There is nothing more vile than the rich lecturing the rest of us about what it means to be poor. Whether it comes from a chinless failure like IDS, who sponges off his wife’s wealth, or a liberal hack like Deborah Orr, who sponges off her husband’s book royalties, it is the most contemptible trait of the so called chattering classes that they think they know anything at all about our lives.
Couched as it is in crass liberal piety, Deborah Orr’s column in The Guardian today exposes the truth about what fake left liberals truly think of those who haven’t reached their latte slurping heights. The concept of the deserving and undeserving poor is just as entrenched amongst humous guzzling Clapham (or in Orr’s care, edgy Stockwell) yummy mummys and flash daddys as it is in any Knightsbridge drinking club.
Orr has deigned to speak of the lower classes today in order to offer a tacit defence of Iain Duncan Smith’s attempt to rebrand poverty as a moral failing.
In an attempt to demonstrate she isn’t a vile old Tory, Orr points out that a life of minimum wage work is hardly an aspiration, unlike Iain Duncan Smith’s work makes you free mantra. She stops far short of calling for higher wages though (wonder how much she pays her cleaner?). Instead she declares: “Duncan Smith’s indicators invite consideration of how the poorest can truly be motivated.”
Nothing else she says before or after this statement really matters. She has clearly decided in her Chablis addled mind that all the poor need to do is motivate themselves and their problems will disappear.
Iain Duncan Smith announced this week that he will abandon the internationally agreed definition of poverty, which is calculated according to how much money someone has compared to everyone else. Instead he has come up with yet another hare-brained scheme which attempts to shift the blame of poverty firmly onto those who are poor.
Along with the predictable ‘worklessness’, the new Tory speak for unemployment, IDS claims that family breakdown, poor health, low educational attainment, addiction and debt are the new causes of child poverty.
Yet even the richest in society can suffer from all of these so called moral failings including worklessness. Deborah Orr is a prime example. She seems to think that writing the occasional shit column for The Guardian, whilst her husband – the public school then Oxford educated Will Self – spunks out the odd book and is sometimes on the telly, means they have proper jobs.
Worklessness infects the cosy media elite, with their army of underpaid child minders and cleaners, far more than the rest of us who have to clean up our own shit and look after our our own kids.
As for the other new indicators of poverty, poor health can happen to anyone, and at some point is likely to happen to everyone. Millionaires can run up huge debts whilst the divorce courts are full of squabbling Tarquins and Jemimas ripping each other apart over who gets to keep the fucking chandelier. Deborah Orr’s own husband spent a large part of his earlier arduous career as a Guardian journalist shooting up smack.
The question is how these social problems, which cut across the classes, impact on people’s lives. And that is down to how much money people have.
When kids who’ve lost EMA can no longer afford books and fares to school or College, their poverty has nothing to do with poor educational attainment. Their poor educational attainment is down to the fact they’ve got no fucking money. When people’s health is worsened because they can’t afford good food, warm homes, or their local hospital has closed down, that is down to simple lack of cash.
If couples split up because of arguments over money, or because the benefit system increasingly pays people to be apart – something that will get much worse when next year’s benefit cap for families is introduced – they are placed under that pressure because they are skint. When families run up huge debts with loan sharks because they can’t pay the heating bill, then that debt is merely a symptom of having no money, not the initial cause.
People on sickness or disability benefits are not poor because they are unmotivated, or even because they are sick or disabled. Lots of rich people are sick or disabled. They are poor because society no longer has the decency to ensure those who can’t work due to illness or disability are paid a livable income.
And whilst a cosy spell in The Priory may be enough to confine youthful drug addiction to a scary dinner party anecdote amongst the pampered middle classes, shit housing, shit benefits, and shit treatment services mean the reality is very different if you are poor. And by poor I mean have no money, which is what poor means.
The endless jumping through intellectual hoops in an effort to redefine poverty that comes from both liberals and tories is rooted in the same entrenched sense of class entitlement. Neither wishes to acknowledge their own privilege and instead insist they are in such a cosy position because they are simply wonderful examples of human beings who’ve worked hard and are very clever. Both sides overlook the structures in society which create both mass poverty and their own affluent lifestyles. And both sides, just like Deborah Orr and Iain Duncan Smith, send their children to private school to pass on their social privilege.
They will both connive to maintain this privilege, insisting that society can’t be organised any other way and all the poor need to do is pull their socks up and stop whining. As Deborah Orr herself said, protesting about the cuts is a waste of time.
And both, whether openly expressed, or snidely insinuated, believe that those with least are responsible for their poverty – because if people stop blaming the poor, then they might start blaming the rich. And even the most mung bean sprouting, Big Issue buying, politically correct and oh so concerned affluent liberal knows instinctively whose side they are really on in the class war.