Taking a break in between rainstorms to do my shopping on a different day, I'm on the bus (when it eventually showed up) listening to the dull witted tones of Radio Bristol's cretinous weekday morning current affairs phone in. I really don't know why I do this to myself, but I like to believe that one day we'll get a sensible discussion, or at the very least a sensible caller.
Not today though. The topic comes from the news that local school teachers are feeding kids out of their own pocket because there are so many, now, that aren't getting fed properly. There are also over subscribed breakfast clubs as well. But instead of a sensible objective discussion we get the usual right wing cliches propagated at the very least tacitly by a moron presenter. It seems as though the only people that ever get through are just right wing curtain twitchers in their later years who hark to a golden day that never truly existed outside of the populist press. One cretin even suggested docking the benefits of those that didn't feed their kids properly while every caller was asked 'is it responsibility or poverty', because of course these issues are so simplistic. Of course all the parents of these unfed waifs are lazy. Of course they spend their benefits (what else?) on Sky/Fags/Booze/Plasma TV/Something I Don't Approve Of. So of course these kids are starving because their parents are schmucks.
On and on it goes. It's so simplistic it beggars belief. Why do they even bother? But of course they are all hard working (that can't be called into question either) and in this age of austerity these people are all beleaguered hard workers programmed to resent where their taxes are going. Blah blah blah.
And this is the level of discussion we get: points of view as insane as docking benefits to people that aren't feeding their kids - apparently. How would that even work? No doubt 'the caller' will volunteer to check on those whose curtains are not open at the prescribed hour and tick his list under that address so as to set the sanction in motion. For fuck's sake.
Then there's the luxuries myth: Sky TV subscriptions where people have then are set up yearly. If a claimant has a Sky dish (which is no guarantee they have an active subscription, we don't) then it's likely the account has already been paid for the year, and that could have been when the person was working or could otherwise afford it. Tearing down the dish and ringing Mr Murdoch won't achieve anything because the money has already been paid. Fags and booze are addictive and yet we are quite happy for the government to profit from their sale - and yet we criticise people that partake of these legal vices when it suits us. I find the criticism of people that smoke and drink entirely hypocritical. Now of course there is some truth to the argument that people shouldn't smoke or drink particularly if they can't afford it, but that, again, is rife with ignorance. These are addictions and not just physiologically but socially. It will take more than the punitive attitude of the curtain twitching prudes that call local radio to change this. What about some support or compassion; some carrot and not stick. Oh, but that costs money. Any perceived luxury, such as a TV or a games console (no matter how cheap or when they were acquired) is seen as undeserved.
Meanwhile and finally I'm in Tesco doing my shopping wishing to god I had the money to afford all the foods that the idiot on the radio considers 'cheap'. They are not intrinsically cheap. The prices set by supermarkets even within their own brand vary depending on the area, consequently I have to travel to town because a) it's cheaper and b) the local shops out in the sticks don't have enough anyway. To cap it all off Tesco have ruined their cheap chicken legs so that now they cram as many as they can into a pack. Instead of 3 decent cuts for a couple of quid, there are now at least 4 skanky fatty yet tiny cuts for the same amount. That's the choice we on the dole have to make and most of the time it's hobson's choice. Budgeting is out of teh question for reason's I've explained before: that is, the sanction-happy presumtpion of guilt regime means I can't spend as much on weekly shopping as I want because I have to put some by on the assumption that I will get my benefit stopped next time I sign on. This can happen even on the basis of just a doubt, before a decision to sanction is made so if I don't put some by (for all the good it will do, I may have to wait months before a decision is made leaving me in financial limbo) I'm screwed.
There's your breakfast. Choke on it, BBC.