Get a job, you lazy scrounger, you shouldn’t have had kids if you can’t afford them. Hard working tax payers like me shouldn’t have to fund your lifestyle coining it in on benefits. Get on your bike and look for work. Your kids don’t need you at home every day, no matter how young they are, get yourself a job and if you can’t afford the childcare just give them a key to the door, that’s what they had to do back in the days before all these nanny state handouts.
I sat down yesterday with a vague idea about writing something about the forthcoming cuts to tax credits for low paid workers. But after just half an hour reading some online news reports on the issue, and more specifically the below-the-line comments on them, I came away feeling sick at the amount of comments like those above.
You may think they have a point. But funnily enough, the ‘get on your bike’ advice doesn’t seem to apply to those born outside the UK. We’d prefer foreigners not to have bikes at all, or at least not ones that will get them past their own borders. The below-the-line message for immigrants and asylum seekers is more like:
Oh, but just make sure you don’t go too far looking for work. I don’t care if there’s no work in your own country, or the work that you love or the person that you love happens to be in my country, not yours. I don’t care if there’s terrorism, homophobia, religious intolerance, no democracy or even all-out war in your country, don’t you dare come over here, taking our jobs and our houses and using our schools and hospitals. If the desire to work and get on is going to inspire you to actually cross international borders, then frankly, we’d prefer you to just, you know, stay quietly where you are. It will, of course, be a real shame if/ when the bombs fall on your street. But we’ll do that shoebox appeal at Christmas and send you some toothpaste. Better that than too many foreign takeaways filling up the empty units on the high street here.
There are people out there who I’m sure, hate me and my lifestyle choices and my friends and neighbours. The choice I made to work part time because health problems in my family mean I need to be around more for them = work-shy scrounger. The fact that those health problems are not immediately, conveniently visible like having a limb missing = fantasy modern illnesses. Choosing to have a second child not knowing whether or not my job was secure for the rest of my life = irresponsible expectation that the state will provide. The friends and members of my family who live in the UK despite not having been born here = an unwanted swarm eating away at the fabric of our culture.
Where did all this hate come from? It feels like it’s getting more and more acceptable to hold and express opinions like this. I don’t think the blame can be placed entirely at the door of the Conservative government’s ‘divide and rule’ strategy of encouraging the “hard working tax payer” to see anyone needy or vulnerable as an enemy, as I remember this trend emerging throughout the Labour years. Equally it’s not entirely down to the internet – although people are certainly more comfortable slagging off a stranger’s lifestyle choices via their keyboard than they would be face to face. Has it always been prevalent? Do we just need an enemy? Where our grandparents had the Nazis, and our parents had the Soviets, in the absence of any clearly defined national threat to defend ourselves against have we just resorted to hating anyone worse off than ourselves? Are we, in effect, just doing this?