No room at the inn

Outcast; silenced ones:
Society’s sacrifice
wished invisible.

[“It is because they face danger that we have peace.” ~ David Cameron]

🎄 🎆  🎄

[December 2014]

May you be bathed in light and love
May you be where you are at home
And not feel lonely if alone.

May you feel warm and dry and full
May you find inner strength and joy
And take time to enjoy it all.

May you laugh loud and longer than you row
May you be blessed with gifts of kindness
May you know the wealth and health
Of a peace of mind within our Now
And please you, have a Merry Christmas! đź’«

 

Big Society; Big Business

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” ~ John D Rockefeller

Charity: late Old English (in the sense ‘Christian love of one’s fellows’): from Old French charite (charitĂ©), from Latin caritas, from carus ‘dear’ [OED]

Charity is to voluntarily assist that which one holds dear. It is a noble, wonderful concept that demonstrates the caring and generosity of the human spirit. Charity can be international, national or local and be in aid of both collective and individual causes, the most moving, beautiful and appropriate sort being when big, open hearts crowd-fund in the face of sudden large-scale emergencies and small, singular causes. It can begin at home and be brought home and, for the reasons my friend, activist and fellow blogger, Jayne Linney, gives: local charities “are the Ones (most) worth supporting”.

Charity gives: of time and things. It is a service of the heart, whether by true compassion or by there-for-the-grace-of relief and/or guilt.

But Big Charity is big, big business. It creates think tanks, makes financial investments – and reeeeally long advertisements, gets generous tax relief, requires paid staff, is funded by fickleness… It is politicised and corporatised. As such, Poverty is a massive investment opportunity and Charity is a bubble that need not burst.

Personally, I think it’s rather depressing that a ‘developed’ nation still requires so many charities at all and I think it’s appalling that so many are so sorely needed now, just to cover for infrastructural, economic and attitudinal inadequacies.

And yet.. At this moment in time: thank goodness for Charity, whatever its size and form! And for those who donate and those who are volunteering themselves quite ragged, such is the struggle to meet increasing needs. For, under neoliberal socio-economic policies there are now many more holes in the safety net and Charity, in its myriad forms, is indeed the only entity plugging the most desperate and wholly deliberately made gaps. But, as Ekklesia’s wonderful writer, Bernadette Meaden says, “picking up the pieces” is also to risk “letting the government off the hook”. Conservatives see schemes like food banks as supply side economics (the double-thinking nerve of it!) – as a mark of enlightened social and economic success in a civilised people – so the demand they create, through their cruel policies, is spun as evidence that their Victorianesque ‘Big Society’ aspiration is working.

But how ignorant and reckless to purposefully shrink a perfectly reasonable remit of the State and replace it with an outsourced expectation of deeds of guilt and good will. How frighteningly regressive, negligent and patronising is that?! And how shortsighted and complacent is a Society that, rather than lamenting and questioning the political causes of the constant need for Charitable intervention, is, instead, content or resigned to putting its faith in and relying on the philanthropy of the wealthy and powerful – those who also co-create and perpetuate the dependency and help formulate the policies of government. And how terrifying for those demographics compelled to depend upon it in their increasing numbers.

Big Charity is another vehicle by which a government absolves itself of its duties to the State – that’s all of us, remember – and outsources its most ideologically inconvenient socio-economic responsibilities to private organisations. And when Big Charity actually becomes a contracted public service provider, who are its clients: those that provide the funds (which this Government is reducing)  or the intended beneficiaries as per the mission statement? And how pernicious is it that philanthropic organisations should depend upon the perpetuation of the very causes they set themselves up to alleviate and eradicate? It’s a most unpleasant symbiosis that doesn’t look anything like progress and I think we shouldn’t accept it because, while we do, any chance at developing an economy and a more equitable society that truly serves us all is greatly inhibited. What about Society is ‘dear’ to us and what will be the cost if we forsake it..?

What kind of country (or however many countries we are, nowadays) do libertarian proponents think Britain will become as the vast majority of the population is arbitrarily relegated to second-, third- or even no-rate status? Just how long could such a state of affairs actually last? How much country would there be left and who and how many could thrive in it? Or really want to? The trajectory hints at the dystopia of many science fictions.

