Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Jellybyism- a middle class disorder


Charles Dickens, whose bi-centenary falls next February, created the character Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House a character so obsessed with helping the poor of Africa that she is neglectful of her own family and own community. "Jellybyism" is alive and well in Leek in 2011 as an exchange I witnessed the other day proved


I occasionally attend a Tuesday night discussion held in the Blue Mugge. It’s usually very interesting although on this night the atmosphere was particularly charged. We were discussing "Marxism" and someone mentioning modern poverty said that it did not exist locally. As proof he cited the sale of champagne in a local supermarket as an indicator of affluence. Some one else agreed with him giving as an example of time he had spent in South Africa where real poverty did exist.
 
But is poverty in Leek easier to bear in 2011 with a welfare state than poverty in Johannesburg? Well, poverty is poverty wherever its experienced. And having no money or support in whatever society is a bitter thing to bear. The only thing that makes it possibly easier to bear is the existence of social support networks and the make do and mend skills needed to survive. If that is the criteria then who is better placed a member of an extended family in a Joburg township or a isolated pensioner shivering and lonely on a wintry council estate? The number of deaths from hypothermia nationally around 25,000 would suggest a problem.

Beside I know that there are people experiencing hardship in Leek now. I witnessed an example the other day when I was on an organised walk in the town centre. A homeless man sleeping in the churchyard approached the group, as he did not want to scare people. He told me of his predicament and that he was grateful to the Church for allowing him to sleep there. So to answer the modern day " Jellyby" the availability of cheap champagne suggests a restricted social awareness and yes poverty and hardship is out there