The Underclass

Look!  It’s the face of the underclass!

Oh wait, no, I meant this:

*Edit: for the purposes of this post, I’m going by what is portrayed by the media as an underclass, and not getting into the sociological ins-and-outs of it, since the former has more resonance with the public than the latter.

The above links to another sneering, dehumanising tale from the Daily Mail about a woman who has had her fourteen children taken away from her by social services.  She is a, “baby making machine”, with her life being, “rich material for a satire about the tragedy of the British underclass”.

It’s quite likely that she is, in fact, an unfit mother.  But she’s also a human being, not that you’d guess from reading that article, which also discusses how some of her children died like it’s just a little thing.  It’s deliberately one-sided, portraying her as an almost emotionless leech.  It’s skirted over that she has learning difficulties.  Don’t want to get in the way of a good story, eh?

The Daily Mail like to bang on about, “the underclass” a lot.  They are this century’s British, “life unworthy of life”  A quick glance over the spiteful comments from the Not so Great British Public confirm that at least a section of society wish “the underclass” could be sterilised, and, “she claims for hip and back problems yet can have fourteen kids!”  Yeah, she’s had FOURTEEN KIDS.  Why do you think she has hip and back problems?

You’ve seen the underclass.  They wear tracksuits.  They live in council houses.  They have kids.  They claim benefit.  They are scroungers, and at the bottom of society.    More liberal types like to think that this dismissive, scornful derision poured upon, “the underclass” is limited to hateful rags like the Daily Mail.  It isn’t.  Everybody who isn’t part of it views the people who supposedly are as beneath, be it with pity or with hatred.  The Daily Mail like to castigate them, the Guardian like to gather a few people in an interior-designed room to decide what’s best for them.  They are a mass, a writhing sea of featureless faces, all older than their time, in the black pits of economic deprivation.  They all have the same story, they all have the same future.   Born, beaten, breeding, dead. They are-en masse- stupid, ill, baby machines, useless and everywhere.  There to make the rest of society pat themselves on the back for how undeviant and worthwhile they are.  Middle class housewives who stay at home while their husbands earn are heroes, working class mothers who stay at home and claim benefits are scum.   You are hard working therefore worthy of life!  Make them pick up dirt in the street!  Reinforce that social model! DO IT!

When I read stories of people living in council houses smoking and claiming benefits I’m actively jealous because they have something I have never had and desired for most of my life; a stable home.  I’m on the council housing list and know I’m going to stay there for the next decade.  I can honestly see the appeal of having a baby and getting a council house because having a home is an absurd privilege, when it should be a right.

Tales of, “the underclass” enrage me.  Because I am the underclass.

Time and time again, I’ve been proffered the courtesy, “but”. It goes like this:

“I hate benefit scroungers”.

“Yeah, I’m on benefits, mate”.

“Oh, but you’re different.  Your problems are genuine.  You deserve your benefits”.

Why?  Why do I deserve the small amount of to live on that benefits are?  Doesn’t everybody deserve that?  Doesn’t everybody in the fucking world deserve to have enough money with which to buy food and clothing?  Why are my problems more real than Theresa’s up there?  Because I budget my benefits so that I can afford an internet connection?  Because I articulate them?  Is it because I have an education?

Except I don’t.  Consider me as the subject of that article-

“Seaneen left school with seven GCSEs…”

And if we want to go even further,

Seaneen was born on a rough council estate in Republican West Belfast, the third of five children.  She had a traumatic childhood lived in poverty.  Her mother suffered from mental illness and physical ill-health that meant she claimed benefits.  Her father worked as a low-paid laboratory technician before being forced into early retirement by his alcoholism.  He died at the age of forty seven from alcoholic liver failure.

Do you see what I’m getting at?  On paper I’m not out of place.  My mum will be on benefits forever.  My dad was an Irish alcoholic, the same kind despised and lampooned via the mainstream media.  He was not a middle-class whiskey drinker.  He was the man you’d pass on the street drinking White Lightning.   Social services had to step in a few times and tell my mum to send us to school.  Our house in Ardkeen was in the local paper when we moved out because the squalor was so bad.  There were loads of photos of women pointing at bits of filth on the wall.   I am not one of those crazy kids who lives in London on benefits while their rich parents sneak a few hundred into their bank accounts every month.  If I fall, I have no safety net other than my social worker being able to step in and help me.

It cuts two ways, because people think they’re doing me a favour by, “but”ting me.  That I’m not one of those nasty little poor people.  I dress nicely (in my second hand clothes), I dye my hair funny colours, I know people who are in bands and shit. Newsflash: I AM.  Every bit as much as Theresa up there.   As are a lot of the wonderful people I know who live on benefits and have done, and will probably always do, because they are too unwell to work.

I have been, at various times in my life, the crazy person who smells that you’d cross the street to avoid.  I am a mentally ill (oh, but I have bipolar disorder so I must be CLEVER and MIDDLE CLASS, right?)  person on benefits.  Like many of the, “underclass”.  It’s me too, it isn’t just people like Theresa.  You can’t pour vitriol over a whole section of society while quietly trying to exclude me from it on the spurious grounds that I’m quite clever, or something.  That I don’t wear tracksuits so I’m different than they are.  The difference with me is that I don’t live on a ghettoised council estate.  But fuck, I probably would given the opportunity.  I’m terrified of getting ill sometime in the future and losing my home.  But I still can’t afford my heating bills and I’m one severe episode of illness away from possibly being fucked for life.  I could be the “passive poor”, I could be, “the traumatised” and on paper, I would be. I function via numbing medication, I accepted a trade-off in my life. And if I’d had my baby, it might have been taken away from me, and I was aware of that.

But you look closer, or at least, you should.  My messed up dad nicked books from school for us to read, paper for us to write on, pens for us to write with.  Because of him, I went to the Good School, like my sisters.  Our horrible houses were so ill-kempt because my dad would often lose his rag and kick a door and because my mum was often too depressed to clean and we were lazy shits.  You read this blog and know me somewhat and I don’t think you’d ever associate me with those tracksuited haggard faces photographed even though I’m likely from a similar background and superficially in a similar situation.  I could be an exception.  And even if I was born, didn’t educate myself, enjoy books etc, had lots of kids and lived in a council flat, so what?   There are reasons why the “underclass” exists, why poverty exists, there are reasons for violence, there are reasons for “ignorance” and low intelligence (things ascribed to, “the underclass”) and blaming the individual in these little pin up pieces to remind everybody that some people don’t deserve to live completely ignores the wider problems in society that don’t start at the bottom, they start at the top.  They haven’t failed society; society has failed them.

The differences people try to point out with me are that I’m intelligent- but how do you know the clichéd image of the “underclass” are not?  A lack of ambition, or a lack of culture, doesn’t mean someone isn’t intelligent.  Intelligence isn’t just education, it is much broader than that.  It isn’t just common sense, too.  Even if they aren’t intelligent, then…so?  People are different.  Being middle class or upper class doesn’t make you intelligent, it just likely gives you access to more educational opportunities (and don’t get me started on nepotism…)  And what’s so wrong with not being intelligent?  What about kindness? Being happy?  Being giving?  Being funny?

Sometimes the middle class aspirations of be born, get a great job, have a nice house, toil, retire, die, seem every bit as ridiculous to me as the aimless ones so often ascribed to this peasant underclass.  The difference is perceived as “giving back to society”.  Every person gives back to society by their existence.  I hate this idea of social burdens.  It’s repugnant and extremely dangerous and it’s the one that lumps the, “underclass” into one homogeneous hopeless mass.

You might also be thinking, “How can you be part of some sort of underclass when you write a blog people read, won an award for play, have people interested in your writing?”  Again, people might separate me via the route of ambition, in that I have some.  They might separate me via intelligence, while forgetting I do not have much of an education, so “something” must make me “better” than your average council estate mother (and it’s always the women, notice, who are most vilified).  They separate me via my cultural interests, which buys into the repellent idea of, “high” and “low” culture.   But the blog is a blog, the interest in my writing may help me in the future but it doesn’t make a difference to my every day life in which I have intense difficulty actually writing due to my stupid fucking brain, in which I can afford very little, sit in the cold and claim Housing Benefit so I have somewhere to live.  It doesn’t negate my background, and it doesn’t change how it would look if you put all the cold facts of my life on paper, right now, at this moment in time.  Right now, at this moment in time, I look like a member of the underclass. I don’t particularly engage with the rest of society, either.   In the future, who knows, I might some wildly successful writer whom the Observer asks to pen a weekly column about my three golden-faced, honey haired children and the problems of fitting them all into my hybrid car and getting them off to their public school,  or maybe I’ll become a social worker and put my years of experience as a mental patient to good use, but that’s not the case at the moment.

I’m not playing Larkin Trumps (“they fuck you up, your mum and dad, but mine fucked me up more than yours”), or trying to either romanticise or vilify my background.  Nor am I indulging in self pity because I don’t feel that way, likewise, I’m not comparing myself to those who are in desperate situations (and many are, but they’re just “scroungers”).  Nor am I an asylum seeker, who I don’t know how they live in this country without feeling assaulted.  I’m pointing out that on paper means nothing, and that I don’t deserve any more or less respect than the “tragic” examples of the underclass plastered all over the media whose lives, desires and dreams we know nothing more about than is told by the journalist.  The lack of humanity people can feel stuns me.  To see a group of fellow human beings as a problem rather than as afflicted by problems.

Now I’m going to empty my ashtray in case a Daily Mail journalist comes round.

66 Responses

  1. Totally agree…bloody well put! People sneer at either what they are afraid of or what they don’t understand. I always think the same as what you say above about kids that are physically/sexually/verbally abused. They die they are immortalised in media as ‘poor neglected’ kids of the ‘underclass’, but if they live they become scallys, they become the ‘underclass’. No way out…

    The Daily Mail is pure venom. I wish these people could have a day in the life of some of those they criticise. They might not be so loose with ‘underclass’ and ‘scally’ terminology then…

    Great post,

    Kelly

  2. why would you need to empty your ashtray? must be something I do not understand cuz I’m in the US.

