I’m still basking in the aceness of what happened at the weekend – see the last post – but that doesn’t mean I can’t express annoyance at stuff. I’d love to bask in the loveliness that is raising an astonishing £700 on a single night without recourse to muggings, but bah! I’ve got an hour free on a laptop, feel my spleen.
There is a running joke regarding Beeston’s surfeit of charity shops. This is seen as a mark of a town in decline. I can run with that argument for a moment: they might dent the coffers of the local trades-people, but only at a minimal level; surely a bit of competition is healthy?
What they do actually do is worth examining. While we are still gripped by a recession lorded over by a bunch who seem intent of snubbing out every financial flammable flicker of hope, they are saviours. Not just on the work they do, which can be hard to apply on a locale-by-locale basis, as most are centralised; but on an aesthetic level. An empty shop is seldom a pretty shop – i’d bang on about the scandal that is Wilkos still standing long after the April demolition order, but I’ll save that for later – so charity shops lend the High Street a sense of life, and this, above all, generates footfall for other businesses. You get rid of your excess clutter, people get to enhance their CVs with working there, the High Street is invigorated. Its win win win, with an extra couple of wins tacked on when you consider the good the money raised does; and the fact that Jeremy Clarkson books have to go somewhere to die.
Recession also brings forth another retailer. Like a swarm of vultures over a desert-dried corpse, it’s often subtle and silent. Yet they are here to infect, poison and ruin. Welcome to the world of Uncouth Usury.
You know who I mean. Those who offer ‘Cash For Gold’. Those who offer cheques ‘Cashed Today!’. Those who demand you come in, take a stupidly expensive loan out, with the same oleaginous charm of a crack dealer luring people in. Beeston is proliferate with these vermin. Why?
A recession, which we are most firmly locked into right now, may cut destructive swathes through the economy on most levels but never more so than the poor. The banks withdraw not just loans and overdrafts in recession, but even basic current accounts, and here the parasites move in.
These shops are testament to this, and we should picket these places with all our might, but it’s no way the real pit of scumminess.
That lies in a coalition between two powers that have been accelerating in their emergence since the crunch of 2008. Step forward the Governing Right Wing; and the PayDay loaners: hello Wonga.com, and your scuzzy ilk.
In April, legislation will come in which will damage the financially vulnerable while profiting the ethic-free with a set of policies that, after chatting to people of all political stripes that keep an eye on this sort of thing, utterly terrifying.
That month will see the birth of Universal Credit, long gestated in the fetid abdomen of Ian Duncan-Smith and cooed over, rather than being carted off to the abortion clinic by a castrated Lib Dem partner.
There are many elements why this is insidious legislation, so let’s be focussed. And stare through the cloudy half-moons of our bifocals at Housing Benefit. If you’re reading this before a perm; or while forcing down crusts of bread, desist: this will make your hair curl.
In April, all benefits will be bundled together and paid directly to the recipient. ‘Great!’ you cry, ‘Give them financial responsibility!’, which is all well and good until you consider a few things. So do so.
How are your finances after payday. Do you carefully budget for the month, ensuring that you live a level lifestyle throughout? Or do you allow an intoxication of moolah upfront, repenting at leisure in the last week with an increase in frequency of meals composed of beans/ toast; rather than caviar/foccacia?
Then consider this. We’re all weak to advertising: yes, you included, you only are reading this blog through someone saying you should; and in a consumerist society you’re going to be bombarded with stuff you SIMPLY MUST HAVE. It’s difficult to negotiate even if you have an income – I know I’m not alone in thinking I’m deprived in some way in the fact I have no iPod, Kindle and am tapping this out on a borrowed laptop – so imagine what it’s like if poor.
Wonga.com; and the rest of the exploitative crowd do. All the time. They have a direct line jacked into the most easily exploited and intend to use the information to extract whatever they can. Loans are thus offered well in excess of 1,000% with the knowledge that hey, they’ll have money soon.
When I was on the dole, I prioritised debts. I’d work out the APR, couple it with the likelihood I’d be less a kneecap by the end of the week, and distribute thus. If I’d had a debt that was racking up three times it’s capital each day, as opposed to a landlord that can’t legally rack up interest: most social tenants, fr’instance; and it’s obvious who wins.
Thus, social housing collapses, Wonga.com etc swell up their coffers to an obscene amount and we all wonder how the fuck it happened. My advice is to invest in cardboard. It’s the new housing.