In a thought-provoking article published in today’s issue of The Observer, columnist Barbara Ellen, using the findings of a multi-faith sponsored study called The Lies We Tell Ourselves. which highlights myths surrounding people and poverty, explains how shaming the poor has become the new blood sport
The report argues that the government is “deliberately misrepresenting” the poor, blaming them for their circumstances while ignoring more complex reasons, including policy deficiencies. Moreover, they feel that this scapegoating is the result of collusion between politicians, the media and the public.
The reader does not have to wholly believe her assertion that it does seem so long ago that most people would think twice about villifying fellow citizens for being down on their luck to see that she means that thses days it appears “to have been sanctioned as a new national bloodsport, regularly slipping under the PC-radar as little else manages to.”
Is this our new default setting – that the needy are greedy? This chimes with a slew of government policies that appear to be founded on notions of bulletproof self-reliance, making no allowances for circumstances or sheer bad luck, and which many would require huge amounts of help to put into practice, never mind sustain. Meanwhile, the more fortunate are invited to pour scorn upon anyone who fails.
One could argue saying that it simply the “more fortunate” are the only ones invited to pour scorn on the failures ignores the fact that some of those pouring scorn are not always especially fortunate themselves. So what we have is the almost-poor being encouraged to blame those below them for the situation they find themselves in.
Ellen has a neat explanation about how this came about.
How does this kind of thing escalate? That’s easy. At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the poor are poor. They have no money, no voice, no representatives, and no means to establish their own public profile. Poverty is a big domino – once it falls, everything goes. In such circumstances, if a group of people are “deliberately misrepresented” then there’s precious little they can do about it. The churches got it right – if anything, the truth seems so much worse that it must surely be time to put the shame back into poor-shaming.
All I would add here is that the same could be said about those who who are almost poor. They are encouraged to echo the those who are fortunate because while they may not have no money, they almost certainly have “no voice, no representatives, and no means to establish their own public profile” Nor does it look like they will have in the very near future.