    I agree with you and try not to read any papers like that, they would only piss me off too.

  3. A-fucking-men, Molly.

    Personally I think this happens out of fear of “what-if”: What if I became one of “them?” What if I lost my job, lost my house, wound up on the street, etc.? The way most people deal with that fear is by gut reaction: “Hell no, that could never happen because I’m different, I’m better, I deserve the life I have, I built it myself, I won’t lose it.”

    This blinds people to the fact that life is mostly a roll of the dice, which means we all have the same odds of ending up in the same place as everyone else, which means we’re all equal.

    People are fucking idiots, in other words.

  4. very well said.

  5. Seaneen great post and as I come from a working class background,i take on board what you say.The Daily hate and all the other papers sneer at people on benefits.I’m on them now and will be for a long time,but in the past I worked in Law.Its like there are two different me’sBut i am still the same person! Its just that now i have to live with the black dog by my side.

  6. well said Seaneen! Know all too well what you write about, had my own rude reminder yesterday at the Jobcentre. One of those jumping through the humps that are point of life on benefits. Left with a headache but avoided what might have been judged to be hypomanic behaviour. some priceless quotes too – pity I did not start the interview with a caution. Really was a ‘does he take sugar’ event as all the questions were directed at the cmht support worker who’d come with me. Net result of the interview was that I was given the task of writing a real letter to the office that deals with payments asking inter alia why they had not responded to an e-mail sent to them months ago by my personal adviser, apparently ‘they’ must respond to me within 10 days. blah blah blah. point being that there was a continual but unvoiced dub text that i should know my place. herumph. but stay cool David, no point being angry at this stage one anecdote – he kept telling me to look at my bank statements but I managed tio insist that DWP’s record keeping better than mine and that she would find the information on the computer screen she was wont to hide behind. the saga will doubtless continue until I am dead or at least until the working age label becomes oap.

    Thank you for your words Seaneen, they are always helpful. David

  7. Acknowledgement – have started blogging about my benefit stuff at http://warriet.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/monday-moanday/ where I am quoting your blogs so thought I’d better formally acknowledge one of my more helpful sources🙂

  8. OUTSTANDING article.

    “Every person gives back to society by their existence.”

    Amen to that.

  9. Wonderfully written. I am going to use ‘Larkin Trumps’ in conversation whenever I can.

  10. I agree that everyone is deserving of life but there is a big difference between those who actually fit the benefit criteria and those who play the system to fit and I think that that is the frustrating thing. I’m on benefits because I can’t work presently but when I can I’ll be looking and hopefully getting a job. Many people who can work, won’t work because it’s easier to stay on benefits with their 50″ televisions*

    And I’m not saying that’s all people, definitely not. Both of us are on benefits because a) we need and b) we are, without twisting the facts, entitled to what we get. Also there’s a big, big difference between those who are on benefits and want to work vs those who are on them and refuse to do so. You say everyone’s deserving, but do the people that do work deserve to fund those who won’t work rather than can’t?

    Thought provoking as always Seaneen🙂 x

    My mum volunteered with SureStart and was assigned a family on benefits with a 50″ screen who wouldn’t pay her TV license.

    • won’t engage in polemics here but would point out that the size of a tv screen is proof of nothing. the larger issue is surely that the economic model used in the uk now assumes a a pool of surplus labour – full employment is anathema to business in that it needs its wage slaves in place and not tempted by better working conditions elsewhere. identifying those who can but won;t work is futile unless you offer them real jobs – large numbers of people are unemployable so from a socio-business point of view it’s really quite simple: if you’re not prepared to recommission the nazi death camps, then the business approach is to keep the unemployable as cheaply as possible by providing access to affordable drugs (including alcohol) and 24×7 television. religion used to be the opiate of the masses, then came television and now the internet. so what do you want to do?
      p.s. anyone know a source for 50″ televisions

  11. Liverpool Irish here. Totally untermenschen!

  12. I hate to break it to you but this is not an isolated incident. Jenny Tonge <and Lauren Booth have been exposed as sponsoring a newspaper which claims that Jews control society and Holocaust deaths are “exaggerated. So don’t expect anything from the Left or liberals ’cause they’re just as brazenly Nazi as the Right.

    Put it this way: At any point time we’re about 12 months away from mass sterilisation being brought in and 24 months away from mass murder. Fascism is back, baby.

  13. What you just wrote….THAT is what should be in the goddamn paper.

    You are not special in the sense of “deserving” more than the rest of the ‘underclass,’ but you are special in that you have a platform and an articulate voice with which you can blow to pieces all the tired stereotypical narratives.

