Astonishing. “The economy is on the mend”, “We’re all in this together” etc. And yet what’s really booming is homelessness and reliance on foodbanks. Ever get the feeling you’re being lied to?
(not satire – it’s the UK today!)
The number of homeless families has almost doubled during the last 3 years of our so-called economic recovery.
That means over 90,000 children will spend this Christmas without a home.
Meanwhile, this is what our newspapers are telling us:
Mind you, to be fair, most of our newspapers are owned by billionaire tax exiles who don’t even live in the UK.
So what would they know?
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A man was told by DWP to go back to the same company that laid him off, this time on a 6 month unpaid work placement. When he refused his Jobseekers benefit was stopped.
Reading the article, it seems the organisation is getting more than half its staff from the unpaid workfare scheme. They also say some of the paid workforce started on MWA. No organisation should be using such a high proportion of workfare – it’s clearly going to impact paid work opportunities.
Secondly, what are Jobcentre staff thinking? MWA is supposed to be for people who lack work skills. You can’t really lack the skills to work somewhere you’ve already worked. Secondly, claimants are permitted to refuse a placement on ethical grounds and apply elsewhere (there has to be some flexibility on ethics, imagine trying to send a Vegetarian to work in a slaughterhouse). He clearly has a good ethical reason to refuse that particular placement, and should have been allowed to do so.
I can only conclude that the Jobcentre Adviser thought that, because he’ll have some remaining income (his pension), he’d just give up on JSA for an easy life and that would be that – an off-flow for the statistics. Looks like they messed with the wrong guy.
I’m cautious about publicly supporting politicians. I was burned after supporting the Lib Dems last time, and Labour before that. I don’t really trust them not to throw their principles in the toilet at the first whiff of a cabinet pay cheque. But, so far, both Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party have remained refreshingly consistent.
Here’s another the reason to like these people – the launch of their living wage campaign which aims to get all workers above a perfectly reasonable £10 an hour.
More on their website:
As part of #NaBloPoMo I’m attempting to re-launch my blog, publishing one post per day during November. For some of those, I’ll be re-posting old content – this is one such post, inspired by Russell Brand talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in his book Revolution. What he said very much echoed my point here, that it’s becoming increasingly impossible as a result of government policy for many to progress beyond the bottom tier of the pyramid. This was first published on 26th April 2012.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory on human motivation which describes the stages of development we go through in order to reach our full potential.
The theory is most commonly expressed (though not by Maslow himself) using a pyramid with our most basic needs at the bottom. The theory goes that these basic needs must be met before the individual will be sufficiently motivated to achieve secondary or higher level needs.
Those on low incomes or in insecure employment are focussed on the bottom two tiers – the physiological needs (decent food, clothing and shelter) and safety/security (both personal safety and financial security).
21st century UK government policy has been heavily weighted against those on low incomes and especially those whose income is wholly or primarily derived from welfare benefits. I say UK government policy as opposed to Tory policy because the wave of welfare reform began under Labour and we should be careful not to allow history to erase any of Blairite Labour’s failings solely because the ConDem coalition later sank to previously unthinkable lows.
The policies weighted against those reliant on welfare income include changes to housing benefit, council tax benefit and disability benefits that have already been implemented. Housing benefit is now paid according to the number of bedrooms the government think you need, so if you have a spare room and lose your job you’re in trouble because there’s not even a grace period for those tied into contracts. Evictions are beginning to pick up pace. Under 35’s only get a shared room rate because they don’t deserve even a one bed flat. And amazingly plans to end housing benefit altogether for the under 25’s were revealed this month. There is also the pending benefits cap scheduled for April 2013 which the Department of Work & Pensions’ own impact assessment suggests will affect a further 67,000 households; bear in mind this is after all the other cuts to benefit those households have suffered.
The general political theory is: make life harder for those on benefits and they will be motivated into work. Let’s forget for a moment the lack of jobs in a failing economy and the fact that many of these benefits supported people already in work and focus solely on how the plan stacks up against a motivational theory so widely recognised it appears in hundreds of leadership books, a theory familiar to students of Psychology and Business Studies.
