Old_Zircon He actually seems to be pretty levelheaded about it for the most part.
they'reforyou I'm not really seeing the evil in this. This guy isn't like a Fox News Douche Nugget who makes a joke at the expense of poor people. I'm all for politicians and rich people actually making an effort to see what it's like to be poor, and if the worse that happens is they simply realize how inconvenienced they become for a week, that's a much more honest start than "HAW HAW I WOULD LOSE WEIGHT AND BE THIN!!!"
memedumpster I think the evil is that if he had the capacity for sympathy possessed by most non-sentient social animals, this exercise would have been unnecessary, as his daily life would have become 100% intellectual horror the day he became mayor.
Old_Zircon I think the evil isn't so much about him specifically as it is about the fact even this man, who seems to be genuinely sympathetic to the hardships of the poor as he understands them, is still so out of touch with the reality of daily life for a huge percentage of the people who he governs that "the poor can't afford sorbet" seems like a reasonable thing to say on TV.
The evil is in the pervasive economic and social philosophies that make it seem like what he's saying is at all reasonable.
Old_Zircon Also what memedumpster said, although I'd say the intellectual horror would start long before he even became mayor.
Cena_mark Sometimes you need to live it to feel it. I don't know how much people in my area get for foodstamps, but I never really thought about how hard it would be.
Old_Zircon Agreed. The odds of someone who has lived it being able to make it into public office are not so good.
Cena_mark But Neal Boortz says that people on foodstamps live it up and eat steak.
EvilHomer SteakUms, and you'd be surprised how decadent they are when doused in WalMart brand steak sauce and served with a fine glass of Tang.
EvilHomer Also, haha, chicken, pasta, and ramen noodles. That was my last week's shopping, too!
Old_Zircon I've been pretty much living on v8, coconut milk, beans, pasta and popcorn this month, and I feel much better than I did when I had the money to go out for breakfast and eat pizzas and things.
Old_Zircon Low sodium v8, the regular stuff would probably have already killed me with the amount of salt they put in it.
EvilHomer Breakfast. Yeah, I remember breakfast. That was the meal right after you woke up, right?
Old_Zircon Breakfast is the one where you have a glass of v8 AND a mug of coffee (these days Trader Joe's instant coffee that another roommate abandoned as undrinkably bad).
Cena_mark Eat your breakfast! Its the most important meal of the day. Dinner is the least important. I work from 6 to 6 and I usually eat a late lunch but I usually don't eat a dinner when I get home cause I'll be going to bed around 10.
EvilHomer That's just what the breakfast corporations want you to think, Cena. Brainwashed by Big Breakfast!
Old_Zircon I always eat in the morning, but I rarely eat meals anymore. I eat when I'm hungry and only enough to feel mostly full. Works a lot better.
Cena_mark I love big breakfast. They serve shit on a shingle in the galley.
memedumpster Fuck, my Thanksgiving dinner was ramen and milk, I need some EBT! Is the Coast Guard hiring?
simon666 Cena is right that one often has to live it to feel it, or know it for that matter. As much as we can rationalize what a hardship is, nothing will convey the stakes to one unless they know what the hardship means to their own body. For example, one could know what it is like to be hungry and deduce that starving is bad. But actually experiencing a lack of food for days on end provides a greater insight into that as a hardship.
What I would have liked to have seen, however, is the mayor live in a resident hotel or motel or his car for a month. Not having access to a proper kitchen and cookware adds an important dimension to this. How can you eat chicken if you don't have a way to cook it? Maybe you have access to a kitchen but no cookware. How can you buy cookware when don't even have money enough for food?
And big breakfasts are excellent.
Old_Zircon On the other hand, I submit "Nickel and Dimed" as evidence that you can live it for a lot longer than a week and still not really get it, because no matter how long you live it you still chose to live it and know that at the end you're going to ge back to your old life and write a shallow, patronizing book about it.
memedumpster But they wanna' live like common people.
They wanna' do what common people do.
Laugh along with the common people.
Laugh along because they're laughing at you.
And the stupid things we do.
Because they know rich is cool.
Rodents of Unusual Size I am wondering if he just meant to try to make a point to the audience at home, more than a direct observation that he suddenly came to.
Also, this reminds me of an old Tracy Ullman skit where a yuppie couple is disappointed that their child isn't more elitist until the kid asks for sorbet at the end.
memedumpster What a lazy ass mayor, I would have gladly paid him to help put up my new shed. Hell, if he mowed the lawn too he'd have gotten , but I better not catch him stealing food or trying to impregnate my daughter.
