Eclectic Blue

No hunger game

0 Comments 12 August 2018

I was scrolling through my twitter timeline, as you do, when I came across a couple of idiotic tweets about food banks. One was from a Tory MP and another was from a buffoon I shall refer to only as ‘Roy’ who sits in the posh seats at the Memorial Stadium. It was classic buffoonery too, from a man who plainly has no idea about food banks which are used by over a million people every year.

Roy, for it is he, has a theory, you see. People who use food banks only do so because they squander their money on luxuries like 50″ screen televisions. Now it is true that some poorer people acquire large TVs when they might be expected to better order their priorities. My experience from working for a large government department for much of my lifetime and charities ever since suggests to me that Roy is talking bollocks.

In the winter of 2016, I was working a fair bit in Midsomer Norton and Radstock in the Bath and North East Somerset area and I was working with some people who literally nothing. One man I worked with was a recovering heroin addict and had the scars to show for it. He lived in a sparsely decorated flat and was often forced to choose between heating and eating. Sometimes he did neither. We visited the food bank in Midsomer Norton and whilst the efforts of the volunteers was inspiring, it was one of the most depressing times of my life.

The man I was with, and the other people who were using the bank, did not want to be there. For all of them, it was the height of humiliation. It is one of the great myths that there are millions of people who live a life of Reilly on benefits. The truth is that being on benefits was the only alternative.

It was odd, also, to think that the local MP was the upper class multimillionaire Old Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg in what is a most bizarre constituency which ranges from affluent rural areas and some of the poorest areas you could imagine. I felt straight away that this was a crude but nonetheless accurate picture of the division of wealth in out country today.

I know the poor are criticised for their diet and I know it is cheaper to buy wholesome food that is to buy ready meals but if your life is unbelievably shitty and you can see no meaningful change in the future, why won’t you have something that might, for a flickering moment, give you a little pleasure? If you use your money to get a 50″ TV – and most people I case across bought their TVs on the never never at criminal rates of interest – why be attacked for that? They seldom go out, they have as near to nothing as you can get. I was critical, scornful even, of people that bought ready meals instead of doing their own cooking but having seen the other side of life, it becomes more understandable. Education – or rather the lack of it – is part of the cause of poverty and, for want of a better, less patronising word, ignorance.

But speaking of ignorance, no one exhibits it so much as Rees-Mogg, who finds the existence of food banks to be “uplifting” and that the increase in numbers using them is because the last Labour government didn’t tell people they existed, as if this was all down to politics. It isn’t. It never was.

My experience of food banks was anything but “uplifting”. I’ve never forgotten my experiences in them. Some people just don’t have a clue.

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