It’s been a time of deep uncertainty for much of the world. People are struggling to make ends meet, the job market is still an uncertain beast, and everywhere belts are tightened as everyone tries to ride out this section of the history of our existence on this ball of dirt and water we call home.
I’ve recently begun watching a series called ‘The Secret Millionaire’ on BBC Entertainment India where a British millionaire goes undercover in some of Britain’s worst affected areas to see what they can contribute to the community. For most of them, it’s not the community they come from or have had anything to do with. They’ve almost always been involved in philanthropy, but the show gave them a chance to actually see the people whose lives their money would touch. I love people, and I love people’s stories, and it goes without saying that I love Britain, so the show was a natural fit for me.
However, the one constant thing – no matter what the area – is this. Most people want someone to do something for them. It seems so alien to me, coming from a country where there is no such thing as social security or the dole. There is no welfare state in India. If you work hard, you have money. If you’re unlucky enough to not be able to work, there are a number of NGOs (Non-Government Organisation) who do sterling work. However, the Indian government itself doesn’t pay its citizens for simply existing, and we’ve never asked them to.
In a show I watched recently, a millionaire went undercover in Hull, which is apparently one of the country’s worst areas with regards to education. I forget the exact figures, but a staggering number of children simply don’t go to school, or they don’t finish. There are youth centre places that have sprung up to ‘keep kids occupied’, and when some of the young people (who ought to have been in school) were asked what they would do if the centre hadn’t existed the answer was always the same: Out on the roads, getting into trouble. Out on the roads, taking drugs I guess. Out on the roads, dead or something.
It made me boggle. A thirteen-year old (who was out on the roads at 2 am) was asked if he was in school and he shook his head. Why? Because he wasn’t enrolled anywhere, he said, and he didn’t care. So our intrepid millionaire asked him if he wouldn’t rather be in school and learning something instead of being at home, bored out of his skull – and you know what his response was? ‘I’ve got a PS3 at home, so I ain’t bovvered.’ I nearly fell off my chair.
I used to have an acquaintance who was ‘depressed’. He lives a pretty good life just outside of London, has holidays twice a year, and has a laptop and an iPhone. However, he doesn’t work, and hasn’t done for the past twenty or so years. It seemed a matter of quiet pride to him when he confessed to me that he had a great life, courtesy of the queen and country. I found it so distasteful that I spoke up and told him it was stealing. He seemed genuinely surprised. Didn’t I understand, he asked, that he was depressed? Depressed with a capital D, and his country owed him. Irritated, I asked him what his country owed him for. Existing? He shook his head. All he could do was stubbornly repeat, over and over again, that his country owed him. Stop.
Most of the children who grow up in families that are on welfare probably think that’s all they need too. Why work or learn or try to better themselves when all they have to do is go from day to day, and their government will pay them their 100 pounds or whatever it is per week? Why try for more when it’ll do? Why push for anything if this is good enough?
I understand the reason why the system was set up – to assist people in between jobs so they could continue to live a decent life and feel like human beings. But this is the problem with the system – it makes people lazy and complacent and passive – and that’s just – wrong.