I work, I receive benefits and I have a widescreen TV.
My low income would classify me as one of the working poor. When I was on Income Support the fact I was a lone parent on Income Support classified me and my child as living in poverty. During all of this time we have had a widescreen TV.
We have a widescreen TV because one of my brothers gave it to us when he replaced his with a new one.
Prior to that we had an analogue TV that a friend’s mum gave us when we moved back to the UK.
Sometimes people have things because of the generosity of others, or because they bought them before they fell on hard times. Sometimes they have them from a catalogue which offers them buy now pay later on terms that make the TV cost three times its original price.
Living in poverty doesn’t make us somehow different from you as people, or make our children less worthy of consideration or care. Some people are better equipped to manage on a minimal budget, others are lucky to have family and friends around them, others are less lucky and less able to do so.
I don’t believe there is a right way to live in poverty. People get by, one way or another, your choices are drastically affected by the reduced budget you have and yet even families who are doing their best get judged. When did poverty become a perceived lifestyle choice?
When did someone’s need become qualified on a moral judgement?
When did we stop helping those in need because that was the right thing to do?
When did we stop having empathy for those in worse situations than ourselves?
You know who I judge in the haves and have nots? The haves. I judge you on your empathy and your deeds versus your relative wealth and ability to help.
I don’t judge those that are lower on the financial ladder than me, that’s neither my job nor my place. I’m judging those further up on how you treat those of us below you. The only morality in helping those less fortunate than you is on you.
So to Jamie Oliver et al that think that having a widescreen TV or any other luxury possessions mark us as spend thrift or as having the wrong priorities; Fuck you. Come into our homes and live our lives, see how hard it is to live on benefits, how much time and planning it takes and then go away again and leave us to get on with it.
For another take on this, have a read of A Girl Called Jack.