I had a rant in the works that was going to be rather interesting but seeing as I can’t string that rant together sufficiently well enough to be pleased with the message it gives out I’m going to instead turn my attention to another matter that is really getting under my skin, a television program that is nothing short of an atrocious attempt to demonize the lower classes. If you’re British and have a television, you are probably aware of the show I am referring to, the delightful TV morsel that is of course Benefit Street.
Benefit Street is a program shown on Channel 4 about the lives of those claiming benefits in a small section of Birmingham where nine out of ten households receive some form of benefits. The program follows the lives of people going about their business, applying for jobs and the like all whilst we are treated to scenes of anti-social behaviour and foul attitudes which we all know is par for the course when you look around these kind of neighbourhoods but the fact of the matter is that this is only a reflection of the government at work, which I’ll explain in detail later. Benefit Street is what you’d expect of what passes for a documentary in this day and age, a shameless montage of the best and worst examples of a certain demographic with some touching human interest stories that are flashed in your face briefly long enough to make you feel something before they shuffle along and drop the violin.
A controversy surrounding this televisual feast is that the people shown in the program were lied to when the TV crews arrived, believing they were taking part in a documentary about how solid community still matters to a broken nation and so many of them agreed to take part, only to be made out as scrounging wastes of oxygen by the media to the point where some participants have been disowned by their families and made to take on new identities to escape the hatred. Channel 4 denies deceiving their participants and says that they fully explained the concept to the participants but even if that were true, I doubt they explained it in simple straightforward English and instead spoke in cleverly ambiguous promises. May I remind you that this is the TV channel that brought us Sex Box, a show in which couples of all kinds, be they gay, straight or disabled, are shoved into a big steel cell and told to have sex (thankfully, this isn’t recorded) before coming out of the cell and discussing what they did and how it felt. Channel 4 likes to think of themselves as “cutting edge, pushing the boundaries of tasteful television” but frankly ever since Charlie Brooker and Derren Brown vanished from their showings, that pushing of boundaries has just meant shameless parades of total shite. I thought Hollyoaks was bad but compared to the other bollocks on that channel of late, Hollyoaks is the only jewel in the Channel 4 crown that isn’t made from a crusty turd.
The program is cut up and edited to show you what the government wants you to see. Oh, she’s applying for a job? Yay, skip the bit in which she gets mocked over the phone by her potential employer (According to an interview with one participant, what started as informal banter became degrading and insulting but that bit was cut out… not that she even knew the phone call was being taped) Oh all these houses next to each other each claim JSA huh? Evil demons, who cares about the fact the houses directly opposite don’t have benefit claimants living in them? Sadly we have to remember that Channel 4 and BBC are the speakerphones of the government and as much as they’d like to call themselves neutral, their purses are filled by politicians who give them slaps on the wrist for saying rude things before handing them a bag of sweets and giving them a pat on the head. America has this same thing with FOX, a channel so right-wing it might as well be a lopsided duck, but it lets some programs like The Simpsons and Futurama get away with the “Republicans are evil” gag because people still sit there and watch, even the left-wingers. The media is a double-edged sword wielded by a bloated carcass wherever you look because it takes whatever side it fancies and calls itself the champion to be entitled to the rewards, before flipping over again and doing the exact same thing for the reverse side.
I know what some of you are thinking though, that these rats that live off free scraps deserve our hatred right? Benefits aren’t a lifestyle, they’re the absolute bottom line between having a roof over your head, or a sheet of corrugated steel. David Cameron once said £60 a week covers the common man’s bills easily with cash to spare but were that true, why do we not see these money-sponging fiends, as the conservatives amongst us might call them, rocking designer labels and brand new gadgets? I’m pretty sure the hot cars of the street were Corsas and Fiestas, not Enzos and Aventadors? Speaking as a man of the lower class, the only way you get something fancy is either by walking a lot in lieu of paying for petrol or bus fare or by waiting for it to devalue considerably. I mean, I’m playing my PS3 on a CRT TV, that’s right, the big fat black televisions you’d expect from Life on Mars, not Life in 2014. The PS3 isn’t great either, it’s one of the old ones and if I were to sell it, I’m not looking at getting anywhere near the price paid to buy it, the outdated relic it now is. Benefit Street is a stick for the Tories to beat their lessers with, a justification for the benefit cuts announced for 2014 and a foul-smelling message of “This is who you should hate, not us!”. I tell you what though, if someone is stealing the taxpayer’s money, I’d rather find out it was to buy food than to refurbish their second house!
I said I wanted to explain how these “scroungers” are a reflection of the government and for the purposes of this explanation, let’s assume these people are as bad as the show portrays them to be, lewd drunken washouts with no prospects for the future that now suckle from the money tit of the government. We operate on a system that is extremely dictated by class and has people set up to fail before they even start, that is becomingly increasingly expensive to live in but is offering less and less support and has sold out the future generations already by closing schools and youth clubs en masse. You’re broke, your education isn’t worth the paper it is printed on, you can’t afford a hobby and you’ve got no hope of a job and the only people to thank are the people that judged you before you were even that look in Dad’s eye when he had too many lagers in his system. Sponging is all you can do, aside from wade through shit that reaches up to your eyes and hope to find something that offers you a snorkel. You might have lazy demanding self-entitled people but the people of a nation reflect the rulers for the most part, namely our lazy demanding self-entitled government who sit on mountains made of solid gold and diamond, throw us pennies and call us greedy pigs.
As a fan of history let me take you back to a period of history I know very well, ancient China after the fall of the Han Dynasty. The Northern Territories were united under a man called Cao Cao, a charismatic yet harsh man who believed in a system that basically boiled down to “Every man has something he is good at, if he can discover this talent and apply himself to it then he shall be paid fairly according to his efforts and his family will have food”. No benefit system, sure, but Cao Cao never let a single potential worker go to waste and the people under his rule lived in a thriving kingdom, where they all had something they could do to earn their keep and this promoted discipline. Cao Cao was strict yet reasonable and prized hard-work above all else, his people and his subordinates were very much the same. The system isn’t perfect by any means, you could be facing a harsh winter if the bread-winner had an accident or couldn’t grow any crops but the main point is that Cao Cao had never heard of “scroungers” because he gave them reason (and opportunity) to work. Our current system offers no opportunities and is less about giving each man fair reward for effort but instead a flat rate regardless. In this country, if you find you can’t afford to work for less than a certain wage, you find yourself watching Dimitri Fuckyourselfinski coming in from the EU to take the job, working for pennies and taking them home to his country where those pennies are worth diamonds and he’s set for life. I’m not an expert but I’m pretty sure even a governmental system as archaic as Cao Cao’s didn’t have the rule “If your people are not happy with your rule, replace them with different people”
Oh, and for the record, even if these people were sponging money, let’s put that into perspective:
Tax Avoided/Evaded/Uncollected in 2013 – £120 Billion (Tax Justice and PCS Estimate)
Tax Avoided/Evaded/Uncollected in 2013 – £30 Billion (HMRC Estimate)
Benefits Unclaimed – £16 Billion (HMRC Estimate)
Benefit Overpayments Made In Error – £1.4 Billion (DWP Estimate)
Benefit Fraud – £1.2 Billion (DWP Estimate)
Cameron buddy, do some math – your big problem is companies evading taxes pal, clamping down on that £2.6 billion is still short of the £117.4 billion more you could be paying attention to and tell you what, if you do that and leave the benefit stuff alone, we as a people might even let you buy yourself a duck house as your reward hey? I mean, don’t get your hopes up but you know, it could happen… if you were competent.