Saturday, 2 January 2010

Casting ravioli before swine

Fr Tim Jones, a priest in York, England was quoted as suggesting that it may be OK for the poor to shoplift from large supermarkets. In a bizarre little twist, amidst huge public outcry, one of his parishioners bought a whole pile of tinned ravioli, hid outsid the church and tipped the messy stuff all over the erstwhile vicar. Said parishioner was apparently 'outraged'.
I must admit I am not. One of the great problems for the Anglican church is that we are so middle-class that we are more likely to be outraged by the assault on our supermarkets by the unwashed than to be outraged by the thought of some people being so poor that they can't afford to eat.
Having grown up just after the War in a family which was no doubt poor, I can happily say that we (kids) didn't really know or care that we were poor. But as we grew I realise that there were things which were hard for my parents to provide us which other kids took for granted. This was not, as the middle class so often assume, because my parents were poor providers; but rather because there were many kids, both my parents came from modest there was no inherited wealth...and my dad was the only bread winner.
As I grew, I realised that one of the things about Anglo Saxon society is that no one thinks or declares that they are well-off. Everyone thinks their families only have modest incomes. This seems farcical to the really poor, because we can spot that though the next rung up the ladder declaim that they are 'poor' we think that families that afford music lessons, overseas holidays, cars even in those days, and certainly private education have a lot more stuff than we did.
The middle class in particular, thinking they are poor...but mistaken in my view, have no conception of whta it might be like to not actually have any savings, or any security or certainty about what will happen for the next week because there is no food and no money.
My question, which Fr Jones attempts to just what are the poor supposed to do when they have no money, and no way of accessing services. (Had a chap like this came knocking at my door on Boxing Day!)
We can say ...they should have been wiser, saved more. But I think often we just don't understand what it is like to be poor.

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