Home > Chips on Shoulders, Nature, The Dark Side > Tell me about it

Tell me about it

On my last visit to the Green and Pleasant Land in May, I had lunch with three cousins whom I see frequently – all oldies like me. One of them volunteers, in between some winding-down work projects, at a local food bank and had just finished a shift when we met.

I asked him what he saw and felt about the charitable work and received the following reply: ‘Well, five youngish claimants turned up in a taxi together and many of the ‘destitute’ people are obviously chain-smokers and stand outside using their smart-phones. That’s how I feel.’

So my hackles are still descending – very slowly.

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  1. July 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I blame Malcolm Turnbull, Alex Salmond a bit less… In the past long year I’ve done much research into life for the urban working class in London and Stockholm from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. What they would have considered unimaginable luxury is seen as poverty today. What would have been considered an acceptable standard of living 50-60 years ago is now seen as squalor. They’re not homeless, they’re not going hungry and they’re certainly not without any luxuries. Not being able to afford twice-annual holidays to the Costas or Balearic Islands hardly constitutes unbearable hardship.

  2. July 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    The criteria for awarding food vouchers must be either inadequate or improperly applied. I see the same here. People pleading poverty while spending freely on fags and booze. As you say, hardship has acquired a new meaning.

  3. July 15, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Janus: In Hunland people can make claims for any expenses incurred as “necessities”. For example, people need to have a mobile number. They simply sign a two-year contract and receive a smart phone for a token amount. The state subsidises it. A group of 4-5 mates can claim their share of a taxi ride on the ground that, split 4-5 ways, said mode of transportation isn’t actually significantly more expensive than public transport. While smoking is very much frowned down upon — as is drinking — a certain amount of money is transferred each month and people can do as they please with it. Many squirrel it away, especially if they can find ways to split costs with others. For example, a couple and a mate can split a council flat without the council knowing about it. The couple share the cost of rent and bills, the mate who sleeps on a bed in the sitting room pays €200 a month. They each claim maximum benefit and split the cost for food. Many will work a part-time, €450-euro job which ensures that their needs are still paid for.

  4. sheona
    July 15, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    In such circumstances, Janus, I feel that all benefits should be given in vouchers, none of them for alcohol or cigarettes.

  5. July 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Sheona: The old food stamps program here did exactly that, the stamps were redeemable only for food items, no tobacco or alcohol. Th system has been replaced by EBT (electronic benefits transfer) where the recipient gets a debit card that will be periodicaly refreshed by the gubmint. Does not stop the system being gamed, some retailers will provide cash (at a sizable discount) for card credits (illegal), other recipients buy high ticket food items at the supermarket (trays of frozen lobster tails or boxes of infant formula are popular) and resell them on the outside. The proceeds go for liquor, cigarettes or drugs rarely food.

    A few years back the country had a surplus of cheese and the States organised a giveaway only to those in the welfare system, the Delaware attempt failed to achieve it’s target distribution due to INSUFFICIENT PARKING AT THE DISTRIBUTION SITE. You cannot make this stuff up.

  6. christinaosborne
    July 15, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    As LW says the food stamps have moved to EBT here and is just as corrupt in WA.
    On top of this system is the food bank system itself.
    WA in its wisdom has made the food banks self certifying, no need for any vouchers for anyone. too humiliating! If you consider that you have insufficient food, just turn up! The only proof needed is an address in the locality!
    As I have mentioned before, I grow my veg at the community garden. Part of this is devoted to private plots but we have a large food bank section too. The private plot rents to me for the princely sum of $20 per year, but the catch being that I am obliged to give two hours a week to the food bank production.
    Needless to say only organic best quality produce is provided. No chemicals for the gimmigrants, might interfere with their breeding programme!
    Some years ago I decided to have a look at the recipients, parked up outside the foodbank for a while to examine the queue before opening. A long line of hispanic women with accompanying Russian doll sets of children. (Anyone heard of don’t breed what you can’t feed!) I gather by 10.00am the old, feeble and infirm white locals come by which time all the fresh produce has gone!
    Most of these recipients have working husbands, but hey, if its free from whitey lets grab it! Evidently food is often sold on for a pittance etc, the usual abuses of such an overgenerous system.
    Were it my choice the only thing I’d give them is a free ticket back to Mexico, one way!
    Our community garden specifically grows for their mexican clientele. Tomatillos and bunch coriander being firm favourites.

