Saturday, 6 April 2013

On scum, and scum who use scum

Mick Philpott is scum, let's be clear about that.  I am not going to waste time trying to explain how he was a victim of the system, of society, or of class snobbery or what-have-you.  Indeed, as the Guardian points out, the role usually assigned to the apologists of the left - trying to exculpate the foul and depraved - has been take up by the right, who prefer to to claim Philpott is somehow the creation of an over generous nanny state, a benefits system that encouraged him to always ask for more.

This rightwing idocy has found its final incarnation, perhaps inevitably, in the smirking features of the hateful Gideon 'George' Osborne, a man to whom the benefits system can only ever have existed as an abstract concept, one of these odd things that other people have to do.  I'm not going to waste time with Osborne, because I am fairly sure that he does not read Lefthandpalm and - well - what do you really need to say about a man who makes Ed Balls seem decent and reasonable?

If I am not at all interested in Osborne, I am slightly more interested in Philpott, a creature of the underclass, but not, I feel, created by the benefits system.  From my Bargain Basement knowledge of Philpott's life, I think he is a narcissistic psychopath, and as such, his behaviour has nothing to do with the 'underclass' or the welfare state as such. With a better upbringing and education, Philpott would still have been an abuser and a tyrant. There are plenty of vile violent men with money, who terrorise their spouses and cause havoc and misery. And his total disregard for others or for the consequences of his actions would probably have seen him do very well in the banking world, or in Enron.

Obviously, the latter sort present themselves in a more socially acceptable manner, but can behave in as destructive and self-centred a manner as Philpott, just pursuing different means.  The still exploit and harm those around them without compunction, their ability to do harm, if anything, feeding their ego and sense of power.

Which brings me to my second point, the evil suggestion Osborne made that tragedies like this one and the general squalor of the underclass could be brought under control through a stricter social security regimen.

Well, George, bollocks.  Even when we are not talking about narcissistic psychopaths like Philpott, we are talking about people whose minds work in very different ways to the minds of, I don't know, millionaire heirs to wallpaper empires.  Hacking away at the welfare state will not stop the people affected from having children they can not afford. The world is full of people who gorge themselves on junk food until they become grossly overweight and sick; smoke cigarettes until they die; drink themselves into casualty every Friday night; have children they don't want even though they know how the process works and they have easy access to contraception. All these behaviours are known to have consequences but they are over-indulged anyway. Pizza satisfies a craving for salty high fat food, cigarettes sate the nicotine addiction, booze makes them feel happy and relaxed for a bit. Sex deals with the horniness.

The fact all these things can lead to undesirable consequences down the line doesn't figure in their thinking when they decide they need to eat, smoke, drink or fuck. And because they don't worry about consequences, they will fuck even if they can't remember if they took their pill this morning or if they don't have a condom.

The welfare state does not act as a stimulus to breeding, and reducing benefits will not encourage people to have fewer children. The way of thinking and acting described above evolves as a response to social circumstances, and is a perfectly rational in its own way - go for the short term benefits and pleasure, because there isn't any point planning for the long term; something will always turn up that screws up any plans. Equally, any long term consequences are something to worry about another day.

Even from the point of view of public finances, Osborne's implict message that money spent on benefits is money wasted is stupidly erroneous. What do you think scum like Philpott would be doing if he hadn't been drawing social security? He would have his legion of children out there pilfering, mugging and stealing. And sop would the scum fringe like him. And the costs to the rest of us would probably have been higher, because it costs more to put a policeman on the street or a man in jail than it does to hand a scum ball some money.

I have no pat solutions, but I do know that George Osborne's simplistic equation of degeneracy with the supposedly too generous welfare state is a dim shibboleth that will please the Daily Mail and - if followed through - increase misery and squalor.  After all, Osborne is the man who has managed to increase debt and deficit when he pledged to reduce it; and lead to Britain's credit rating being downgraded when he pledged to preserve it.  Wghy should we listen to his inane witterrings on social policy when he can not even master his own financial brief?

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