Season’s greetings. Hope you have a good Christmas. Sadly many people won’t this year. A recent report from UK Community Foundations, Vital Signs, indicates there’s a rising tide of homelessness, poverty and poor mental health. Looking around Sheffield, everyone can see the increase in visibly poor people on our streets. A quick chat with anyone who’s begging, as well as showing respect for them as human beings, often reveals how shockingly fast someone can tumble into destitution. We know this is the tip of the iceberg in a population under extreme stress – a stress which ultimately falls on third sector and Council services.

It may sound positive to some that South Yorkshire Police have exposed organised gangs exploiting beggars for money. They’ve set up a team to look at the root causes of problems in the city centre, according to the Sheffield Telegraph. Let’s hope they trace these problems to the top and ask why the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. The UK has become a tax haven for the super rich, where the wealthiest 10% of household are nearly 300 times richer than the bottom 10%, according to Danny Dorling’s 2014 article, What Everyone Needs To Know About Wealth In The UK. Meanwhile, the UK average of ‘workless’ households is 15%. In Sheffield, it’s almost one in five.

What is this situation called? Impoverishment. The British people are going through a sea change, rapidly becoming poorer within a generation. How long will it go on? We can only say that changing direction, when it comes, is likely to be as slow as turning around a battleship. It may not be any time soon.

The often-quoted mantra, “If you’re not angry, you haven’t been paying attention,” may be true, but it doesn’t work for people who are already extremely stressed by poverty, insists Scottish author and rapper Darren McGarvey, stage name Loki. True, perhaps, but helping others or joining a community or protest group works as an antidote to some problems at both personal and social levels.

OK, it doesn’t form the basis for a major change, either at the top or from the grassroots. It may not feel as important as, say, the dedicated campaigning and research work of the Green Party or Jeremy Corbyn’s activists. Even so, it still counts. Whatever you think of these party supporters, it’s good that the world has them. The more the better, but not everyone needs to do that work.

There’s a whole ocean of organisations, from the Cathedral Archer Project to the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Sheffield Equality Group to the activist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, all working hard to challenge and reverse this plunge into poverty. So if you’ve got any free time or money, why not do something? Whether you help at a food bank or just make the effort to talk to poorer neighbours, it can be a real eye-opener.

Try giving a bit of goodwill. After all, it’s nearly Christmas.

archerproject.org.uk | sypeoplesassembly.org | sheffieldequality.wordpress.com | iww.org.uk/sheffield | alt-sheff.org

 

OCCUPATION INC.
Tue 5 Dec | 7:30pm | Quaker Meeting House
Shir Hever discusses his new book on how Israel became a privatised military-security-industrial complex. State-sponsored violence is increasing as a result, but why is it necessary? Covering Palestinian resistance to occupation, the US influence and the rise of neoliberalism, he shines a light on Israel and Palestine today.
sheffieldpsc.org.uk

TALKING GIGS: VÄRTTINÄ
Sun 10 Dec | 7:30pm | The HUBS (Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union)
Talking Gigs offers performance along with the chance to ask questions, while also raising money for destitute asylum seekers through ASSIST. The all-female Värttinä trio sing acapella or accompanied on accordion and kantele, a traditional Baltic stringed instrument.
talkinggigs.co.uk/varttina

Background image: Frank Kunert – ‘Flying High’

Hosted by Alt-Sheff