    I’m american, and grew up middle class, so my experiences are far removed from yours. Which is part of why I read this blog. It’s bullshit to sit in my little corner of the world and have my Opinions on how to better society without trying to see things through someone else’s eyes. And I mean REALLY see, not just see from the often well-meaning but usually patronizing perspective of the more liberal portions of the media that are supposedly on the side of the poor/underclass.

    I really hope that someday you are well enough to write more, and write for an even wider audience. And not just because I think you’re kickass and deserve to be healthy and “successful” in whatever way you want to be. More of the world NEEDS to hear what you have to say.

  14. Thank you.

  15. great post!
    am on benefits, i hate this, i have lost jobs due to mh, i live on a council estate. I feel like a failure, not necessarily because I am a failure, but because that is how society percieves my situation.

    • Jo: you are not alone! couple of observations, (1) living on a council estate is more secure than anything except outright home/land ownership – those deluded into the mortgage trap have less freedom than you – some in society would regard such tenure as a sign of success (2) Thatcher was the who was reported to have said “there’s no such thing as society” http://briandeer.com/social/thatcher-society.htm
      what do mean by society? is your situation despised by your family and friends? most people i know, past and present understand that shit happens and are often glad that it has not happened to them. yet.

    • I feel like that too. It’s a horrible feeling.

  16. I’m telling all my blog readers to come over and check this out, it’s one of your best yet🙂.

  17. That DM article is pure venom. Its author Natalie Clarke is in the habit of churning out this kind of crap. A few months ago AN Wilson wrote an article advocating Eugenics in the Daily Mail but there were no cries of outrage from the blogosphere. What kind of future are we facing?

  18. I guess because people pay money for the DM to reinforce their prejudices; one of my over-used insults when I’m in a particularly waspish mood is to ask “I suppose that’s something you caught from the DM?” Sometimes a handily dismissive way of closing an argument that’s going nowhere…/

  19. warriet, i see your point, thanks!

  20. Really good article and very true

  21. A brilliant blog. I have admired your writing skills a while but this one hit a nerve. Thank you from a frequent lurker.

  22. we should make t-shirts that say ‘underclass and proud’.

  23. This post is wonderful. Thank you.

  24. a girl, on February 16th, 2010 at 4:06 pm Said:
    What you just wrote….THAT is what should be in the goddamn paper

    Um, no, it’s the daily mail

  25. I don’t think purdy people can be untermenschen. just peeps like me.

  26. One of the best pieces of writing I have read in a very long time.
    Amazing Seaneen.

  27. […] Bin Ein Untermensch Too By Louise Seaneen over at mentallyinteresting.org.uk. directs a ferocious and passionate and eloquent attack at this article in The Daily Mail. And every […]

  28. Complete non-sequitur I know, but I may have to use Untermensch as a song-title.

  29. I donno, I always admired anyone who is able to see beyond the borders society had set around them. Rich kids who make their living working as barmen; and the ones coming from the outskirts who get 2 Phds at Oxford. On the other hand I really hate when one is not able to see past these socio-cultural limitations. The local ‘chav’ who speaks about nothing else but beer and football macthes; and the high society girl whose sole preoccupation is what is going to wear at the party.

    I guess this is because I like mixtures, the intermigling. You Seaneen are certainly one of the most intermingled person I know. One of those whose job seem that of breaking boundaries. With the bias of mentalism along with other kind of bias. Good work, keep on doing it.

    And oh, you were not fishing for compliments in the other entry and it won’t matter what I say here because you have BDD, but still: you are very very cute.

    G.

    P.S.
    Oh, and my neighbor here is speaking to his cats in a high pitch voice for no particular reason.

  30. Hi – I’m going to be very provocative here and ask a few questions other people seem to have side stepped . . . Is it a good idea to have 14 children if you have no way of providing for them? Is having 14 children you can’t look after a basic human right? Is using contraception to avoid having 14 children an immoral thing to do? After how many children do you get back and hip problems – why not stop before you get there? Sorry, but I happen to think it’s selfish both to the children in question and to the rest of the community you live in to just keep having more children if you can’t look after them yourself. Call me a fascist just right of Attila the Hun, but I think having a child is a privilege and not just a right. And that in an ideal world prospective parents should have to pass an exam before getting to have a child in th efirst place. The world is overcrowded as it is and there are too many people starving and suffering needlessly already.

    And when did it become a crime to be middle-class? Those of us who are can’t help it, we didn’t choose the circumstances into which we were born any more than anyone else . . . Why do we have to apologise for it for the rest of our lives? It’s somehow so much more hip and trendy to be working class, everyone knows that.

    There you go – as I said, just right of Attila the Hun!!

    • Hi Scotty,

      I think what some people forget and what Seaneen is trying to remind them, is that this section of society are still human beings many of whom have learning disabilities or mental illnesses that severely impair their ability to negotiate life unsupported. A person simply cannot make good choices if you don’t know they are available or understand exactly what they are.

      What if she has 14 children because she didn’t have anyone to explain contraceptive options to her and didn’t have the intellectual capacity to negotiate those channels to get that advice on her own? What if she was one of the people who slipped through the school system with an undiagnosed intellectual disability and ended up in ‘mainstream’ life unsupported?

