Against an emergency response to poverty

I agree with Adanna Shallowe that we need radical solutions to the problems of poverty in the United Kingdom, but I don’t think an “emergency response” is the answer.


I would argue an “emergency response” allows wealth to abdicate responsibility for poverty, as if they have no part in the cause of hardship. We also need to recognise, a government engaged in hostile actions against the poorest among us, cannot be trusted to respond urgently or adequately?

The grim reality is we’re born into a very specific set of economic circumstances. A family, community, society, country, and world, with conditions that govern our progress from day one. In fact I think it goes back beyond that, nine months, minus several generations, as far as can be remembered. Those conditions, that history, define how we think and our ability to prosper.

That said, we need to remember, current levels of poverty in this country are a direct result of Tory attempts to dismantle the welfare state, while also making the poorest pay for the sins of the richest. Those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are paying for the greed of a banking industry that crashed the economy in 2008.

Wealth treats poor as “other”, as something to be feared and demonised, a burden to be survived. They think of us as feckless beggars. That’s why I don’t like the idea of an “emergency response”. We risk falling into a hole dug by the Tories, a bear-trap, that lets them treat the poorest as lesser citizens.

We are not victims of a natural disaster that destroyed a costal village, or flooded a delta, or swept away everything in a tidal wave. We are the product of an economic system that puts the accumulation of wealth above everything else. One that seeks to fatigue “you in every way – physically, mentally, (and) financially”.

Framing poverty as if it were some kind of natural disaster, and using an emergency response to sort it out, asks us to give cash so those who have lost everything can be helped. Charity is a short term solution, for an acute problem, and allows wealth a choice, they can choose not to give.

We need solutions that are mandatory.

I agree with Ms Shallowe, we need a universal basic income, and legislative recognition of social rights. To achieve this we have to unpick everything, repurpose trousers into a skirt while trying not to flash our arse. It’s possible but not easy. The poor of this country are not charity cases deserving of handouts. We are full citizens who should be afforded all the privileges one of the richest countries in the world has to offer.

This is a clumsy example but is the clearest way to explain. A child born into wealth gets a private education. That child will do better than someone born into a family with no money. The former has a better chance of getting a well paying job, and living a longer life, than the child who lives without the instruction manual.

I use the term instruction manual to make the point, wealth get to navigate the world they live in. The poor get no such chance. We must learn for ourselves how to survive, while all the time being told, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, as if it’s the natural way of things. It is not.

The narrative of “emergency response” should be replaced with one of equal rights. Frame poverty, not as an an economic issue, but as an abuse of our human rights. As citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world we have the right to a fulfilling life. And in this world, the right to a life means having money.

We are not poor through choice, we are poor though circumstance. Poverty is not a lack of character, it’s a lack of money. Give it to those who have none and they will use it. They will be happier, and more productive, and the world will be better for it.


Is this one of the many reasons for Brexit?

A study says the UK and territories are ‘greatest enabler’ of tax avoidance in the world.

I’m guessing the vested interests pushing for a no deal Brexit are doing it, in part, to weaken the European Union’s hold on The City of London.

The European Union wants to bring in tighter rules on financial services, and try to stop the kind of enabling, that ranks British territories and its dependencies among the worst offenders.

The only people who will benefit from a low tax Britain are the wealthy. For the rest of us less tax means no money for schools, infrastructure, or the health service.

If we crash out of the European Union, and stronger regulation, the City will become the perfect host for all kinds of parasitic tax avoiders.

American Animals (2018)

Not entirely the film I was expecting but interesting all the same. The most arresting element is the way writer and director Bart Layton integrates interviews with the real people into the narrative.

It reminds me a little of Warren Beatty’s film Reds (1981). Beatty uses the interviews more as a counterpoint to the action, adding a layer of authenticity, by including accounts from Jack Reed’s contemporaries. Layton on the other hand, plays it more like a docudrama, creating a tension between comments made, and events as they happen.

It’s a tough line to walk, but he manages not to fall off.

How they write a script: Robert Towne

I like Towne’s approach. It’s like getting a calming slap across the face.

I didn’t realise until recently Towne had an uncredited role in writing on one of my all time favourite films, The Parallax View (1974). If you’ve not seen it you should, it’s a great piece of 1970’s conspiracy theory filmmaking, from Alan J. Pakula.

American Gods – S:2 (2017– )

I preferred this to the first season. There seemed to be more plot, more intrigue, more character, and none of the slow motion contemplation that looked beautiful but slowed the first season to a crawl.

The central premise will always be intriguing. Gods only exist, have power, because we believe in them. The stories we tell are the stories we believe. To write is to create Gods.

Tories are deaf to anything but their own voices

Robert Booth reports in The Guardian, “United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses”.

I wanted to write something angry about this government, at the way they have so wilfully and aggressively attacked the poor, but I don’t have the strength to list all of their many failings. I know this, their attacks on the poor are an attack on us all.

For as long as I can remember they’ve promoted an agenda of individualism, while absolutely refusing to see how we individuals interact with all of the other individuals around us.

They can’t see and don’t care, not everyone was created in their image.

Take social care. When you reduce spending on social care, old people who end up in hospital will stay longer. They can’t go home if they don’t have the right kind, any kind, of care waiting when they get there. Most people don’t have the privilege of a private nurse to look after them. Longer stays in hospital are one of the many reasons waiting times in accident and emergency are so long.

Consider the recent rise in knife crime. I have no problem saying it’s a direct result of Tory cuts to youth services. At risk individuals who would’ve been helped by a youth club or a social worker, have been abandoned to the care of gangs. When individuals with little or no self-respect start demanding respect on the streets, challenges are met with violence.

These youngsters aren’t getting the kind of care and support most of Tory politicians enjoyed growing up. They’re being sent the message you’re on your own, you have to survive by any means necessary, but without the wealth and self-belief you need to survive in a world of individuals, fighting other individuals for a slice of the pie.

It’s easy for the Tories to blame bad seed individuals for young people dead on the streets. They point blank refuse to see their part in the problem.

As wealth inequality rises, crime will rise, and the Tories will blame the criminals, not considering their crimes in creating a society in their image.

I know they’re deaf to anything but their own voice.

How else could they behave the way they do?

Johnson will start fires we’ll find hard to put out

Sienna Rodgers reports, LabourList readers think “Boris Johnson is biggest threat to Corbyn and the country”. I’m not sure you can extrapolate LabourList readers to represent the wider population, but some of the statistics are a concern.

“Which of the following potential candidates do you think would be most difficult for Jeremy Corbyn to beat in a general election?” Readers fear Mr. Johnson the most at 45.2%. Why? Is it because he’s the Donald Trump of British politics? A “strong personality” who can charm people? A hook upon which the dissatisfied can hang their frustration? Isn’t that Nigel Farage’s unique selling point, a voice for the angry and disaffected?

I think Johnson has a better education than Trump, and is more articulate than Farage, but when the bombs start landing I’m sure he’ll do what’s best for Boris Johnson, not what’s best for this country.

I heard the end of an interview on Radio 4 a couple of days ago. Two pundits talking about Johnson and the possibility of him becoming a Prime Minister. One extolled his virtues as a “man who lights up a room” when he enters. The other highlighted his considerable lack of moral character, and his bumbling indiscretions as Foreign Secretary.

Personally, I’m not sure I want someone who “lights up a room” as Prime Minister. He might be able to light up the country, but I fear he will start fires we’ll find hard to put out.

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