Mr. Purple Cat Esq. So you have whole populations settling down, as it were, to a lifetime
on the P.A.C. And what I think is admirable, perhaps even hopeful, is that
they have managed to do it without going spiritually to pieces. A working
man does not disintegrate under the strain of poverty as a middle-class
person does. Take, for instance, the fact that the working class think
nothing of getting married on the dole. It annoys the old ladies in
Brighton, but it is a proof of their essential good sense; they realize
that losing your job does not mean that you cease to be a human being. So
that in one way things in the distressed areas are not as bad as they might
be. Life is still fairly normal, more normal than one really has the right
to expect. Families are impoverished, but the family-system has not broken
up. The people are in effect living a reduced version of their former
lives. Instead of raging against their destiny they have made things
tolerable by lowering their standards.
But they don't necessarily lower their standards by cutting I out
luxuries and concentrating on necessities; more often it is the other way
about--the more natural way, if you come to think of it. Hence the fact
that in a decade of unparalleled depression, the consumption of all cheap
luxuries has in-creased. The two things that have probably made the
greatest difference of all are the movies and the mass-production of cheap
smart clothes since the war. The youth who leaves school at fourteen and
gets a blind-alley job is out of work at twenty, probably for life; but for
two pounds ten on the hire-purchase he can buy himself a suit which, for a
little while and at a little distance, looks as though it had been tailored
in Savile Row. The girl can look like a fashion plate at an even lower
price. You may have three halfpence in your pocket and not a prospect in
the world, and only the corner of a leaky bedroom to go home to; but in
your new clothes you can stand on the street corner, indulging in a private
daydream of yourself as dark Gable or Greta Garbo, which compensates you
for a great deal. And even at home there is generally a cup of tea going--
a 'nice cup of tea'--and Father, who has been out of work since 1929, is
temporarily happy because he has a sure tip for the Cesarewitch.
Trade since the war has had to adjust itself to meet the demands of
underpaid, underfed people, with the result that a luxury is nowadays
almost always cheaper than a necessity. One pair of plain solid shoes costs
as much as two ultra-smart pairs. For the price of one square meal you can
get two pounds of cheap sweets. You can't get much meat for threepence, but
you can get a lot offish-and-chips. Milk costs threepence a pint and even
'mild' beer costs fourpence, but aspirins are seven a penny and you can
wring forty cups of tea out of a quarter-pound packet. And above all there
is gambling, the cheapest of all luxuries. Even people on the verge of
starvation can buy a few days' hope ('Something to live for', as they call
it) by having a penny on a sweepstake. Organized gambling has now risen
almost to the status of a major industry. Consider, for instance, a
phenomenon like the Football Pools, with a turnover of about six million
pounds a year, almost all of it from the pockets of working-class people. I
happened to be in Yorkshire when Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland. Hitler,
Locarno, Fascism, and the threat of war aroused hardly a flicker of
interest locally, but the decision of the Football Association to stop
publishing their fixtures in advance (this was an attempt to quell the
Football Pools) flung all Yorkshire into a storm of fury. And then there is
the queer spectacle of modern electrical science showering miracles upon
people with empty bellies. You may shiver all night for lack of bedclothes,
but in the morning you can go to the public library and read the news that
has been telegraphed for your benefit from San Francisco and Singapore.
Twenty million people are underfed but literally everyone in England has
access to a radio. What we have lost in food we have gained in electricity.
Whole sections of the working class who have been plundered of all they
really need are being compensated, in part, by cheap luxuries which
mitigate the surface of life.
Do you consider all this desirable? No, I don't. But it may be that
the psychological adjustment which the working class are visibly making is
the best they could make in the circumstances. They have neither turned
revolutionary nor lost their self-respect; merely they have kept their
tempers and settled down to make the best of things on a fish-and-chip
standard. The alternative would be God knows what continued agonies of
despair; or it might be attempted insurrections which, in a strongly
governed country like England, could only lead to futile massacres and a
regime of savage repression.
Of course the post-war development of cheap luxuries has been a very
fortunate thing for our rulers. It is quite likely that fish-and-chips,
art-silk stockings, tinned salmon, cut-price chocolate (five two-ounce bars
for sixpence), the movies, the radio, strong tea, and the Football Pools
have between them averted revolution. Therefore we are some-times told that
the whole thing is an astute manoeuvre by the governing class--a sort of
'bread and circuses' business--to hold the unemployed down. What I have
seen of our governing class does not convince me that they have that much
intelligence. The thing has happened, but by an un-conscious process--the
quite natural interaction between the manufacturer's need for a market and
the need of half-starved people for cheap palliatives.
When I was a small boy at school a lecturer used to come once a term and
deliver excellent lectures on famous battles of the past, such as Blenheim,
Austerlitz, etc. He was fond of quoting Napoleon's maxim 'An army marches
on its stomach', and at the end of his lecture he would suddenly turn to us
and demand, 'What's the most important thing in the world?' We were
expected to shout 'Food!' and if we did not do so he was disappointed.
