I’m not going to go into this in any depth – do any systematic research. But I’ve noticed a spate of articles in the Guardian recently which are basically anti-men. It seems it is acceptable to make sweeping negative generalisations about “men” in a way that if they were made about women would be seen as the worst kind of sexism. (This is just one recent example – a badly written dissing of “older men” in general from someone who casually throws out as if it were entirely normal that she was “two-timing” two of her older men dates). This is just part of what is obviously a trend – another barrier has been overcome on the march towards liberation. Now “men” can be openly abused generically as a type and this is all fine.
I get on the bus from West Drayton to Uxbridge. Go upstairs. 4 young people; 2 boys and 2 girls. (Maybe 17-19 age range). 4 of them but they are taking up half the deck – spread out over several rows. One boy calls out to me that my shoelaces are undone as I come upstairs. No doubt I am supposed to look at my shoelaces and then look like an idiot because they are not undone. I don’t. Sit on the bus for half an hour, listening to this conversation – shouting at each other over several rows. They see a friend outside the bus. The two girls start banging loudly on the window. I reflect that it’s a good thing it is probably made of some kind of reinforced glass.
The child poverty industry is at it again. This is a preview of an exhibition of 30 “haunting” images of childrens’ bedrooms in 21st century Britain.
Sadly I won’t be able to attend the exhibition at the Foundling Museum and produced by a charity called Childhood Trust in London in February so all I can comment on is this article.
We are told, of course, how these images show the grim reality of life at the bottom. The head of the charity tells us that we can donate or get involved in a local grassroots action. (Charities these days are rarely so stupid that they fail to disguise their primary concern – getting donations – by not also encouraging people to “get involved”).
There isn’t that much to go on. But a few comments:
i. You can get cheap toys for a few pounds. Even people on a reduced level of benefit could afford one or two toys. Already they can probably afford more toys than many people had 150 years ago. Of course; poverty is relative. It hurts when you have blatantly much less than other people. But this level of poverty is not destitution. Charities present their demands for redistribution as demands to overcome destitution. But this is misleading.
ii. We are told that conditions in local authority hostels for the homeless are bare. Indeed they are. But – people are being housed. Many of these people are costing the taxpayer a great deal – free housing, money to live off, free schooling, free medical care. Conditions in hostels are bare because local authorities are trying to manage their costs somehow. Some of them at least are in these situations because of choices they have made. (This author had some friends who stayed in a hostel with their child for a while. They deliberately made themselves homeless and allowed themselves to be housed in a hostel so they could get into a Housing Association property and escape from private renting. This is probably not unusual). The charities who are up in arms about this rarely actually challenge the underlying social and political environment – capitalism, the free-market, the legality of private renting etc. They just complain about the consequences of all this and demand ever greater sums of public money be spent to ameliorate the worst aspects. This is though a bottomless drain. If you accept on the one hand a system which embeds inequality and then claim that those at the bottom end are impoverished and unfairly treated simply because they are at the bottom end your position is contradictory. – The explanation for the contradiction lies in the self-interest of all the self-appointed guardians of the poor – every pound spent on improving childrens’ bedrooms helps maintain a nice comfortable job for a charity executive. Ultimately these people support the system they claim to be concerned about.
iii. One of the sob-stories concerns someone who came to the UK as a “domestic slave”. She is here illegally and cannot work and therefore cannot afford clothes for her growing children. This is one of those Guardian stories about which we would love to know the actual details and facts. If she cannot work and cannot buy clothes how can she afford anything at all? E.g. food, rent? We are urged to feel sorry (and donate money) or outraged (and write to our MP asking that the government donate money) on the basis of what sounds like a very fishy story. The idea is to overwhelm our reason with the emotional impact of the story. – But, we can ask – if she is here illegally would it not be best for her to approach the authorities and try to legalise her position? (If she really does have children that might well help her case).
There is a lot wrong with the world today but small bedrooms is probably quite far down on the list of real concerns. And if the relative difference in incomes (which lies behind this) really troubles you – then do something about it. – Something other than blackmail and begging bowls.
The government has cheerily announced a new IT project – to put patient records online. (Only a matter of time before a massive data leak one imagines). That aside; the Minister is cheerily announcing that the new IT system which will be “the very best it can be” – and so on.
The fact that this was done just a few years ago and £11 billion (yes £11 billion) of public money was largely written off is barely getting a mention. That cash went to many people – none of whom I believe were asked to give it back. The shareholders of BT and CSC (a US consulting company) soaked up a good part of that £11 billion. The project was beset with cost overruns.
Meanwhile people are regularly jailed by the courts for benefit fraud. That is usually they claim a bit over and above what they are actually entitled to.
If you wear a suit, call yourself a consultant, and steal billions of public money all is fine. If you are working class and steal a few thousand you are looking at jail time.
The parliamentary “left” as well as the “caring conservatives” are united in one big con about the NHS.
New Labour massively increased spending on the NHS as part of their huge increase in public spending (roughly speaking the government take of GDP went up from 38% to 48% under New Labour). When the Tories tried to roll-back on some of New Labour’s unsustainable excesses (known by the false left as “austerity”) they still protected the NHS.
Foucault’s Discipline & Punish starts with a harrowing description of someone being broken on the wheel in early modern or medieval France. If I’ve understood correctly the point Foucault is making is this: we consider our modern criminal justice system with its near exclusive use of imprisonment as enlightened – a progressive and humanistic development from the cruel Middle Ages. But, this is not the case. There is a kind of inner cruelty in this disciplinary system which mirrors the vivid cruelty of the Middle Ages. Continue reading “Breaking people on the wheel 21st century style”
A zero sum equation.
A word to the students he is trying to recruit:
When Mr Younger waves the flag of a moral crusade don’t believe it. When he talks in comic book terms about defending the country from ‘evil’ don’t believe it.