Monday, 5 February 2018

Poverty Trap

According to one of my recent Twitter inquisitors – you know, those who imagine you want to debate them and demand you justify your every pronouncement with statistics and facts and who then shotgun your timeline with their own ‘facts’ which turn out to be made-up quotes and memes and the opinions of polemicists for their team; them fellas – there are up to eight million working poor in Britain today. Well, so what? In late Victorian Britain the census returned a population of around 30 million, around a quarter of which were in actual, subsistence-level poverty.

By subsistence-level we are talking about being scarcely able to eat enough to survive. The life expectancy for the poor in cities was around 35 and slightly better at around 40 for rural areas. Given that the population is well over twice what it was then and people expect to live twice as long I’d say only having the same absolute number of poor is pretty good in itself. But the numbers tell a misleading story. Our current ‘working poor’ are generally not living six to a room. Most will have heating and they will almost certainly possess refrigerators, televisions and mobile phones; a poverty the Victorians could not, in their wildest imaginings, ever imagine aspiring to.

The first poverty trap is imagining you are poor. Pick up thy smart-phone and Google up some images of genuine poverty, third-world poverty, not might-have-to-give-Starbucks-a-miss poverty. Not, not-going-on-a-foreign-holiday-this-year poverty. And certainly not can’t-afford-the-latest-iPhone poverty. The second poverty trap is imagining that other people owe you a living; this is the ridiculous infantilism that western social policies have created. And whatever other delusions you may harbour about what you are worth and what you deserve, please rid yourself of the notion that a socialist system will change your circumstances.

Probably the biggest poverty trap is being gullibly ensnared by the promises of Labour-like parties when they are out of power. Throughout my life I have heard Labour banging on about ending poverty, spreading the idea that there is some sort of collusion among ‘billionaire’ employers to keep them downtrodden. Did it ever occur to you that many employers – probably most employers – would love to double your wages; what could be better than a loyal, happy, unstressed workforce? But when Labour-like governments open the borders to cheap labour, what do you imagine this excess supply does to pay rates?

You want ‘freedom’? Well, free yourselves. Seriously, look at the example of some of these incomers taking your jobs – work harder, longer, faster, smarter. Work two jobs, three. Start a side-line business; unless you try it you will never know what you are capable of. There are people out there who genuinely need support, who would love to be able to go to work; work gives your life purpose. Living off the labours of others is not worthy of anybody who can push a broom, lift a shovel, pack shelves, harvest crops.

The disabled do deserve our support, but being a bit slow at school is not a disability, having poor eyesight is not disabled, having a shitty attitude is no excuse for indolence. Oh it’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is it? It’s ME, is it? Come back to me for assistance for your disability when you’ve written a novel only by moving your eyes. Like many truly disabled people Christopher Nolan made more of his life than the many millions who sit on their arses and wait for it to come to them. 

Downtrodden masses? Your choice...

Move your focus away from the rich; you don’t have nothing because they have everything; that’s what socialists like to tell you. It is a comforting lie. The real poverty trap is being poor and convincing yourself that you can do nothing to escape from that state. Like an institutionalised prisoner remaining in his cell while the door is wide open maybe you fear independence, but, despite a certain distasteful historical context, work will set you free. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for others; *the only sure fire way to help the poor is not to be poor.

(*Attributed to Ayn Rand, although I haven’t found a definitive source.)

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