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Saturday, 7 March 2015

Crushing Unfairness?

If there is a person I would be tempted to envy, or feel a jealous compulsion, it could be for a certain Mrs Slade, Vice Chancellor of Bath University. The fact that there is one person above her, the Chancellor, a rather posh way of describing a college Principal, or if you like, a posh name for a headteacher, has given me the impression that the professor in second place in the boardroom is relieved of much of the responsibility of leading a major institution, for a post I most likely wouldn't say "No" to either. That is, she is granted £42,000 of taxpayers money each year to jet around the world to encourage foreign students to come into the UK to graduate at the historic city of Bath, famed for its natural hot springs, the remains of a Roman leisure centre and spa, and the modern Pump Room where the Spring water can be sampled. But what can either give me the gripes, or allow me to sit back and contemplate with a cheesy smile, is that £42,000 is almost four times my annual income as a self-employed window cleaner.

But it is the semantics which I find rather amusing. What she is claiming is Expense Allowances. This is the same as the scandalous expense allowances claimed by Members of Parliament over the years until someone blew the whistle in 2009, by leaking to a newspaper. This resulted in the rise of public anger and the following resignations of up to thirty MP's, including ours who sat at our Constituency. But where the issue of semantics comes in is that the taxpayers revenue is claimed by the likes of Mrs Slade and among MP's is known as Expense Allowances, which sounds perfectly legitimate, while someone like myself who is temporary out of work due to incapacity, what I claim (or attempting to claim) is Benefits, quite a different term which has a contemptuous air of scrounger, or even courting the possibility of being criminalised as a Benefit cheat. The fact is, benefit cheats of a noteworthy proportion of dishonesty are so rare, that when one is caught, he or she makes it into the national press, maybe even on TV bulletins or documentaries.

Never mind that Mrs Slade has to jet around the world to promote Bath University to potential foreign students, and causing me to wonder why there is such a shortage of British-born candidates - the point is why such differences in terminology over something which is essentially the same, yet reflect two entirely different cultures. Another example of this idiosyncratic wording is the difference between salary, earned by all white-collar office staff, and wages, earned by blue-collar, or manual workers. Aren't they both exactly the same sort of thing - money earned by satisfying an employer? Maybe we as a society is beginning to realise this semantic inconsistency by greater use of the universal term Income.

There are times when I don't know whether to laugh or cry, throw a tantrum or show pity. Thinking about all this brings me back to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, when thousands of entirely white British lined the banks of the Thames to watch the procession of boats sail down the river, which, according to one BBC journalist, the lack of presence of the ethnic minority shows that they don't see Her Maj as their queen. However, the pageantry was magnificent, yet ended with this choir of singers standing on the platform of one of the ships, getting thoroughly drenched in the torrential rain as they sang to the world their praises to the Queen.

Such British stoicism was, I think, was broadcast to the whole world. As was the wedding of the monarch's grandson, Prince William to Catherine Middleton just a year earlier. Then the birth of their son George was broadcast to the world as well. This has got me to ponder whether most on the global population know the names of members of the British Royal Family, yet here is some questions which only you as the reader may understand what I'm trying to say here, and they are:-
Does Spain have a monarch, and if so, who is he?
Who is the present royal couple of the Netherlands?
Who is the head of Saudi Arabia?
If Morocco has a King, who is he?
Easy wasn't it? Of course you knew all the answers! Footage of such foreign royal pageantry are thrown onto our screens fairly frequently, are they not? Maybe not as far as I remember. So what makes this nation so unique, so special? What is it about the UK which prompt not only us Brits to drop on our knees in adoration, but expect the rest of the world to follow suit? How is it that, I believe, the majority of Europe and the United States can rattle off not only the name of our Queen, but most if not all, her family members as well?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-monarchist at all, although I'm far from being a devout royalist. I know for sure that throughout the past six decades the Queen had done a magnificent job, and wholeheartedly kept to her duties. But what amazes me is that whenever an event or anniversary comes round, the pageantry which accompanies these times are grand enough for worldwide broadcast. Little wonder that overseas, as far as I can recall, we hear very little of King Felipe VI of Spain, King Willem and Queen Maxima Alexander of the Netherlands, or for that matter, Mohammed VI of Morocco, or King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Then of course, how can I forget to mention that Prince Charles, along with his sons William, his wife Catherine and Harry all have university degrees? And that after attending a top public school such as Eton.

