I read a news article this morning about children’s perceptions of poverty in the uk. The researchers had asked children to define the things they could not do without; the things that children think they need in order to live any kind of life; the things they needed not to feel poor.
Strangely, food and shelter didn’t appear in the list, clean water, education, the ability to walk down the street without being shot, they didn’t appear in this list. Ipods, family holidays, the clothes that you need to fit in, they appeared on this list.
Children in this country feel poor if they don’t get away from home on holidays or day trips at least once a month. There are children in other countries who would just love to have a home with clean running water.
The one thing on the list that really interested me was the item ‘clothes that you need to fit in’. That’s not just the clothes you need to keep you warm, clothes that are appropriate to the weather, any clothes. No, children in this country need the type of clothes that the media is telling them will make them cool. The type of clothes that are modelled by their pop idols or favourite film stars. The type of clothes that the elves are trying to tell us are important.
Even children are being distracted away from the important things in this world. They are insisting that they are bought the right kind of clothes so that they can fit in. They are learning from a very young age that fitting in is all about the clothes that you wear. They will grow up to think less and less about other people as people and instead consider the outfits that people are wearing and decide whether or not that person fits in. Whether they are the ‘right’ sort of person.
And as things get more and more expensive, as the economy worsens and as more and more policies are implemented that only benefit the rich, there will be less and less of the ‘right’ sort of people. There will be less of the people who can afford the right clothes and less of the people who fit in and fewer people who are actually seen as people.
And the thing about this is that all those people who can no longer afford the right sorts of clothing will also believe that they aren’t the right sort of people. They will believe that they deserve to be cut off from certain things because they have been brought up to understand what the right sort of person is and they will know that they are not it.
It will be easier to ignore the suffering of these people because we will not regard them as people. It will be like ignoring a stray dog or putting down dogs who have been classified as ‘dangerous’.
People ask me how I can make these predictions about the future. They ask how I can say that humanity will stop being moved to help each other.
Read this carefully.
I am not making predictions of the future.
I am telling you what is currently happening.
Think honestly about what I am about to write.
When you watch those adverts on the tv, the ones with the emancipated, starving, dying children, covered in flies. Children who only require one meal a day to survive? Children who would live if they only had access to half of the food that you waste every week? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel moved to action? Do you feel uncomfortable? Do you find it easier to switch over to watch the latest episode of Hollyoaks? Do you find yourself forgetting it as soon as you’ve seen it like when you watch a scary movie? Do you block it out?
We are already ignoring the suffering of people. It won’t take long for there to be more suffering to ignore.
Ask yourself how easy it will be to ignore the suffering, to ignoring the dying when it is you and your children who are suffering and dying? Will you beg to those ‘right’ sort of people to help you? To give you their scraps? Will you expect them to share what they have with you?
Will you deserve it?