Obviously he was right in a way. A human being is primarily a bag for
putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike,
but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and
all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives
after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be
plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of
dynasty or even of religion. The Great War, for instance, could never have
happened if tinned food had not been invented. And the history of the past
four hundred years in England would have been immensely different if it had
not been for the introduction of root-crops and various other vegetables at
the end of the Middle Ages, and a little later the introduction of non-
alcoholic drinks (tea, coffee, cocoa) and also of distilled liquors to
which the beer-drinking English were not accustomed. Yet it is curious how
seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere
to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or
market-gardeners. The Emperor Charles V is said to have erected a statue to
the inventor of bloaters, but that is the only case I can think of at the
So perhaps the really important thing about the unemployed, the really
basic thing if you look to the future, is the diet they are living on. As I
said earlier, the average unemployed family lives on an income of round
about thirty shillings a week, of which at least a quarter goes in rent. It
is worth considering in some detail how the remaining money is spent. I
have here a budget which was made out for me by an unemployed miner and his
wife. I asked them to make a list which represented as exactly as possible
their expenditure in a typical week. This man's allowance was thirty-two
shillings a week, and besides his wife he had two children, one aged two
years and five months and the other ten months. Here is the list:
Rent 9 0 1/2
Clothing Club 3 0
Coal 2 0
Gas 1 3
Milk 0 10 1/2
Union Fees 0 3
Insurance (on the children) 0 2
Meat 2 6
Flour (2 stone) 3 4
Yeast 0 4
Potatoes 1 0
Dripping 0 10
Margarine 0 10
Bacon 1 2
Sugar 1 9
Tea 1 0
Jam 0 7 1/2
Peas and cabbage 0 6
Carrots and onions 0 4
Quaker oats 0 4 1/2
Soap, powders, blue, etc. 0 10
Total L1 12 0
In addition to this, three packets of dried milk were sup-plied weekly
for the baby by the Infants' Welfare Clinic. One or two comments are needed
here. To begin with the list leaves out a great deal--blacking, pepper,
salt, vinegar, matches, kindling-wood, raeor blades, replacements of
utensils, and wear and tear of furniture and bedding, to name the first few
that come to mind. Any money spent on these would mean reduction on some
other item. A more serious charge is tobacco. This man happened to be a
small smoker, but even so his tobacco would hardly cost less than a
shilling a week, meaning a further reduction on food. The 'clothing clubs'
into which unemployed people pay so much a week are run by big drapers in
all the industrial towns. Without them it would be impossible for
unemployed people to buy new clothes at all. I don't know whether or not
they buy bedding through these clubs. This particular family, as I happen
to know, possessed next to no bedding.
In the above list, if you allow a shilling for tobacco and deduct this
and the other non-food items, you are left with sixteen and fivepence
halfpenny. Call it sixteen shillings and leave the baby out of account--
for the baby was getting its weekly packets of milk from the Welfare
Clinic. This sixteen shillings has got to provide the entire nourishment,
including fuel, of three persons, two of them adult. The first question is
whether it is even theoretically possible for three persons to be properly
nourished on sixteen shillings a week. When the dispute over the Means Test
was in progress there was a disgusting public wrangle about the minimum
weekly sum on which a human being could keep alive. So far as I remember,
one school of dietitians worked it out at five and ninepence, while another
school, more generous, put it at five and ninepence halfpenny. After this
there were letters to the papers from a number of people who claimed to be
feeding themselves on four shillings a week. Here is a weekly budget (it
was printed in the New Statesman and also in the News of the World) which I
picked out from among a number of others:
Please notice that this budget contains nothing for fuel. In fact, the
writer explicitly stated that he could not afford to buy fuel and ate all
his food raw. Whether the letter was genuine or a hoax does not matter at
the moment. What I think will be admitted is that this list represents
about as wise an expenditure as could be contrived; if you had to live on
three and elevenpence halfpenny a week, you could hardly extract more food-
value from it than that. So perhaps it is possible to feed yourself
adequately on the P.A.C. allowance if you concentrate on essential
foodstuffs; but not otherwise.
Now compare this list with the unemployed miner's budget that I gave
earlier. The miner's family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables
and tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less
than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on
sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The
half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials
for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins
of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and
margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet.
Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like
oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter
to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it
would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do
such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on
brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less
money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A
millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an
unemployed man doesn't. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of
the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say
when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to
eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is
always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth
of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and
we'll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are
at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you
to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than
brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery
that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the
English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a
temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.
