Council House Quandary

council house

Council Housing is of course an important thing. It enables people to have accommodation who would struggle otherwise to pay private rates of rent.

But CH does throw up some difficult problems. Firstly, as the demand for CH in a place like London grows, the qualification for it becomes more and more extreme, and so people have to exaggerate their medical, physical or psychological conditions to be able to qualify. We see this sort of exaggeration when trying to get a GP or hospital appointment too – it almost seems pointless to be too honest.

Secondly, CH can create a dependency relationship with the tenant. The tenant can appreciate having the lower rent than he/she would in the private sector, but often it’s then frustrating because they feel priced out of living in other areas, so they have to resign themselves to living in social housing where some of their neighbours might make a mess because not owning their homes makes them care less about its upkeep. I once lived in a building that combined private and council flats, and the police often came to the building to look for a guy who was presumably dealing drugs. He had his flat because he had a medical problem, but that right established with the council meant that when his door was kicked to bits by his drug dealer associates at night (and then the drug squad too trying to get in!) the council would quietly come back the next day and fix the door, repair all that was needed and he’d be back in his flat in no time.

A cushion

cushion

One idea that intrigues me is such that we are able to go about our daily lives without feeling that we are on the edge financially and psychologically. Modern society seems to be encouraging the idea of squeezing profit margins so that no “area of comfort” resides, it’s basically just sell or no-sell, pass or fail, you have your strict time limit with your GP, you accept that more than half your income is spent on rent and bills.

The idea of a “cushion”, of a comfort margin that enables an individual not to feel under threat and gives them the mental security to enjoy life… is it fair to say that the average person in western Europe has that less than 50 years ago? Or is it that “equality” has moved to a different set of people, and perhaps we are also seeing that the power and wealth that creates a comfortable life is gradually moving into other parts of the world that previously struggled?

I swear

swear jar

Strange isn’t it how the verb “to swear” makes us think of two almost opposite things: to say bad, socially unacceptable words in the moment of passion, anger, irritation or enthusiasm; or to promise an eternal allegiance with God, a complete commitment or devotion to a cause.

Apologize

sorry

I remember a few years ago watching Supernanny, seeing how child expert Jo Frost would go into problem families and help parents deal with and solve their children’s difficult behaviour.
Now I’m bringing up my own child there are moments that remind me of a particular aspect of her programme, when she asks the young child (or asks the parent to ask the child) to apologize. I thought then, and I do now, that it’s a lot for a child to process when they’ve just learnt the basic of speech. You’re asking them first to acknowledge they’ve done something wrong, then understand they’re going to say a word that will somehow negate or forgive (quite religious!) what they’ve done. And then when they’ve understood that, they need to say a word which sounds completely different from the word “Apologize”… “Sorry!”

I think what makes children learn language and culture so quickly is that they’re expected to pick up so many subtleties at a great pace… necessity is not only the mother of invention but also of learning!

A Tale of Two 23 Year Olds

scales

At a workplace I’ve been going to recently I’ve met two people, middle aged women of different socio-economic backgrounds. They’ve both mentioned how their respective daughters have prospered and they are happy that they have jobs. The daughter of one of the women has just become an air hostess, the daughter of the other has just got a job in publishing. Both women I talk to are proud that their daughter has managed to get their particular job, and see it as a great achievement. It’s just amazing the different challenges people live through and the opportunities they get or don’t get because of their social background. The idea of a level playing field is far away – in fact I don’t think it exists.

I wouldn’t want to diminish the achievement of the middle class young woman who’s got a job in publishing – I don’t know what challenges she’s had to face in her life. But I assume that the young air hostess has grown up in a difficult environment – the mother mentioned to me the area had a lot of crime and violence and she was pleased her daughter managed to get away from there. I imagine it wouldn’t be difficult for the middle class publisher to train as an air hostess, but I ask myself, what social, societal and economic changes would it take for the opposite to happen, for the air hostess to have been in a financial, psychological and academically-minded position to get an opportunity to work in publishing?

