[We need a human right response to poverty] RSA: Adanna Shallowe: Why we need an emergency response to poverty

I agree with Ms Shallowe that we need radical solutions to the problems of poverty in this country, but I don’t think an “emergency response” is the answer. An emergency response allows the wealthy to think of the poor as lesser citizens, and compromises the much stronger human rights frame she places around her argument. As she writes “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” this government and it’s supporters are engaged in hostile actions against the poorest among us. RSA research in Fife report locals as saying “the system’s out to screw us, keep us in our place.” How’s that possible? Because we are neither free, nor equal.

The reality is we’re born into a very specific set of economic circumstances, into a family, a community, a society, a country, and a world; and those conditions govern our progress from day one. In fact I would argue it goes back beyond day one. The governing factors go back nine months, minus several generations, as far as can be remembered. Those conditions 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. How can they do this? They do it by treating the poor as “other,” as something over there, 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” to poverty. 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.” The emergency response frames poverty as if it were some kind of natural disaster. And disaster relief asks us to give cash so those who have lost everything can be helped. Charity is a short term solution, to an acute problem, and comes with a choice. You can choose not to give. We need solutions that are mandatory.

As Ms Shallowe writes, we need a universal basic income, and legislative recognition of social rights. But to achieve any of this we have to unpick the fabric of society. And that’ll be like unpicking the stitching of our trousers, then remaking them into a skirt, while trying not to flash your arse. It’s not easy but it is possible. The poor of this country are not charity cases deserving of handouts. We are full citizens who should be given the same help as a child born into a wealthy family.

This is a clumsy example but is the clearest way to explain the point. A child born into a wealthy family gets a private education. That child will do better than a child 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 that the wealthy get to navigate the world they live in. The poor get no such instruction. 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. Poverty isn’t an economic issue, it’s 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. That’s how we should be judging our society. Not by how much extra you have in the bank. But how your actions improve the rights of the many not just the right of the few?


[Is this one of the reasons for Brexit?] The Guardian: Staff and agencies: UK and territories are ‘greatest enabler’ of tax avoidance, study says

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 EU wants to bring in stricter 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.

Watched American Animals (2018)

Not entirely the film I was expecting but interesting all the same. The most arresting element is the way writer/director Bart Layton integrates interviews with the real people. It reminds me a little of Warren Beatty’s 1981 film Reds. Beatty uses the interviews more as a counterpoint to the action, adding a layer of authenticity, by including accounts from Jack Reed’s contemporaries. Mr. Layton’s film on the other hand plays more like a docudrama, creating a tension between comments made, and events as they happen. It’s a tough line to walk, but Mr. Layton manages not to fall off.

[Interesting insights from one of the greats] Scott Myers: Go Into The Story: How They Write A Script: Robert Towne

I like Robert Towne’s approach. It’s like getting a calming slap across the face. I didn’t realise until recently Robert Towne had an uncredited role in writing on one of my all time favourite films, The Parallax View. If you’ve not seen it you should. It’s a great piece of 70’s conspiracy theory filmmaking.

Finished watching American Gods S:2 (2017– )

I preferred this season over the first. There seemed to be more plot, more intrigue, more character, and none of the slow motion inserts that slowed the first season down. The central premise will always be intriguing. Gods only exist 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 voice.] The Guardian: Robert Booth: UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

I want to write something expressing my anger at a government that has so wilfully, and aggressively attacked the poor. But I don’t have the strength to list all of their failings. I know this. Their attacks on the poor are an attack on us all. For as long as I can remember the Tories have 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, or don’t care, that 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 be sent home if they don’t have the right 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 why waiting times in accident and emergency are so long. Now 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 given over to the care of gangs. When individuals with little or no self-respect start demanding respect on the streets, challenges are met with violence. For a host of reasons these youngsters aren’t getting the care and support most of Tory politicians enjoyed growing up. They got the message you’re on your own. You have to survive by any means necessary. But they weren’t given self-belief you need to survive in a world of individuals, fighting other individuals for a slice of the pie. They weren’t taught to negotiate, or anything like conflict resolution. 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. 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?