The results of all this are visible in a physical degeneracy which you
can study directly, by using your eyes, or inferentially, by having a look
at the vital statistics. The physical average in the industrial towns is
terribly low, lower even than in London. In Sheffield you have the feeling
of walking among a population of troglodytes. The miners are splendid men,
but they are usually small, and the mere fact that their muscles are
toughened by constant work does not mean that their children start life
with a better physique. In any case the miners are physically the pick of
the population. The most obvious sign of under-nourishment is the badness
of everybody's teeth. In Lancashire you would have to look for a long time
before you saw a working-class person with good natural teeth. Indeed, you
see very few people with natural teeth at all, apart from the children; and
even the children's teeth have a frail bluish appearance which means, I
suppose, calcium deficiency. Several dentists have told me that in
industrial districts a person over thirty with any of his or her own teeth
is coming to be an abnormality. In Wigan various people gave me their
opinion that it is best to get shut of your teeth as early in life as
possible. 'Teeth is just a misery,' one woman said to me. In one house
where I stayed there were, apart from myself, five people, the oldest being
forty-three and the youngest a boy of fifteen. Of these the boy was the
only one who possessed a single tooth of his own, and his teeth were
obviously not going to last long. As for the vital statistics, the fact
that in any large industrial town the death rate and infant mortality of
the poorest quarters are always about double those of the well-to-do
residential quarters--a good deal more than double in some cases--
hardly needs commenting on.
Of course one ought not to imagine that the prevailing bad physique is
due solely to unemployment, for it is probable that the physical average
has been declining all over England for a long time past, and not merely
among the unemployed in the industrial areas. This cannot be proved
statistically, but it is a conclusion that is forced upon you if you use
your eyes, even in rural places and even in a prosperous town like London.
On the day when King George V's body passed through London on its way to
Westminster, I happened to be caught for an hour or two in the crowd in
Trafalgar Square. It was impossible, looking about one then, not to be
struck by the physical degeneracy of modern England. The people surrounding
me were not working-class people for the most part; they were the
shopkeeper--commercial-traveller type, with a sprinkling of the well-to-
do. But what a set they looked! Puny limbs, sickly faces, under the weeping
London sky! Hardly a well-built man or a decent-looking woman, and not a
fresh complexion anywhere. As the King's coffin went by, the men took off
their hats, and a friend who was in the crowd at the other side of the
Strand said to me afterwards, 'The only touch of colour anywhere was the
bald heads.' Even the Guards, it seemed to me--there was a squad of
guardsmen marching beside the coffin--were not what they used to be.
Where are the monstrous men with chests like barrels and moustaches like
the wings of eagles who strode across my child-hood's gaze twenty or thirty
years ago? Buried, I suppose, in the Flanders mud. In their place there are
these pale-faced boys who have been picked for their height and
consequently look like hop-poles in overcoats--the truth being that in
modern England a man over six feet high is usually skin and bone and not
much else. If the English physique has declined, this is no doubt partly
due to the fact that the Great War carefully selected the million best men
in England and slaughtered them, largely before they had had time to breed.
But the process must have begun earlier than that, and it must be due
ultimately to un-healthy ways of living, i.e. to industrialism. I don't
mean 'the habit of living in towns--probably the town is healthier than
the country, in many ways--but the modern industrial technique which
provides you with cheap substitutes for everything. We may find in the long
run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun.
From 'the road to Wigan pier' by George Orwell
cognitivedissonance I'm amazed to see the Clothing Clubs come back, in America, in the 21st century, catering to the upper middle class as a status symbol. Thanks for copy/paste!
Rodents of Unusual Size Thank you for the Orwell quote. It's still incredibly relevant, like everything else he wrote.
GravidWithHate Whole sections of the working class who have been plundered of all they really need are being compensated, in part, by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life.
But poor people aren't really poor if they have iPhones.
Old_Zircon I love a big breakfast too. One of the beneficial side effects of getting laid off is that I can't afford to eat big breakfasts, which has made me more alert, made my digestion better, and generally made me feel a lot healthier. I do love pancakes and eggs though.
Old_Zircon That was supposed to be a reply, oh well.
memedumpster So being poor and hopeless has been good for your figure! Fox News wins!
Mr. Purple Cat Esq. Also you could have chosen to not eat big breakfasts when you had a job...Also you can still eat big breakfasts now if you want and just give up, say, electricity, or something :)
Old_Zircon I'm a white, male, college educated US citizen from a lower middle class family, I'm pretty far from hopeless.
Toenails When I went through my poor years (I mean really fucking poor, not like my rich ass now with ,600 and a leaky van to my name) I learned that breakfast was the best meal to skip because going to sleep hungry was just sheer fucking awful.
I've pretty much sworn off breakfast since.
Cena_mark I sleep better hungry, I live by the old "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper" rule.