Ah, education! The higher the education level, the better prospect of a higher income, a more fulfilled life - which leads to greater social respect. And as I recently discussed with my wife, if I had a high income profession, and then had to take three months off work due to a cardiac operation, I would have had no need to even think about benefits. In fact, I tend to see State handouts as somewhat demoralising. But the reason why they are necessary is because of a comparatively low income. Actually, what I normally earn from my business has always been adequate enough not only to to pay every bill, but enough to support both of us, as my wife does not work. On top of this, we were able to fly out to a foreign destination (mostly Greek islands) nearly every year, and overall, live quite comfortably. However, with Alex's mobility recently limited, our inability to travel abroad allowed me to save, and just as well, as the forthcoming cardiac procedure was not foreseen until a year later. I am one of the luckier ones. The processing of temporary benefits is a long, tedious saga of telephone calls, Internet search, form-filling and interviews. With no money coming in yet until the Doctor's certificate has been processed (which as been over a week since I sent it off) - I am fortunate enough to live off on what I already accumulated over the past months to ride over the crisis adequately.

And this, I believe, is where our English language differentiates between Expense Allowances and Benefits. Where the former sounds like something not only legitimate, but also honourable, yet there seems to be something degrading, ugly even, about benefits. Such a term, although still legitimate, still carries with it a sense of being a scrounger, workshy, one without a conscience finding delight in sponging off the State, to have hard-working taxpayers contributing to my welfare. But having said all that, it is a wonderful system to have in place for cases such as myself to hit upon a crisis, and meant to be a temporary cover until I return to work again.

Neither the Queen nor any member of the Royal Family will ever claim benefits. Neither will Members of Parliament will ever feel the need to claim benefits either, although I'm sure they will bicker on about expense allowances, as they still do to this day. Then I doubt that the vast majority of degree-holding professionals would ever feel the need to walk into the welfare office either, but some such as Mrs Slade, can travel the world, live a life of luxury among the cream of society on expense allowance, sustained by the taxpayer, therefore exactly like benefits, but carrying a posher name - while in the meantime, I struggle and wait endlessly for a positive response from the benefit office, while at the same time I perceive myself as a scrounger, and perhaps there are many out there who would see me in exactly the same way - a sponger - I can't help believing that life is grossly unfair.

Living in a country of which culture honours the rich, the well educated, the successful entrepreneur, as well as adoring the monarch to the state of being the national saviour - but holding contempt for someone who can't work for various reasons - does not reflect a Christ-like spirit, in my opinion. Reading the whole of the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament books of Exodus through to Deuteronomy, laws respecting the poor are emphasised, along with the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the Apostles. For someone who is wealthy, he has a wonderful opportunity to show benevolence to those who are struggling to make ends meet. Here I would like to quote the case of John D. Rockfeller:-

A hard-driving businessman, this American oil tycoon became the nation's first billionaire. He drove his workers so hard in order to make every profit possible, that he was hated by all who worked for him. However, as he grew richer his health began to wane, and by the age of fifty three, he could only eat crackers and milk. He looked so old that everyone thought that he could not live to see his next birthday. Then one night he had a vision. He realised that he would not take a single cent of his wealth into the next world. That's when he decided to give away his wealth to all those in need by pouring his money into the Rockfeller Foundation he had formed. As a result, universities, hospitals, missionaries, and millions of underprivileged people benefited, along with funds to deal with the greatest scourge which plagued the South - hookworm.

I believe that, despite its bad image, the welfare system is an act of compassion and mercy towards the needy. The only difference is that it comes from taxpayers, who are generally not keen to see their earnings go towards the needy, hence our present Government's commitment to reduce welfare and encourage the needy to find work, a policy which has become so detrimental to the physically incapacitated that a number of those with mobility limitations have committed suicide. Not because it was against their will to have a job, but rather because many firms and businesses did not want to employ them, leaving them in a dire financial situation, so according to one Tory newspaper journalist.

It is a tragic that over the decades, our nation had broadcast our adoration of the monarchy to the rest of the world, have maintained a class system which looks up to the wealthy, the well educated, and to the professionals with respect, showering them with praise, while allegorically giving the poor and needy, as well as the physically disabled a kick in the backside. Hence our Ministers does practically nothing to stem the culture of banker's bonuses, which can add up to a million pounds, while we see the rise of the food banks, possibly as a consequence of benefit cuts made to those who need them.

Yes, I'm proud to be British.


  1. Earthly monarchs will come and go, some adored, some hated, and many quickly forgotten. But the King of Kins will rule forever, and the benefits He gives us last throughout eternity!
    Thanks for the great post! God bless,

  2. I see no need to feel a 'scrounger' Frank when a person has paid into the pot. My husband and myself both worked hard for most of our working lives, and when my husband suffered a stroke I felt absolutely that he was entitled to the benefits that he received through paying his national insurance every week. I believe that everyone should have to pay in for a certain amount of years before they are entitled to claim. The rules of the insurance do not seem to be fair.

  3. I find it interesting that God's plan was always directed at the individuals in both the Old and New Testaments, with the church as a unit only taking responsibility for those who met certain qualifications. The more we abdicate our responsibility, allowing others to determine who will be helped, the more perverted and inefficient the system becomes at helping those who are truly in need.