Thursday, 16 November 2017

Financial Times goes on poverty safari


My absolute pet hate in media is poverty safaris where hacks making a name for themselves venture out into the wilds of Northern England to see how the natives live. This latest effort from the FT is a singularly awful example where Sarah O'Connor ventures to Blackpool.

The reason I hate the genre is because it's exploitative. It tells us nothing we don't know, it's derivative and its only function is to secure the praise of other hacks inside the closed loop of London media circles. More to the point, we have been here before. Depression and joblessness in the regions is epidemic and has been for some time. This stuff is easy to write, cheap to produce and it adds nothing.

What puzzles me is why any of this is a mystery to our gifted class of pundits. If you are rotting without a job, on benefits, and stuck in the arse end of nowhere one might expect some difficulty in maintaining one's mental health.

In this instance we are talking about Blackpool but could just as easily be the Welsh Valleys. Places whose primary function is long redundant. Modernity killed the mines and the airline killed the seaside resort. The jobs came and then the jobs went. And they are not coming back.

So why would you have a welfare policy that pays people to stay in a place where there are no jobs? Furthermore why are GPs throwing antidepressants at patients on demand? Simply because GPs are not in the habit of saying no and mental health nurse practitioners hand them out like smarties.

Moreover, patients don't like to be told that their condition requires some maintenance work on their part - and that there is more to recovery than simply popping a pill - which is largely rendered inert since drugs and alcohol also involved. Not least habitual use of cannabis which for some is a major cause of mental disorder. It can be an extremely mentally invasive drug leading to psychotic episodes.

As much as anything recovery from depression is about breaking the habit of depression - forcing yourself to do things whether you feel up to it or not. Too often people make excuses for themselves and it is politically incorrect in our therapeutic age to call bullshit on it. The very last thing we should do is park people on incapacity benefit because that is a sure fire way of making it a permanent condition.

Moreover, depression then becomes a golden ticket to avoid taking up responsibilities and once word gets round, entire towns are diagnosed with it. It doesn't take Sherlock fucking Holmes to work out why there are high concentrations in these welfare slums.

For adult males of a working age the best prescription is a dose of "shut the fuck up, get on a bus to the city, find a spare room on the internet, and get a fucking job". The first month you will feel cold, vulnerable, miserable, despondent, bleak even. And then a pay cheque arrives. And then you can buy a few nice things.

Then, a month later, another pay cheque arrives and you are on your way to a having a deposit for a more substantial let. Six months later, you have a routine, an income, a secure place and you're not in fucking Blackpool. A year later you might even have a job that doesn't suck. You might still have depression but you will manage it better.

But no. Such a diagnosis is out of place in the era of the snowflake. It's not the job of men to go and find work and be men. It is our role to be victims and wait to be saved by government regeneration schemes. Meanwhile, we are told there is nothing we can do to help ourselves and pulling the duvet over our heads and popping another pill is all we can do until a job falls out of the sky.

Now I am not unsympathetic to depression. I know what it's like. I am a depressive nihilist myself. When I hit the rocks I hit them hard. But I know you have two choices. You can sink or you can swim. It is a choice. You can keep buggering on or you can guzzle down a bottle of something and throw yourself a massive pity party. I've done the latter once or twice and clawing your way out of it is not easy. It takes work. Self-pity is a very potent drug.

Punching through that motivational barrier when you really don't care if the universe implodes is the discipline you have to develop. Right now it's 15:37, and it's almost dark outside. I can feel the last of my neurotransmitters bleeding away and in an hour or so I will be in a state of catatonic despondency. It's typical for this time of year. I've had to develop management strategies for it because otherwise I will find myself back on my arse again.

And you know something? I don't live in Bristol because I like the local cuisine. I came here because I knew there would be work after failing to find work in another derelict seaside town. I did rough it. It wasn't fun. Except for the bits that were. This is why I can vote for Brexit because if I need to do it again I can and I will. That is self-knowledge born from experience.

This is why I also don't care about the economic impact of Brexit quite so much as the handwringers do - because I know that Brexit will force cuts and it will force tough choices - and it will shatter the status quo that leads to these welfare ghettos. We won't have £24bn to spend on housing benefit.

Britain needs to grow up. There are no answers when it comes to Blackpool and Blackwood. These places are long dead and no central state planning is ever going to restore them to their former glory. A regeneration scheme here or there is not going to change the fortunes of their miserable residents. Only a better life can do that and a better life is something you have to work at.

For this, and so many other emerging issues, the politicians don't have any answers. They don't have the courage to make the cuts or seriously examine the viability of our creaking welfare state. For as long as politicians are held hostage to generation snowflake there will never be a reappraisal of our command and control economy - and for as long as we treat adults like entitled children they will go on behaving like entitled children.

Since the politicians won't act, Brexit will force the issue. This is a long time coming - and though there will be pain, nothing good can come from leaving things as they are. Brexit cannot come soon enough. We have exhausted the possibilities of the current political settlement and if the cold reality of Blackpool is this far beyond the grasp of the Westminster bubble then it's a wake up call we are badly in need of.

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