Lessons learnt from Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away…

cant pay

From watching those famous High Court Enforcers on Channel 5, I’ve learnt:

1. If you think you’re likely to get in debt, it’s better have your car on finance rather than buying it outright – they can’t seize it then!
2. Better not answer door if enforcers come – if they get their foot in the door (literally) then they can force their way in and have the right to stay in the property. Similarly, best lock the back door otherwise said bailiffs will enter and stay!
3. The debt collectors are generally quite gung ho and self-righteous, fully confident that what they’re doing is (morally) right, simply because “the money is owed”. It is noticeable however that the brute force and domination their presence threatens is shattered when they’re in a genuinely dangerous situation, as in the debtors have weapons etc. At that point the machismo vanishes and it’s a matter of “We’re doing the admin and the police can do the argy-bargy!”
4. Sign of the Times… an increasing number of debtors owe large amounts of nursery bills!

A Change of Focus

breaking news crop

I find it curious that BBC News (and other mainstream news channels) have presented a particular news item with two slightly different perspectives over a 10 year period for no particular reason.

In 2007/ 2008, it was a big news story that there were many stabbings in London (see article here), and the feature developed so that every time someone was killed, the statistic was updated on that day’s news. The focus though was on London teenagers. That’s obviously a very specific statistic, adolescents and young adults under 20.

Ten years later, the focus has changed to the general “person” who has been stabbed with no particular age reference. The news feature now has moved to a comparison with New York. The decision to choose this particular comparison as a news story seems to have overlooked or consciously ignored that Greater Manchester and North Wales has a higher murder rate per 100,000 than London and that New York’s murder rate has recently been decreasing and is now lower than the four other big cities in the USA.

The other curious thing is that with these news features, the news channel first seems obsessed with the particular news item, reporting and updating it… and then suddenly stop reporting it at all. I wonder if this time they’ve stopped talking about it, as they did around 2008, because they think it could possibly encourage more murders.

Graeme Norton commentary again exemplifies the lazy prejudices of trans-Atlantic anglophone TV media

norton-wogan

During the Eurovision song contest last week, Graham Norton carried on the tradition of his late predecessor Terry Wogan to be disdainful, dismissive and to poke fun at funny foreigners who don’t speak English.

It’s ironic isn’t it, that both Norton and Wogan are/were Irish, a nationality that has been victimised a lot by the British – but there they go, acting as honorary Brits, peddling the same prejudices for a job.

To make jokes about how bad the music is is fine, because let’s face it, most of it isn’t great music, but that’s not the point. Norton displayed a wilful ignorance of major figures in the Portuguese speaking world who were involved in the event this year. You would think with the amount he is paid, Norton would have done a bit of research about the professional artists performing while votes were being counted. Caetano Veloso is a grand figure of Brazilian music spoken in the same breath as Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes. Sara Tavares who appeared with Branko, is also an established Portuguese singer. She mixes influences of Cape Verde (islands off West Africa where her family is from), Portuguese and jazz in her music.

Norton gave a token reference to Caetano Veloso that he was a controversial figure (he probably just read the first line of his Wiki entry) but didn’t follow it up with any more information. And as for Tavares’ performance, he just said, boring, glad that’s over. He demonstrates the same behaviour many British tourists display when holidaying in the Algarve. Take the surroundings for granted and show utter disinterest for any local culture. The same attitude many Brits have in the Costa del Sol, Spain.

Norton excels in chatting with the US stars who come over the Atlantic to promote their products on Saturday nights. He is one of those beacons who stands their promoting that “special relationship” between the UK and the USA. In a way, I think that fuels his outward prejudice of the factors that don’t fit into that cosy worldview. Perhaps also, because his livelihood and identity has now formed around those dynamics, he can’t pull away from such limited behaviour. Perhaps behind that boisterous figure, there is a depressed comic who doesn’t like the things he says?

Just a thought!