I often sit and ponder the meaning of life; for example, the reasons that some people are cruel to others, or why social inequality exists. I grew up in poverty, only I didn’t know that was what it was. I just felt different from others, and I somehow realised that there was more to life than the one I knew. Things like having more than one or two pairs of knickers and having an inside toilet, when you need to go in the middle of the night.
I would look enviously at other girls at school; they had nice clothes and shiny shoes, and looked happy. I, on the other hand felt as if I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and that I was never quite good enough. I wasn’t treated any differently by my school friends, but inside I just didn’t feel good enough, a fraud even. I was always invited to the ‘record sessions at friends’ houses, and I was included in all the games. I was unable to reciprocate the invite for several reasons; I wouldn’t be allowed, the house wasn’t very nice and I was ashamed of the outside toilet, which was down fourteen stairs.
As the government cuts the £20 universal credit supplement from less fortunate families, I am reminded of the times when my mother would cry on a Sunday night, as she waited for the post office to open on Monday morning, to cash her benefits book. This has shaped my character in a way that I feel unable to articulate, but I always promised that my children wouldn’t have that experience of growing up, in what I now know to be poverty. This has impacted me in ways that others find amusing, or simply irrational.
For example, I sometimes use teabags twice, just to save money, and I am always on the lookout for a bargain. I now have the luxury of a decent income, and I don’t have to worry about paying the bills, yet I still worry. I try to imagine how it would feel, if this was the norm, as a means to make ends meet. Queueing up at food banks with children in tow must be a terribly humiliating and degrading experience for anyone; how politicians can justify the need for food banks is beyond my comprehension. What I do realise, is that these mothers have the same desire, to prevent their children from experiencing the shame of not having enough.
When my family was existing on benefits, the Tories were in power; Margaret Thatcher removed free milk for schoolchildren and families were placed in expansive housing schemes on the outskirts of Glasgow, far away from support networks. And here we are again, the Tories are in power at Westminster; they have all but destroyed the welfare state, and many of the working class voted them in. I cried on the night of the 2010 election, as the prospect of a conservative government became reality. the leader of the Liberal Democrats sold his soul (if he had one) just to get into government, and effectively facilitated the introduction of £9000 tuition fees for students in England and Wales.
It’s 2021, and we have a narcissist as prime minister, an idiot as justice secretary, a self seeking bully as home secretary and a machiavellian as chancellor. As for the leader of the house, we have a professed pro lifer, whose company profits from the sale of the abortion pill. And just like in the sixties and early seventies, homeless families are being moved hundreds of miles to find shelter.
George Orwell had great insight into the inhumanity of the human race; power corrupts, where there is no accountability, and this government answers to no one, except to gaslight the nation. We are a laughing stock in Europe, and the lap dog of the Whitehouse. Where do we go from here?