Live Poor, Die Young...
I haven't written here for a little while. I kinda lost interest in writing for a while, not because I didn't want to write but because life has a habit of kicking us in the teeth from time to time, often when we are sailing high and feeling life couldn't be better.
Of course for many of us we know life could be better but if,like me you are poor and you work hard for what you can get, you'll know people like us make the most of what we have. We're grateful for the little things in life like good health, a sharp brain (yes even the poorest of us can be super intelligent despite our schooling and the constant keep 'em too dumb to think curriculum the government direct) and a positive attitude to life again no matter how hard society makes it.
My grandfather, with his poor chest due to being mustard gassed in WW1, and one leg shorter than the other due to numerous war injuries that should have killed him, was a jack of all trades and master of none and eked a living after the war doing whatever he had to to pay for his kids and provide a stable home for them. He would have coughing fits just getting to his feet yet that man was the most cheerful human being I have ever known.
The salt of the earth working class hero that he was must have rubbed off on me because I am so much like him. I'm 7" taller than he ever was but when I look in the mirror as I get older I see him staring back at me and given my persona of positivity, that makes me mighty proud.
Given all that though, as I started this piece, life has a habit of trying to knock out your teeth when you're feeling on top of the world - and my kick in the teeth came a month ago when I was told my sister had suffered a heart attack!
Christine Sylvia Wells my little sister was a tiny lady, just 47 with that same positive outlook that I and our Grandad are best known for. Chrissie as we all knew her did not, as it turned out have a heart attack, it was an aneurism on her brain, a bleed so bad and so catastrophic she would have known nothing about it and was surely dead before she hit the ground.
The thing is Chrissie worked three jobs, took on more responsibility than her pay cheque warranted and worked seven days a week and five evenings, and when Mum spoke to her the Friday before she died, Chrissie was in the process of trying to find another part time job to fill in her two free evenings each week.
Chrissie had three children, the youngest a promising football talent who has trained with the Arsenal youth team, but because of the geographics now trains with Bournemouth FC youth team and is now sixteen. She mostly brought up her children alone whilst working. Her work ethic has always been the sort this present Government tell us it should be.
If you ain't earning enough don't demand better wages, just work more hours, is what this lot of rich privileged Conservative MP's tell us, trouble is for Chrissie she only had two evenings a week off, and her sleep time, which wasn't what it should have been. We are told we should have the barest minimum of six hours a sleep in each twenty four to stay healthy, Chrissie rarely got that. Often her work meant driving long hours after working long hours, for example every year she would tow a van down to the Glastonbury Festival and sell burgers.....anyone who has been to Glastonbury will know how long those vans stay open, and when she did close would drive back to her Dorset council home for a few hours sleep before heading back early the next morning.
She didn't own the van, she just worked for a man who did, and received minimum wage for doing it, but such was her reliability and honesty she was never in danger of losing her job, a job that she really did enjoy largely due to the fact she did festivals like Glastonbury and got to see some amazing artists live. I so envied that side of her work.
Chrissie did everything she could to give her kids all they needed in life to get by, she taught them right from wrong and somehow found enough time to let them feel loved and important, and they never wanted for anything because if they had to have it Chrissie worked hard to get it for them.
Then one Sunday when she should have been able to relax, as most wealthy people do on a Sunday, and as we were once able to do in my grandfathers day, she was making herself a cup of tea at work when she dropped down dead at the age of just 47.
Now one might argue it's just 'one of those things', and maybe it was, maybe! However maybe it wasn't just one of those things, maybe if she hadn't worked so many hours a week, maybe if she had seven nights of six to eight hours sleep a week and maybe if she had two days off a week she might not have dropped down dead at the age of 47.
Because a vein in her brain went pop and drowned that vital organ of life which stopped her other organs including her heart from working. I have been searching the net for why the poor die younger than the rich...... How many hardworking poor people are killed by working too many hours......and guess what? There are no real statistics, other than on average poor people have a life expectancy ten years less than the wealthy and the signs are the gap is widening.
In France it seems the gap has widened by a year in the last decade, and in the same time in England by six months. That's only in England mind, it seems, although the information and accurate statistics are not there or hard to find, in Scotland the gap between rich and poor could be even higher. The blame being set on harder drinking and more smoking amongst the most deprived, therefore concluding that deprivation and poverty are part of the problem.
There are no statistics that working too many hours without enough rest, at least that I can find, that link early death either. However, you don't have to look too hard to see there is enough suggestion that there is a belief that keeping people poor on low wages, and forcing them to work longer hours to try to keep themselves from tipping over the edge and ending up in debt that could lose them their homes, and at the same time pushing back the retirement age so pensions are paid later, is an ideology based on the poor dying sooner in Government policy.
We know that stress causes health issues, so alongside working longer on low wages and the physical stress, there is the added mental stress of the cost of living and managing on whatever we manage to earn. It seems that the more my sister worked, with the cost of living always rising faster than any rise she managed in her earnings, it just didn't pay because she never stopped struggling to make her wages stretch far enough.
So let's come back to pushing back the pension age and keeping wages low. Let's face it, for all the government's heralding and chest beating about the New National Living Wage (which, let's be honest, was just a rise on the minimum wage introduced by Labour under Blair rebranded) this is not a true living wage.
