Shame on you – Shame on me.
I was in a shop the other day when a young woman came into the shop carrying on a conversation on her mobile telephone. I can’t bring myself describe her as a young lady, the term “As common as muck” springs to mind. A remark that my mum would have used, not only to pour scorn on the woman, but to distance herself from such ‘common behaviour’. My mum knew what poverty really was and when she would say that “We would end up in the workhouse”, I believe that the use of this remark was also an allusion to her own life and its use always conveyed the sense of shame she would feel should such a thing happen to us. Of course we aren’t talking about the penury, squalor and misery that philanthropist William Rathbone was talking about when he said in 1850:
It is beyond the omnipotence of Parliament to meet the conflicting claims of justice to the community; severity to the idle and viscious and mercy to those stricken down into penury by the vicissitudes of God … There is grinding want among the honest poor; there is starvation, squalor, misery beyond description, children lack food and mothers work their eyes dim and their bodies to emaciation in the vain attempt to find the bare necessities of life, but the Poor Law authorities have no record of these struggles.
Nevertheless, having the benefit of hindsight, I like many of my peers on this site, have an awareness of the difficulties faced by our parents and grandparents and the social injustice that they lived through. To them the spectre of real poverty and its consequences always lingered in their psyche. Many of us may not have felt deprived, yet I am sure this spectre still lingers in our psyche. A great many of us were also raised in single parent families. Well perhaps not quite. Those of us who lived in streets that usually had three generations of every family living in rows of ‘two up – two down’ terraced houses, would have had grandparents taking care of us while our mothers were doing war work. The fathers? They were away fighting a war from which many never returned.
This makes it very difficult for the likes of me to empathise with those that claim to be deprived in today’s society. Like the young woman who came into the shop discussing her financial difficulties on her telephone, in such a strident voice that everyone in shop must have been listening. It seems that she was having difficulty with welfare payments that she had already spent on something other than that for which they were intended, and so couldn’t meet her financial commitments. However, she didn’t seem particularly bothered as it seems ‘the social’ would sort it all out for her. I may get irate about welfare dependency and in a calmer moment be quite rational about the social problems that beset the current society; such as that in the latter case, I may actually have some empathy for the likes of this young woman. What I can’t come to terms with, is the lack of shame that seems prevalent amongst the indigent. My parents and grandparents were proud people, they would have been ashamed to be on welfare, and had they been would not have made it public knowledge.
The foregoing is not entirely a diversion from the post by Police Inspector Gadget — who, for whatever reason, no longer has a website — about Shaznay and Wayne. A story of love and welfare or, perhaps more aptly, love-on-welfare. Although to call it a love story may be making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Wayne is ‘banged up’. That is, he is a resident in one of her majesty’s prisons where it costs more to keep him in a manner better than that to which he is accustomed, than the welfare payments he would receive if he wasn’t ‘banged up’. Not only that, being ‘banged up’ would seem to have little impact on his nefarious ‘business’ activities. But, more on the ‘love story’. An associate of Waynes’ had texted a death threat to Shaznay, Wayne apparently having issued a fatwa on her. I don’t have the actual text, but it probably went something like, ‘ur ded u bich luv wane’ (I doubt if a pun would be intended). This was reported to the police ‘Domestic Violence Unit’ causing them to spring into action for the protection of Shaznay. This would seem to be unnecessary, as when asked what she would do if Wayne threatened her again, she said “I’ll punch his fecking face in the tosser, I hate him!“.
While I may have disdain for the likes of Wayne and Shaznay and the young woman on the mobile telephone, it was not the likes of them that acquiesced while successive post war governments replaced welfare degradation with welfare expectation. They are the children of the Thatcher – Prentice welfare programme and the captives of the Brown fiscal programme, encapsulated in his speech to a meeting of City bankers. If I pause and occasionally think that all of this is simply a symptom of my age, that such lack of shame is omnipresent, my life experience tells me that this is not the case. If I am now part of that strata of society that is called a ‘Middle Englander’, my experience of ‘ME people’, is that they are not (for the most part) ‘me people’. There are still many people who understand shame and retain those social values held by my parents and grandparents. However, I am convinced that many who have welfare expectations, in common with many who have wealth expectations, have no shame regarding the sources of their expectations and absolutely no regard for such social values.
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