You may recall George Osborne cynically using the brutal and vicious murder of six children by Mick Philpott to monster benefits recipients and the welfare state. This is what he had to say, “Philpott is responsible for these absolutely horrendous crimes and these are crimes that have shocked the nation. The courts are responsible for sentencing, but I think there is a question for government and for society about the welfare state and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state, subsidising lifestyles like that. I think that debate needs to be had.”
This Tory tactic has been used repeatedly to denigrate not just people on benefits but the entire working class. That’s what poverty porn was all about. And let’s be very clear about this, by working class they mean, very specifically, white working class, white trash, Chavs, the something for nothing, culture of entitlement, vile white working class. Find the lowest of the low and present that as the one size fits all image of the working class in Britain, you know, the white working class in social housing ‘sleeping off a life on benefits’ (Osborne again, in a budget speech no less). It is racism that dare not speak its name.
And what happened to social housing, The post war homes fit for heroes? Thatcher is what happened and her home owning democracy and now social housing is restricted to the most desperate who are ripe for demonising and monstering, thus the term ‘sink estates’ came into being (council housing estates characterised by high levels of economic and social deprivation). That provides the image of all working class people, put forth by politicians and the media, the free loading working class, useless eaters and a burden on the welfare state, spending all their money on drink and drugs and neglecting their children, that is, if they are not actually murdering them.
To be working class is to be feral, dirt poor, unintelligent and uneducated, a living affront to all right minded and right thinking people.
What absolute, complete and utter, bollocks!
I quoted Margaret Thatcher in an earlier piece, but here it is again, “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”
Who was that aimed at if not the working class? And very specifically the minimum wage, zero hours contract, low pay, no pay, down beaten, exploited, used and abused, for profit, working class. Not all the working class, because we’re a very broad social class, but those at the cutting edge of subsistence survival. The people working their hearts out for bullshit pay, thanklessly exploited and brutally attacked for the sin of being poor.
Are companies entitled to make their profits without obligation to those who make them? Oh yes. Nothing to see there. It took government legislation to establish even a minimum wage, which is less than an amount that people can actually survive and live on, and that became the industry standard for far too many businesses, including companies like Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons, whilst raking in the profits.
And let’s not forget the miners (Thatchers enemy within) and their pensions which have been serially robbed by successive governments. Generations of miners who’ve dug the black gold that kept Britain running, dying of the black lung and other mining related issues that crucified their health. No entitlement without obligation? Oh I think working class people have met their obligations endlessly, day in, day out, year in year out, generation after generation, and still do.
Thatcher destroyed industry and now the majority of working class people are employed in service industries and it is the government that has destroyed workers rights, paving the way for bullshit jobs, on bullshit hours for bullshit pay.
The working class have carried the responsibility for keeping Britain running since the industrial revolution. How long would London survive without the cleaning staff who are increasingly being socially excluded, socially cleansed, from living in the capital?
Britain is still nation built on class and I am working class and proud of it. I was raised working class, it’s written in my bones. Sure I was the first person in my family to go to university, a place I gained as a mature student based on years of work and experience as a youth worker and outdoor pursuits instructor. Does that make me middle class now? Does it hell. University taught me to critically think, it reinstalled my thirst for knowledge that school ‘taught’ out of me. It encouraged and taught me to write. Who knew that working class people can do such things? But we can and do, against all that is stacked against us.
Ours is a proud rich history and the class war isn’t nearly done, a war not of our making, but it is we who have had the temerity to challenge it, to demand social justice and it is as important today as it has ever been against a government determined to starve us out of existence and deny hundreds of thousands even the means of survival in their appalling ingratitude and contempt for our lives.