I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How we have all been taught to hate the poor.

So what do you get when you shell out $50,000 for a bite of lunch? Well, after last week we all know the answer to that one. You get Mitt Romney. And it really is very, very hard to get your head around the idea of shelling out fifty grand to watch a human version of a fence post drone out his nasty vision of how the world should really be. I very much doubt if many of the diners that day coughed up with any great enthusiasm. Romney would struggle to get enthusiastic about himself!
There is an accepted wisdom that we live in an era where enough cash in an offshore account makes absolutely anything possible. As in anything. You can have a yacht the size of a navy frigate complete with a troupe of top end hookers, hire by the hour celebs at your parties and hire by the favour politicians at your beck and call. You want to win the Champion’s League? Sure. Why not? It might take you ten years, but you’ll have it in the end. We are all the playthings of the super rich. We dance to their tune. We do as they bid. We are the new serfs.

And yet Mitt Romney has gone a long way to questioning this perceived wisdom. Over the last few years he has shelled out fifty million bucks of his own cash to try and make people like him. And nobody likes him. And when we all got the chance to listen in on the sage words that were only supposed to be heard by those who had stumped up for their $50,000 lunch, it is easy to see why nobody likes him.

This was Mitt without the airbrushing. This was Mitt the chosen one of the 1% laying out his credentials. I’m your guy. I will maintain the new status quo. Never mind what I say when I talk with all those plebs out there. That’s just bullshit. You know that’s all bullshit. Don’t for Christ’s sake let it put you off. You see guys, I need to tell them what they want to hear else they won’t vote for me. It's not rocket science. But don’t get alarmed. Now we are safely behind closed doors, you can pay up your fifty large and get it from the horse’s mouth. I mean these people! Look at them. 47% of our fellow citizens are nothing more than scroungers who have no interest in doing a day’s work. Oh no sireee! They want to get their grubby hands on your money… my money .. our money! Well that ain’t about to happen on my watch. No way Hose.

And the truly sickening thing is that these guys, despite seeming like the worst of twats, basically run rings around us. They now have north of $13 trillion stashed away in their off shore accounts, every penny of it blissfully tax free. They meet up at their $50,000 lunches and compare notes. They mutually appreciate each other and rubber stamp the fact that they are the new supermen. And why should a superman have to pay any tax? Well of course he shouldn’t. Poxy things like roads and cops and schools and hospitals are not for them to worry about. And why should they be? Philip Green and Lewis Hamilton and Bono and Roman Abramovich shouldn’t have to worry themselves over paying for the nuts and bolts of the places where they live. They are after all the special ones. It is for us, the plebs, to cough up and pay all the boring bills. They are mutually convinced of their divine right to stuff their offshore accounts until they can be stuffed no more.

Lat week Mitt smiled his all American smile and told us what a great guy he is because last year he gave up 14% of the 13 million bucks he had earned in the form of tax. I mean, who could fail to warm to the guy. 14%! What a complete and utter dude. It is the kind of public spirited generosity that makes Mother Theresa look like the worst kind of Scrooge. And of course we have had some of this stuff on this side of the pond. A few years ago Prince Charles marshalled his people and with great ceremony told us that he had also paid 14% tax on an income of 15 million. You could just tell from the way the message was delivered that he really expected all of us to doff our caps and swear our eternal allegiance to the Crown. Of course the PR types never actually said the figure 14% out loud. Well obviously not. No, they shouted from the rooftops that the gallant Prince had forked out £2,100,000 in tax and only in the smallest of small print did they mention the fact that he had earned £15,000,0000. It was left to us to get out our calculators to do the maths. It would be nice if our newspapers took some time to consider this. We pay our tax and the Government hands over £15,000,000 to Prince Charles to fly the flag and be an all round good egg. Now, were he to be on the payroll and subject to PAYE, then about £7,000,000 would come straight back in the form of income tax. But that wouldn’t be on at all. How on earth could the poor lad get by on a mere eight million a year? Ridiculous. And how could he possibly hold his head up high at the polo? Well he couldn’t. Obviously he couldn’t. Only plebs pay PAYE and we couldn’t have the heir to the throne going round looking like a pleb, could we? God forbid.

The extra-ordinary thing is that we seem more than happy to allow the 1% to rob us blind and keep every penny with barely a murmour. Every year we earn less and find life harder and harder. Every year the 1% at the top earn more and more and salt their treasure away in havens from Monaco to Grand Cayman via the shiny towers of the City of London. Do we riot? Do we take to the streets? Do we down tools and say sod off the lot of you, enough is enough? Of course we don’t. We just go along with it. We do as we’re told. We doff our caps. We get ripped blind every day of our lives and shrug our shoulders.

They have a nice description of how this remarkable feat is achieved in America. For two hundred years Republican politicians have mastered the art of getting very, very poor people to get very, very mad; mad enough to take to the streets and riot to enshrine the right of very, very rich people to pay no tax.

Yeah, it’s mind boggling. And good old Mitt is merely the latest chosen one to keep the road to the gleaming vaults of Grand Cayman open for traffic.

