Robert Walker (professor of social policy at the University of Oxford) rails against ‘shaming’ of the poor:
Rather than being shameless, new research reported in my forthcoming book, The Shame of Poverty, indicates that people in poverty feel humiliation on a daily basis.
Really? And what sort of decisions bring about this unfamiliar feeling to them?
One lone father in our study spoke of needing to choose between furniture polish and a haircut.
Ummm, really? That’s…not such a terribly hard decision, is it?
In Britain, and elsewhere, parents desperately want to avoid the bullying at school that occurs because their children come from a “poor” family. One lone mother our researchers met took up an offer from her four-year-old son to sell his Nintendo to pay off bills.
If you have a Nintendo in the first place, then you clearly are in the modern definition of ‘poverty’. Which doesn’t seem to mean poverty as sensible human beings know it…
People in poverty are shamed daily by those they meet and in the way they are treated. Their attempts to behave normally and to protect their children and lifestyles are dismissed as profligate waste or as demonstrating their inability to cope.
Well, yes. When ‘protecting their lifestyles’ means that they demand to dip into my pockets to maintain them, it’s hardly surprising they are dismissed as such.
So why do politicians continue to abuse the weakest members in our society? Possibly because, in a society characterised by gross inequalities, it allows the privileged to vote in accordance with their own self-interests, free of guilt.
After all, it is good to be told that poverty is not your responsibility but the result of people making the wrong choices and not working hard. Shaming and coercing others is a cheap, populist policy option – and one that doesn’t even work. The evidence is that it is likely to make poverty worse.
Of course. You probably have another book in the pipeline. It wouldn’t do if you didn’t get an option to plug that in the pages of the progressive press, would it?