I am half of a couple that hasn’t been struck (to date) by any tragedies.
Whilst we have several hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of mortgage debt (don’t ask the exact amount, it’s far too scary to say out loud) ; we were young adults in a generation where it was possible to get on the housing ladder based on multiples of our salaries; at a time where there were lots of mortgage options and we didn’t have to wait for someone to die so we could inherit a deposit or house.
We’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had to default on a mortgage payment; so we’ve not seen our home repossessed due to a sudden change in our fortunes.
Hubby and I are happily unmarried and have been so for 22 years, so I haven’t found myself in the situation of being a single mother. I haven’t had to make the decision to not work because the jobs I can get hardly pay enough to cover the childcare. I haven’t had to justify staying at home to raise my own child or been forced to take minimum wage, zero hour jobs because being a ‘mum’ is not considered work. I’ve not been forced to go to work to spend all my wage on someone else who gets to see my child grow up. I’ve not been shamed for making the choice to be a stay at home mum. I have a partner, I had family around for childcare support so I had choices. I was not a waster in society for having kids I couldn’t afford, or having kids just so I could claim benefit. Oh no I haven’t had to wear those labels.
Whilst we’ve both been made redundant in the past, it’s never been in a town or city largely supported by one specific industry so hundred/thousands of people with similar skills found themselves on the job market at the same time. We did get other jobs. We hadn’t slogged the years away in mining towns or manufacturing towns where the whole industry disappeared. Where the job market didn’t exist any more.
We’ve also not been out of work and whilst been prepared to take anything, found every single employer considers you are too skilled for the job and won’t take you on because they think you’ll leave for something better. We’ve never not been rejected job after job after job because we’re too old (although they’d never tell you that); we’ve never had to experience the indignity of sitting in front of a job search advisor (or whatever they are called this month) and had to prove that we’ve applied for X amount of jobs no matter how inappropriate in order to get a little bit of money to feed ourselves.
We’ve always worked and paid our taxes but never earned enough to take advantage of the tax evasion loophole the corporations, bankers and fat cats have access to.
And, whilst we don’t have a penny of savings and our credit cards are maxed out but we haven’t been in a situation where we’ve defaulted so, we haven’t had bailiffs at our door. Or had to take out extortionate debt enhancing payday loans We have had the good fortune of having parents who could help us in difficult times. And despite no savings and huge debts, we’ve never been struck down by illness that has then forced use to the food banks. We are not vilified by the media and government as wasters or scroungers because we haven’t found ourselves in any of these situations.
There have been periods of time where I had to give up work because of my health, but we have always managed to sustain ourselves; so I’ve not had to justify myself for ESA or PIP and suffer the shame and embarrassment of assessments and trick questions, and assumption that I’m a benefits cheat when I’m at my lowest ebb. I’ve not been threatened with sanctioned because I’ve missed an appointment at the jobcentre which is 20 miles away and the bus didn’t show up or I had no money for petrol in my car. Or been too unwell, or confused to turn up on time.
I never been in a situation where I could choose private healthcare to avoid the long waiting list in the NHS due to the continued cuts in funding. I’ve not had to be on benefits for years because my health was such that I needed an operation or medical intervention but the waiting list was so long I had no choice but to claim social support. So I’ve not been stuck at home wanting to work but not fit to be there, physically declining in fitness as my movement deteriorates from the long wait and my mental health deteriorating from the lack of social interaction.
I can occasionally (maybe once every month or so) go out for a nice meal with my hubby and kids. I can afford to meet my friends for coffee and cake or grab a pint at the end of the week in the pub. I can even afford a cheap holiday abroad every year.
My son did get a good education to A level. and although we couldn’t afford to pay for him to go to university ourselves we’re in Wales and he worked hard and got A’s in his A levels, so he did get a good amount of financial support as a grant plus several bursaries. So whilst he’ll still leave university with several thousand pounds worth of debt from having to get student loans, it will be nothing like the amount many students have. And because of this he has gone to university, he hasn’t had to worry about starting his working life with £20-£30 K of debt and bottled out (and I don’t blame those who do).
I’m so lucky that I was born in the UK. I’ve not found my family in a war zone or under tyrannical rule. I don’t fear every day for my life, We haven’t had to risk our lives on treacherous journeys because the risk of dying in transit is less frightening than staying where we are. We’ve not arrived in the UK looking for a safe haven, where we won’t be raped, tortured or killed; only to find ourselves in the UK in a border ghetto, or sent back. I’m not considered a drain on society. lazy, a freeloader or a terrorist just because of having the good fortune of being born in the UK.
I’m not one of the millions of people in this country who have slogged their entire life on a below average British wage, unable to save and reliant on a decreasing government pension despite having paid in my whole life. I’ve not slogged away my whole life and paid into a pension I believed was ring fenced only to discover that a fat cat corporation has squandered my cash or the finance companies have mismanaged my money. (Actually that’s not true, Hubby has lost tens of thousands from his pension pot due to financial mismanagement – but I’m sure those boys still took their admin fees and bonuses as his pension money was frittered away) However, we are not retired yet, we’re not yet reliant on our underfunded and dysfunctional social care system. We’re not yet having to live solely on our State pensions, although we won’t know yet if our compulsory NI contributions through our life have been spent elsewhere and we may yet find there is nothing in the pot for us. However, we do own our house or rather the bank does) but if the worse came to the worse we are in a positive equity situation and could move somewhere smaller But my heart bleeds for those who did their best on their low incomes and paid their stamp and having planned for their future only to have arrived there to discover the coffers are empty.
It’s easy to (mis)judge others. Especially if you are one of the ‘lucky ones’ like me. Even more so if you are one of the 13% of the population with private healthcare. Or someone who can go to university without taking out a student loan; or if you earn enough to accumulate savings,; or have inherited substantial wealth; or have no rent to pay; or no mortgage debt; or never have to think twice before eating out; or take luxury holidays as a given.
It’s easy to (mis)judge others. Especially, in our society that uses a politicised media to spread propaganda and fear to terrorise and control us.
It’s easy to misjudge and to formulate a view based on your own life and how good the system is for us as individuals. But we are all people living on the same planet, going through our daily lives with our individual and shared joys and struggles.
We should remember that wealth is often a matter of luck: the country in which we are born; the location in which we are raised; the education system to which we had access; the wealth and education of the parents we are born to; the pay rate for the job in which we have to or choose to work; the health issues we may have inherited or befallen…..
If you have been fortunate in these and other areas and the system leaves you comfortable, then that is fantastic, but as human beings we have an obligation to care for those who are less fortunate; to advocate for those who are less articulate; to subsidise those who are less healthy; to feed those who are starving; to protect those who are in danger. We should not just swan along in our rose-tinted little worlds where “we’re alright jack” is the order of the day, and the issues around us are not important because they do not affect us. We have a human and moral obligation to care. And if you have a religious faith, you also have a God-given duty to do so.
Anyway, I will end this rant in the hope that just one person in the ‘I’m all right jack’ camp reads this and thinks ‘bloody hell, look at what this government is doing to our middle and poorer classes, look at the shame and pain and disregard it is affording our disabled, our sick, our children , our future” .
If one person reads this and properly looks out beyond their own comforts to see that the current system does not work for the majority. If that one person then takes action to change the current course; if that happens then this long prose has been worth its while.
Thank you for persevering and reading to this point. Much love, kindness and consideration to you and yours.
This blog was inspired after I read a very long but rather wonderful article yesterday by someone called Killy S Jones “The erosion of democracy and the repression of mainstream media in the UK”, I’ve linked to it and you may like to scan though it, but I can understand if you don’t, its pretty full on. At the end are a few excerpts tha may peak your interest.
“…..Neoliberalism always gravitates towards increasing inequality, extending and deepening poverty. Fear mongering is sometimes used with a diversion or misdirection propaganda technique to mask this,……. …… The process often begins with a marginalised group being singled out and held to blame for the socioeconomic problems created by the system of socioeconomic organisation itself. Using the construction of folk devils (welfare “skivers” , “workshy” “something for nothing culture”, “culture of entitlement” or “dependency” for example), the political class and media generate moral panic and outrage…..”
“…The Conservatives commonly use a nudge technique called “social norming” …..or “bandwagon propaganda technique”…… It’s about manipulating a false sense of consensus, and normalising (their) ideology……Political slogans like “a country that works for everyone” and the previous “all in it together” are examples of poor attempts at social norming. …”
“….(The media) process of delegitimisation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism….”