Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Oscar Wilde on the Poor

"We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives.

 Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table?

They should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it. As for being discontented, a man who would not be discontented with such surroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute. Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less. For a town or country labourer to practise thrift would be absolutely immoral.

 Man should not be ready to show that he can live like a badly-fed animal. He should decline to live like that, and should either steal or go on the rates, which is considered by many to be a form of stealing. As for begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer to take than to beg. No; a poor man who is ungrateful, unthrifty, discontented, and rebellious is probably a real personality, and has much in him. He is at any rate a healthy protest.

As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but one cannot possibly admire them. They have made private terms with the enemy and sold their birthright for very bad pottage. They must also be extraordinarily stupid. I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under these conditions to realise some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance".

The Leek Old and the Cold

It is bitterly cold and at such times it is too easy to be preoccupied with keeping warm: but the effects of the icy weather were bought home to me by a conversation I had with a friend in a Leek pub recently. He told me that a neighbour in his 80s kept warm by spending time wandering around a local supermarket so frightened was the old man at the prospects of running up a large energy bill that he was unable to pay.
I find such anecdotes appalling..
It beggars belief that in the early years of the 21st century that in one of the richest countries in the world that we are unable to keep our older citizens adequately warm. It should be the cause of a national outcry.
The cold can kill and in Britain we cull many people through our inadequate response to the winter weather. Last winter over 25,000 more people, the majority elderly, died in the winter months than in the summer, an increase of seven per cent on the previous year according to government data- and that was in a milder winter.
It is inevitable that the death toll will be higher this year as fuel costs have risen dramatically and more people are finding it harder to make ends meet. Gas costs have surged by 50 per cent in a year and electricity by a third, adding around £400 to annual bills. It is predicted that the winter will be a severe  one and those in poverty will be faced with a choice of eating or heating..
I will make a terrible prophecy that the newspapers will carry the news of the death of some elderly person in circumstances that could so easily be avoided. But it does not have to be so. Countries such as Canada and Sweden have far fewer hypothermia related deaths despite enduring harsher winters. What are they doing right that we are not?
 There is so much more energy companies and the Government could be doing: clear marking of electrical goods; pressuring the energy companies to reduce the prohibitive costs of pre payment meters; allowing people to pay bills at post offices again; and helping with winter bills now. Proper energy conservation measures like those in Germany and Sweden where all the housing stock will be adapted to low energy use should have begun years ago. A proper windfall tax with all the money being used to help the most in need would be a great help. Instead, all we have are measures that warm the pockets of the energy companies leaving the many householders of North Staffordshire who are in fuel poverty out in the cold.

Having a crack at the Mick in 1798


On Saturday 21st September a division of the South Lincs Militia commanded by Col Sibthorp arrived in this town on their route to Ireland.

Several of the principle residents of the town being apprized of their coming raised a very handsome subscription to furnish them with refreshments in the Swan Inn. On their arrival the whole town was illuminated, the whole town was illuminated, the bells rung and every mark of their attention was paid to the accommodation of these brave fellows. Colonel Sibthorp expressed his thanks to the inhabitants in the following note

Colonel Sibthorp in passing through Leek to Congleton, made acquaintance of the great kindness prepared to the division of the regiment in their route by many inhabitants of the town begs that they ever believe that he feels most grateful for the obligation and accepts his sincerest thanks for the honoured conferred on himself in the favour bestowed on his soldiers. NB: In 1798 a rebellion broke out in County Wexford, Ireland. England was also fearful of an invasion from Revolutionary France using Ireland as a base to launch an invasion.

Colonel Sibthorp MP was a man of uncompromising principles who confounded Queen Victoria, opposed all progress and took xenophobia to new heights.

Born in 1777 into an ancient and wealthy family of landowners, Sibthorp never really became known to the wider public until 1826, when he stood as a candidate in the Parliamentary elections for the constituency of Lincoln. Although a well-known figure locally, no-one had ever heard him offer an opinion on politics. At the first hustings, a large crowd were drawn to hear exactly what this flamboyant character had to say.
Unfortunately when his turn to speak came, Sibthorp was busy being unconscious, having been felled by a missile thrown from the crowd as he stood from his chair.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Slip Sliding on Derby St

I will get my retaliation in first and already I notice that a cartoon in the national press questions the concept of global warming in a time of plummeting temperatures. The shoppers who slip and slide on an icy Derby Street, like they did last year, will also question the orthodoxy of climate change. Who said that the planet is warming up?
However a few cold snaps or even heat waves do not prove anything about climate change, because people confuse the difference between weather, what we see though our windows, and climate the long term observable changes such as temperature or rainfall or airflows.
And as for the evidence that we are undergoing a major change in temperature
I heard on national radio that concentrations of the main greenhouse gases such as methane have reached their highest levels recorded since pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s 2009 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report also highlights concerns that global warming may lead to greater emissions of methane from Arctic areas and a more unpredictable climate. Certainly the earth is experiencing more frequent examples of extreme weather with examples ranging from West Africa, Pakistan and China in the last year.
I have always believed the scientific evidence that has built up over time but I also believe that even here in Leek we could make a difference. Insulating homes in the Moorlands and developing renewable energy sources could tackle fuel poverty, provide jobs and generate through the feed in tariff community resources. Self-interest alone could make it a viable path to follow.
The Canadian writer Margaret Attwood framed the problem in another way. The Earth will always endure and over millions of year has survived at least 6 mass extinction events, one over 320 million years ago destroyed over 90% of living creature and began the age of the dinosaur. No, the real threat is poised for humanity and unless we change the direction the future could be as slippery for mankind as the shoppers enduring the wintry pavements of Derby St