I might have guessed that the dumbed down thrills seeking media would regard my casual remarks about unreality TV as far more newsworthy and important than my analysis and recommendations to stave off national bankruptcy. Thanks, though, to the Daily Express for taking a centre page on the banks this week.
However, there is a serious point beneath this debate which is worth visiting. Several respondents have made especially good points in their replies. No you cannot give someone on a good salary with a decent home to return to the feeling of poverty by making them live for a few days on a lower income in different surroundings. Nor I am pleased to confirm is the UK poverty poor by the standards of the poor in Africa, where poverty means insufficient money to buy a daily meal.
If I had to live for a week on a low income I would aim to end the week with some savings, as I would want to have a sense of progress from poverty. I could rely on tap water for my drinking, and feed myself well on seasonal vegetables and fruit, bread and rice or pasta to keep the food bill down. I would go to the local library to use the web and read books, so my lighting and heating would be free for me. I would be looking for gainful employment.
For as someone else wrote, if I were on a low income or on benefit and in a Council flat for real, I would be planning my escape route from Day One. I would be off to the local supermarkets to see if I could stock their shelves for some income, and maybe try and work my way up in retail. Or maybe I would use my spare time from a basic job to set up a service business that I could do in the early days with very little capital and no staff, to generate some cash. There are plenty of areas that could take another competitor who worked hard and gave people a good standard of service. Maybe I would just work flat out at building up my own business.
Poverty is not an absolute, nor a fixed condition from which you can never rise. The danger is it becomes an attitude of mind and instils a sense of helplessness. I do think we should be more generous as a community to those who are blind or deaf or have no use of their limbs. Those are severe handicaps, and we should willingly offer extra state support so they too can be more mobile and enjoy more of life. If you have all the use of your faculties, the way out of poverty is hard work and enterprise. The task for government is to find ways of helping people achieve without inventing traps that keep people poor and dependent on the state. The government needs to set the right tone. Then it’s up to people themselves to seize the opportunities that are out there.