In his article “Help the rich, hate the poor” (2013 January, 17-19), Owen Jones catalogues evidence from both East and West that inequality is booming the world over, that this is why the penniless are demonised by politicians and journalists, and that this “global war against poor people” is being waged by pitting the middle-class against the left-behind using a divide-and-rule strategy.
His elementary task was to establish that civilisation is indeed becoming more polarised. Jones fulfilled this job with gusto, punctuating his article with the facts and statistics needed to back up the rest of his narrative. The wage inflation of the wealthy is detailed. The wage stagnation of the US, UK and China multitude is disclosed. The fall in corporate taxes is divulged. The plight of the poor is made public: the choice parents in Britain make between keeping their children warm or well fed; the internal displacement of the Chinese; the violent evictions; the slums; the general destitution.
On this empirical foundation, Jones builds his next point: that the vilification of the poor is a premeditated policy of the powerful. He begins with the caveat that socio-economic smack-talk is nothing new—is in fact a proud tradition of his UK motherland from the Victorian age onwards. What he says is new is the intensity of this conceptual, Thatcheresque onslaught. In the United Kingdom, poverty is blamed on its “feckless”, “shameless”, undeserving victims themselves. In China, the status of peasants and workers has fallen with the rise of Xiaoping. Jones then links this condemnation of the impoverished to the increase in inequity, claiming that politicians and journalists are attempting to deflect blame for peoples deteriorating standard of living from the rich onto the poor. He accuses these apparatchiks of the affluent, asserting that their slurs defend the ever more fortuitous position of those at the top, and justify why those at the bottom should be glued to the ground.
This defamation of the destitute feeds into Jones’ final theme: that those who profit from these unequal circumstances are playing the middle-class against the poor, to keep their mutual adversaries disunited and weak. He begins by noting the 1960s lumpenproletariat-resentment-inducing shift of benefit taxes, from the rich to the middle-class. A former UK government minister then recounts the present endeavour “to stoke up envy and division between people” by “wheel[ing] out a caricature of… a very large family, probably black” to cause a “rapid erosion of sympathy for people on benefits”. And in China the libelling of the penurious has borne fruit, with middle-class burghers describing the needy as “scum”.
Having identified this divide-and-rule strategy, the conclusion follows naturally. If the problem the masses face is disunity, the solution must be unity. What binds America, Britain, China and the globe together is the cancerous growth of inequality and centralisation of power in the hands of the elite that lower-class and middle-class face alike. Jones ends by calling for a common focus on the ubiquitous problem: the rich, and the unofficial war they wage. He ends by contending that “Only by linking together struggles from below can this global offensive be challenged…. with sufficient confidence and organization from below, it can be sent hurtling into reverse.”
Jones, O. (2013, January). Help the rich, hate the poor.
New Internationalist, 17-19.Help the rich, hate the poor