Disgusting does not describe the latest offering from Channel 5 - On Benefits And Proud - which aired for the first time this week.
In the show various benefit claimants – code for the undeserving poor – are tracked down by deserving taxpayers with the object of illustrating how these benefit junkies are ripping us all off – ‘us’ being those for whom poverty is just another word in the dictionary.
The sheer savagery of deriving entertainment from the plight of the poor – many of whom, yes, are uneducated, unrefined, and suffering one or more of the plethora of social maladies which flow from poverty – is compounded by recent figures released by The Trussell Trust,Britain’s largest operator of foodbanks, that the number of foodbanks has trebled and that over 350,000 people have had to rely on food handouts since April. It is further compounded by the most recent Sunday Times Rich List, revealing that the collective wealth of the 1000 richest people in Britain reached a record level of £450 billion, up £35.4 billion from 2012, in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s and with poverty at an all time high.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, energy companies announcing a price hike just in time for winter is quite literally a death sentence for many poor pensioners, for whom survival will now no longer be possible.
The only conclusion to be drawn from all this is that the objective of society is now the eradication of the poor rather than poverty, beginning with the demonisation and dehumanisation of those daring to claim the pittance in benefits which the government and its supporters has deemed an act of theft against hard pressed taxpayers and those in work.
It is class war by any other name, made worse by the undeniable truth of the success of the Right in pitting members of the same class against one another – i.e. low wage workers against unemployed workers, the able bodied against the disabled, non immigrant against immigrant, and so on.
Karl Marx stated in his Communist Manifesto that the class struggle is ‘sometimes open sometimes hidden’. A trip to the local Jobcentre or Magistrates/Sheriff Court on any given day is where you will find it wide open and in full sway.
In the former, the poor are bullied, harassed, hounded, while in the latter they are punished for crimes in the main connected inextricably to their poverty. Indeed and increasingly it has become harder to differentiate between a Jobcentre and a courtroom, such has been the level of attacks on benefit claimants, wherein the relationship between your average Jobseekers Adviser and claimant resembles that between a parole officer and convicted criminal.
The fact that the vast majority of those working in Jobcentres are union members provides conclusive proof that class consciousness is at an all time low in twenty first century Britain.
The human despair that is afflicting more and more people up and down the country – men, woman, and children – as a result of the Government’s addiction to austerity hasn’t been this prevalent since Charles Dickens was documenting it in his classic works at the end of the nineteenth century. Over a hundred years on we have come full circle with the normalisation of extreme poverty and extreme wealth sitting side by side, with human worth measured by both.
The status quo cannot hold. Something has to give. Indeed, the surprise is that it hasn’t given already in the form of riots and a social explosion. These unrelenting attacks on the most economically vulnerable people in society are redolent of children trapping a bumble bee in a jar and shaking it up and down to watch the bee in distress. It really is this savage, inviting a savage response on the part of its victims.
The rich, the smug middle classes, working people who’ve bought into the lie that their problems are the fault of those below them in the income scale rather than those above them, are playing with fire. People will not go quietly to their own destruction. All it takes is a spark for the present despair and its paralysing effect to turn to rage and an eruption the like of which this country has never seen.
With no mainstream political party standing four square on the side of the poor, such as the Labour Party once did, members of the political class who exist in a bubble of moral superiority from which they like to pontificate about fairness, hardworking families, shirkers and strivers, should take note that this is not a game.
None other than he ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle understood this. When he opined that “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime” he could have been describing British society in 2013.
We already know what crime looks like. It is published in the pages of the Sunday Times Rich List year after year. It comes in the shape of the Bedroom Tax, food banks, zero hour contracts, the sanctioning, withdrawal, and cutting of Jobseekers Allowance, Disability Benefits, and Housing Benefit.
Yes, we already know what crime looks like.
We have yet to see revolution.