miss_s_b: (Mood: Sorry)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Am composing this on my phone away from home so forgive me if it is riddled with typos.

Yesterday there appeared on Lib Dem Voice two articles about food poverty. I don't think either of them was a particularly good or bad article in terms of the solutions they proposed, but one of them made me VERY angry in the tone it took which led me to make some ill-judged remarks on Twitter, to which the immediate response of the author of the article was to squeal about me trying to stifle his free expression, which is, of course, a thing I would never do and only served to make me more angry. Free speech necessarily involves a right of reply. I am happy for ANYONE to say whatever they like; so long as they afford me the same courtesy.

Anyway, partly due to the limitations of the medium and partly due to my semi-awake and angry state, my remarks could have been worded better. So I apologise for the remarks. I don't apologise for getting angry, though.

We in the UK are blessed to live in a very rich country. There may be all sorts of reasons for the rise of food banks, but the fact that you can't get food from them without being referred to them for being starving tells me that whether they are serving a pre existing need and doing it better than the state could (as many on the right contend) or they are covering a new need created by the evil swingeing cuts of the right (as many on the left contend) they are serving a desperate need.

Frankly, I don't give a monkey's pube who is to blame for the fact that we have starving people in the seventh richest country in the world. The fact remains that we have starving people in the seventh richest country in the world. That's SHAMEFUL. Even ONE person starving in a country as rich as ours is shameful. And whatever your views on the causes of that starvation, to post in dry, macro-economic terms about the causes without once acknowledging that you're talking about real human misery and suffering? That's going to make me angry. We're not talking about UNITS here, we're talking about PEOPLE. Real, actual individuals with lives and loves and hopes and dreams.

I'm a liberal because I want every individual to get the opportunity to maximise their potential. You can't maximise your potential if you're starving, and you can't maximise your potential if you are a dehumanised number on a balance sheet.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 11:09 am (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
*Applauds*
I couldn't agree more. I hadn't read either piece until seeing this (I didn't look at Twitter yesterday), and now I wish I hadn't read Nick's. It sounded like he wanted to turn a motion about a real human problem into another "rah rah we have achieved X, Y, Z" one -- " It neither welcomes the falls in unemployment which we have seen over recent months nor identifies further falls as a key measure to reduce food poverty further."
I think all too often motions seem to go from "Conference thinks that torturing widows and orphans to death is bad" to "While welcoming the overall decrease in torture under the coalition government, conference notes the increase in the torture to death of widows and orphans with concern", to "Conference welcomes the overall decrease in torture under the coalition government".
Yes, we've done some good things, but we need to do better, not pat ourselves on the back while people starve.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 11:16 am (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (UKPolitics)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
There was some right-wing commentator pontificating the other night that there was no need for food banks as the price of food was so low in this country and he didn't believe it was unaffordable. He was a stoutly prosperous-looking fellow whose understanding of the country, I suspected, was based on faith in the magic of markets and the belief that what benefits the financial sector must benefit all, but perhaps that's my prejudice.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 11:40 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
And whatever your views on the causes of that starvation, to post in dry, macro-economic terms about the causes without once acknowledging that you're talking about real human misery and suffering

But wringing your heart about 'real human misery' won't stop a single person from starving, while analysing the causes in dry, macro-economic terms just might.

Emotions are simply not helpful in finding solutions.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 11:55 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Did someone really fail to acknowledge why people not being able to afford to eat was a problem? Who?

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 12:10 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Well it wasn't clear what exactly article you were referring to, but if it's the one I think, does the second paragraph:

'While Britain clearly has its share of poverty on the relative definition, in theory there ought to be no such thing as food poverty. A generously funded social security system should mean that anyone in danger of being in such a situation (whether in work or not) ought to be caught by the state’s safety net.'

not acknowledge quite clearly why this is a problem?

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Is it not saying exactly what you said (that we shouldn't have starving people in a rich country), just in a less emotionally laden way?

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] magister
Nice use of quotes to suggest that the real human misery is nothing of the sort.

Emotions can be useful in providing motivation to find sources. Also, you'll have to excuse me if I fail to see what complaining about heart wringing achieves.
Edited Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 12:01 pm (UTC)

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 12:37 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
That argument might hold slightly more water were Nick's piece not also one that complained about the motion about food banks not welcoming the fall in unemployment.
If complaining about problems is unproductive, how much more unproductive then is celebration? After all, both are emotions, which you see as useless, but one at least acknowledges the existence of the problem, a necessary prerequisite to finding a solution, while the other contributes nothing -- if a problem is solved, celebration can't help fix it, and if it's not solved, then the celebration is premature.

So it's not because "emotions are simply not helpful" that they're not mentioned in Nick's post. Rather, I think, it's that there is a rather fundamental split in political discourse at the moment.

Given a problem, almost all possible solutions to the problem will have winners and losers. If the problem is distribution of wealth, then some people will be disadvantaged by some systems compared to others.

Now, it appears to have been decided by the consensus of the political classes that the best economic system is an investment-based, minimal-regulation, capitalist one, with a minimal but not nonexistent welfare safety net and what is termed a "flexible work force". Assume for the moment that this assessment is correct (I suspect it isn't, but I'm no economist).

This system, like *all* systems, has losers -- that is obvious to anyone. There are two possible responses to those losers. The first is to say, in effect, "well, that's unfortunate, but what can you do? This is the best system, those people are the losers, maybe we should talk about ways their lives can be improved, but don't get worked up about it, we're doing the best we can."