      The fact is someone probably knew this woman was in dire straits and chose to cross the road, to shut their door or tut at her ‘fecklessness’ over their cornflakes and then turn to the sports page. I am stunned and depressed in equal measures at the number of people who are so full of judgments and opinions yet when you suggest they might actually trying rolling up their sleeves and caring enough to be an active part of the solution, the sound of these same people stampeding in the opposite direction is deafening.

      To be human is to be part of one big family – sometimes we fight, sometimes we don’t particularly like each other but at the end of the day, each other is all we have and we cannot just shrug our shoulders and walk away because one day it WILL come back to affect us directly.

      • Hi Gaina –

        I take all of your points on board and many of them are very valid. I too believe that each individual human life is valuable per se – without having to justify itself -and that we do indeed all make a contribution just by being here.

        But all I’m saying is that we do have a responsibility (yes, a dirty word I know for many!) to others and ourselves to try to make good choices in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Once the 14 children are here, of course they’re welcome and should be looked after . . . but what are the chances of that, given the situation into which they’re born?

        And I’m glad I wasn’ the one to suggest that the woman who had 14 children was too mentally enfeebled to know what she was doing! I mean, what is the problem, really? It’s not rocket science. You have sex and if you don’t use a condom or take any other precautions = you get pregnant. I genuinely don’t understand. You’re suggesting an uncaring society didn’t take the trouble to explain her options to her properly. But maybe you’re being far more patronising towards her than I would ever presume to be. And all in the name of political correctness.

        And talking of judgements and generalisations, who are these masses of unfeeling tossers you speak of who wilfully turn away from those in obvious distress? Do you know anyone personally like that? I have to say, I don’t. All I can do in my everyday life is try to help those closest to me to the best of my ability, and, whenever I can, to help others beyond that who I see having problems within the very limited capacity that I have to do so. And I see a lot of other people around me who try to do the same. But all of us are guilty – even you, perhaps sometimes, and other people who pontificate about the unfeeling masses of the middle classes? – of ignoring what’s too uncomfortable to look at, or of not acting on every occasion to help those who really need it every time. Call it callousness, call it self-absorption, call it laziness – or maybe just call it the downside of being human. And everyone of us is that.

        • And talking of judgements and generalisations, who are these masses of unfeeling tossers you speak of who wilfully turn away from those in obvious distress? Do you know anyone personally like that? I have to say, I don’t.

          Pick a direction – any direction – and spit. You’ll hit at least one callous tosser. If you haven’t had that experience yet, you’re either a hermit or exceptionally lucky. The world is overflowing with selfish moral cowards who are only too happy to turn a blind eye. Fortunately there are just enough good souls to stop me giving up on the human race entirely.

          You have sex and if you don’t use a condom or take any other precautions = you get pregnant. I genuinely don’t understand.

          Yes, YOU understand that equation and so to I but not everyone is able to do that. Never use your own experiences as a yardstick by which to judge other people.

          You’re suggesting an uncaring society didn’t take the trouble to explain her options to her properly. But maybe you’re being far more patronising towards her than I would ever presume to be. And all in the name of political correctness.

          No I’m being realistic in acknowledging that a significant number of people are in this position and require this type of assistance. I’ve worked with teenagers with learning difficulties who were functional enough to be aware of their own sexuality but not able to understand and manage their own contraception or to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate attention from members of the opposite sex.

          I sincerely hope that the standard of sex education in schools is not as abysmal as it was when I was in High School because when you combine poor access to good information on sexual health with non-existent parental guidance, the consequences are disastrous so somebody has to be the ‘parent’. Hence my assertion that we are all responsible for noticing each other’s welfare and stepping in where necessary.
          I am lucky because I had all the emotional and educational tools necessary for a person to make good, healthy choices and I see it as a moral obligation to use that good fortune to assist those who don’t have those tools.

          As someone who was subjected to ‘positive discrimination’ I can safely say that Political Correctness is a load of bollocks, and it’s harmed more people than it has help. Pontificates also irritate the hell out of me.

          If you want to talk about being patronised let’s talk about the times I’ve been forced to sit and listen to privileged able-bodied wankers tell me know they ‘know my pain’ because they where blindfolded or had a spin in a wheelchair during a one-day ‘awareness’ course. Yeah, I think I am pretty well schooled in being patronised and that experience taught me that until I’ve walked in that person’s shoes or I’ve examined all the facts I should keep my mouth firmly shut. If I don’t understand something I open my ears and shut my mouth before forming an opinion.

          Oddly enough, selfishness has its place in this discussion because even if you don’t particularly care about these people on a human level and simply get involved in ways to improve their lives just because you don’t want your taxes going to pay their benefits or pay for the cost of crime that goes hand-in-hand with poverty then it’s still a win-win situation.

