There is an internalised stigma against those with a lower income than yourself. It’s filtered through the news, the media and the government cutting down aid for those that need it.
The most common action when walking down a busy high street and hearing a raspy: “Change please?” coming from below our knees, a homeless person sitting below, struggling to yield their thin layers about their just as slim figure. There’s a usual direct chain reaction, a reaction thoroughly rooted and built-in to the middle class, to look away or to ignore them entirely. A subconscious thought of it’s an easy enough thing to do, just scratch away that small itch of guilt and within a few hours or even moments, the entire idea of their existence is gone out of your mind.
In the same nature, we may have when there’s an advert that appears on TV, an advert showing those in poverty, the horror footage of how they have to endure and live in such a cold and dark environment. Another thing that drives us into a very uncomfortable state, but why?
Think of the polar opposite, those in a much higher position and class than yourself, who quickly admired and adored with puppy dog eyes. They aren’t close to us than those that are on the streets. Ironically, metaphorically or even in a literal sense, we’re just closer to slipping than climbing higher to the top with economic mobility. Ask yourselves this, what has been easier in your own life? All of this isn’t a sliding scale. It is an upward climb with a loose foundation we tread on.
You’re brought up to move a few paces away from the person sitting on the pavement in the street, tune out their begging from their raspy dried up voices to the sound of lively crowds on the high street, look away to the bright lights of the stores, to the brands, to the world you can about afford.
I wonder if the worst is the faux empathy, the core of it, is simply: “I’m glad that’s you and not me.” or rather, “Better you than me.” The idealisation of our livelihoods and the arrogance that follows when it place, there should be more of a set of perspective, more about them and less about you. i
There is a sense of ignorance, a sense of generalisation that all low-income families are doing nought and scamming the system. Even if that was the case, it’s a smaller scale than those in a higher position taking advantage of everyone. It’s much easier to blame those that can’t defend themselves, the ones that have been muted for decades and where others have been taught to ignore their existence since birth.
A good analogy is if there were a naughty child, you tell the kid off but doing something wrong but you know, it would do very little until you can sort out the root of the problem: The parents and their lack of interest in their child. It’s the same with the government as you can say that lower-income families are taking advantage of what is given to them to aid them; Universal Credit, council homes, allotments, benefits. Yes, there is a chance there would be a handful that might not be using them to the right degree but is it not the fault of the system? The system that should invest in better in fixing and helping those in need in the first place. The parents if you will. To prevent this from happening in the first place?
The problem is, there is a comprehensive point system, and in terms of how many points you get the more, you admire that person, especially when it is comparative to how many points you have accumulated. Oh, you don’t have a job, but I do? I get more points. An excellent example of this is the Black Mirror episode, “Fifteen Million Merits” where everyone is working hard to gain enough physical points to achieve more privileges and in hand, a better life.
The movie Parasite (2019) directed by Bong Joon-ho is a good case study and representation on such a topic. The idea of “all wee need to do is to walk up the stairs”, how we push people lower than us.
This is a poor eat the poor world. Is it too late to stop the wheels from turning? Or like the movie, Parasite, will we inevitably be forced to hide in a basement, the same one we kicked those lower than us out of and repent and ask for forgiveness from those we admire and are above us, just up the stairs?