Confessions of compassion fail

Forgive me blogosphere, for I have sinned. It has been 24 hours since my last confession. Give or take. I have failed to hold a compassionate attitude towards my fellow human beings. I have allowed myself to feel anger and resentment towards my government, and to assume that their behaviour represents the prejudices of the rich against the poor. Am I any less prejudiced than they? I cannot begin to imagine the burdens and trials that immense wealth must bring, or how hard it must be deciding to cut benefits rather than going after corporate tax dodgers.

This morning I have succumbed to anger, and considered writing a class-war tirade against those who have so much and begrudge the smallest generosity to those who have almost nothing. But am I any better? I, who would take away from those who enjoy the fortunes they have inherited, the educational advantages of rich parents and a leg up from the Old Boys Network. I would, if given the power, cut them down to size a bit and require them to have standards of living more commensurate with that of some of their less affluent neighbours. I do not wish to see them suffer, I would not wish them the poverty of benefit dependence.

And of course they must have good reasons for removing housing benefit from the under twenty fives. I’m sure they’ll make an exception for the ones who have no living parents to run home to, the ones who have been in social care all their lives, have no family they can safely return to, and whose educations have probably been undermined by being moved about a lot. They don’t mean those people under the age of twenty five, do they? Only the undeserving ones. So who would those be? The ones who didn’t get to go to the top school or get the best results and cannot find jobs? The ones who selfishly went to university and are now burdened with debt, and unemployed, and want to live somewhere they might find work? Inconsiderate swine, scrounging off the people who never had to lift a finger to get their head start in the world. Despicable! Or all those girls who went out and got themselves pregnant (stop a moment consider what that phrase means) and only got pregnant to get a council house and more benefits. Because we all know when you’re poor, undereducated and female, the only way you can get on in the world is through pregnancy and benefits. Living the high life on a few hundred pounds a week. Doing outrageously self indulgent things, like eating, and buying clothes for your child. Everyone knows that poor children don’t really need shoes. It’s character building for them to go without. Wouldn’t you agree, Mr Cameron?

Oh, guide me, wise ones, how do I feel greater compassion for the rich and spoiled men who want to ush in a new Victorian era? I admit, I like steampunk, I have worn a corset, I own some George Eliot novels. But the Victorian era illustrates so well what happens when the only way to make ends meet legitimately, for the poorest, means long, exhausting shifts, or multiple jobs, because the wages won’t pay the rent. Sound familiar?  It means families crammed into too small spaces, and children sent out to work. Chimney sweeps, at all, Mr Cameron? When being poor and decent means a life of drudgery, slavery and misery, people consider their options. The Victorian era was not a crime free period. It was also a time when prostitution rates were terrifyingly high. Forgive me, blogosphere for I have imagined that spoiled, wealthy rich boys might enjoy the idea of there being more prostitutes. Just because historically they were the ones paying the most to use women, boys, children, doesn’t mean that’ll hold true now, does it?

In the Victorian era, Christianity and its values still had a lot of influence. We have generations who have grown up being told that materialism rules, that wealth matters, that they are entitled to health, education and a job. What are they going to do when you pull the rug out from under their feet, Mr Cameron? Perhaps you don’t know that wealth is not created by the rich, it is derived from the labours of the poor. Real wealth, that is, not the kind of imaginary money games your old school chums and buddies are playing in ‘The City’. What happens, Mr Cameron, when people can no longer afford homes, and can no longer afford to feed their children? Perhaps you think this century’s people are sufficiently tamed with ciabatta and television. What progress we have since the days of bread and circuses! Perhaps you think a host of magical pixies will come and make it ok. Maybe you’re hoping for a pandemic to kill off the weakest ones and cut the running costs. I notice you’re closing hospitals. I guess the more people just do the decent thing and die, the easier it will be for you to balance the books. How hard this must all be for you!

But I think you’ll find this isn’t a nation of sheep, and that even sheep will fight back if they think you’re going to kill them, or harm their offspring. The future you are making, Mr Cameron, is not one in which people generally are likely to love or respect you. There’s nothing like desperation to make people do unpleasant and antisocial things. Remember Marie Antoinette? Mussolini hanging from a lamp post. The fate of those who betray their people is not always a happy one. I really hope we don’t end up there. Perhaps I can feel just the teensiest bit sorry for you after all; maybe that fine education of yours didn’t cover the causes of revolution.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Confessions of compassion fail

  • paulaacton

    I think we all know the reality is that when they stay stop housing benefits for anyone under 25 what they really mean is stop it then pay civil servants to come up with an entirely new benefit which will still cover the costs but have created extra jobs for the old boys sons to implement it or am I being a tad sceptical

  • Ivameep

    Thank you for that 🙂 The shivers are not going away anytime soon! The only hope that people have are other people… but I believe that we haven’t completely lost it just yet and politicians have much to lose and more to learn.

