The Deserving Poor

This is an extract from a longer piece, including comments from other authors, which originally appeared on Facebook.

America's idea of welfare is everybody else's idea of throwing the poor to the wolves and letting them feast. But it's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. Do you know what percentage of the population over there is on benefits? And how much that number rose as the recession -- which I think most people agree was caused by rich folk at the high end of unrestrained free market capitalism -- bit deep? Who are these people deliberately getting knocked up so they can get more benefits? Do you know them personally? And if you do have they told you that's why little Bobby or Alice came along? Could it have anything to do with poor education? Low self-esteem caused by the demoralisation of living on the dole, with nothing to do all day, nowhere to go, no money in the kitty and knowing every time you turn on the radio or tv or read the letters page in the paper or listen to the policians talking at election time that your kind of people will be the ones who get blasted and nobody, but nobody, else in the country will give a shit about you? It can't be nice to be the one free target for everybody else's hatred in a population as large as America's, which itself is based on a myth of self-reliant bullshit perpetuated by Republican hatemongers like Duke Wayne. Poverty and unemployment are the result of the capitalist system we all think so glorious not being properly administrated and regulated, I reckon, and America is the prime example of how that: look at the obscene amounts of wealth a small percentage of the population have, while most have very little. But those rich sleazebags are admired, set up as paragons of virtue, while they lay off thousands of workers and feed themselves fat bonuses. Which seems a little bit like a dog running to fetch a stick and returning it obsequiously to the master who has used it to provide the poor canine with a beating.

I have been in the unemployment offices very recently. Yesterday was my last visit, actually. I know these people. I know the look in their eyes and the discomfort in their bodies as they sit waiting for their turn at the desk. Ninety nine per cent of them don't want to be there. Ninety nine per cent feel mortified by the prospect of having to ask somebody else for their food money. The occasional one who thinks it's a great idea, if he (or she exists), is a casualty of the system even in his distorted thinking, in my opinion. You must have a very hermetic, paranoid, pessimistic view of the world if you want nothing except a few extra dollars in your hand, and the contumely of the whole world on your head. And a few extra dollars is all you get. Or a few extra pounds, in this country, and until the Tories start to dismantle it the Welfare system in the UK is statistically much more generous than it is in America.

Society has to look after its casualties, I think, and I don't mind at all if that makes me read like an unreconstructed socialist from the valley of the dinosaurs. I believe the average worker in capitalist and communist societies is fucked too. A few people may abuse the welfare system, but so be it; it's a price worth paying to ensure that the rest, who are claiming benefits through no fault of their own, are looked after. That they have food and water and a roof over their head in a house they can afford to heat. We are human beings before we're capitalists, aren't we? If we're going to tell ourselves that our neighbour's problem is not our problem - our wide screen tv is working fine thanks, and the car in the garage roars like a tiger -- if we're going to let ourselves believe that the poor are poor because they don't work as hard as we do and they're probably morally defective too --we might as well dump all of our Christ and Buddha statues in the garbage and leap straight back to the workhouses.


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