The word is being used to such a great extent these days that I started thinking about it in the round. It is misused at every turn. When they talk about the poor, it can mean anything, or indeed nothing, because the relationship has to be stated to have relevance, and this is often the stumbling block.
The current financial squeeze will not be over for quite a time, so inevitably peoples’ savings, possibly their jobs, and even their homes will be, if not sacrificed, diminished in some way, and while not poor in the true accepted sense, their lifestyle will unhappily revert to the one that, in the 30s we would have said, we enjoyed. Unfortunately, the downsizing will be grossly unwelcome, hard to accept, and will in some cases lead to psychological problems.
Poverty, sometimes, can be a state of mind, it is certainly relative.. Some people are really poor. Over several periods in my life I have dropped into that category, where others in our extended family, not the state, had to help support my mother and me, or me and mine. In the 30 it was more than once as a result of family break-up, and post war when I left the Navy and was unemployed, or at university living on a grant of £210 a year to support a wife and two children. In those conditions every penny spent detracts from the ability to buy something else, and to me, this is the true condition known as poor. A lot of the Poor suffer from pride, and especially the elderly, and will do everything they can to avoid being classed as such, almost certainly to their own disadvantage. From the time of the Industrial Revolution, until the late 30s the factory workers, farm labourers, the lower orders of the armed forces, and others, were often very poor, but would have resented being classed as such. The one thing they had was security of tenure, they had a job for life, and might live, from when they were born until they died, from hand to mouth, but they did not feel denied because their aspirations were so parochial. When we were poor, a lot of our friends had a better style of living, but I don’t remember that we envied them, or strove to emulate them, we were too busy with life itself and its problems, and we accepted that it was impossible in our condition. We budgeted both financially and mentally for the horizons that were possible.
The years of affluence that we have enjoyed have changed our outlook, with the throwaway society, the buy now and pay later philosophy, where some enjoyed, what my grandmother would have said was a condition above their station, and there were phrases from the politicians convincing us not only that we have never had it so good, but that It was here to stay. This sudden reversal of our fortunes, will have serious effects on many. One of the problems is that we have become used to a nanny state, where everything is done for us, and we have stopped looking over our shoulder. Unfortunately legislation has moved on, with the result, that unlike the labourers in the Victorian era, every year a large number of us are now legislated out of the security that our forebears enjoyed, and we have also lost that self-sufficiency in many cases, to think for ourselves. Otherwise the stripping of the world’s assets by a greedy few would have been assessed almost as soon as it happened