Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dickensian Britain

Action for Children has seen the biggest calls for help for food and clothes banks since the 1940s and warns British society was heading to the Victorian era crisis. Charity spokesman Jacob Tas said it was now showing a "staggering" number of families where to obtain emergency help with many choosing between having to eat or paying for heating or the rent. It's painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s. It's really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to go to food banks to get their food."

He said while Britain was in the top 10 richest nations in the world it was supporting a two-tier society with others struggling to feed and clothe themselves.

"We can't go back to the times of Charles Dickens where at Christmas time we are handing out food and clothes. We should be more advanced in our opinion of society where we take care of those who need help the most."

Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould said half of those attending food banks were from working households so the issue was not unemployment but the average minimum wage had not kept up with rising cost of living including food, fuel and rent.
"The cost of living is going up and the amount you have to spend is flat lining or going down and we anticipate things will get worse," he said.

Since April this year, 500,000 people - of which one third are children - have received emergency supplies from the 400 food banks run by Trussell Trust charity.

The Guardian carries a very relevant article by  denouncing an underlying belief that greed of the few means prosperity for all:
"Tory MP Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith's deputy, insisted it was "right" that half a million Britons be dependent on food banks in "tough times". Around the same time, the motor racing heiress Tamara Ecclestone totted up a champagne bill of £30,000 in one evening...The rich are not merely different: they've become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled "aspiration". Reaching its zenith at this time of year, our participation in cult rituals – buy, consume, accumulate beyond need – helps mute our criticism and diffuse anger at systemic exploitation. That's why we buy into the notion that a £20 Zara necklace worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on a designer gown costing thousands of pounds is evidence that she is like us. We hear that the monarch begrudges police officers who guard her family and her palaces a handful of cashew nuts and interpret it as eccentricity rather than an apt metaphor for the Dickensian meanness of spirit that underlies the selective concentration of wealth...Cults rely on spectacles of opulence intended to stoke an obsessive veneration for riches...They help us forget that wealthy British landowners, including the Queen, get millions of pounds in farming subsidies while the rest of us take back to the modest homes, which we probably don't own, lower salaries and slashed pensions. Transfixed by courtroom dramas involving people who can spend a small family's living income on flower arrangements, we don't ask why inherited wealth is rewarded by more revenue but tough manual labour or care work by low wages....Enter "austerity chic" wherein celebrity footballers are hailed for the odd Poundland foray, millionaire property pundits teach us how to "make do" with handmade home projects and celebrity chefs demonstrate how to "save" on ingredients – after we've purchased their money-spinning books, of course...Cultish thinking means that the stupendously rich who throw small slivers of their fortunes at charity, or merely grace lavish fundraisers – like Prince William's Winter Whites gala for the homeless at his taxpayer-funded Kensington Palace home – with their presence, become instant saints. The poor and the less well-off, subject to austerity and exploitation, their "excesses" constantly policed and criminalised, are turned into objects of patronage, grateful canvasses against which the generosity of wealth can be stirringly displayed. The cult of the rich propounds the idea that vast economic inequalities are both natural and just: the winner who takes most is, like any cult hero, just more intelligent and deserving, even when inherited affluence gives them a head start...The demonising of the poor is the flip side of the cult of the rich ... It is time to change it through reality checks, not reality shows.”

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