The other way is to say "maybe there's nothing that can be done -- that's entirely possible -- but we had better remember that *every single one of those affected is a real human being whose life is being destroyed by these political choices*, and we need to keep that in mind *at all times*, because this *may* be the best possible system, but it might -- just might -- be possible to improve it, and even if it isn't, the very least we can do is show respect for those the system is hurting".

Now, people taking both attitudes may well agree on every practical matter, but I'd argue that the second is not only a more moral attitude to take, but also one that is actually more likely to lead to better solutions.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 01:32 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
No problem. Hope I didn't come across as mansplaining the obvious too much...

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC)
lupinfriend: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lupinfriend
Very well stated.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 02:05 pm (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
This is awesome. I love you.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
Love you too.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
In any case, I know a little bit about the runnings of my local foodbank, and quite a lot of our guests are working - but they're on zero hours contracts, and when they don't get the hours, they can't afford enough food to live on. So while a drop in unemployment is welcome, how welcome it is depends on what the conditions of employment are.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
Absolutely. Some employment is better than no employment, but even full-time work when on the minimum wage can still leave you without enough money for food, as I know all too well...

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
lupinfriend: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lupinfriend
Frankly, I don't give a monkey's pube who is to blame for the fact that we have starving people in the seventh richest country in the world. The fact remains that we have starving people in the seventh richest country in the world. That's SHAMEFUL. Even ONE person starving in a country as rich as ours is shameful. And whatever your views on the causes of that starvation, to post in dry, macro-economic terms about the causes without once acknowledging that you're talking about real human misery and suffering? That's going to make me angry. We're not talking about UNITS here, we're talking about PEOPLE. Real, actual individuals with lives and loves and hopes and dreams.

We are higher up on the list of richest countries and we STILL have starving people. It seems we are all buying into the capitalistic belief that every man for himself is a good thing. What I find most interesting is that our Republican political party, which is made up of mostly Christian conservatives, are the ones who want to keep lowering aid to those most in need. Didn't Jesus preach socialistic ideals? Caring for one's neighbor? *sighs*

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
Brad Hicks' great LiveJournal post series Christians In The Hands Of An Angry God (which I am depressed to see is ten years old now -- where does time *GO*?!) has a plausible explanation for the (literally) anti-Christian attitude of the "religious right" -- the first entry is at http://bradhicks.livejournal.com/118585.html , I think it's something like five parts in total, but all well worth reading.

Date: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 03:05 pm (UTC)
lupinfriend: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lupinfriend
Thank you for directing me to Brad Hick' LiveJournal "Christians in the Hands of an Angry God" series. That was very interesting and enlightening. Sorry it has taken me some time to get through and to respond, but it was well worth the read and I appreciate your response to my question. I read that he wouldn't mind me passing it on to others, so I will be doing so, soon.

Thank you again.

:-)

Date: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 03:37 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
No problem -- glad you found it worthwhile. Hicks' LJ is *full* of good stuff like that -- it's just a shame he hasn't updated in eighteen months.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The problem is that this debate has become so black and white (as have many others but I think this is one of the worst for it). Labour are raising the increased use of food banks as proof that the government is evil. The government is saying that it started under Labour and it's also because more people are aware of/are referred to/have more local food banks.

The answer is of course that there is an element of truth in both arguments and it's not simple, but politics has become very absolutist with no side being prepared to concede anything as their opponents will immediately jump on it and use it to prove that they were right all along. It's a sad state of affairs to be in, and it's not healthy for either democracy or for finding a genuine solution to why people in this country are starving.

I don't think the Lib Dems used to indulge in this "we're right, you're wrong" style of campaigning as much as Labour or Tories, or certainly not on big political issues. But I think it's starting to become our default position out of a genuine (and perhaps in the short-term, correct) belief that if Labour are going to ruthlessly attack us for everything we do using very simple emotive messages, then we will never be able to win the argument against them if we respond with what seems to be a complex nuanced fence-sitting reply. Essentially it's "if your rebuttal is longer then the original attack, then you've already lost the argument" in action.

That doesn't respond to the issue you raised about hunger and food banks, but you got me on to one of my bugbears about the sad state of politics at the moment, that is leaving me thoroughly jaded after nearly 20 years of activity.

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)

Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
And I ought to apologise for being a bit harsh this morning. Nick has the right to be wrong, so to speak, but I was feeling a bit raw after being roughed up myself over at LDV. And as the Party is not entirely in my good books at the moment - I won't be seeing you, or anyone else, in York because I'm not going - my ability to tolerate even low-level attacks on fellow Party members is not at its best.

* slightly forlorn, perhaps a bit clingy, hug *

Lady Mark

Date: Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 10:58 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just to respond to the point about employment...

It seems to me to be self-evidently the case that those in employment are less likely (I'd say significantly less likely) to be in food poverty than those in receipt of benefits, for two reasons. First, it doesn't take many hours of work to be better off than were one on benefits. And secondly the working tax credits system emphasises that for those working over 16 hours per week.

Of course saying it is *less likely* that someone in work will be in food poverty is not the same as saying that no-one in work will be in food poverty (and the scourge of in-work poverty is something I have written about here http://www.liberalreform.org.uk/coalition-and-beyond/a-new-deal-for-poor-workers/).

Nick

Date: Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 12:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Sorry, that is of course true and my comment is badly worded.

But the fundamental point is that notwithstanding some anomalies most people are better off financially moving into work (and working more hours), which is precisely the trend we have seen over recent months. And even more people doing the same will be at least in part the answer to food poverty (and poverty more generally).

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