This Christmas, I was sitting with my wife and her mother, and we were forcing food into ourselves. We’d eaten a lot of turkey, and still had to get through all the cheese we’d bought. After spending weeks yearning for chipolatas wrapped in bacon we found them to be an encumbrance to well-being and happiness. The tree was twinkling and the fire was going and it couldn’t have been more Christmassy, but none of it was right, because we were chomping through it with bovine-eyed duty, in a farting fug of too much. 88% of the world doesn’t have the basic requirements of food, shelter, clean water, clothes, fuel or heating. And it wasn’t that I was feeling guilty – this isn’t a Christmas guilt post, never fear – but rather for the very first time I realised that I am rich.
It was a massive revelation. Not the terrible, starving lack in the rest of the world – that’s been obvious to me since I was old enough to watch the news. But I didn’t feel like I could do anything about it, because I knew that I was also poor. How did I know I was poor? Because I am surrounded by media which is constantly telling me I am.
Why? Why would a government and its media collude to tell its population that it doesn’t have enough, that it must strive for more acquisition, that it must get itself into debt?
I’ve got a couple of ideas.
1: Money is power.
2: Poor people have no power.
A population which believes itself to be powerless will not protest, and will vote to put power in the hands of people who are rich enough to protect them.
My family was poor for many years and as I child I understood poverty very well, and the shame that goes with it. There was hopelessness, embarrassment, and outbursts of violence. I am in a very lucky position now, in a different part of the world. There is a world of difference between having only one pair of underwear and this faux poverty I am in now. The minimum of a roof over my head and a partner who loves me and all the underpants I want and too many sausages at Christmas and presents I will never need.
I wonder how many people are, like me, in a mind-set of poverty which is in material fact illusory? What if we realised that we are rich? That we do have power? Would we spend our time differently, vote differently, and interact with the world differently?
There are loads of people I could have gone to help this Christmas, but I didn’t. I sat munching food as though I actually needed it for winter fat.
I’m not thinking about giving away everything I have. I’m so pleased to have things. I still hoard underpants. But I don’t want to be over-stuffed any more. We all have the power to move worlds. We really do. And we could probably start by deconstructing some of the structures which hold us in this docile, fat-chewing position.
In other Christmas news, I went to a wedding with Lizzie, and told the man I was sitting next to that I was going to beat him to death with his own spoon.