Friday, 19 September 2008

Slumming it

Every so often some journalist or politician looking for attention decides to see what it’s like living on welfare. You know the kind of thing – “My life on a fiver a day” by Terry Twatt.

It’s always completely bogus. They’re not really living on a fiver a day because they’ve got a nice stock of Armani togs and all their hi-tech gizmos back at their real home in some fashionable urban neighbourhood.

They know they’ve only got to survive a week of low-life grot before they can race back thankfully to their normal life and resume shagging their sleek, perfectly-honed bedmate.

They don’t even have to keep it up 24/7 because they can always sneak home for a few hours and make up some plausible diary entry about the Tesco budget loaf being eaten by giant rats.

They know full well that one week in a grubby hovel is not the same as a life-sentence of poverty, dead-end jobs, greedy landlords and constantly struggling to make ends meet.

They don’t have the crippling back story of mountainous debts to loan sharks, four children to feed, a winter’s worth of fuel bills, and windows being broken by the local yobs.

A week of slumming it is about as realistic as having a few pints and pretending you’re an alcoholic.

Instead of grabbing their flea-ridden fleeces and pretending to be poor, Terry Twatt and his ilk would do better to tell us just why poverty is so entrenched and why a long string of British politicians have failed to give the residents of one of the world’s wealthiest countries a decent standard of living.

And why the fat cats running our big companies are paying themselves more and more while the wages of their overworked employees are steadily shrinking.

But that would be far too controversial. And not nearly so entertaining as a bit of down-in-the-gutter make-believe.


  1. Reminds me a bit of film Trading Places - i just wish that could happen to a few of the current jet set

  2. "A week of slumming it is about as realistic as having a few pints and pretending you’re an alcoholic." That's a great analogy. Awesome post. Reality TV is making me ill. That's just reality TV and not politicians wanting to make a difference or find out about anything, in my opinion anyways. They don't need to live in those conditions a week to know what's going on. Everybody knows it anyways but noone pulls the finger out to do anything because that requires them working for real.
    Harsh? I am positive it's true. Great post!

  3. Uhm maybe it's not on TV, in which case it's not reality TV. What format is it broadcasted / published?

  4. Quicky - If only! Even all those city slickers thrown out of their ailing banks probably have a fat wad of cash to fall back on. Or mummy and daddy's fat wad of cash.

    Gayé - Yes, it's been done on TV as well as in newspapers. And you're not being harsh, you're dead right that nobody wants to put in the real hard graft of lifting people out of long-term poverty.

  5. Hi Nick!

    A Mayor from a city near me decided to be homeless for a day. All he really did was spent part of a night in a park. It was really sad. In order to understand being poor you have to really be poor. No amount of pretending will suffice.

    I hope all is going well for you and your sweetheart. :) I missed reading your blog!

  6. MDC - Good to hear from you after all this time. Yes, they do that as well, sleeping rough in doorways (for one night!) as if it's the real thing. But it makes a good photo-opportunity, doesn't it?

    Jenny and I are just grand, as the Irish say. Glad your sister is doing well. Sorry you've given up blogging, but if your heart isn't in it any more....

  7. Good timing, Politician Norma Jamieson is targeting pensioners who keep asking for more and is going to live like one to prove it. She's living on $270 a week which is the full aged pension here.

    "There are people out there who need to be more judicious with the way they spend their money and they seem to think this is a right," Norma said.

    The 67-year-old Tasmanian independent is going to live like pensioners do, forgoing her Parliamentary salary and expense card. Erm, no she's not. She won't be paying rent, electricity, phone or for petrol for her car! Delusional twit. And after the two weeks? Back on her parliamentary salary and fat superannuation scheme. Makes me sick!

  8. How right you are! Unfortunately, the same superficial treatment is given to poverty in the US. And now, poor people will be asked to bail out the rich through increased taxes that keep the latest crop of failing companies afloat. Seems as if those who created the problem should be asked to finance the solution.


  9. Baino - Good example. As you say, she won't be paying the full whack for her spartan fortnight. She won't need to think about new clothing, car repairs, roof repairs, Christmas presents or any of the long-term things a real pensioner would have to budget for. And no, a decent standard of living might not be a 'right' but how about treating your neighbour as you would treat yourself?

    Gayle - Indeed, the poor will be bailing out those crumbling private enterprises which are always bleating on about interfering governments. But the interference is warmly welcomed as soon as they go belly-up.

  10. Oh dear, this makes me cringe.

    Swapping for a whole year seems like a more credible documentary opportunity. And at the end of that time, the public could take part in a phone in to vote on whether or not he policitican has earned the right to return to his comfy life.

  11. Hey there Nick, you have an award over at mine. Your blog rocks (and kicks ass)


  12. Hulla - I love the idea of a phone-in to decide whether Mr Slumming should be allowed his comfy life back (and isn't it significant that it's usually a bloke who tries this little stunt?) Yes, a year would be a lot more realistic.

    An award? Gimmee, gimmee! I'll be over straightaway.

  13. Hulla - A Kick Ass Award, I'm chuffed, thanks a bunch! Now I just have to keep up those frank and fearless onslaughts!

  14. Well said, Nick. It would make me feel even a smidge better if they actually appear to have learned anything from the experience, which they almost never seem to do.

    I must take the opportunity to note what I think is an exception. Morgan Spurlock (of "Supersize Me" fame) made a series of short films called "Thirty Days." In one of the films, he and his partner lived on the American minimum wage for thirty days. His partner seemed overdramatic at times, but I thought it was an honest portrayal of the difficulties, and didn't pretend to be something it wasn't - check it out.

  15. FG - Thanks for the recommendation. I was unaware of the Spurlock films, must check them out. The Barbara Ehrenreich book "Nickel and Dimed" (about low-wage USA) is good too.