning of poverty as after all, if people are born near the bottom it’s in the interests of the traditional left (Labour) to keep them there (with maybe some tinkering at the edges to make it look as if they care) in order to keep promising the world. If you’re the traditional right (Tory) then you don’t give a fuck.
So we have the sight of politicians arguing whether people are poor because they’re ”just about managing” while millions aren’t managing but for many of us we’re the victims which brings me to Cracked’s last point.
We’re Taught To See Ourselves As The Victims
We all do this. Empathy is hard. Understanding is hard. It takes time, energy and selflessness to understand and empathise with people. Remember the EU referendum last year? Remember all those people with pretty decent lives moaning about how the ‘EU was crushing them’ who are now probably moaning about not getting as much for their Sterling when they go for their overseas holiday? Yup, they thought themselves as victims because it’s easy. If you’re brought up with a sense of entitlement and in effect, your own echo chamber within your own class you can imagine going up but down? Nah. You’re the one being penalised because you’ve got two cars, or having to cut holidays per year to two is terrible and politicians see that, sense votes and swim in for the kill.
Do the middle class as a mass hate the poor? No, they don’t. Many can empathise and many do understand, but a large section do and worse, people who have climbed up the centipede have pulled things up behind them so they hate what they’ve left behind. With Brexit coming up many people may well find themselves slipping down the chain as things implode, but the fact is in the days, weeks and months ahead people are going to have to do some serious soul searching to work out what to do and that will mean attitudes will have to change. If they don’t then most of us will be at the end of a human centipede being fed the shit from those wealthy enough to ride out what’s coming.