A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.” ~ Ralph Nader

Farewell, Welfare

Farewell, Welfare.
You cared
How people fared;
Were there
To quell despair;
To square unfair with share.
And you fared fairly well
But now the numbers swell
Under a neoliberal spell:
The bell ends
In a deathly knell,
Telling the overbearing
And the Worried Well
The Safety Net is pared
To fare them well –
While all the rest stare into hell.

Profit’s cosh

Roll up! Roll up!
A feudal gift!
Who’ll start the bid
Where value fits
The drudge
And cudgel never quits
The one pound fish
And nine to five
Disabled fabled
Hung to dry
The young ‘uns squandered
On old lies
From sanction knife
To food bank dish
Workfare, a lair
To bonded strife
On call to all
Or hours of zero calls, at all
The welfare falls
No space to thrive
Takes everything to just survive
Bish bosh!
The cosh of profit lives
Commodified to market wish
Who gives a fig
For equal shares
The serf-bound life
Is spice and grist
To Papa’s neoliberal pish

Britain Isn’t Eating

Britain isn’t eating and it isn’t only fleeting:
Stomachs growling in their thousands;
Weakened bodies, trembling hands – and
Anxious minds in free fall – all at the behest
Of IDS, a petty, jumped-up, self-made god,
Complete with hooves, in gold-plate shod,
To trample underfoot the poorest in the land.

It’s hand-to-mouth, from North to South;
From East to West – ‘existence’ best describes
The lives this bastard government can bring
Itself to muster. Britain isn’t eating and it’s
History repeating: clusters of the population,
Forced to choose between one outrage or
Another, quite preventable – starvation or the
Food bank.

And flanking, frozen Esther, gimp-like, grins
On point from sculpted plinth, to demonstrate
Her eager sycophancy for her hornèd clod.
The only thing upstaging either’s arrogance is
Clear delight in spiteful and relentless
Choreography. The topographic cheating means
That Britain isn’t just not eating…

Choice is all-competing: food or heating; dignity
Or vouchers; servitude or prostitution; charity or
Destitution; empty pot or pay-day loan; feed the
Car or feed the phone; school trip or a birthday
Gift; a haircut or a coat that fits…

Every day new low-pay, no-pay victims slip through
Nets with holes that stretch to endless loops and
Proxy scolds with folded arms and vulgar sanctions.
Britain isn’t eating while the poverty’s increasing by
Command of those in power who care little for the
Pointy end of choice – excepting as it serves to feed
The few in Britain who continue eating very well indeed.

If Boris were intelligent…

People say Boris Johnson is intelligent. Well, he certainly has good recall of a mercurial and witty mind, though it does seem rather predisposed to a reliance on the Classics – when he’s not pretending to be the bumbling fool. He is clever and instinctively opportunist. Like a fox. But everyone knows intelligence has several aspects. Some are very important. Generalising, there’s how academic intelligence breaks down into the mathematical, linguistic, etc. There’s the artistic and physical. There’s artificial, of course – if the cap fits, Boris… And then, there’s the essential stuff, like common sense, intuitive, social, emotional…

An intelligence quotient test, therefore, does not really measure Intelligence, does it? It can’t. A person can be trained to take it just as one can buy extra coaching for GCSEs. If it were so reliable a test and so accurate a measure of ability school leavers could just be given their number on exit. It could be popped into a computer and CVs could become superfluous. The IQ ruse is a deeply unpleasant red herring of a platform, especially when used as justification for accepting inequality as inevitable. It screams slippery slope. Everyone with an ounce of reason, born before yesterday, understands that people are not equal in every measure. Someone is always better, faster, wealthier, prettier, funnier, stronger, luckier – yada yada. Equality under the Law is, perhaps, as much as can reasonably be expected.

Boris represents that appalling blend of both ancient and modern Establishment: Blue-blooded and Neoliberal. Like far too many in his self-elevated position, he seeks to place a market value on citizens. They are regarded as commodities with varying degrees of value and deservedness. Value as determined by those who would place more in a banker than a nurse; more in the cashier than the single parent; more in the cold-caller than the road-sweeper. If he were intelligent, he would conclude that everyone has human, social and spiritual value as an individual. But Boris would use the IQ as another fiat currency.

