Thursday, 2 November 2006

The British White Underclass

I remember when Old Man Rich prompted me into moving my focus from US poverty to UK poverty and just recently my attention has been drawn, once again, to poverty in Britain and the building of what could be a vengeful and dangerous white underclass.

Aside from acting, I have always worked with disadvantaged young people from a variety of troubled backgrounds but mostly they’ve been white; born and raised on council estates; straight out of school aged 16 with nothing next to their name apart from a small-time rep that carries little weight in the outside world. There is a current trend I have noticed that is worrying me greatly.

British governments, in all their wisdom, throw money at trouble, especially media friendly trouble, until it’s fixed (ish) and this has led to a public sector culture that is utterly skewed towards BME groups (Black Minority Ethnic), inclusively, diversity and what is tantamount to turning your back on angry, poverty-stricken, young white men.

Please don’t misunderstand me; in the UK we make a deserved focus on those that have been excluded on the basis of their culture, ethnicity or refugee status and this I applaud. I also accept that we still have a long way to go to rid ourselves of the curse that is institutional racism but we have forgotten that the majority of those living in poverty are white and of British origin and this is dangerous and unfair.

The number of very specific, targeted and excellent initiatives for BME/Refugee young people in the UK makes me proud; yet it is white children who are at the very bottom of the pile when it comes to GCSE results amongst other ethnicities who are in poverty. Remember that they are competing with people in this bracket who have English as a second or third language!

We now have a white underclass with poorer results than all other ethnicities, who are the least likely to stay on in education post-16 of any other ethnicity, who end up working in the most unskilled jobs (89% of factory staff are white, 93% of manufacturing staff are white) that in turn have a tenuous longevity in the current economic climate and who commit more crime than any other ethnicity and are more likely to misuse Class A drugs.

They are being outclassed in every single department, yet government funding and initiatives are consistently targeted towards every other ethnicity, apart from this white underclass.

Why does this matter? It matters because it breeds feelings of injustice, it breeds feelings of being left out, of your country no longer being your own, of it turning its back on you and embracing those not even from those shores; in short, it breeds a fervent and nasty brand of racism that in the right hands could be manipulated into a deeply destabilising force: a war of cultures.

The answer is to widen the focus to reduce poverty and things that cause poverty across the board, rather than making judgements and initiatives based on ethnicity. We need inclusively and diversity all right but it’s not one-way traffic; all communities need to be urged to engage and share so that ignorance and misinformation can be dispelled. Only then can we make steps to rid ourselves of the evil of poverty across the board.

8 comments:

  1. http://www.mepc.org/whats/whynot.asp

    This is worth reading Dan, nice article by a former American diplomt. Still depressing since those voices are becoming less and less heared everyday.

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  2. Thanks man, you're blogging is missed, can you not return?

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  3. The white underclass in Britain is symptomatic of the complacency brought on by the benefit culture and the failure of the minimum wage. Why bother trying when there's a handout ready for you. And if there's no handout, you can always steal cars or make ends meet with petty larceny. And if you get caught it doesn't matter because the law is an ass and you'll have a better quality of life in prison, all expenses paid by the tax-payer.

    The reason the white underclass exists in our country is because as a race we have no pride and no sense of shame. We live in a consumerist, everyone's a celebrity, shallow culture. Gone are the days when people would be ashamed of drawing benefit (I used to lose a bit of my soul every fortnight when I had to sign on after university) or being a leech on the system. We used to call people like that a "ponce" round our way.

    Then these kids blame their educations, society, immigrants, the weather - anything but themselves for their own shortcomings. Our children run amok, but we can't blame the lazy parents. True, there are some who are truly disadvantaged, but once you get into the cycle of the underclass, why leave it? There'll always be a social security system and a free health service to pick up the pieces once you've drunk and drugged yourself into oblivion. If you are female, knock out a half a dozen kids by different fathers - it doesn't matter because the tax payer will foot the bill. In the past, such a women would have been called a slut or a whore - and her children would have been classed bastards and illegitimate. But now we live in a forward thinking soceity where anything goes - while there are some benefits, the downside is that we have no personal limits. We can all act like shits because it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, right?

