What “Benefits Street” Isn’t Telling Us

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Benefits. Without a doubt one of the most controversial debates in modern society to date. With recent showings of Channel 4’s “Benefits Street” and “Skint” in which depicts the poor living a lavishly drug-fuelled and alcoholic piss up student-inspired lifestyle with all the play and no work, it’s no surprise the British tax payer and worker are left feeling betrayed and abused. However, I implore you to read what I have to say because people need to start seeing benefit seekers as who they are: poor and often desperate, or disabled and unwell, people.
Everything you read in the newspapers, the subtle hints that have brainwashed us as a nation into believing poor people are bringing our society down, the news reports and television programmes I just briefly mentioned… It’s propaganda. The government wants you to hate them, so the government can exploit them.  

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We are undoubtedly fascinated and lured into watching programmes such as “Benefits Street” and “Skint.” Its ‘characters’ (the only accurate way I can describe these people- they have been reduced to characters for our entertainment by the BBC’s filmmakers and editors) – depict a life of immorality, thievery, drugs, alcohol, smoking, multiple mistreated children, and most importantly, an attitude that they don’t want to work. Not that there isn’t any work, but that they simply don’t want to.
Well this simply isn’t true, and many of the residents living on Kingston Road, in Tilery, Stockton-on-Tees have complained that producers of the show are presenting them in a negative light, with one man commenting:
“We are getting it 24/7 down here. They will edit the truth so it looks like lies and edit the lies so it looks like the truth.”

Incredibly, the show received up to 2,000 complaints by viewers, disgusted that the show was “exploiting people” in a “poverty porn” fashion. However, this report itself released by the DailyMail is propaganda. You only need to look at the images that they plaster across… police vans, mattresses in the streets, broken chairs, eggs on windows, children in prams and running in the street, hoodies, bikes, smoking on the front step… What does this remind us of? Oh, yeah, Benefit’s Street itself! The article literally undermines and undercuts what the words are saying. The article is mocking them and presenting a lie to the public, whilst not denying the residents and poor people on Kingston Road the right for their voice to be heard. The DailyMail respond saying that it’s the public who are ignorant and don’t believe you, but at least we published your story!

NHS

But why would the media want to control our way of thinking? Why do we need to be disgusted by poor people and the lower classes for their reliance on the government? It doesn’t concern us and our lifestyle of luxuries, why are we so bothered?
Well, as David Cameron nicely pointed out for us, look where our taxes are going. He is playing a very tactical game by forcing us against one another. By constantly and consistently reminding the British public that our hard-earned money and exploitative rise in taxes are being pumped into the gutters and swells of council houses, it’s no wonder the public are now all for benefit reduction.

“Our money”, they chant angrily at the family of four, a mother made disabled, a father made redundant from that recession, “on £50 a week, to buy booze and cigs and drugs!” Have you tried providing for and feeding a family on £50 a week? As this article fantastically breaks down for us, benefits are actually shockingly low, with “Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support (£65.45 a week) are worth the same as they were… in 1997.”
50% of those who claim benefits have a disability and are physically unable to work.
30% because they are unemployed and there are no jobs in the local area (hello recession again!)
20% claiming because they are a lone parent or carer.
(Stats and figures from 2010.)

benefit streeeet

The reality.

If you cringed at the above or shook your head at its “lies”, you are a fine example of a sculpted mind influenced and corrupted by the media and our government. If you are comfortable in your home, with a job, a car, a healthy family, I implore you to see past your nose and help the poor that your class and government are diligently trampling upon for their own selfish needs.

vicccThe current times remind me of Victorian England. I happen to be studying this period right now, and I can’t help but draw upon the parallels of Oliver Twist, the exploitation of the poor and its depiction, to “Benefits Street.” The Fagin’s and Bill Sikes’s that roam the back alleys and revel in thieving from the rich are to be seen on “Benefits Street” in a similar fashion. However, the difference is Dickens wrote Oliver Twist so that Victorian readers would grow sympathetic to the poor and to see how their poverty led to crime. How they were forced to commit acts of immorality and evil, after all, there was no welfare state then to help them. The rich exploited the poor in Victorian times, using and abusing them for their own selfish needs because the poor were seen as subhuman. They were in poverty because they were thieves, not that they were thieves because they lived in poverty. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles draw upon in The Communist Manifesto of 1848, the two nations of society were split “into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”

A family living in poverty, from the Salvation Army archive SlumXpoverty.jpg

Is this not harrowingly similar to our situation in modern Britain now? We are arguing over the “rights” of “our money”, which isn’t really our money anyway. Why wouldn’t you want to help the poor, the disabled, the single parent, the children?

