The british underclass

Before I begin allow me to correct a common misconception. The term ‘working class’ does not adequately describe the british underclass. The people I am writing about would be better described as ‘The totally dis-empowered’. I feel that I am able to describe such people because I have experienced this for myself.

A butterfly that escaped the wheel

I left school in the very early 1960’s totally illiterate. I met my wife Mary in 1967 and by 1976 she had (Through tireless sweat and toil) got me literate. I know intimately the people from whose ranks I am proud to have come.  I say this not to boast or preach, but to be as truthful as possible.

The dis-empowered

Not since the 1930’s has there been a group of people so dis-empowered as we now see on the lower, lower regions of the (for want of a better description) working class in this country. Perhaps this current group of people are even more demonized than the people of the ’30s.  It seems to me that a hatred has grown up around them today mixed with easy fix solutions to their ‘problems,’ that is stomach churning in its callousness.

For the purpose of this communication I will deal only with the working poor in this country, the controversy around those on benefits is a far more complex and divisive to deal with here.

the dis-empowered working poor are a group of people who want to work for a living and only ask for a fair deal

It is my assertion that that the dis-empowered working poor are a group of people who want to work for a living and only ask for a fair deal. I contend that in all my working life and the lives of my fellow workers today, any concept of a ‘Fair deal’ is far from the reality, they find themselves in. Indeed, most of the dis-empowered today are being abused in one form or another in the workplace.

a large number of lower working class utterly without hope of any real representation

Since the late 1970’s there has been a gradual erosion of any rights for the poorly educated working poor, in this country.  Because, it is said, that the ‘Big Unions,’ ‘Got greedy,’ so the establishment axe fell on all. This left a large number of lower working class utterly without hope of any real representation. I was one of those working poor, and it is my experience mixed with the dis-empowered workers of today that I ask us to focus on? Working poor are always seen as the enemy. This paranoia has (I believe) been very carefully orchestrated and, we must ask Why.

Meet the Undeserving poor…

Part of the answer I believe goes right back to the concept of the “Undeserving poor.” Who are the undeserving poor today? They are people who carry out menial work like toilet cleaner (I was one) road sweeper farm labourer etc. They are often seen as unproductive useless members of society. Their lack of education is seen as their own fault. They ‘didn’t try at school’? This allegation put on them even when they have come from an abusive dysfunctional family.  The abuse they suffer in the workplace goes unseen. Their lack of support and advocacy not given a second thought.

Does all this seem far-fetched?  I will now come to direct examples; starting with my personal experience and then the experience of others.

1) Sacked for being beat up:  In 1964 having been spewed out of Secondary school illiterate I was expected to find employment. I could not fill in an application form or answer questions at an interview. Eventually I was taken on as an ‘Electricians labourer’. My duties were digging out brick walls for cables and conduit. Also I had to run wires in lofts and other areas. I was put to work with a beast of a man who beat me up for taking sandwiches to work that he did not like the smell of!  I crawled back to the workshop only to be sacked on the spot for walking off the site. No union support back then for ‘namby pamby thickos’.

2) Date 2013:  John is on a short-term contract working for a fast food chain he cycles 8 miles to work (Come rain & snow). He does not get sick pay. John goes down with a severe back problem. Fighting through the pain he continues to go to work. I go to see him under the guise of being a customer. I find him crawling about on the floor picking up rubbish and fast food wrappings. His face is ashen grey and the lines on his face display the acute pain he is in. The Manager looks on making sure he does not ‘miss any discarded rubbish under the tables’. If John were to complain he would be sacked. Working for this type of employer in the present day you either become a ‘yes sir no sir three bags full’ servant or be kicked out as a ‘trouble maker.’

3) Date 2012: Carol is a Care assistant working in a large residential and nursing home complex. Carol is a deeply caring person. She had problems at school and has had little to no education. Carol does however know how to look after a person physical needs having nursed her mum up to the day she died. Carol is witnessing neglect and abuse in her workplace. She is seeing residents left all day in urine soaked pads and at times with no incontinence pad. This neglect has led to urine rash leading to bed sores the size of tennis balls septicaemia and eventually death! Carol tries to speak out to her superiors and is told: ‘Keep your mouth shut you stupid little cow, we don’t want the F***ing C.Q.C. round here. If you report us we will engineer an allegation against you’.

Carol eventually leaves this abusive place but when she tries to get another job the prospective employer tells her: ‘You’re not reliable you walked out on your last job’. Carol had no support offered her.  She tried to inform the Care Quality Commission but got tongue-tied and gave up. She is now living homeless in a Northern town.

N.B. Point of information: The C.Q.C. is inundated with requests to help and cannot possibly deal with the sheer weight of this growing problem. CP.

4)    Mick works for a Rose Farm. Recently his employer died leaving his employers wife to deal with the business. There were some internal problems to sort out and this resulted in Mick not being paid for 3 months. Mick got into debt with his tax and general finances. The bailiffs were called in and demanded an immediate payment (Of £1200) or invade his home and take all of value; Mick had only £250 in the bank. Were it not for friends assisting him Mick could now be in jail. Mick is a hard working man and has been broken by this experience. At present he is working part time and earns the minimum wage.

Does Crime pay?

Finally: Because the vast amount of dis-empowered underclass suffers in silence a new phenomenon is raising its head. The human frame cannot only take so much. Thousands are leaving a hostile workplace and turning to crime. The new criminal employers are looking after their ‘staff’’ far better than the so-called legitimate ones!

Do you feel like condemning them? I don’t! I know what they walk away from. There is a rage building up in the underclass that no newspaper or journalist has picked up on. It will one day spill out on to the streets and make the riots of a few years ago look like an infant’s birthday party by comparison.

5 thoughts on “The british underclass”

  1. Thank you Chris for helping us see better how the real poverty involves total loss of power and control in society. It is easier for those who have sufficient, not to understand the desperation of those who can’t pay their bills or be at the wrong end of bailiffs and crooked employers. Too many people only understand poverty in terms of not having the latest gadgets rather than a way of life beset with fear and loss of hope. I wish I could think of some way of injecting hope. Politicians could provide some answers if they could help us to learn that citizenship is about being aware of the needs of others rather simply consuming more to keep the economy growing. We need a new vision of what is possible in society. Capitalism should be about social capital building not endless consuming and all the jealousy and envy that goes with it.

  2. Thank you Stephen, Yes we need a new vision. For me that vision starts with building radical community, real community. It starts with us reaching out to our neighbours then our street, and then on to our immidiate area. We need to inform ourselves about how and why our Residential nursing homes are failing and then find ways of taking responsibility ourselves. We need to (As you have said) ‘eat the apple of thinking for ourselves’ . Thank you so much for your comment. Chris Pitts

  3. Sadly, what you wrote about describes the plight of the working poor in central indiana. The GOP have only added to the mythological narrative surrounding those who are on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic latter. The problem looks as if it will take a turn for worse if they manage to put one of their own in the White House come this November. The working poor are continually being scapegoated by a party that has been highjacked by conservatve evangelicals who prefer the idea that finacial lack is a sign that God is withholding blessings due to unrightegouness. No compassion, no kindess, no love.

  4. Thanks Tamara,

    Feels great to have your support! At last someone who really understands.
    The mass evasion of the truth that is taking place in England at present, can only be described as evil. The demonization of the working poor and incapacitated is done with Machiavellian perfection. ‘Truth’ is what the powerful can get away with, Frank Zappa’s ‘Brain police’ everywhere!
    And yes sadly, many evangelical ‘christians’ prop up the successful, even when they are breaking the law!

    God help us.

    Chris Pitts

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