    Further to LWs great cheese giveaway. The boy was born in Memphis in 1977, for some obscure reason , no doubt because of the birth in the household we were sent, unsolicited I might add, vouchers for cheese and canned beef in gravy. Well I went to collect them basically just to see what was going on. The cheese was excellent, it was government stockpile to maintain dairy prices I think. Because it had been kept for months/years it had aged properly unlike the stuff they sell in the shops which is always immature. The beef was a different matter, quite disgusting but made excellent dog food, they whomped it down. Vouchers were sent for several months in a row, most appreciated!

    It strikes me that there are far too many free handouts these days. I agree that none of these people are in any way suffering real depravation. But I do not think the UK system, with which I am familia, is any way near as generous as the American. The UK only gives three days of food on a voucher and it is pretty rubbishy grub. Here they get a full week without voucher and far better quality stuff plus free organic veg!

  7. July 16, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I’m afraid what we see as the norm for welfare would have shocked our parents’ generation. What seems to be missing is the ‘work ethic’ and the moral obligation to use the state as a prop rather than a resource. So many are making a career of milking the system.

  8. July 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Driving through remote parts of Africa, as one does, one encounters huge lorries carrying tons of maize, or corn if you prefer. This is distributed to the tribal folk who are considered to be below the poverty line and thus incapable of feeding themselves. Some of the most obvious consequences of this is that these rural communities no longer see the need to grow their own food as it is handed to them for free. Not only that they earn ready cash by selling the excess in the urban areas at discounted prices. The effect of this is that genuine farmers struggle to compete. How do you compete with free? What is more, commercial farmers looking for workers cannot find them because nobody needs to work; they have food to eat, money to buy beer and all the time in the world in which to consume it. This is more true in Zambia and Malawi, than it is in Zimbabwe, the latter still being something of a pariah state.But something for nothing has never been a good policy.

    Needless to say the sacks of maize are all marked USAID. The benefits to the US are that it comes across as being a generous donor and it finds a way to get rid of all the excess grain that its own farmers produce. And of course with aid comes corruption and political control. The word evil springs to mind.

  9. July 16, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    As soon as you set up a food bank you acquire a clientele.

  10. christinaosborne
    July 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Interestingly the corn belt of the mid-west is likely to be far less generous in the future. Most of it is irrigated by the Ogalalla acquifer, water laid down 250,000 years ago. They have withdrawn too much and the water level is down dramatically and cannot be replenished by the annual rainfall. The edges of the basin are already abandoned back to pastoral farming..

    One is reminded of the dole in Rome which was withdrawn when the grain producing areas of Tunisia went dry with climate change in the 300s AD. Didn’t do too much for the Roman Empire did it?

    People rarely study the geography/geology/climatography of what happened along with the history. They would learn quite how many societies have come to a grinding halt because of lack of water! Or too bloody much!!

    Interesting modern developments totally ignored by society.
    1. Western New South Wales, the lower Murray Darling river system. Insufficient water to farm now, the Feds bought the farmers out so they could go to the towns, thus removing embarrassing people and dead cattle and have made the whole area into the equivalent of National Grasslands. The USA did it first by buying up the dustbowl (Grapes of Wrath territory) and making it into a National Park! Got rid of the people to California. in the 30s.
    2. The San Joaquin valley in California has always been irrigated with water from the mountains to the East, it is the great producer of veg, salad and nuts for the USA. Producers have had their water rations for irrigation cut by up to 20% so that sufficient is left in the pipelines to keep South Los Angeles from rioting! Too many humans on the coast. Net result? A marked rise in the price of produce and especially nuts.

    All over the world too many people and too little water, it will more than likely prove to be the end of society as we know it when they all head to Europe due to starvation and wars over farmland.!
    What do we do? Want to build on greenbelt,

    Yup I definitely do declare! Serves humanity right for sheer stupidity.