Another recent scandalous headline spread across Britain over the debate between Celebrity Big Brother contestants Katie Price and Katie Hopkins. Upon discovering Price claims tax-funded care for her disabled son, Harvey, the public and media launched an outcry of horror as the star estimated worth £40 million “abuses” the system by not paying for her own child.
Yet she pays her taxes and most importantly, she is a human being and the service provided to the government allows the welfare of her child to be taken care of. Care which would cost her up to £1,000 a day if she were to pay herself.
The fact she even has to defend herself as her representatives release a statement just shows what disgusting attitude we have towards benefits and those in need. Even if you believe Russell Brand is a bit too extreme and liberal, I urge you to watch the video posted below upon this subject of compassion and care:

What’s even more interesting in the portrayal of benefits, is that the media fail to report how tax dodgers are the real culprits of our suffering economy. Here I will let the following diagrams speak for themselves:

benefits

Irony considering my reference to Oliver Twist

tax and benefits tax dodgers taxx

edlabourLiterally, tax dodging is damaging our economy more so than benefits. So why is David Cameron and our coalition government focussing on cutting benefits with this alarming article demonstrating how Cameron plans to cut benefits “from £26,000 to £23,000”, continuing that:

“The benefit cap was introduced in April 2013. Latest figures published in November 2014 show that more than 51,000 households have been capped since then (nearly half of those in London, where rents are high).

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the average loss of income was £70 a week (£80 in London, £62 elsewhere).”

Why do we read this as GOOD news?!

real ben street

What a real benefit street would look like

Why are we focussing on benefits?
Well this answer all boils down to what I learnt in Oliver Twist. The rich exploit the poor for their own wrongdoings because it’s easier. The poor are scapegoats, like the jews were to the economy in the run up to Nazi Germany. And what do we say in response? Excellent! Crush the poor and tax my earnings to something worthwhile.

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Conservative propaganda – portraying Labour as “favouring the poor”.

With articles such as Vice’s “When Are We Going To Stop Laughing At ‘Shit Britain’?” in which argues
“The woes of a place like Tilbury – benefit mums, drunk slags, overweight scroungers – have become punchlines for a global audience that is encouraged to laugh at provincial poverty”… When are we going to start listening to our people?

When we hear “benefits”, the word “scum” isn’t far behind. When we hear “benefits”, “fraud” can be followed. When are we going to start hearing benefits for what they really are? Benefits aren’t an extra bit of money to fuel hedonistic lifestyles, it’s their lifeline. It’s their choice between homelessness or shelter. It’s their choice between food or starvation.

The following is an extract from this great post I read this morning:

“The reality of poverty is not what you might see on TV, with those delightful characters from Benefit Street (Channel 4).  It isn’t all about common people, cursing loudly in the street with a fag in hand and their pyjamas on, while they scream at little 2 year-old Albie to get ‘the fuck indoors, ya little shit, or I’ll faaahkin slap ya, innit!’  It’s not sitting around on a bench with a can of Special Brew, unwashed and stinking of urine, roll-up in filthy fingers.  I don’t smoke.  I can’t afford to smoke.  I don’t know many people who can.  I have bars of soap next to my sinks and I am able to use them to good effect.  I am not dirty.  I am poor.  There is a difference. [….]

“The reality of poverty is counting the 5p coins saved in a bottle, and sending a 10 year old to buy a packet of cheap pasta and a tin of tomatoes, because it’s embarrassing to have to pay with coins.  The reality is eating plain boiled rice and pretending to like it, so the kids don’t know there’s no other food except for what is on their plates.  The reality is having an electric meter, running always on emergency credit, because you can’t afford to get out of the cycle you’re trapped in.  It’s making the choice between putting the heating on for an hour, or going cold and being able to buy a pack of sausages and some potatoes.

“…The reality is going to the supermarkets just before they close, and buying all you can for a fraction of the cost, because it’s going out of date tomorrow. That’s okay–you’re eating it tomorrow. It’s value priced peanut butters and cheap cuts of fatty meat. It’s poor-quality chicken and eggs from barn hens. It’s learning to mend, reuse, recycle and go without. It’s washing your hair with washing-up liquid, because it’s all you have until Wednesday, when the Holy Grail of Child Tax Credit hits your account and there’s £50 for shopping.”

Do you really condone cutting their lifeline?
Sounds worse when I put it like that, doesn’t it?

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