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Sometimes, I find that I love my own poverty too much, and it never fails to fill me with shame.
No-one can take away my ability to end up with nothing. I work, I’m poor. I claimed benefits, I’m poor, I’ve broken the law and I still ended up poor. I’ve been poorer. Homeless at times, if you don’t count living on sofas as a housed situation. It is though. Our sofa surfers, in the United Kingdom, are kept from the streets by the kindness of beautiful souls.
I had about 6 months where I ate one piece of cheese on toast a day because I was so poor. The cheese was stolen. My parents were so poor that when my older sisters were young my parents didn’t eat on a Thursday because it was the only way to keep the children fed. I've been trying to get out of the habit of refusing free food when it’s offered to me. You see, the thing about living poor is you can’t binge too often or you’ll get depressed for the rest of the time.
My friends have nearly all tasted poverty in their lives. When they’ve just raised themselves to independence, they become easy pickings for the Cardiff Council bailiffs. I was playing guitar once, after a busy hotel night shift, when my long term bro-friend came into our living room in his underwear.
“Can’t you hear this?” screamed Vermunu Monkfish Hildebraand. “You can’t hear this? You’re completely fucking oblivious to the bailiffs who are currently drilling our fucking front door from it’s frame?” I admitted to Monkey that I hadn’t been aware of the commotion which had aroused him from his beloved sleep. “How can you not hear this?” shouted Monkey one last time. I thought about my life for a moment and then I made my way past the barely clothed Adonis and went to barter with the ensuing hordes.
As I approached the front door the sound of the drilling became more intense. “Dear Sir. Can you explain yourself?” I said to the thick wooden door. “It’s alright!” the door responded. “We’re just trying to get this bloody bed to the upstairs flat and it’s stuck in the doorframe. We’re not bailiffs drilling your ‘fucking’ door off, honest,” said the door to me politely. It wasn’t my first rodeo in dealing with voices from behind a closed door.
I couldn’t blame Monkey for his blunder. We have had a lot of bailiffs to our various dwellings when I was in charge of the finances. That’s how poor people live. We were always expecting the bailiffs. If it got past 7 in the evening then we could rest easy, except for the police.
The problem with the law enforcement officials is they kept arresting Vermunu for things he didn’t do. At times, the police were battering down our door and asking to see his abode whilst he was in handcuffs outside.
They arrested him because he lived in a shared house with a dealer who he didn’t even like. They arrested him because of a chocolate bar wrapper in the Callaghan's Cardiff crime caper of the century. They arrested him for trying to get home a little tipsy. They arrested him for trying to get to a friends flat via the front door. They fucking deported him from America for being way too honest to customs officials. “How long have you been using marijuana!” the border officials shouted at poor Monkfish Hildebraand,
All of this because we’ve been stuck in poverty. You don’t struggle out of those situations with ease. Poverty never leaves you. That’s why I feel that one should enjoy ones poverty. That’s why poor people party properly. We love to forget our many woes.
But there have been occasions where we’ve all experienced the more sinister side of poverty. The families living 4 to a room in tower blocks, left uneducated and living confusing and abusive lives. Places well away from London where there is no money for innocence. Places where eyes are kicked out of heads and children are murdered. Areas where ethnicity can be a crutch for many hard working humans. That’s why I feel shame when I enjoy my own poverty. I’ve lived in places where a girls scream can be mistaken for a laugh and vice versa.
I was too poor to get to know one of my cousins from Swansea. I have one memory of smoking a bowl with him and another about hearing how he died of a heroin overdose that police were treating as suspicious. The wider family weren’t informed until after the funeral as the police would be in attendance and that was way too embarrassing for them. That’s poverty. His dad was a reasonably well off member of the Morriston Male Voice Choir but poverty was always in abundance in Swansea. The classic Welsh flick, Twin Town, was never that far away from the grim, yet amusing, reality of Abertawe.
I have my memories of all the people who didn’t stand the test of a skint existence. People who died of just too little usually in combination with way too much. Now, I may be poor, but I have the most amazing friends that I barely notice my moneyless bulges. I live off donated and discounted food mainly. There isn’t a better feeling than getting cheap sustenance from a beautiful hearted human!
I live with criminals attempting to access my abode at night, arguments in the streets around me, and with sad looking hungry people sitting in doorways asking for a pittance. Poverty always feels relative to your community. Of course, I have many plump, well fed people who are lower middle class lording it over us but the truth is they often have a different kind of poverty. You’ll find poverty is also very subjective. Some rich people feel like they’re poor and some poor people feel as though they have endless wealth.
I’ve met people with swish new cars who consider themselves on the wrong end of the spectrum of affluence. They ritually moan about how hard life can be, mainly because life can be hard for everyone.
In Tory Britain poverty is one of our shared societal attributes. The majority of the people who live in this varied and multifaceted country find the levels of poverty abhorrent. They’re the people who feed and support the homeless with endless tiny donations, not the governments or the local councils. Instead the governing bodies keep criminalising the homeless and even imposing fines onto the poorest members of our society.
We are already living in a lightweight dystopia. Young and very innocent girls from lower class UK backgrounds are being abused every day. They have no real recourse because they’re poor. There are boys on the streets feeling like they need protection from the all pervasive minute-by-minute threats that come with living in poverty.
The Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and New Labour have all helped to bring a discount Orwellian vision into our physical reality.
So they try and convince you that it’s black versus white, Islamic extremists versus liberal society, immigrants versus the naturalised, and men versus women. But really it is always the rich versus the poor. There is no other battle worth fighting. We have to stop the descent towards authoritarian rule by the financially sophisticated. We are almost completely controlled by the richest in society.
I’ve found that many of the richest in the United Kingdom often hark back to the days of the empire. But empires end in revolution and war. Surely they should fear their heads rolling into baskets. History shows us many a bloody basket and usually inside is a rich persons horrified last expression.
So how do we find a way to change things without piling corpses into mass graves? Because that’s the real question. Spreading blame leads to the death of people who have usually lived a fairly random existence. They didn’t choose their birthplace, they had no input on who their parents were, and most followers of religion were born into a family who worship a spiritual ideology which they had no say in. You can’t blame those who think they’re doing the right thing because the fault is with those who know their actions are wrong.
Still, we’re not eating each other yet. Extreme poverty has brought to our societies cannibalism, genocide, global conflict, slavery, rape, murder, and horrors that the world still can’t even visualise, let alone rationalise. The rich talk about eliminating poverty whilst they stroll past the homeless, It’s all hot air. The rich have no intention of eliminating poverty. Their actions are transparent. Princes sleeping rough for the night is patronising and has little long term benefit. However, Princes giving up their palaces could entirely change this country for the better.
The only people who can change poverty is the poorest themselves. The rich will leave you die in squalor, the monarchy has no intention to change society, and the homeless will continue to die alone in parks during snowy nights if the poor do not rise up and be noticed.
We’ve seen the poor get justice before by fighting the wealthy. We can already win battles but if we can form a coherent alternative way of living, one which brings equality of opportunity for everyone, we’ll have won the war.
For me, life’s getting better all the time. The knowledge that people are suffering in much worse examples of impoverishment than myself makes me want to be involved in the change. It motivates me to sort my own life out so that I am more effective in helping others involved in the struggle. We are at the giddy heights of an all out global economic war and the poor are the underdogs.
Everybody loves an underdog.