What?! Mother's Day isn't about breakfast in bed or chocolate roses or even cute cards by small children? No, it's about getting out of bed and taking to the streets to demand that our governments leave a better world for our children and our children's children.
There are an astounding number of people who go hungry in the U.S., despite the imagery we see on TV and the hollow lies of our government. There is a stigma attached to hunger. People do not go around talking about it. To do so prompts immediate judgment from the middle class regarding laziness, stupidity, and other classist stereotypes. Because of this, you may work with single parents who are going hungry so they can feed their kids and never know it. Minimum wage does not cover rent plus childcare costs, much less food demands.
Pick of the Week:
The 1980's were about way more than asymmetrical haircuts, Molly Ringwald movies, and music (though the music was really good):
This Is Not a Playlist for Margaret Thatcher's Funeral
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works." --Newt Gingrich
I was born and raised in poverty. Both of my parents worked full-time, over-time, and extra jobs from my earliest memory until the present. They have never accepted government aid or charity. They just work, and work some more.
"This is a war between the people and the government."
--kid on the street, London August 7 2011.
Four nights ago London erupted in spontaneous violence, rippling out from a council estate north of my home to gradually encompass every borough. Riots and looting were widespread. Cars, buses, and buildings have been torched.
Throughout most of the years I lived in the United States military recruitment ads were selling a version of service that looked like a video game: fast action, high adrenaline, cool. They were compelling, visually interesting. They made the military (and war) look like fun.
Later, when recruitment figures went down, the sales pitch became more specific and elaborate: the credentials you could gain, the boost to your career, a free college education - the benefits were the promotional angle.
Meandering down a Santa Barbara side street in the twilight I was not at all surprised to encounter Andreas, last seen where? Paris? Berlin?
My friends do tend to wander. Though right now I would prefer to have them over for a dinner party at my own house.
Summary, Week 4, Great American Road Trip: I miss London.
I said a regretful goodbye to my mother, promising to come back soon, promising to arrange another European trip for her. What sort of daughter leaves home and stays away? Difficult and disobedient just about sums it up, though the older I get the more I have in common with the women who founded the family.
I'm driving around endless ugly sprawling suburbs listening to AC/DC and feeling mournful. It is just like being young again, except for the music.
The most shocking visible difference? Despite excessive fuel costs, people appear to be driving ever larger vehicles. I'm a child of the seventies, I remember fuel rationing - and everyone switched to smaller cars, even my grandparents. And they owned a petrol station!
I guess folks nowadays need the new bigger cars to drive to their new bigger houses in new bigger suburbs?
Between genuine economic woes and the efforts of the coalition government to push through hasty, misguided, and largely ideological reforms, we have the rare moment of hilarity.
Like former Tory party vice-chairman and new life peer Howard Flight, personally selected for the honour by David Cameron, wading in with commentary like (paraphrasing headlines) cuts will encourage the poor to breed.
When my maniacal giggling subsided I pursued the point and found that technically he said "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."
Jolly expensive! How quaint!
Setting aside our obvious political differences, he has a point. The child benefit was income-blind precisely because it was felt that every child, regardless of background, deserved nominal support. This idea plays well to the British notion of gamesmanship. If everyone has the same base funding, same healthcare, same right to housing and schools, then it is jolly well your own fault if you fail. I say, old chap, what what?
Personally I think it is all just a fiddle. I spend more than £1,000 per year on coffee - I don't need child benefit, and I don't claim it. Other people would call that sum the difference between life and death, and they won't lose the money under the reforms. Somewhere in the middle (hence the term 'middle class') are the people who will indeed feel the pinch. And you know what will happen to them? They will claim elsewhere - they will require, and the government will provide, a program that covers services they would otherwise pay for out of that £1,000. Let me make a spooky prediction: within the next three years the number of children seeking free lunches will go up.
Not to mention the fact that right now the administration of child benefit is simple - every legal resident who asks for it gets it. With means testing, the government will need to assemble a massive bureaucratic structure of clerks, supervisors, advisors, and directors (drawing salaries and benefits) to hassle parents for proof of household income.
Of course that is one way to create jobs. Though I suspect it would be easier and cheaper to continue funding the current child benefit system.
I have a few Tory friends. One family shells out to send their "bright" child to private school, waving the other three off to the local and markedly inferior school. While, and this is the bit that amazes me, they openly discuss the bias in front of the children. I wonder if they will reflect on the wisdom of the policy a few decades from now, when those same children are making choices about elder care.
Caveat emptor and all that.
Regardless, it is nice to have an opportunity to reminisce about old projects. Ten years ago: