Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Real Citizens United

 A few reports in today's Guardian of interest and perhaps more linked than the editors appear to realise.

The use of anti-depressants rose significantly in England during the financial crisis and subsequent recession, with 12.5m more pills prescribed in 2012 than in 2007, a study has found. Rises in unemployment were associated with significant increases in the number of anti-depressants dispensed and that areas with poor housing tended to see significantly higher antidepressant use. The report says a rise in unemployment and in the cost of living during the recession “could have an impact on the prevalence of mental health problems...” Researchers also discovered that a 1% rise in unemployment over time typically meant one and a half more tablets were given out per person on a GP list per year.

New data an authoritative British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey shows that after years of increasing tolerance, the percentage of people who describe themselves as prejudiced against those of other races has risen overall since 2001. Dr Grace Lordan, from the London School of Economics, said her own research based on BSA data going back to 1983 showed a clear correlation between recession and the numbers who self-described as prejudiced. Older men in economically deprived areas are most likely to admit to racial prejudice. “We know that females who are in part-time employment are more likely to admit to being prejudiced – perhaps because part-time jobs in the UK have pretty poor conditions.”  Lordan also explained.

The number of British youngsters living in poverty will reach 5 million by the end of the decade unless politicians take their promises to eradicate child poverty seriously, the charity Save the Children has warned. People born between 1960 and 79 – generation X increasingly identify as prejudiced.

 West Midlands has the highest proportion of people – 36% – who say they are a little or very prejudiced against people of other races in the UK. After London it is the region with the largest non-white population, and according to the Office for National Statistics, it also has one of the highest rates of unemployment and of families living in poverty.  Joy Warmington, chief executive of the equality and rights charity Brap, said “It is about class and deprivation”

Isn’t it a case that when we are unhappy we look for somebody or something to blame. Unlike the Bank of England’s governor who believes in an entity called “inclusive capitalism” people on the street understand full well not to look towards the rich and privileged for change. If we  recognise our economic system of inequality cannot be changed then we look to a thing we perhaps can do something about ...changing our neighbours.

Although SOYMB knows little of the latest political movement in Spain, Podemos, and has reservations about its advocacy of a list of reforms, the idea behind the party is simple. "It's citizens doing politics. If the citizens don't get involved in politics, others will. And that opens the door to them robbing you of democracy, your rights and your wallet...We want to build a political majority that reflects the social majority of Spain...We don't just want to be part of a political system that is decomposing. Spain isn't lacking political parties. But what's missing is citizens engaging in politics. And we want be a tool for that."

And that means engaging with your neighbours, not excluding them and making them comrades.

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