Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Empathising with rioters, despite my better judgement

Here is a very-much-too-long, potentially horribly misjudged post on why although I hate what the looters have been doing to my country, I empathise greatly with those under the poverty line who had simply had enough of all the shit and began to riot in the first place. The confusion as to why the riots started perhaps prove it truly was a riot - there aren't any hard and fast rules to a community's rage.

There seems to be a lot of judgement flying around, judgements that are supposedly justified due to people’s own backgrounds. I am not trying to say that people haven’t suffered and survived living under the poverty line – of course they have – I just can’t see why this should be used as one-upmanship. You don’t come out of the other side of poverty so you can look down your nose at people for not doing the same thing. Remember the people who wondered how on earth you could be so poor? The people who told you it was somehow your fault? When you couldn’t afford to top up the gas meter that week (yes, gas meters still exist) you were asked why you topped up your phone, as if you had to justify yourself? Why are you being one of those people?

I don’t want to turn this into a sob story about parts of my own life, I just want to explain what every day is like for those lucky enough to have forgotten, or who may even have never experienced poverty as a young person.

Guilt is ever-present. School takes up your time, and you know you need to go in order to break the cycle, but you also know that you’d be doing much more to help your family if you quit and got a low-paying job. Plenty of my friends did, my mother wouldn’t let me, and I have to be thankful for that – however she’s still well below the managing-the-debt line, and I still can’t afford to help her six years on. So there’s that.

Alongside your crappy house that’s never warm, always damp, not enough rooms for all of you, there’s the judgements put upon your parents (in my case, my single parent Mum). Why have those kids if you can’t afford them? Why did you let your family get in such a situation? She painted the house we were given by the council to stop us from being homeless with my new baby sister around, and instead of getting a fridge we got carpets. Working class pride priorities. We had a cool enough shed, and not that much food anyway.

We had phones though. Oh yes. We also had a computer, and books, I had a guitar, a violin, a salvaged piano and a second-hand Playstation. The TV in the front room had two channels and had to be switched off by taking the plug out, and my mother didn’t have a bed (or a bedroom), but my sisters and I barely wanted for anything. I paid for my phone credit with my part-time jobs, but most of my flashy belongings were Christmas presents I asked my mum not to buy me with the awful credit card that lived in the second drawer down; or  they were remnants of our life before we left my dad. If you only visited my room, you’d have thought we were normal.

The thing is; I was never angry. I don’t blame others in the same situation for being so however and perhaps if I wasn’t so absorbed with leaving the place I grew up in, I’d have been furious too. I think that because I had an escape route, I didn’t feel like lashing out. Most people aren’t so lucky, and that’s why I can understand their actions. They can’t escape the daily grind of surviving on basic rations, of having to explain themselves to their neighbours, their families, the government - of waking up and having the panic of debts and needs and un-payable bills fizz and pop in their stomachs. So don’t tell me that having a new pair of shoes means you’re well off. My 
mum wouldn’t let us leave the house in anything less.


danjam said...

I don't think it's misjudged: it's detail, that many people (perhaps the same people who think having access to a BB means you can't be poor) are completely uncognisant of. I remember someone a long time ago writing into Points of View to complain that Eastenders was absurd as no one could possibly live like that. Some people don't have a clue, and they can't imagine what it feels like.

Pinklilycat said...

Best post ever.

Katie said...

Thank you to both of you, glad you enjoyed it.

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