  • Emma

    The positives are few and far between, but here’s my stab at some:

    1) The actions of this coalition government exposes the UK Tory party for what they really are – representatives of elite/industrial upper-classes. There has been a myth in the UK for far too long of ‘working-class’ conservatism, ideological waters muddied by Thatcherism. It should now be quite clear too all, however, that the political right do not represent the interests of the people. Better still, it exposes the LibDem as liberals/wet Tories, not socialists (I mean the old-fashioned, Victorian, ‘market-forces are best’ meaning of the word ‘liberal’). This is also good as we all now know where we stand. Politics, in this respect, is therefore improving – the wolf in sheep’s clothing is slowly losing his fleece…

    2) Apathy is one of the most detrimental, damaging forces in politics – no damn it – in society. Too many people have disengaged, convincing themselves that it’s a conspiracy and that their actions do not matter. And they have been able to do this as, until now, we’ve enjoyed a prolonged period of relative economic stability. It is a rigged game, for sure, but that doesn’t mean we roll over and give in. The sentiments at the end of your article actually give me hope – hope that the public, robbed of their ciabatta and X-Factor, will actually have to start to applying their wonderful minds to the wider issues around them. AND there are plenty of avenues to do this without anger or violence, so there is huge scope for peaceful, thoughtful and therefore long-lasting revolution…

    3) This situation gives those of us in a position to recognise it, one of life’s most important spiritual opportunities – the opportunity to practice patience and compassion toward others. And we are ‘lucky’ enough to be presented with a real bunch of bastards to deepen and strengthen these skills against. Our friends may offer us comfort and love – but it is our enemies that offer us true opportunities for growth and strength. For this, personally, I am grateful.

    So thanks Mr Cameron and co. – your thoughtless, selfish and heartless actions allow the rest of us to see the thoughtful, selfless and compassionate qualities in ourselves and act!

    What a tremendous gift to behold.

  • bish

    This ought to be more widely read… it really is ‘on the money’ (oh, dear, did I really say that?). The energy behind a few hundred words, gathered together and spread over the page with intelligence and not a little passion, is put to good use.

    Of course, once more you make me feel a little guilty (not too guilty, but a little), and then /so sodding blessed/ to be where I is at. Awareness of good health, good surroundings, good friends and (not good fortune but) good outcomes of good hard work… I do thank the gods that be.

    As for the Tories… we forget so easily. Give us a Labour government, or perhaps two, and we’ll have the buggers back again. On the one hand a single term of office is far too short for long term planning… there’s no reason to think of the big picture, of the long term, if all that matters is the next election. On the other hand, a longer term of office would surely lead to a ‘lack of need’ for elections at all, and all hail the new dictatorships…

    Up the revolution… even if I probably would find myself up against the wall with the rest. 🙂

  • Alex Jones

    It matters not who is the ruler in UK now, they have no practical wisdom and make serious errors. It is no point worrying about what is happening in UK now, it is time to detach and let events run their course.

    I would like to think I have the same ability to see the patterns and undercurrents under reality as did those amongst the Druids who deal in divination. What I see is a boiling mass of chaos, nothing is certain, but great strife. It is now bad action to take any position on anything, nothing is certain, there is too much change.

    Using metaphors I see that Lughs spear is unleashed and it smells blood. I see the grail is on the move. Forget about what is going on in the world, and look to your own house. Trees with strong roots will resist the storm, all other trees will fall.

  • Anna Reith

    The problem – as I’m currently experiencing in the hilarity of Employment and Support Allowance appeals – is that, in the main, the people responsible for making the decisions truly believe those who are on benefits “shouldn’t really be claiming them”. There is a genuine conviction that the disabled are almost all malingerers, and those who can’t support themselves in full-time work (entirely disregarding the actual shortage of jobs) are work-shy.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a class issue all the way through to its core; there are a few MPs who have made an effort to understand the system they’re busily hacking around. However, there is an institutional – and I do believe, yes, Tory bias – that comes from somewhere, and it seems to defy all logic and, moreover, concrete evidence. The more I hear, the more I wonder if Mr. Cameron’s policies are derived directly from The Daily Mail’s break room.

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