Well, I’m not a psychologist but Maslow’s theory seems to suggest welfare reform is highly unlikely to help get people into work. Even if there are enough jobs available to meet the needs of the swelling ranks of the unemployed plunging people into deeper poverty may make people less able to find and keep stable employment.
Employment and financial security appear on the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy, meaning you’re only likely to effectively work on those areas if the bottom of the hierarchy is reasonably well taken care of. These are your physiological needs, including food and sleep. So you need somewhere decent to sleep and enough money left for food after that. This is about all a single person can hope for on benefits, and their place to sleep may well be threatened by housing benefit shortfall. These most basic needs – full housing and council tax benefit plus the amount government determined was the minimum you need to exist on – were previously covered for the jobless, giving them some space to work on the next level (gaining employment and more financial security). Focussing on job hunting is difficult when you’re worried about homelessness. Spending any money on travel to interviews and looking presentable is also difficult when your income doesn’t cover your rent. Government has made it harder for people to get into secure work.
Government and sections of the press also repeatedly call for these same people to set better examples for their children (level 3) and show more respect for others (level 4), presumably failing to realise that every regressive policy they’ve implemented makes it more unlikely the lives of those at the bottom will improve. This means the social problems neo-conservatives associate with the underclass will worsen too. Perhaps that’s why some council’s are already looking to export their urban poor north.
Brand(-ing): verb. To promote or follow the political ‘teachings’ of Russell Brand.
Russell Brand’s been on the tele and in the papers a lot recently, and it’s been winding me up somewhat. Despite my annoyance I can’t help but seek out the coverage because on some level I want to be outraged. Even though I’m generally in agreement with him I’m sort of waiting for him to say something stupid again, like “I don’t vote and I don’t think you should either”. I’m not sure where this vitriol comes from, and yes it does have a certain “People’s Front of Judea” vibe I confess. When my fiancée stuck up for Brand it led to a weird and pointless argument and that is how, upon reflection, I decided to give him a chance or at least learn to keep my cake hole shut at home. Then I decided to participate in #NaBloPoMo so I’ll take any inspiration I can get, hence here I am. Still talking about Russell Brand.
We have something in common, Russell and I. We’re both passionate about the spiritual and the political in equal measure. For me, Brand sounds more genuine when he’s talking about his spiritual transformation… about kundalini yoga and the inner knowledge that we are all somehow interconnected, that we are one. I BELIEVE him when he talks about stuff. I believe that he has lived it while (possibly due not to some inherent quality or lack of knowledge, but his lavish and privileged lifestyle) I find him less convincing as a political activist. I find myself wondering whether if, on any level, Brand is conscious of this potential conflict. I wonder this because I know that I was political before spiritual, and that the two are not often found in one being. The majority of raving lefties like us are atheist, or at the very least agnostic. The majority of new age types don’t like to think about politics because, according to the Law of Attraction, focussing on the negative in society only breeds more of the same. So Russell and I are anomalies. I’ve long been conscious of this contrast and I wonder if he is too. He’s managed to weave the two together in a way I never have, as though he’s not aware it might confuse or alienate anyone, whereas I am way more comfortable talking politics and well aware that when I do start to talk spiritualism I’ll probably lose the handful of occasional readers I have. This doesn’t seem to be affecting Russell Brand – he’s more popular than ever – although it’s the politics not the yoga that’s getting him all over the papers.
As I’ve said I found him being plastered all over the TV and papers painted as some kind of working class messiah INTENSELY annoying. Normal people choose to ignore stuff that annoys them. But not me. I can’t bite my tongue, I can only attempt to control the direction and format I let it loose in. So I chose to read his new book – Revolution – and then use this as the topic to re-launch the Ethical Times blog (or the ET for short).
What’s so annoying about him anyway?
