How much longer?

I look to the mainstream media for some honest reporting and perspective – Ha!

I look to the Opposition for some counter-arguments, some persuasive alternatives – Hmm…

And I look to the Government – yeah, that body of representatives whose wages we pay to manage our common affairs and interests on our behalf. That bunch of cretins who fought tooth and nail for the chance to be in charge and will no doubt convince themselves to try again in 2015. Ha!

For how much longer do the good people of this country have to bang on about the need for repairs and new infrastructure? I shan’t patronise with a list, for it is endless – and the number of people ready, willing and able to participate in such large and essential projects is also becoming endless. But you don’t need me to explain about the scourge of unemployment, the reasons for underemployment, the plight of our untrained and despondent youth, the complete and utter waste of brain and brawn…

For how long can two or three generations live peacefully in accommodation that would be cramped enough for just one? How many people need to be made homeless before it’s acknowledged that there is not enough affordable housing? That the market value of property, for both sale or rent, is ridiculous? That the landlords are the rentiers? That we need state investment in social housing? How much longer will the Government get away with this bedroom tax abomination, given that for many, that bedroom is not an extra room at all and in light of there being no alternative housing for those who would be happy to downsize?

For how much longer are the lucky employers of this country going to have their wages bill subsidised by the government in the form of top-up benefits? For how much longer will the taxpayers put up with their hard-earned contributions going to this curious and very uncapitalist subsidisation of wages?

When is someone going to say that paying some poor sop a pittance to look after someone else’s kid so the parent can go and work for another pittance is just plain crazy and mostly serves a cold and futile ideology? Where on earth did this obsession come from that every single adult must work in some governmentally recognised capacity for it to even be considered a worthwhile occupation?

When is someone going to tell that Iain Dontcare Smith that a few disabled people aren’t going to save the economy by being made to work at some meaningless job which still requires loads of government subsidy because employers tend to have to be blackmailed into employing them? Whose needs is IDS serving?

When is someone going to ram this empty but plainly loaded “make work pay” phrase up the ivory towers of these disingenuous MPs? We all know it’s not about getting a wage you can live on, but about reducing benefits to a level on which you obviously can’t. Given the magnificent economic incompetence of this Coalition, this is a nasty attitude at best.

But then, when is the good British public going to tell this government that all their welfare reforms are cruel, given the economic climate? That if you want to weed out the genuinely feckless or lazy, you have to provide a climate in which they become self-evident rather than merely accused as such by carping government ministers and high-horsed media stenographers. Apparently “welfare’ shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice” but who is in charge and who hasn’t provided any real alternatives? When will the public ask whose “choice” it actually is?

When will the good people remind this government and media that Brits are perfectly happy to do the jobs immigrants do, that it’s not the nature of the job but the deliberately low wages these jobs come with? When will the public realise that it’s only possible to live on such poor wages when you’re single and prepared to share your accommodation with 20 other people because you imagine and hope that this will be temporary? When will government and media acknowledge that it is policy and slack stewardship which create the climate possible for both immigrants and British citizens to be exploited and undercut in their wages, working conditions and accommodation?

And when, oh when will the good people of this country stop blaming immigrants and Europe for all the ills which plague this nation? When will it realise that Europe doesn’t just hand down some edict which can’t be questioned or modified – that governments are largely free to interpret most EU guidelines in their own ways and that that is exactly what they do. It’s called expedient political gaming when a government claims its hands are tied by Europe.

When are the good people going to tell this government that they know who makes the rules by which HMRC must operate? The likes of Amazon and Google are doing what any business would be sensible to do: maximising their profits and paying out as little in tax and other overheads as they can get away with. Who sets the rules? Who decides what ‘evasion’ is and what is ‘avoidance’?

When are the good people of this country going to rail at the government for its bigotry and ineptitude? When are the rational citizens going to declare war on short-sighted, ignorant, crass and divisive policies?

I’m not looking for answers here. This is just a rhetorical rant. Like you, I already know what I want most of the solutions to look like.

A Mother’s Work

This is naturally worded towards the female gender, by virtue of tradition. However, if you are a man with whom any of this resonates, I hope you will consider yourself automatically included where relevant.

A great irony has occurred over the last few decades. Time was that the working mother was frowned upon and her ‘latch-key’ children pitied. Today, societal expectations and governmental policies have instilled a sense of guilt in the woman if she doesn’t want to work while her children are actually children. She is found wanting, accused of not pulling her weight; not showing a good work ethic to her offspring; not contributing to the justification of her monetary worth. Why? Because she makes her children her primary purpose: her occupation – her career? This development is just as insidious and detrimental to the well-being of children, mothers and Community as the spiteful, reverse demonisation of those who worked in the Seventies and Eighties. But for the working mother and particularly the lone parent, her guilt is in the eternal catch-22: that of either spreading herself too thinly, thus feeling inadequate in both spheres of life, or, just as likely, pretty much neglecting one sphere in favour of the pressure from the other.

The accelerating pressures of our lives can have done little to assuage this guilt and yet it has been pushed to one side by the theorists, the Media and consecutive governments who have fallen over themselves to endorse the mythical status of the perfectly accomplished woman: the woman who can do everything and be everything, brilliantly. Really? Isn’t that just crazy talk? I mean: yes, of course women “can have it all” – but surely not all at once? Not successfully?

I’d rather we didn’t insist on mothers being stay-at-home types or force them out to work. One size doesn’t fit all and why would we want it to? That just leads to unhappy, less effective people. And yet this is exactly what our government is achieving. And yet again, it’s the poorest and the least powerful who find themselves without a choice. Yet again the Conservatives, the so-called party of family and strong moral compass, are destroying the very fabric upon which such values are built.

The next generation are the future, the continuum of the human race and your children are your personal legacy. Not your property, but the living arrows of your bow, to paraphrase Kahlil Gibran. Could there really be any task more worthy or vital? Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to work just because you have children: this isn’t about denigrating working mothers; but neither is it inaccurate to see your parenting as highly valuable work. Wanting to be the default carer and guide for your own children is most certainly not something to be ashamed of. After all, they’re not called dependants for nothing. If it doesn’t matter who raises them; if it isn’t healthier to have diversity; if the mother doesn’t know her child best, we might as well just grow them in anonymous incubators, stamp them with a code and send them off to processing plants.

As I’ve written, previously:

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…

[‘Welfare Reform Scapegoats’
https://julijuxtaposed.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/welfare-reform-needs-scapegoats/ ]

I wonder… Wouldn’t that pittance of a wage be better offered directly to the primary care-giver as a modest stipend for not needing all this bitty but generic and expensive childcare? It would give lone parents and low-waged couples, a viable option. It would say that we value not just the child, but the parent too. And the childcare business that survived would probably be of a better, more personal quality. It’s short-sighted to view this as something for nothing. It is not. Society complains constantly about its breakdown; about the poverty that initiates and exacerbates its ills, only to resist the most obvious solution in favour of yet another false economy. It’s hang-wringing followed by pettiness, followed by some complicated new policy which is ineffective and always costs more than its budget, followed by more hand-wringing. Well, perhaps some things are worth throwing money at because the alternatives are unthinkable. If it could just be accepted that the Hearth Stone is as essential to Humanity as good planetary stewardship is to Earth’s ecosystem – that would at least be a good start.