Friday, 10 January 2014
Divide and conquer.
I recently posted a blog entry, "The wonder of wondering", which related to the homeless and to those of us that have had a rough deal in life. It also dealt with our attitudes towards those poor unfortunates and has become easily the most read and most talked about of all our entries.
Although the entry only really related to those living on the streets, a recent television series, "Benefits Street" aired on Channel 4, stirred up a little more conversation and demonstrated to me just how disjointed our society has become. Comments came mainly either from those struggling on benefits or from those more fortunate people for whom the benefits claimants are pariahs and parasites. No inbetweeners though. The opinions expressed were poles apart and I must admit the vitriol contained within the comments posted by those more fortunate members of our society were, to me at least, shocking.
The main complaints aimed at the benefit claimants featured in the show wasn't the drug abuse, alcoholism, theft or bad language but was focused on one particular household and the fact that they possessed iPhones and an enormous television bolted to the wall. The young ladies concerned hadn't worked in years and were facing the threat of eviction after having their housing benefits cut as a result of the incredibly well thought out bedroom tax. So how did they get the telly? Could it be that, since they can't afford to visit the local theatre, cinema or opera house more than a couple of times a year they had clubbed together and were paying £4.50 a week to be able to watch the television programs that, let's face it, are churned out to keep them off the streets and prevent them socialising with others who may put silly ideas about fairness, equality and revolution in their heads. "But they don't need television, TV is a luxury." some claimed. Fair point, although I don't agree it's exactly a luxury, they CAN do without it. But come on folks, let the poor buggers have SOMETHING to do.
What about the phones? Why do they need smart phones? On the face of it this seems indefensible. However, if you are a job hunter you are now required to register with and use the DWP's Universal Job Search system. Online. If you don't own a laptop and have a home phone and broadband package you can use the library, fair enough. Except aren't libraries closing down left right and centre? An iPhone can cost, on contract, as little as £5.00 a week. A bus pass to get you to the job centre or library every day costs, in my area at least, £13.00 a week. Frugal, these benefit cheats, aren't they?
Others on the street were renting out their spare bedrooms to shady gentlemen from another street, probably a much nicer street inhabited by those more fortunate members of the local community whose taxes are paying for other peoples benefits, so that these shady gentlemen could grow cannabis in them. These people are using the money they receive to make up the shortfall in their benefits and, probably, are now better off than they were before. They have escaped the threat of eviction. Now they just have to live in fear of being prosecuted for the cultivation of cannabis and imprisoned for up to fourteen years. Greed? Or desperation?
I'm aware some of you are sat reading this and fuming. How dare I? Many of you will now be thinking I myself am sat in a council house, eating my free food from the food bank, watching my Brighthouse television while my JSA is in the pocket of a drug dealer and my children are wandering around in dirty disposable nappies bought from a shoplifter. I'm not. I'm poor, very poor. I own a twenty year old television. I work every single day, as does my partner. My children, now grown up and with children of their own, all work. I don't go out socialising and haven't for over a year. I can't afford it. I'm not on benefits though. For now.
But what happens if, in six or twelve or eighteen months time, my work dries up? What if I have to join the masses of unwashed immigrants, chavs and fraudsters queuing outside the Job Centre for my share of your taxes? Would you immediately think I was sub-human? Even though any hypothetical benefits I were to receive would have been more than paid for by my own taxes over the last twenty-nine years of gainful employment?
Perish the thought, I don't like to tempt providence, but what if the company you work for, or the Government department in which you're employed, goes tits-up? What if you've worked for thirty years and suddenly find yourself dumped from the world of the honest and hard working and deposited in the land of the devious and workshy? You've already got a nice car and a nice telly. Your gym membership is paid up. But you daren't drive your car, people will think you're a drug dealer. You have to close the curtains before putting the television on because that's a luxury and you're taking the piss. And what if the bloke that dealt with your benefit claim is sat on the next exercise bike to you at total fitness? What on earth will he think.
Who cares what he thinks. You've paid for the membership. You've bought the television. You've insured and fueled your car. You weren't always a bum. Those things are yours, you worked for them, use them. Don't be ashamed to be poor. Don't be ashamed to be unemployed. Do, however, be ashamed of yourselves if you're sat there reading the Daily Mail and allowing yourself to be one of the poor that blames the even poorer for your being poor. Don't look further down the chain of destitution to find the cause of all your problems. Look up the chain. Who's worse? The man that steals a coat from Marks and Spencers to top up his benefits, or the banker that "borrows" from a retirement fund to take a punt on the futures market and make himself rich? The former runs the risk of imprisonment, but is desperate enough to take that chance. The latter runs the risk of ruining the retirement of thousands, but is greedy enough to take the chance. MPs feather their nests, developers destroy communities, bankers destroy economies. Corruption is rife in Westminster and within the police force. The media spy on and manipulate the masses.
But those families on Benefits Street are bastards, aren't they?
I am aware that streets like Benefits Street exist. I walk my dogs along a few of them, I have lived on a few of them, I have worked on them and worked with the people that live on them. I have come across the very dregs of society on them and I've come across some of the kindest people I have ever met on them. The media is telling you who to hate and who to blame. They're telling you what to concentrate on and what to worry about. God forbid you should worry about our soldiers being used to kill brown babies because the fathers of some brown babies have killed the fathers of some other brown babies. Perish the thought you start asking questions that would make the establishment uneasy.
Just turn on your 48" LCD HD TV, tune in and drop out.