We know that it isn't really what is needed to live comfortably as in being able to pay the bills, living and eating healthily and still afford some quality time for family and leisure. They know full well that £7.20 falls short of the real cost of living because the Lords stopped Osborne's planned Working Tax Credit cuts when the national living wage was came into force.
I read and hear how out of touch this government is, and I have used this statement myself too many times than I care to remember, but I won't be saying it again because make no mistake, they're not out of touch with the poor.
Okay they have no idea what it is to be poor, have no idea what it is to worry about how to afford the rent or fill the cupboards with food, these things they can afford without a worry. Make no mistake, if they say the salary of an MP is not enough, if they say they need a raise because they are struggling to get by - then they know that someone on a fraction of their salary must be really struggling to exist.
If you're earning £75,000 a year or more and seriously finding it a struggle then how much more of a struggle is it for someone on £25,000 or £16,000 or as low as £11,000 a year. These are supposedly intelligent people leading our country, they are the policy makers and there is no way I will ever excuse them, if excuse them is ever what I was doing when I agreed they were out of touch with how we live our lives.
Trust me they are not out of touch - they know exactly what they are doing to us, the poor and the struggling. Keep us down and in debt, keep us needing to keep our jobs so we can pay our bills and we can't think about rising up, or about the power that we really have to rid ourselves of them.
Not for one minute do I doubt this idea of the government and their establishment paymasters seeing Live Poor and Die Young as a policy. The idea being the state pays its pittance of a state pension to those who paid into the system for a shorter time or not at all. The trouble is that it's flawed, and may actually not save money, and in the end will almost certainly cost more.
Let's take a police officer reaching a certain age where he/she can no longer work on the frontline - they can take a desk job and continue working right up to the new pension age. But what of a building labourer or even a skilled bricklayer, when having worked all their lives reach say 55 and their physical health no longer allows them to continue? There is no desk job for them. They are not eligible for state pension, so it's disability or incapacity payments until pension age, which will cost far more than pensions given that our pensioners receive among the lowest in Europe - and in the fifth richest economy in the world that's some going.
The Government claim they have been trying to address this gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor but my research pretty much indicates that they continually fail because they set the blame at the door of the NHS. They do not have a 'happier workforce paid better wages and given proper leisure time' policy, there is nowhere in their thinking the idea that a healthier happier workforce will increase well being and healthier longer living.
In my grandfathers day weekends were time off for family or a trip to watch their favourite football team, a much more affordable pastime then compared to today. My father was a soldier and most weekends he was home and trips out as a family were commonplace. Statistics show that after WW2 life expectancy rose even among the poor with better homes, better jobs and working conditions and time off for family and leisure, but as corporations have grown and their greed increased, wages in real terms have fallen.
It has been said that we have seen the biggest fall in income over the last ten years than since the end of WW2 - even the mainstream media are currently talking about this as being fact. The New National Living Wage has seen loyal long term workers lose out, with companies cutting back double time to time and a half for weekend work and working Bank Holidays, to apparently pay for the new £7.20 per hour rate - in order to keep those massive profits growing for the share holders and the CEO bonuses.
Even with the retention of Working Tax Credits workers have little time off for family, and a day out for even a small family now is beyond most low paid workers when they do get time off. At the end of the day we know as fact that the poor have a lower life expectancy, we know there are many contributing factors like stress and poor diet.
When all a family can afford after the essential bills like rent, utilities, tax, ever rising council taxes and so forth is next to nothing, processed food is the only option. Less family time means the poor no longer teach their children the art of cooking wholesome foods, instead they go for ready meals which are less healthy. We know that the constant worry about falling into debt and meeting everyday costs causes stress, sleepless nights and take a toll on our physical health. A lack of leisure time we know too is unhealthy, and lack of sleep can be a killer, increasing stress levels both physical and mentally.
Yes I have seen plenty of media coverage where the poor are accused of smoking and drinking too much - and yes some do - but many more cannot afford to do either. We know that picking up on the few who do is used by those in power to explain much away, we need look no further than the benefit porn on mainstream tv to see how they use the worse case scenarios to taint all who need the safety net of the welfare system, and aid the government in its divide and rule ideology that keeps us from uniting and rising up.
Now I can't find the statistics to show how many people die because they work too many hours with too little sleep, but I have no doubt my baby sister Chrissie died prematurely through the stresses of long hours and hard work whilst juggling home life and bringing up three well behaved children as a single mum.
Paying those bills and trying to find more work as the government tell us we must do if we want to succeed - whilst they are allowing wages in real terms to decrease and, skimming whatever they can off the top of the poorest to fatten the bank balances of those who already have more than they can ever hope to spend - that is the biggest factor in the poor living at least ten years less than the rich.
It's not the fault of the NHS or the fault of the poor apparently making poor life choices, it is the fault of the Government serving the wealthiest, making policies and following an ideology of keeping the poorest poor and making their lives as hard as possible, so that when they are past their use by date they do not hang around long enough to cost the state in pension payments.
A system was set in place to take care of them when workers retired, they paid into a system that was supposed to provide them with a comfortable and enjoyable retirement in their final years - a system that successive governments have abused and failed to set money aside to pay for.
Rest In Peace Chrissie. Someday the people may rise up and end this sick ideology and people will be properly valued in their final years. You'll be missed but our love will last until our final days.