Everyone knows that competition can be healthy, rewarding and progressive. But to subscribe to Life-IS-Competition is an arcane feudalistic attitude and it is not a demonstration of some superior intelligence. It just shows the conceit of inherent power. How intelligent is it to have had automatic access to an upbringing which affords the highest privileges and the finest education that money can supposedly buy if what is taken from such a glorified opportunity are merely a means, the strong desire and a sense of entitlement to use it over others? Do these elite institutions teach this deliberately or is it an inevitable consequence of their curricula? Is an escape velocity involved? Are we to say ‘Poor lamb! He is a victim!’ when he has taken such a foundation and squandered it for his own ends? Not everyone from such a privileged background arrives at this state of mind, after all.

If Boris were intelligent, he would conclude that grabbing a few of the academically brightest children and gifting them with selective access is a poor second to making every state school in the land so damned good that only a fool would pay to send their children elsewhere. He would advocate that everyone has their unique worth and something to offer if they only had space and time and encouragement to discover and develop it. Education is supposed to open the mind and inform. It’s supposed to facilitate confidence, critical thinking, curiosity and a love of learning. It is supposed to reveal an individual’s potential. Look what he got from his: that humility and compassion are obstacles to a ‘cream and park’ mentality. As though human decency was a weakness.

Empathy is high-end emotional intelligence. It does not come only from shared experiences. If it did, wouldn’t there be less need of it? It comes also from having an emotional range and an imagination of things outside of and other to one’s self. It requires conscious observation, active listening and the will to understand. Boris cannot help the fortune of his birth, nor the choices made on his early behalf but he sure can help what he has chosen to do with having just about every advantage going.

If he were intelligent, he would understand that the Have-Nots do not suffer from envy. He would understand that the suffering comes from the perpetuation of outrageous injustice by those he so hails. He would understand that this didn’t happen overnight. He would realise that his competitive values contribute to the plundering of resources, the access, accumulation and hoarding of needs-in-common, the return of Serfdom… He would see that this has finite written all over it and that he accelerates his own extinction. He would admit that the systems and policies he advocates are at the expense of everyone else. He would know how insulting, patronising and ridiculous it is to suggest that Society should trust in the philanthropy of the rich and powerful. He would remember that, before the ownership of this world became a competition prize, it actually belonged to everyone. He would have as much shame in his beloved history as he has pride. He would see the context of his becoming and recognise that it is not the solution but a vehicle of cause. But, then, if Boris were truly intelligent, he would have shown some measure of common sense and wisdom ages ago.

Circling the Drain

Pride, true or false – the fuel that’s left
When so much of the rest is subsidised:
On one side of the State’s Grand Bargain lies

The profiteer –

A product of discretionary patronage,
Forsaking those, who, on the other,
Falling short of leverage,
Are kept in chains to serve
And so preserve ill-gotten gains.
We’re merely circling the drain.

We are the rent to nothing owed
And nothing owned, though all is spent:
The means to thrive have all been rent
Or sent as gifts to terraforming titans.
And interlocking dynasties perpetuate

The misery

While middlemen aspire to go higher
On the back of shame.
And round we go in circles down the drain.

Compacted by a contract of constraint,
We rise each day to greet the swill of torment.
Bent like doffing caps in gratitude, we thus
Augment the lives of those who live by platitudes.

And was there ever shown so much restraint;
Such acquiescence to indignity and needless pain
Bestowed?

Or so much retribution owed in vain,
To those whose fault it is that we are circling the drain?

Welfare Reform Scapegoats

So, there’s not nearly enough work for the employable population and by this, I mean those of working age who are fit, healthy, underemployed or unemployed but available. We have the kinds of unemployment which threaten whole communities and entire generations: mass redundancies and NEETS galore who can’t get a foot on the first rung. Now, most sensible managers, given a choice, would utilise this potentially wonderful source first. But not this Government. Oh no….

Instead, the pillocks at the Top Table seemed to have divined that, lone parents and those whose lives are habitually dictated by a spectrum of physical and mental challenges have too little to do and should be the country’s premier source of fuel as a response to economic malaise.