    And just for a postscript a case of too much water. King John is always slated for managing to lose his ‘baggage train in the Wash’, he didn’t have much choice about that one. Evidently up till then the Wash was marshland with clearly defined safe paths over it. The wagons were caught by a tidal surge that didn’t go out again. Corroborated by simultaneous tidal inrushes in the Netherlands that formed the Zuider Zee. The Wash was never reclaimed from the sea whereas the polders were built in Holland along with the windmills to keep the water out. Poor old King John’s reputation still suffers to this day.

  11. July 16, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    CO: California is a water disaster waiting to happen. Southern California was historically the less populated region. There simply isn’t enough water as in many regions it’s desert to the sea. With the railways, etc. more and more people poured into the region and from the 1950s all hell broke lose. Like Las Vegas, Los Angeles has had to look further and further away to secure its water supplies. The SF region, while lusher by far than Los Angeles, relies on water from the Sierra region. Idiots on the coast and at Sacramento have done everything to discourage the development of new reservoirs. As a result, when there are wet winters millions and millions of gallons of fresh water run into the ocean as the water table continues to decline and reservoirs hold only enough water to stave thirst for a handful of years at most. Many coastal regions are painfully affluent. Not 70 miles away, it approaches third-world levels of poverty. Quite a few people with sense are leaving California because it’s becoming painfully obvious that the state will have to implode before people come to their senses.

  12. christinaosborne
    July 17, 2017 at 7:15 am

    christopher, all true and a lot of them end up here. They tend to stay a few years and then depart, too damned wet for them in the autumn, winter and spring. we only have at max 2-3 dry sunny months. Bit like Wales, incomers can’t take it!
    (And thank God for that !)

  13. July 17, 2017 at 8:44 am

    CO: California “used” to be an incredible place to live. The climate, while hot in places, is excellent. The coastline is arguably the world’s most beautiful. The natural scenery is stunning and, when sourced correctly, the food is rather good. That is, direct from farms — not the rubbish at supermarkets! Things began to turn sour under Gray Davis and they’ve gone to hell under Jerry Brown. The climate and atmosphere has become toxic and exceedingly antagonistic. There are pressures — blatant and subtle — that anyone to the right of Stalin best be getting on with moving to another state or country. The rest of the US is simply tepid, bland and uninspiring in comparison. It took me no more than a day or two in the Northwest to become depressed and want to leave. The region bores me to tears and I never felt comfortable there. I admit that I sometimes miss California, well, what California used to be. California developed in such isolation from the rest of the country — and had such a different history, even pre-contact, that it is a world onto itself. It’s virtually impossible for Californians to adjust to the lesser parts of the US — which is all of it.

  14. July 17, 2017 at 10:00 am

    CT, it’s interesting that you can talk of generic ‘Californians’. Are any populations in any region homogeneous in their attitudes or behaviour? Cultural norms, yes. But what else?

  15. July 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Janus: California is sui generis. Its internal varieties and contradictions make it a world onto itself. Very few Californians actually adjust well to life in other states. In places like Montana and Idaho there are entire towns that have been taken over by Californians. They form, as do Britons in Dodgydagoland, ghettoes and colonies which scarcely resemble their surrounding communities. California is in many respects a country within a country. Much of it stems from the fact that for many years there was only one major population centre in the western US — California. Arizona, Nevada and Oregon were sparsely populated. California, with its vast size and strategic depth, had to develop on its own. It’s only been over the past 30 years that other states in that region have really had larger populations. Even now, California is becoming increasingly less “American” by the year. Population growth is fuelled purely by immigration and its “American” population is plummeting.

  16. sheona
    July 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

    There are always interesting and informative comments and posts on the Chariot. Thank you Sipu and Christina. My first thought on reading Sipu was that I wish the Chinese joy of Africa.

  17. July 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Sheona: I often giggle when I read comments from Africa about the Chinese. We Europeans have been blamed for decades for all Africa’s ills. There are, of course, some legitimate grievances. Most of it, however, has been seeking to blame others for African failures and shortcomings. Now Africa has to work with the Chinese and, even worse, Indians. Suddenly Europeans weren’t so bad after all.

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