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The Big Society

Posted Oct 06 2010 12:00am
Living under a Conservative-Liberal government is starting to feel a little confusing. The messages that come out of Cameron's mouth are so different to what I've heard before. He thinks he's making sense but when I run his words through the 'translate political mumbo-jumbo' application in my head, it makes no sense to me at all.

He says he wants to build a country based "not by what we consume but by what we contribute". Some people find it harder to contribute than others.

He warns benefit claimants to take heed because they are on his list of baddies: "Fairness means giving people what they deserve... And what people deserve depends on how they behave. If you cannot really work, we will look after you. But if you can work, but refuse to work, we will not let you live off the hard work of others... That's the sign of a civilised society, and it's what I believe. But you can't measure fairness just by how much money we spend on welfare, as though the poor are products with a price tag, the more we spend on them the more we value them-"

It doesn't sound to me like he understands these people. He talks about 'them' and down to 'them'. He thinks poverty is what people choose. He uses the word products. He thinks a wonderful middle-class existence is something everyone can choose, but he's wrong. And what's so great about being middle-class anyway? Cameron is right, people should work. What he doesn't quite get is how the challenges of work, respect, hope, strength and ambition ripple through every aspect of life when you are poor. Crappy education, crappy schooling, crappy environments, and people who talk to you like crap, make it difficult to rise above your surroundings. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks: "I want to be the shit of society." His words imply that this is what 'they' - i.e. the non-Daves and the non-Samanthas - are; scavengers and social detritus.

He also said: "Fairness means supporting people out of poverty, not trapping them in dependency."

These are wise words. But being fair also means not casting those different to him and his cronies as 'OTHER'. He speaks of this section of society as though they do not care for their own lives, and need to be told what to do. He sets them apart. He creates a divide. He is pointing the finger. And cracking the whip. "Look at them," he urges, "they are sucking us dry. Long may he with the biggest stone judge and then throw."

Cameron needs to realise that he is not the saviour of the new world. What would be more useful is for Cameron to meet these people, ask what they need, spend time understanding their lives, find a solution to suit them.

Perhaps he should ask them: "What can I do for you? What do you need? How can we make society better for you?'

Snobbery and disdain, I really hope these two words don't become part of the big society.
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