Saturday, 3 October 2015

Sugar on poverty

Lord Sugar thinks real poverty no longer exists

Lord Sugar says there's no such thing as real poverty in 21st century Britain

Lord Sugar says today's poor have never had it so good, with mobile phones, computers and televisions making a mockery of claims of deprivation

He is certainly right if poverty is to be taken as absolute poverty where starvation knocks at the door. Starvation poverty is a thing of the past but climbing out of it still lies within living memory. Anyone of a certain age can recall what would now be seen as severe and widespread poverty. I don't recall starvation poverty because I’m not that old, but I recall the climbing and I do recall my great uncle telling us how his family cooked sparrows when times were hard.

So Alan Sugar is right in that sense. I grew up in a household with no fridge, freezer, TV, music system, central heating, phone, car or dishwasher. We only had one holiday a year but in our own eyes we weren’t poor. The real poor lived elsewhere and had even less. Not being politically correct we called their offspring “the dirty kids” and avoided them socially.

Unfortunately human behaviour is what it is and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. We copy others, measure ourselves against them and this gives us a second and perfectly legitimate view of poverty. Poverty can be relative. We were not poor when compared with "the dirty kids".

The problem is we use the same word for two different things with two different but overlapping impacts. Too many people try to make political capital from confusing two types of poverty and from the disputes which naturally arise, which is probably what pisses off Lord Sugar.

To my mind he should not be pissed off by it. Inequality is probably necessary to generate a degree of dynamism in societies, but too much of it causes too much social division even when those at the bottom of the pile have mobile phones and humongous TVs. The rich and powerful loose touch and that's another problem we don't know how to tackle.


Anonymous said...

What pees me off is the lack of real circulation among the populace. I volunteer to head 'The Department of Social Reallocation' - no bribes or bungs honest guv......

Demetrius said...

When Grannie moved in the new kitchen range was state of the art. When she was finally carried out it was taken to be a sign she was poor.

A K Haart said...

Roger - I agree although I'm not volunteering to be circulated.

Demetrius - same thing happened with my great uncle Charlie and his range.

Anonymous said...

I always remember P. J. O'Rourke in one of his books describing his travels to what is usually known as 'the third world' (well, it's more polite than calling it 'Dumpsville') and he defined real poverty as 'no chickens'. He pointed out that chickens are the cheapest and easiest live stock to keep - and eat. When all the chickens have been eaten - then you have real poverty!

A K Haart said...

David - when people start keeping chickens we know we are on the way down.