          Exchanges like this on blogs are always fraught with difficulty because all we are is nicknames and we don’t have an appreciation of each other’s life experiences so misunderstandings can take place but I hope my response has cleared some things up for you.😉

  31. Shortly: off to bed but can’t let this go without some fact based comments/ questions. How many 14 child families do you know, how many exist in the UK? suggest you do some fact checking e.g. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=762 instead of making wild assertions presumably based on screaming red top headlines. Back and hip problems are caused by many things but child-bearing? Please post the research that shows this. Contraception and morality have been fudged to the point of irrationally but have you not noticed the Roman Catholic church and others pursuing its own agenda by encouraging the lower orders to breed more to generate more good catholic souls with a belief that what the hell, it might be a shit life but there is the promises of the the reward of eternal bliss in return for extracting as much work as possible at the lowest possible cost. Check the demographics – this country’s population has dropped below replacement levels, there is immigration because there is work, and this country needs workers to support an increasingly ageing population – who’s going to be doing the work in 20 years time unless the UK’s shrinking workforce is supplement by a massive increase in the birth rate? Pass an exam? Who sets the questions and grades the results? Birth a privilege? I always thought it was a biological imperative, same as drives all animals. Yes the world is over-crowded but at the moment there is still enough resource available to support it if it were managed for the common good, simple fact is that the more prosperous a whole population is, the smaller the average family size. Why? Because the chances of survival are greater and where basics needs such as as food can be met with less labour. Less than 100 years ago childhood did not really exist, every member of the family had to be economically active if the family were to survive. Who said being middle-class was a crime, just what is middle class anyway? British English use of the term seems to be dumbing down to the US usage which now means anyone with a job i.e .those not on welfare. Consider the proposition that everyone who works for someone else, be they minimum wage toilet cleaners or million pounds + earners in the city, is working class. btw, nobody is making you apologise for anything, what are you being so defensive about? Hip and trendy, who’s the everyone?

    One last suggestion, find out more about Attila the Hun.

    • Hi Warriet – you actually sound like a nice person, sorry if I’ve rattled your cage! Some non-sequetors in your reply though that need to be addressed though. . . Firstly, my comments re. 14 children reated to the specific case in the Mail article which Seaneen chose to discuss and from which she extrapolated and made a no. of broad conclusions! I don’t need to check any stats to know that 14 children families are fairly rare these days. (What is not rare though are the instances of people who have no means, materially, emotionally or spiritually to look after a child, and yet they keep having more – have you ever watched the Jeremy Kyle show?!) My comment about back and hip probs is a direct response to a comment in Seaneen’s post above – have a look and you’ll see what I mean. I certainly don’t pretend of have any medical knowledge or the like on such matters or the like. Similarly, if you want a definition of middle class in the context of Seaneen’s post, you should probably ask her – I’m just responding to the generalisations about class she’s assuming in her post. Middle class seems be synon. with all things evil! Yes, as you say, we probably do have the pooled resources to feed everyone in the world who’s currently starving – but the reality of our situation is so very different, and I’m asking that people should make decisions about having more kids in terms of the actual circumstances they find themselves in, not on a utopian view of what could and should be possible! Couldn’t agree more with what you say about the Catholic Church – organised religion has in my view been the major source of self-inflcited suffering for humankind since it first came into being – but am not sure how that related to any of what I was saying about people having a responsibility to their chidren and the community at large? I reckon you’re agreeing with me about contraception bit anyway. As to your comments about us needing to increase our birth rate in this country so’s to have enough workers from our national gene pool, otherwise immigrants will come in and take all our jobs – emmmm – I though I was the right wing one? What’s wrong with immigrants coming into our country to work? Surely this is one way to actually share our resources with those from other countries who are less fortunate?

      Biological imperative? So we have a biologial need to reproduce? Emmmm, inspite of all our failings, I think we;ve come a little further than that.

      Re. Attila the Hun, I was merely using this as a figure of speech!! You are one who clearly likes facts and figures and I applaud you for that, but facts and figures don’t always tell the full story . . . Reality, life and even language is surely a bit more complex than that. (But I’m willing to learn more about Attila the Hun if I really have to!).

      Thanks for engaging anyway . . .

  32. Seaneen, as usual very articulately written. I live in social housing and even within this small neighbourhood, there are several people who vilify their neighbours for being on benefits despite knowing nothing about their circumstances. They have little empathy for people with mental illness and believe all single mothers are ‘scroungers’ or ‘benefit cheats’. It saddens me to live in such an inhumane society.

  33. Ok me again, hope I’m not getting addicted to this. . . Guess the final thing I wanted to say is a general point about the original post here. Seaneen and others like you, I think it’s a crying shame that you put yourselves so readily in the category which you term the underclass (your term and the Daily Mail’s term, certinaly not mine). Whether you like it or not, there are distinctions between people who avail of state assistance – there are those who are just playing the system for the paltry benefits it has to offer, and those who have genuine difficulties which mean that they can’t earn a living in the conventional way . . . Why would we castigate someone who has a health problem, whether that be diabetes or manic depression? So please STOP all the guilt and self-punishment and everything like it. Just give yourself a break! Even if you don’t think we should have any sense of obligation to each other or to society as a whole, you’re clearly driven yourself by the need to make a contribution to the lives of others. Hence this blog, and just as important really, the huge effort and genuine willingness to help others which lies behind it.