Are we any better? Of course we’re not. It only takes a glance at the front pages from any day to see where the land lies. Do we get to hear about the £50 billion a year of dodged tax? A little. A very little. Do we get to hear about the £1 billion a year of dodgy benefits paid out? Oh yeah. Day after day after day. Is it really too big a stretch to wonder whether we are being brainwashed to blame it all on the poor? The undeserving poor? The single mums on forty a day with widescreen TVs and fridges filled with Blue Wicked and freezers full of pizza. The work shy youth who spend their days on the Xbox in a fug of dope. The scheming immigrants hell bent on taking the country for all they can get.

It has become tried and trusted. The 1% have perfected the art of making complete and utter mugs of us all. They buy up the media and plaster the front page with tales work shy scroungers. Mitt had the lower orders very carefully measured. 47%. Almost half. People on the take. The spongers. The worthless.

And you really have to take your hat of to them. How many times do we hear the $13 trillion they have stashed away discussed at the pub or the works canteen or at the counter of the Spar shop. Almost never. Instead we rage about the story of the single mum of seven who goes to Benidorm twice a year. No wonder Mitt was so comfortable in laying out his plans to keep half of his fellow citizens very firmly in their place.

Last week I had a pretty good example of how this all pervading hate the poor mentality plays out on the ground. A young lad came in for a food parcel. He was very much one of the mouse-like. I guess he must have been about twenty. Maybe twenty one. He was so nervous he could hardly speak. There was something very broken about him as he passed over the slip of paper that entitled him to a carrier bag containing three days worth of grub. We see more and more of this. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Confused. Unerringly polite. Uncomprehending. Shattered.

Could possibly advise him? I said I could try. And in a quiet, quiet voice he told his story. When he left school at eighteen he got himself a job and a flat. And for a while everything had been fine. But he had obviously been too shy and too quiet. He wasn’t made for the laddish culture of the workplace and soon he was an easy mark for the in-house bullies. In the end the bullies had their way and drove him out. He was sure that his employer had explained this to in the letter he took to the Job Centre. And maybe the employer had indeed put it down in black and white. But nobody at Job Centre Plus was interested in the fine print. They are hard wired to assume that every person through their door is a wannabe scrounger. And so they marked up his case as ‘intentionally unemployed’. As in worthless, work-shy, scrounger. As in a classic example of Mitt’s 47%. As in every day’s Daily Express front page. They didn’t bother to explain that this decision meant that his Housing Benefit was stopped straight away. The first he knew of this was a letter from his landlord giving him his notice of eviction. By the time he got his day in court, the Job Centre had grudgingly admitted that they had got it wrong and put him on Jobseeker’s Allowance and that had triggered a resumption of his Housing Benefit. Not that they backdated anything. Which meant that he found himself £600 in arrears with his landlord.

So here was what the Sheriff was presented with. The lad had been in his flat for three years and never had he once been late with his rent. Then he was forced to leave his job due to systematic bullying. Then the Job Centre screwed up and stopped all his claims. Then they admitted their mistake and re-instated all his benefits, but not before their mistake had racked up £600 of rent arrears.

Basically the facts are pretty open and shut. The lad had done nothing wrong. In fact all the way through the sorry tale he had been wronged himself. He had offered to pay of the arrears at a fiver a week. Oh the Daily Express would love that figure. A fiver a week! Why the worthless, scrounging swine! They would certainly not consider the fact that a fiver a week for my man is the equivalent to £50 a week for someone earning £25,000 a year. Well, the Sheriff was clearly a Daily Express man. A Mitt Romney man. He was having none of it. Evict the worthless swine! Who cares that none of it was his fault. Who cares that his rent is now being paid in full. None of that matters. We are all hard wired to distrust anyone who is poor. The Sheriff certainly was. He ignored the facts in front of him and decided to smell a rat instead. The Express would no doubt wonder why such a lad should have his rent paid at all. At least the tax payer has now been relieved of that burden by the Sheriff playing hardball.

Well sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that. Sure we have all saved £240 a month of housing benefit. But if the lad fails in his appeal, he will have no choice but to present himself to the local Homeless Department. And a room will indeed be found for him. And this will cost us all £900 a month. And this particularly vulnerable lad will be parachuted into the company of a variety of drug addicts and alcoholics and petty criminals. And in all likelihood he will have some sort of a nervous breakdown at which point the NHS will spend thousands on trying to fix him.

The whole thing is complete and utter stupidity which will cost us all a fortune and probably fracture yet another young life for good. This is the place where the 1% who call the shots have delivered us all to. A state of mind where we are taught to instinctively distrust anyone who is unlucky enough to not have much. We are told that the way to a brighter future is to come down on them like a tonne of bricks. To play hardball. To let them know their place.

And the more time we devote to hating and distrusting the poor, the less time we will spend wondering how less than 100,000 people have managed to rob us blind and stash away £13 trillion in their off shore accounts. No wonder they consider $50,000 to listen to Mitt Romney droning on to be a worthwhile investment.

What utter mugs we all are.  

1 comment:

  1. Mark how true this all is and how terribly frustrating. What can we do? We need a revolution.