Sunday, 07 October 2012

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The language of povertyism It seems to me that some of the language of political discourse is getting more and more dangerously partial. Of course, there's the usual propensity for manifest misrepresentation - the most exquisite example being Cameron's remark yesterday that - wait for it - 'it’s us, the modern compassionate Conservative party, who are the real champions of fighting poverty in Britain today.' (Source, at 12.16) You can take that as laughable or baroque or insulting, or all three and more, but it's so far from being a sensible reflection of the policies he is promoting that no-one's going to be too affected by it. There's more serious, nasty abuse of language going on though. I particularly dislike the determined repetition of the phrase 'hard-working people' as if they are the only folk worthy of a government's attention. I pointed this out a few weeks ago and the number of mentions seems to keep increasing as the government seeks to justify the detachment of state support from those who do not have work. If you've ever had a period of unemployment, you'll have a keen sense of just how insulting and degrading this attitude is. Norman Tebbitt achieved a comparable effect back in the 1980s with his line about how his father got on his bike and went looking for work. (So is that the end of the state's responsibility then? we all asked). It's divisive and in the long term pointlessly damaging. Once again we are being offered persistently a language that constructs poverty as the fault of individuals, thereby implying that the state is absolved of the responsibility to provide opportunity or support for them. All of which is underpinned by an economic policy, such as it is, which is widely derided as misguided at best. What good can come of this? Previously: It's the povertyism, stupid

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