This relentless and ruthless pursuit of the lone parent and the disabled person, at the same time and in the least conducive of economic climates, smacks of crass stupidity and boorishness. Yes, undoubtedly there is need to reform some aspects of Social Security – and certainly Social Care. Yes, undoubtedly there are cheats – but then, is there a walk or sphere of life where cheats do not exist? It seems beyond the wit of this Government to recognise that, as a result of their economic malfeasance, the economic climate is not currently conducive to their ‘welfare’ reforms. In fact, the timing of them is ignorant and cruel and demonstrates that they either don’t care or don’t know how to encourage a climate in which the whole country can flourish. Surely the financial costs can’t be worsened by a stay of these punishing reforms on those whose daily lives are already prescribed in no small measure – especially when the money “saved” is merely diverted to those who are implementing this ridiculous programme. This Government refutes the bigger, wider, sustainable solutions to this socio-political-economic picture, such as major investments in housing; infrastructure; universally accessible and meaningful education and health/social care provision; and whatever else you are mentally adding, dear Reader. But then, as we know, this cowardly Government hides behind easy scapegoats and superficial thinking.

The current measures are not being implemented to bring independence and autonomy to disadvantaged individuals. Nor are they being enforced because the country’s future and economic prosperity depend on it. This is to satisfy an ideological position informed by a mix of puritanical judgement, fake fatherly concern and that panic that comes with a lack of knowledge and imagination. But there is a fine line between pragmatism and cruelty when it requires the disabled and lone parent to validate their existence because they are deemed to be taking up room and draining resources.

A lone parent is often quite literally alone. You can’t rely indefinitely on goodwill and shared resources. If you are the only parent, with little or no unconditional and immediate support, then you are effectively on-call 24/7 – always. You’re bringing up the next generation, the source of Humanity’s continuum – it’s not a hobby – and, while it certainly isn’t temporary, the years when you have most influence and input might be. When you and, mostly you, alone, are that unconditional constant, the stability in your child’s life, you tend to want it to be you who is available when they are upset, or ill, reticent or just on holiday- not the childminder; not Day Care. That’s the sphere of your life in which you need to be reliable – not the job that pays you so little that you still need government credits.

Where is the sense in a society that forces single parents out to work for such low wages that they still require top-up benefits so that someone else, who may not be your idea of a suitable surrogate parent and who may not even like the job, can also be paid a pittance to look after your children? The same society which frets about family breakdown, quality time, modern pressures, neglected kids…

And if you have physical and or mental challenges that were officially recognised as disabling before the economic meltdown, it has already been accepted in some measure that your ability, capacity and reliability are potential barriers which narrow sharply the types of employment available – especially those jobs which pay sufficiently so as not to need government credit. How do you juggle the household, the personal care and the practical help you require: help that is already not always at a convenient time for you; and make yourself available for work: work that is already scarce for ‘fit’ people and probably doesn’t accommodate your variety of needs? How are employers to be convinced into equipping a workplace for someone who can’t guarantee whether they will manage five minutes or an hour of productive and reliable activity from one day to the next? How do you do said work at all if the journey to the workplace is all you can manage? How do you stop yourself feeling like you might be a patronised and resented token, a nuisance, an inconvenient expense?  How do you let go any dreams you had of forging your own progression as you’re herded from one advisor to another, knowing you could well be parked and still poor – and that this is it – trapped in a system with ever decreasing exits?

Is it wrong to be afraid that chains of pen pushers have been given arbitrary powers to play around with and effect control over so many real lives?

[Please do know, dear Reader, that I have experience of both single parenthood and disability and that I am not at all suggesting that lone parents or disabled people should in any way be excluded or discouraged from the workforce. Or that they should be prevented from achieving any degree of personal progress and fulfilment. Not at all. I think anyone, including a lone parent or disabled person who wants to, should be able to contact their not-for-profit jobcentre and obtain generous, competent and useful assistance in entering employment. I also believe in lifelong learning for all, access to retraining and voluntary work that is actually voluntary. But then, I believe in lots of things like that…]