That poor man wants your biscuit

The last couple of weeks’ de-cluttering have brought me face-to-face with an inconvenient truth about myself. I’ve been pulling stuff out of cupboards. Off shelves. Stacking it on the floor to be sorted. The piles have grown. Multiplied. I’m fairly certain they’ve been breeding behind my back. Work’s been hectic for the last few days. Available time short. I’ve started stepping over the piles. Negotiating routes round them. I’m getting used to living with the mess.

I hear the house-proud gasp in horror. How can she? I could never live like that. You’re right. I’m a slob. Over years of living with difficulty I’ve learned to shift my boundaries to accommodate inconvenience. I’ve begun to be able to ignore things I don’t like. I’ve grown good at tolerating the intolerable.

It’s happened in the public sphere too. When did I stop caring? How am I living in a world like this and not making a fuss? Human lives are worth less than fashion clothing. Quality of life for workers is less important than quantity of goods for consumers. Profit matters more than the environment. And it’s acceptable to consider making money out of vulnerable children. How come UKIP even got a look-in at the polls? Have we forgotten the lessons of history? Don’t we remember what happens when ethnic minorities are turned into scapegoats? Did I fall asleep on a space shuttle? Wake up in an alternative universe. One where good and evil have been reversed. How come I didn’t notice? Why didn’t I start shouting sooner?

We love to think of ourselves as victims. It’s pretty easy to find someone who’s better off than we are. You only have to trawl a tabloid. Root through a mag. The headlines scream celebrity lifestyle. You can have it all. We compare. Covet.

Once upon a time I used to speak in collective worship in school. One of my favourite visual aids was a cake. Round. Sponge. Full of jam. Usually still warm. Leaving things till the last moment was always my specialist subject. I used to ask for six volunteers. It was the one time I never had a shortage. The volunteers stood in two groups. Four in one. Two in the other. Then I cut the cake. Two-thirds. One-third. Everyone happy. Until I handed two-thirds to the two.

“That’s not fair!”

I never had to prompt a response. The cake was redistributed amid a short reminder that we’re pretty well-off here in the UK. We’ve got clean water. Electricity. Free education … that didn’t go down so well. In those days we also had an adequate benefits system. Nobody had to go hungry. There’s been a bit of slippage since.

The problem is I got the proportions wrong. I was far too generous to the group of four. I don’t know what the figures were back in those days. I do know inequality is on the increase. These days, the richest 1% of the world’s population is estimated to own 46% of the wealth. I’m not sure how that would work in terms of cake. They seem aggressively determined to defend their privilege too. By setting the rest of us at each other’s throats. Exploiting our victim complexes. Divide and rule. You’d think we’d be wise to it by now. We’re still falling for it.

I’ll finish with a modern parable. I’ve stolen it shamelessly from Facebook, but I can’t find the source. I apologise. A rich man. A middle-class man. A poor man. A plate with twelve biscuits. The rich man pockets eleven of the biscuits. Turns to the middle-class man and says.

“That poor man wants your biscuit.”

Now ain’t that the truth?

 

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I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.

 

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