Admittedly thanks to clean living he no longer looks like the personification of syphilis, but he still speaks like a Dickensian villain who’s just completed a MOOC in Marxism 101. He seems overly enamoured with a few fancy words (hegemony and paradigm are particular favourites). And every couple of pages he lapses into rhyme, and I think I’ve wondered into Dr Seuss material. Only more sweary. Frankly that’s disconcerting.
On top of that, anyone who does one of these Che Guevara copy pictures is instantly on my shit list. The fact that Guevara’s family remained so committed to the message of his life that they have never attempted to copyright or profit from his image should inspire us to offer up ourselves just as freely – as humans, as inspiration, NOT as a brand or a commodity. To steal Che Guevara’s image to promote yourself is to miss that message entirely and frankly that pisses me off. Madonna… Ricky Gervais… I’m looking at you as well *INFJ death stare*
But these are shallow reasons when Russell Brand and I are, without doubt, on the same side and I’m willing to let such trivialities go (I’m all about the greater good, me). The trickier issue is the fact he’s being taken so damn seriously. Editing New Statesman, appearing on Newsnight, getting a book deal… He’s not the messiah. He’s a TV presenter who read a couple of books. He’s had his eyes opened to inequality and that’s great, but he isn’t experiencing it. Therefore he will never truly understand it. And that ultimately makes him unqualified to speak for ‘us’ (the people on the wrong side of that inequality). After all, isn’t this part of the whole problem? Call it the cult of celebrity or the powers that be or even the middle class intelligentsia, but it has always been someone else speaking for us. Russell Brand wants to give ‘us’ a voice but why are we consistently failing to make our own voices heard? Why are we looking to a TV presenter (however well-meaning he might be) to tell us what to think? Why is our voice either silent or ignored? Where’s the benefit claimant or the immigrant on Newsnight? When does an A&E nurse get to guest edit New Statesman? Why is it so accepted that celebrities deserve to be listened to, and we don’t? Isn’t Russell Brand just another example of the whole damn problem he’s trying to expose?
Yawn, ok ok – what about the book?
This book seeks to cover a LOT of ground. Oddly, that ground does not include revolution. Certainly not a political revolution anyway. It’s more about a gradual revolution of ideas, of coming to an understanding of the fact that the system is screwing you and well… quite how we’re supposed to get from understanding that and doing some deep breathing to overthrowing the established power structures has still not been adequately explained. But since no one’s been able to answer that satisfactorily yet (otherwise we’d have done it and this would be a moot point) I can’t really hold this against him.
Revolution is a partly biographical look at Brand’s past and his own failings as a human being (this is when Brand is at his most endearing and relatable, in my opinion) and partly a political lecture, where Brand recants the various things he’s learned from other sources. They are all true by the way, so if you haven’t yet figured out that our society has been deliberately and intricately designed to repeatedly fuck us you should read this book.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs! It made me chuckle to find this Business Studies A’level staple of boringness in there, especially because I once wrote a blog post about it too. I think I’ll re-post the blog tomorrow as I can’t resist the neat little segue. There’s a bit of MTV presenter in all of us. (Go read it here)
I’ll bow out on my favourite quote from the book. It’s not a revolutionary thought – we all know this to be true already, but it is beautiful in its sheer unabashed honesty. For this, I might even forgive Brand his stupid Newsnight comment about how voting makes you complicit in the current system. For the record, when it comes to voting this crazy old guy from the butter adverts is right. To not vote plays right into the hands of politicians – the less people they need to persuade at election time the happier they are. And it’s only about 20,000 people in key seats they are worrying about. If you don’t vote they ain’t worrying about what you think for one second. You’re doing them a favour. If suddenly all the people who don’t bother to vote did turn up there would be enough of them to swing most seats in the country – and that, ironically, really could be revolutionary.
Anyway, as promissed, here is my favourite moment from the book:
Any British politician like David Cameron who claims to be Christian – which means to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ – has to (like Jesus) heal the sick. Not (like a cunt) sell off the NHS
Revolution by Russell Brand