    Everyone should have the same rights. But not everyone is the same. That’s the reality of it.

  34. That pic looks like it’s been tampered with – faces weirdly wide etc.

    They’ve brushed over the fact that the couple have learning difficulties too.

    In an article in which compulsory sterilisation is mentioned….interesting.

  35. Excellent post Seaneen. I guess most people are guilty at one time or another of looking down on others. But the daily maul is particularly keen on castigating ‘the underclass’ and any others (immigrants usually) as rubbish. All of this appeals to the prejudices of their readers. They never seem to blame those wonderful bankers, financiers, right wing politicians, etc…for the things that go wrong.
    I always assumed middle class was applied to those who were aspirational and educated. So if someone aspires to a new Merc and is educated in dealing drugs on a council estate, are they the new middle class?

  36. Scotty, thank you for tour considered reply, in reality I think we are agreeing to agree. Am in a hospital waiting room at the moment watching the NHS in action on a cold Saturday night, running low on battery and I need to keep this phone alive so I’ll stick to acknowledging yours and the wisdom therein. More about me and where I’m coming from at http://warriet.wordpress bye for now David

    • Hi David –

      Many thanks for this . . . I think we might both have a lot more in common than either of us thought initially . . .Tried to access your site but seemed the link was broken and then was told there was a prob with the security certificate – no doubt a problem with my browser as I’m not very techhie minded (buying into stereotype time here on my own part – in spite of my nickname here, I’m a girl!!) So, anyway, don’t know why you were waiting in NHS waiting room last night (an experience we would’nt even wish on Atilla the Hun. let’s face it!), but hope you are ok . . . Take care and look after yourself.

  37. Wow this is very similar to what I was talking about at Tc on Thursday. Thanks seaneen

  38. Hi Scotty!

    And many thanks for this. I have been using confusers for 30 years and have finally beginning to accept that I do know what I am talking about. Anyway, the problem is not with the you, it’s with the technology so first step towards making it better – strongly advise you to forget about Internet Explorer and go immediately to http://www.google.com/chrome and press the blue button to install. Won’t put my phone number her but email me at warriet@warriet.com, an address I don’t worry about publishing here because it’s my domain and at the first sight of any weirdness, I’ll just pull the plug on the whole domain (the part to the right of the @)

    Back to the plot! Saturday night in Casualty would have provided ammunition for everyone but it was certainly a reality check, Bath RUH is by no means the worst in the country, Bristol’s BRI has bullet proof glass and a virtually permanent police presence my friend and I were chatting to the receptionists having timed her admission for 23:00 when there might be a lull to be straight to a doctor thus bypassing the initial triage of Casualty. etc etc, my point being that yes there were people who immediately fitted the Mail’s stereotype but whom am I to judge? The ugly fat morbidly obese heavily pregnant woman with a smoker’s cough was not there on her own account – she was still standing and was working her phone and also working very hard at staying cool and getting some answers from the staff so I guess that she was there in support of someone else, just like me. So I agree with you that people take responsibility for themselves and not expect society to clear up the mess of their own making. But, the reality is that the mess is there and needs to be dealt with before looking at the causes and indulging in that most pernicious of evils, playing the blame game which does not actually change anything. an if I ruled the world anyone who used the word ‘should’ more than than once in any article or conversation,would be immediately sent to the gulag and don’t get me started on obesity🙂
    btw Atilla got a bad press mostly because he had the temerity to take on and nearly overthrow the military might of the Catholic church in Rome – fine example of the old cliché that it’s the winners who write the history.

    Am particularly ok today and I am looking after myself and I look forward to hearing from you away from this public place,

    Take care yourself,

    David

    David

  39. Seaneen, stop moaning. You are having a novel published, which a lot of people will read because misery loves company. This means you will get rich and have lots of attention. You do not need a council house. You are not a member of the underclass.

    • Laura, very few novelists make a fortune, most eek out a very modest existence.

    • I am not having a novel published. I haven’t written it. I don’t have a publishing deal. I am TRYING to write something. I have utterly failed to do so so far due to feeling like shit and barely existing.

      Most, about 90%, of novelists don’t make a living out of it. They have day jobs, either as journalists or as something else.

      I don’t need a council house, nope. But I am still shit scared of going mental and not having somewhere to live, given that it’s happened to me before. I think that’s fair enough.

      • I don’t know where you live but most local councils have moved over to what they call a ‘choice based lettings’ system. This means you are placed in a band, according to your needs. I got my place through this recently introduced system, I was put in silver band (there are two other bands above this in my area) and applied on a weekly basis for a maximum of 2 properties in each registered district using an online database. Luckily just before the recession I got offered a place on a brand new (but still unfinished!) private estate in a small section owned by a housing society. Before this system was introduced my local district council advised me I would be unlikely to obtain a property. I hope this is somewhat helpful.