    What we are talking about here isn't financial poverty (there are plenty of people who work two jobs and still have no money at the end of it) but a poverty of the soul and the lack of a working ethic. I call it "the white man's burden". Many generations ago we were called "a nation of shopkeepers" and we were a plucky breed who were open all hours and willing to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Now, we are a lazy breed who are complacent. We have the widescreen TV with multiple digital channels, we have a car, we have a sofa, but we have no pride. Much of this complacency can be traced back to the effect of Thatcherism on our country and the destruction of our society - for it was Thatcher who nurtured the selfish "Me" generation.

    This is why the white underclass exists because they can't be bothered to do anything for themselves. Why should they because society owes them a living, right? It's our fault that they are failues, not their own. Etc, etc, etc. However, there has always been an underclass in Britain and in the past it used to be the working class - however, the working classes are dead because they got a mortgage and take foreign holidays.

    Of course, my other theory about the collapse in our society relates to the lack of a decent World War to thin out some of the more feeble members of the gene pool. Another idea would be to give London its independence and let the likes of Scotland, Wales, "The North" and the rest of the freeloaders who are subsidised by our taxes in the capital. I also would like to suggest "National Murder Day" when, for one day a year, we are allowed to kill without recourse to the law. Just imagine how much fun you could have taking out the hoodies with a high calibre sniper rifle... Of course, I jest.

    The white underclass exists because we've lost our work ethic and have no pride...and then we'll moan because the Poles do it quicker and cheaper. ;-)

    And the reason I am allowed to say this because I come from the East End of London, I went to a crappy comprehensive, got a half-assed education because our teachers weren't much cop, still managed to do well enough to get enough A-Level to go to University, got a degree and worked hard to get into my chosen profession. I also came from a single parent family when my father left when I was 7 years old.

    For me, it could have easily gone the other way and I could have been one of these dodgy geezers. But it didn't because I was taught from an early age to have some pride and self-respect and that you have to work hard to get anything in this world.

    Now that makes me sound like a complete right-winger, but I am not. I am actually a leftie socialist, but when the system set up to help the underpriviliged is so bent out of shape and exploited left, right and centre, it's hard to cling onto your ideals.

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  4. Word of the day: fixed (ish)

    To what extent are neighborhoods segregated? How does unequal poverty relief affect the UK geographically?

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  5. How much of this is a failure of hope rather than a failure of opportunity? We have a pretty good free education system. Presumably these children aren’t thicker than their ethnic counterparts. So how much is that they see no point in achieving? That whatever they do they are doomed to failure? Apart from millionaire footballers, whom do these children aspire to be? In your average UK soap how many hard working, law abiding people are happy? Have successful relationships, feel a sense of fulfilment & achievement and have children who go on to better themselves? Certainly in Asian communities I get the impression that people believe they can achieve, that being a successful, hard working small businessman is something to be proud of. That the next generation can go on to be doctors. That there is opportunity and hope. That self belief, that understanding that an honest days work for an honest days pay is something to be proud of, seems to be missing in these young white children.

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  6. Darren: like many who rise above you are unforgiving to those that experienced similar hardship. I don't buy your analysis one bit and find it a bit Daily Mail, sorry, these people in question are in extreme poverty, a welfare state does not breed that, your hand-out analogy is false.

    I do agree that many people have lost their competitive egde and are being pushed out of the job market my those more willing to work but they need to be targetted by non-ethnicity based programmes rather than excluded from the process.

    Jess: we suffer from a reasonable level of segregation with lower levels of mixed ethnicity than the US, we are quite monocultural in many ways. In terms of effect on the UK it means a lopsided funding for London and the north of the country (mainly white) getting a rough deal.

    OMR: accurate comments Rich, there is a loss of hope, of expectation and yes, other races are pushing past wth drive and hope; this needs to be restored by targeted work.

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  7. Communist (Leninist-Col. Dr.-ist) Revolution is the only hope.

    Now that Russia is back online, can we not return to finally ending this past millennium of oppression and murder?

    There cannot be an "underclass" when we succeed in eliminating "class" altogether.

    New Victory. Together.

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  8. Oh, and we're still A-OK--I just keep running into these "disappear the blog" types which have made life hell.

    New Victory. Together.

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