‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Can the poor be helped?

Last week, Jeremy Clarke recounted how he met a City trader friend who tried to help the poor:

"Ivan told me a story about a Brazilian girlfriend who took him home to a shack in the favela to meet the family... The mother, father, brother and sister were sunk in inertia, booze and daytime television. Ivan bought the brother an 18-wheel truck to start a haulage business; he paid for the sister to go to college; and he bought the father a Chevrolet. 

"One year later the haulage business was bankrupt and the truck confiscated, the sister had dropped out of college, and the Chevy was written off. All three were back boozing in front of the TV... 

"He drew no firm conclusion from his Brazilian experience and told other stories illustrating how a small piece of timely luck or support had transformed people’s lives, including his own."

Online discussions are often not very pleasant - wearing a persona tempts us to let our ignoble side off the leash - and so I suppose there will be those who laugh at the story, saying it was inevitable and let the poor stew in their own juices. But as Clarke says, even the trader drew no firm conclusion from this.

My feeling is it was just too much all at once. Windfalls - gambling wins, handouts - come and go, have no connection to our essential selves.You have to get people to grow by stretching just a bit beyond their comfort zone - what they envision as currently, realistically possible for them. It's the self-sabotaging gremlins you have to fight.

We all have that challenge, and it's very real - if JK Rowling hadn't faced down her personal "dementors" she could not have gone from sitting in an Edinburgh cafe to billionairess. [Her fiction is successful because it contains solid psychic fact - "imaginary gardens with real toads in them", as Marianne Moore said. Who can fail to recognise the wrenching longing when Harry looks in the Mirror of Erised?]

Most of us do not have to go from rags to riches. We can't all be rich anyhow - who would wash our cars?

A job would do - reasonably paid, secure, with defined hours (half the country does little or nothing now, the other half loses its life in overwork) and a sense that one is doing something useful. Comradeship at work, respect at home for your contribution.

Can it be done?


Jeremy Clarke: http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/the-therapeutic-effects-of-modafinil-and-a-mob-doctor/
Dementors: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Dementor
Marianne Moore: http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/poetry/
The Mirror of Erised: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Mirror_of_Erised
Adult literacy advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8JHeIS5Lo8


James Higham said...

The real poor don't do too badly at this time in this country , it's the lowesr paid up to modestly paid workers - zero hours, part time only etc. - who are the poor sods who are suffering.

Sackerson said...

It's not just the material aspect, otherwise the current policy of throwing bones under the table would keep everybody happy.