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Staring into the Mirror

It is pretty clear that the recent horrific weather (the worst I've ever seen, take note climate change deniers) has put the appalling situation of homelessness to the fore. Unfortunately the deaths of rough sleepers has done little to melt the frozen bank accounts that pass for hearts in the Tory body politic.

In other words: they don't give a damn.

Let's just take a moment to think about what that means: citizens of this society are being allowed to freeze to death on the streets and nothing is done.

When the Russians allegedly (I don't want to be poisoned!) murder a spy on the streets of Britain, the Tories convene emergency meetings.

When people actually die, murdered by capitalism, on the streets of Britain, the Tories give themselves a pay rise.

And make no mistake this is a problem of capitalism. We have the facilities, the talent, and, in some cases, the desire, to end this. There are properties people can live in, but instead they are earmarked for the super rich and the property market. These are capitalist institutions; without the profit motive and the resultant class divide to oppress the poorest how can homelessness exist?

Thus it is my great pleasure, by which I mean nauseating revulsion, to present two case studies that show the problem is ideological. Even the Tories cannot deny the reality of rough sleeping. However instead of dealing with it, they seek to move people on, or, when they refuse paltry unsafe alternatives, are easily dismissed and subsequently criminalised. The crime that is sleeping on the streets of a modern city. Good grief, is this how far we've sunk?

They do this because it avoids having to stare into the mirror of said ideology. Doing so would reveal the truth of their horrendous politics. Thus it is preferable to demonise. They do this by creating a hierarchy that offers the less to the least among us, then, when that offering is refused it is relatively easy to criminalise these people for not taking up offers of help. But those 'offers' of help are less if the help comprises a space in a hostel that isn't suitable or safe - violence, substance abuse, theft for example. Is it reasonable to expect someone to accept that just because they are homeless and thus you see them as less of a person? That is the Tory mindset.

In Torbay a few weeks ago there arose a brave man called Ashley Sim. He courageously took it upon himself to photograph those members of the local homeless community he heroically believed were not 'genuine'. It always baffles me, the hypocrisy of the Tory position on liberty: they claim to oppose 'big brother' (remember all the hoo ha about ID cards during the last Labour government?), but are more than happy to appeal to a nanny state or a nanny state mentality when it suits them. What is this, if not that?

What is this if not the exertion of class power wielded as ideological force unto the weakest? It is the imposition of the division between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor, made all the worse by the obvious reality that those Mr Sim believes to be 'deserving' (a judgement made solely by himself with no expertise on the reality nor, it seems, the slightest understanding of power in society) won't get helped anyway. They can at least rest, by which I mean shiver on the pavement, safe in the knowledge that some arrogant prick from Toryshire isn't going to try and have them prosecuted for offending his sensibilities. An act that has potentially disastrous consequences, particularly for those wrongly targeted, for those this self proclaimed 'do gooder' (their language) decides to out.

Now, on my doorstep, in the otherwise quite progressive city of Bristol, we have another example. I've seen the city centre for myself, the Broadmead shopping quarter. I've seen how the closure of businesses - thanks to austerity - has blighted it. Up until recently there was a BHS, who, like Woolworths, were a high street staple. All that remains is an unsightly boarded up frontage - presumably to ensure that rough sleepers don't take advantage of the meagre shelter present. Unfortunately for that idea homelessness in the city has skyrocketed.

So now, a particular couple who are conspicuous within the centre of the district, are being picked on, and in the most egregious example of mirror dodging yet. It seems that, because they have an 'embarassment of riches, in the form of a huge pile of blankets (because people in Bristol are kind), they could be hiding 'the terrorisms' inside! Huddled beneath, it's possible, to the mind of business bigwig John Hirst (a copper bottomed cunt by all accounts), that the people could be planting explosives! Do you need me to explain how offensive and absurd that is?

But of course the Tory attitude, the corporate-o-capitalist attitude, must entertain this possibility, because to do otherwise is to stare right into that mirror.

And they know what they will see when they stare right back: decade up on decade of frozen humans, lives snuffed out in the cold ad the dark of a capitalist night. Caught in the amber of conscience for which said mirror is a metaphor. People that died for the want of what Pink Floyd coolly and correctly referred to as 'tea and a slice'. Us and them: us - we - have to start winning.


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