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.