‘And we’ll die in the class we were born, well that’s a class of our own my love.’
Time for Heroes, The Libertines
Last week I filled out the class survey on the BBC website to see which of the new class brackets I now fall in. Turns out I’m part of the ‘Established Middle Class’. Not really that surprising as I went to University, live in the home counties and listen to Classic FM in the car cos it seems to make George sleepy. So far, so predictable. It was when I started to read more of the description of what it meant to be in this ‘class’ that it started to make less sense. I do have a nice life but the description of wealth and in particular the word ‘established’ suggested an element of immovability from my current position that I don’t feel. I am very aware that redundancy or long term ill health could bring this crashing down and I can never feel 100% secure.
This led me to think about the number of friends and family members who have been made redundant, had pay cuts or been forced to re-apply for their own job in the last few years. All of them worked hard and were guilty of nothing more than working in the wrong industry at the wrong time. I have only ever been unemployed for a short period of time but what sticks in my memory was how long it took to recover from this experience. I took a job I didn’t like as I needed the money and ended getting side lined into dead end roles. It took me years to get to a point where I felt I finally had a career.
This train of thought neatly brings me on the raft of welfare cuts the government brought in over the last week. Knowing how easy it can be to fall I am a firm believer in the need for the state to provide assistance for those who need it. Very few people are so secure that they know they will never need help at any point in their life. I am well aware that there are some who abuse the system but I don’t see why the majority should be punished for their actions. More importantly I cannot demand a safety net for my own life and then deny others the same basic rights.
In my opinion the new changes are a crude and remorseless attack on the poorest and most vulnerable sections of our society. I’m not alone from feeling this way but I sometimes need to remind myself that as I select who I follow on twitter and only read certain newspapers I frequently only get an echo chamber for views similar to my own. Not everyone agrees with me, according to a ComRes poll last year, 40% of us think that at least half of all benefit recipients are “scroungers”. Even more frightening is that this rises to 50% when you only ask 18-30 year olds. It seems that compassion is thin on the ground amongst the next generation.
All of this brings me back to where I started. Some of the more hysterical editorial in our national newspapers have spoken about a divide being created through our society; not ‘scroungers vs. strivers’ but those who support paying benefits to the unemployed, old and disabled against those who only see cheats, idleness and murderous intention. Is this the real class divide? Does caring about what happens to those around you set you apart from your peers? I really hope not.
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