    • Laura,
      (1) there is no certainty of publication for any new novelist
      (2) where did you get advance knowledge about the content of Seaneen’s novel?
      (3) get rich and get lots of attention? what planet are you on? ( I hope she does and the more the attention the better because Seaneen’s is a very powerful voice, I reckon she will take over from Stephen Fry as the public voice of bipolars
      (4) Council [sic it’s a housing association place] house (thought it was a flat)
      allocation is based on a points system, scored on actual need at time of application and length of time on the waiting list, as circumstances change so do the points, up or down
      Seaneen met the strict criteria at the time, you want to try jumping through the hoops
      (6) financial circumstances change for everyone, but once an Assured Tenancy is granted and as long as the tenant maintains her/his side of the contract is for life for example a lottery winner, will beneficiary or even successful author stays there as long ass s/he chooses although in practice such people gratefully return their place to the housing pool.
      Seaneen is a talented and hard-working writer/broadcaster all she needs is the third component – luck! She certainly does not need ignorant and hurtful comments like yours except that I am sure that her resolve will be only strengthened. You having a bad hair day or what?

      Seaneen – please consider me when you’re choosing a biographer although I will only be able to write Part I, given my advanced years, hang on in kid, you’re not alone.

      David

  40. OMG, there’s so MUCH to say….far too much for me…. speaking as a failed writer myself – my prose style is a Chinese copy of C.S. Forester’s anyone who even TRIES to write deserves praise, not blame. Publication is a complete lottery – many are called but few are chosen. My partner’s a published poet: now THAT’S hard work….As for any MI..wellthe best advice is to keep on putting one foot in front of the other: ‘The way on is the way through’.

    • good to see you here John, of course Seaneen will find a publisher – she already has a massive following and heavy duty real world experienced support🙂

  41. Right on Seaneen,

    You just put in words how i’ve been feeling for the past 15 years

  42. […] I know that short-sighted view is one of the things that makes people vote Conservative, at least in my mind it is.  There’s a selfishness to it, a self-interestedness, despite Cameron’s grandstanding about a “big society”. Many people vote on things that will directly benefit them, which is human, but wrong. The rich and the comfortable don’t need anyone to stand up for them.  It’s those in poverty, who suffer and who struggle, that need someone to stand up for them.   Labour’s welfare reform, coupled with bailing out banks and taking the country to an illegal war, is indicative that they no longer hold the socialist principles that supposedly, at one time, made them different.  Welfare spending is utterly dwarfed by those expenditures.  At the same time, they cut funding to vital services, including my own community mental health team.  They boot sick people back into work and give them no means to recover so that they can actually work effectively.  There’s is much to be said for backing people who work, but for those who can’t for the time being, they do not deserve to be seen as burdens on society.  (And it includes me.  I’m “one … […]

  43. […] As a mentalist on benefits, over the past few years I’ve felt under fire.  I don’t read the comment pages on newspaper sites anymore for that reason.  It makes me so uncomfortable that people out there view people like me in such a derogatory way.  I’m scared of even posting the cost of that chair in case someone shouts, “HOW DARE YOU BUY ANYTHING OTHER THAN GRUEL WITH YOUR MONEY?”  I did work, I worked my arse off until I was too sick to do it anymore.  I’ve worked since I was seventeen, worked instead of getting an education because I had to support myself.  At the moment, I’m still too unstable to work, but I want to. Anyway, it’s not people like me, is it?  I forgot. […]

  44. […] though nobody would peg me to be, largely due to the grotesque and blind way people view those of “the underclass” or working class. I dress, “eccentrically”, I seem clever, I like to read- how could I […]

  45. I think the this is a topic worth discussing, the ‘underclass’ and who belongs and what it means, but the Daily Mail article went about it all wrong. Instead of focusing on the specific ‘characteristics’ that makes one a member of the underclass and how many of those characteristics the couple in the article satisfies, the deeper question is WHY? And how this came to be in a first world country like the UK (and the US)? Instead of focusing on her ashtray full of cigarette butts, which indirectly alludes to the fact that she is fundamentally an unfit mother because she’s chain smoking through her pregnancy (and possibly all her other pregnancies) hence her children are sickly and taken away from her, we should focus why how she got there?
    How did TWO people with intellectual challenges slip through the cracks of social services (who sometimes go after parents for the slightest of offenses) were able to get together have 12 children, and after each one is taken away, no doctors, health services, counselors attempt to intervene and see what’s wrong?
    I am not a proponent of eugenics, but to the average reader of any social class, it does make one blanch at just the facts of their story. Granted, the Daily Mail probably chose the most ‘sensationalist’ story to prove their point about the underclass and how they just leech off the rest of the productive society, and most members of the underclass don’t have 14 children and are intellectually challenged, but point remains, how did it happen? How did society let it happen and what can be done about it? To suggest that even the most sympathetic reader would read this and not wonder how it came to this, would be naive.
    Again, thank you for articulating your thoughts so well.

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