Food banks, the result of ‘existential’ terrorism.
What does walking inside one feel like for the first time?
In a classic inanity only a politician can coin, an MP suggests food banks are a sign of a ‘caring society’. Presumably, he conceived that slogan when enjoying afternoon tea at London’s Hotel Café Royal, or lunch at the Dorchester. “Britain is doing well,” avers chancellor George Osborne without an inkling he is aware of the brutal irony.
As a youngster my guardian lived through two world wars and was certain man’s inveterate capacity for aggression would lead to a third. (She was wrong only in the number of wars greater than the Second World War.) Prepared for the worst she still had a few books of food coupons in a top drawer in case life regressed. She could remember the first appearance of bananas in Rankin’s the greengrocer and the stir they caused when word went around.
What my guardian would make of today’s food banks is another matter. What she might have thought of a secretary of state opening a food bank with a hearty smile and a glib speech doesn’t bear scrutiny.
Had she lived to this age she most certainly would be shocked at the sight of food ‘banks’ in the high street, let alone the plethora of charity shops. She and thousands of others had fought for equality and watched the result of blood sacrifice and heroism gradually form itself into a peace that brought a greater range and choice of everything, but above all nourishing food imported from around the world.
The good old days
When a street urchin in shorts I don’t recall much food on the table. Meal content was meagre, potatoes with everything. Exotic items, such as the oriental persimmon, were unknown, polenta possibly an Italian name for a girl. A pineapple was an awesome luxury and very expensive. If you saw a pineapple in a grocery window you stood in wonder. Salads were a treat, lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes if in season the only ingredients. I ate lots of homemade soup, from broth to oxtail, Campbell’s Tomato in between.
There was a wine and spirits merchant in the district for wealthy folks and those who knew their ales and stouts, visited for a bottle of sherry if you were celebrating something, or with a few shillings saved for a Babycham for my tea-total guardian, a drink she only ever took to when feeling risqué and frisky. Everything else was fiendishly expensive. For birthdays ice-cream came in cardboard packed squares, frozen fraud, 60% of it air, 10% water. The ‘cream’ element might well have failed the Trade Description’s Act.
School meals were cheap if basic fare, and milk a third of a pint free for play-time, break-time if you attended a private school. When food at home was short – there was never any excess, or a fridge to raid – I was sent on a long walk to the plangent furrowed fields of East Lothian to steal turnips or carrots from the acre’s edge, a cabbage or two difficult to hide under a skimpy jacket.
Free food without getting collared by the local Bobby included brambles from hedgerows, wild raspberries, and mushrooms chosen very carefully. On day of days a visit to Burton’s factory secured a bag of broken biscuits swept from the floor under the conveyor belt.
School dinner left-overs
A feast arrived in the shape of my guardian’s elder sister, Winnie, to collect food she had gathered, but not from hedgerows. She was a school dinner lady.
Twice a month she brought home large Kilner jars full of mince, or custard, left-overs from the servings of Edinburgh’s needy children. The heavy storage jars sealed with a rubber gasket and metal hoop were placed gingerly in canvas bags and slung over either shoulder, food for at least three days, good days.
Alas, or perhaps luckily, no fried chips were served when I was at school only mashed or boiled potatoes. There were few if any fat children.
I went hungry many a day but never starved.
Then things got better, a lot better, until food stores were more numerous than buses, stores on every corner and mart selling over twenty kinds of tinned beans, and thirty types of breakfast cereal. Life was full of plenty. That was then, this is now.
Last year a supervisor in a food bank in Glasgow told the tale of watching a slim, poorly dressed woman hovering around soup and bean shelves. Hesitant, she lifted one can up at a time to inspect it, turning it over in her hands, only to replace it back on the shelf. Was she checking the ingredients? Then she found one with a pull tab. She opened it instantly, and using her fingers as a spoon, scooped handfuls of baked beans straight to her mouth.
Which century are we in?
Here we are in the 21st century, surrounded by people of unaccountable wealth, and we are opening food banks as if tie and sock shops. People are starving.
What bourgeois, sensitive to the stigma of charity, named them a ‘bank’? Bank is a word meant to conjure a place of reassuring wealth, a safe place to keep your money. A food bank exists because the poor have no money.
As society grows more and more decadent, the masses poorer and poorer, words are corrupted to mean the opposite. They are used to confuse so that a majority, 55%, solemnly vote against their country’s interests. Banks stole our nation’s wealth. They caused the poverty we endure now. Food ‘banks’ are one step away from soup kitchens.
Did the people who voted No to Scotland’s progress realise they were voting for empty shops to become food banks proliferating their ‘better together’ union? Do they understand Westminster’s political manipulators are engaged in a terrifying ideological shift of government responsibility onto failing charities, another example of repressive neo-liberal inequality on the march?
If they did they are complicit in making the poor suffer.
Free food from food banks, restricted to a certain amount per week, is not ‘something for nothing’. It is a token reward given for surviving poverty a few days more. Meanwhile the rich as Croesus get on with the job of unfettered greed and envy.
Decadence is everywhere.
It is J. K. Rowling-Init paying seven tree surgeons and a cherry picker driver a week’s fees to have her castle ramparts of a hedge trimmed, in addition to the hire of traffic lights and cones. Rich others buy cars costing over a hundred thousand pounds and think nothing of losing a quarter of the value driving it out of the showroom. Designer jeans from Harvey Nicks will pay for a pauper’s burial, and a three-course meal and wine at a decent restaurant can remove £100, plus tip, from your wallet.
Sixty per cent of the British public are doing badly, and they range from those enduring abject poverty to those accorded the dubious status of hard-up middle-class. Something like twenty per cent are doing rather well by working for the three per cent that own the nation’s greatest wealth.
Squandering our wealth
Western governments squander trillions on perpetual war for perpetual peace.
This week Scotland’s unelected Secretary of State, David Mundell, opened a new food bank in Dumfries. One has existed there quietly feeding the poor for years, the new is part of private enterprise, the Trussell Trust, an English import.
The Trust is a quasi-government sponsored private company, registered as a charity. It’s chairman, Christopher Mould, holds down the following executive paid positions: a partner at the Shaftesbury Partnership which launches social reform ventures tackling disadvantage in communities and creating opportunity. Non-executive Chairman of Franchising Works Ltd and of the Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion (Bulgaria). Chief Executive of two NHS Trusts; Chief Executive of Police Training for England and Wales, (merged eight organisations to form a new Non-Departmental Public Body accountable to the Home Secretary); Chairman of Healthwork UK, the first Health Care National Training Organisation (licensed by the Department for Education and Employment) – led its formation and was its first Chairman.
Charity, a capitalist industry
The Trust prides itself on its Christian principles. It “works with people regardless of religious belief or non-belief”. Hallelujah! I believe! Following the Band Aid howler, ‘Don’t They Know It’s Christmas,’ broadcast to starving non-Christians the world over, Trussell sees fit to preach Christian ethics to starving Jew, Muslim, and agnostic in the same way American evangelists forced starving poor to read from the Bible before getting a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25.35.36.
Someone in the Trust thought it a fine public relations exercise to invite a disrespected member of Her Majesty’s infestation to preside over the opening ceremony. But instead of speaking to admiring crowds Mundell was chased out the back door by angry citizens shouting “Shame on you!” In a third world country he would have been lynched.
“Every town should have one,” opines Scotland’s sweetie wife, David Mundell, of food banks as if a drinking well, to which the obvious reply is, no bloody town should need one, you fucking imbecile!
Food banks are an obscenity in a modern society. End of.