This comment from Jenny needs to be a post! — r0b
Remember when John Key used to talk about the “underclass”.
Much [more] recently of course John Key’s policy direction has been more about pandering to the wealthy elite, so you don’t hear so much from John Key about his concerns for the underclass anymore.
But worries about the underclass still concern some people.
The last week’s issue of New Scientist, 17 July 2010, has this to say:
LEFT-LEANING politicians have traditionally blamed the structure of western society for the feckless and antisocial behaviour of its “underclass”.
FROM feckless fathers and teenaged mothers to so-called feral kids, the media seems to take a voyeuristic pleasure in documenting the lives of the “underclass”. Whether they are inclined to condemn or sympathise, commentators regularly ask how society got to be this way. There is seldom agreement, but one explanation you are unlikely to hear is that this kind of “delinquent” behaviour is a sensible response to the circumstances of a life constrained by poverty.
According to New Scientist:
There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won’t just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society’s problems are – and it will suggest better solutions.
The solution is to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest in society and give all young people the prospect of a good job and a stake in their future. But that looks unlikely, given the economic downturn.
In recent years, though, we have gained considerable insights into the prerequisites for human fulfilment. Health and security may be top of the list, but we also thrive on community, fairness, bonding, altruism, playfulness and celebration. Hard-pressed politicians seeking inspiration would do well to look to these biological principles.
Right wing critics of this approach often cite studies that crime and anti-social behaviour and the feelings of alienation that accompany them, are often much less experienced in conditions of absolute poverty.
As New Scientist explains “it is all relative”:
In their book The Spirit Level (Allen Lane, 2009), epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, of the universities of Nottingham and York, UK, respectively, emphasise the degree of income inequality in a society rather than poverty per se as being a major factor in issues such as death and disease rates, teenage motherhood and levels of violence. They show that nations such as the US and UK, which have the greatest inequality in income levels of all developed nations, also have the lowest life expectancy among those nations, the highest levels of teenage motherhood (see diagrams) and a range of social problems.
The effects are felt right across society, not just among poor people. “Inequality seems to change the quality of social relations in society,” says Wilkinson, “and people become more influenced by status competition.” Anxiety about status leads to high levels of stress, which in turn leads to health problems, he says. In unequal societies trust drops away, community life weakens and society becomes more punitive because of fear up and down the social hierarchy.
“Really dealing with economic inequalities is difficult because it involves unpopular things like raising tax,” says Nettle. “So rather than fighting the fire, people have been trying to disperse the smoke.”
Surely there couldn’t be a more apt description of this government especially in it’s approach to social decay and inequality. That and building more prisons to house all the projected victims of their proposed policies, expose this government for what it is, a government for the rich.
For the full report go to: