The government and powerful media voices have pulled a clever trick.
I’ve been reading some of the 5,000 comments on a post a friend made about refugees, asylum seekers. A post made to counteract misinformation about them and about what entitlements they may have in the UK.
So many of the comments are “We should help homeless ex-servicemen or the NHS or some group here who is poor INSTEAD of helping asylum seekers.” People are angry when they see a refugee given assistance while someone born and bred in the UK is in need of a food bank or is living on the streets.
I see lots of posts to that effect too and I do understand the frustration created when we see poverty and the effects of poverty around us. I completely agree that all those groups should be given the resources to improve their situation, that the statistics for homelessness and food banks and so much else are more than shameful, more than disgusting, that this situation should not be allowed to continue. Anyone with a heart is frustrated and in pain due to what we see around us.
However, it’s a completely false dichotomy. Completely false. The story we’ve been sold that it’s either asylum seekers or British homeless people is a dehumanising lie.
The UN report into poverty in the UK and the 14 million people here in major poverty clearly stated that if the political will existed in Westminster that poverty could be pretty much eradicated. But instead of eradicating poverty our government prioritises tax breaks to the already wealthy, thus increasing wealth inequality to levels that should sicken all of us.
The answer is not to help ex-servicemen, the NHS, homeless Brits, women in period poverty, people needing food banks or anyone else INSTEAD of helping asylum seekers.
The answer is to help them AS WELL AS helping asylum seekers.
The cash is there. That UN report was clear and starkly condemnatory in its conclusions.
But our government chooses to ignore the report and when its findings were debated in the House of Commons this week only fourteen MPs showed up. One MP for each million of the people in that horrible poverty situation. Fourteen MPs – it’s not as if we can only condemn the Tories for that.
The cash is there to make this a both/and situation rather than an either/or situation. The political will is not there. The political will is to increase poverty. The political will is to create a climate of fear, even terror, among those who need to claim benefits in times of unemployment or ill health. The political will is to increase inequality and to grant the rich greater riches. And by creating that terror in those who need to claim universal credit or personal independence payment our government have, in a sense, become terrorists.
But the government has been clever. Powerful media voices have been clever too. Clever, and devious. So instead of holding government to account many people – often poor people, sometimes desperate people – have accepted even poorer people who have had to flee their lives and countries as a scapegoat for poverty.
What’s needed isn’t to chuck out the asylum seekers. What’s needed isn’t to stop giving them £35 a week to live on. What’s needed isn’t a cutting or a cessation of the international aid given by the UK.
What’s needed is a complete change to the will of the politicians who seek to forge our public policies. What’s needed is the kind of policy that won’t continue to make the rich richer while the most vulnerable in our society struggle more and more just to eat food or heat their homes to a level at which the walls don’t go mouldy from damp or to have a home at all.
Asylum seekers are demonised. But it’s the government who should be demonised. No. They don’t need to be demonised. They’ve done that for themselves, not least by their total dismissal of the findings on poverty from the United Nations.
Comments on that online post about asylum seekers continue to be added. Some are supportive of the post. Some are not. But those who have fallen for the false dichotomy are just as desperate as those who support asylum seekers and refugees. Both groups see the poverty around us and want it to be sorted. Both groups cry out for the plight of homeless people.
It’s just that one group has fallen for a government lie, propagated by many in mass media and then social media. The lie that there never was the money to help the poorest of our society. It’s a very easy lie to believe. It’s a lie that’s been repeated in many forms at many times in history. It’s a lie that sounds convincing and is being repeated many times every day. But it’s still a lie.
When will the lies stop?
When will we have a government that doesn’t make a political choice for poverty?
When will we have a society in which the poor aren’t encouraged to stand against the poor while being disadvantaged by the policies of the rich?
Soon. I hope. Soon. I hope, but I am not confident.