Words cannot express, though I must try to make them, how much I loathe the system under which we live. It’s a system which rewards the rich, no matter how undeserving, and hammers the poor, no matter how they came to be so. It’s a system which assumes that wealth equals merit and that the poor deserve their fate. It’s a system which bypasses, even demonises, compassion and makes an enemy of welfare. It’s a system which punishes benefit claimants and hammers those in debt.
I’m not one of the worst-off. Not even close. I’m not on the streets or hanging on a phone line trying to find out why I owe the DWP money having received a threatening letter, nor am I a refugee about to be put on a plane in the middle of the night (Priti Patel makes my blood boil). I have somewhere to live and clothes to wear; I can’t be deported and nor, thank god, do I claim benefits. But I do have a substantial overdraft and no means of paying it off. Until recently I was coping with the charges: they made a hole in what I laughingly call my income but I could manage. And this month I was sure that in spite of Christmas and Daniel’s birthday (neither of which I grudge in the slightest) I had enough in my account to cover the charges. But this morning I had a text from the bank which I am not ashamed to tell you made me cry, because it informed me that I was about to go over my overdraft limit and should pay in funds today to avoid further charges. Fortunately I can ask OH to help me out here, otherwise I would be on a downward spiral to god knows where.
This has happened because last January the bank decided, out of nowhere, to virtually double the charges for those owing over a certain amount. Why? Just because they could, I guess – they didn’t bother giving any sort of rationale for it. I guess they needed to make up some money they were losing elsewhere, and who better to take it from than people like me; the poor, the overdrawn, those with nowhere else to go? I mean, they could hardly ask the rich, could they? You can’t ask someone like Jeff Bezos for money – he’s far too well-off. As George Bernard Shaw’s Millionaire says, ‘a man as rich as I am cannot afford anything.’ But we shall leave the rich in their self-made prisons for now and consider how many people out there are in my situation; stuck in some kind of debt incurred through no fault of their own – losing their job, an inability to make enough money, disability or illness – and being hammered by government, banks and other bastards. We feel isolated and helpless, we feel constantly hammered and unable to climb out of the mire. We feel abandoned by society and blamed for our own problems. We feel defeated.
We have to do better as a society, to find ways of helping each other. This is not a plea for money but for a better way of doing things. So let’s give our minds to that and together we will find a way.