The left attracts people who consider themselves compassionate, and indeed many of them are. They wish, like conservatives, for a brighter future, one with less suffering, for a peaceful world where everybody is given the opportunity to succeed, and common humanity prevails over the hostility of differences. But there is a group missing from their list of people deserving of attention and compassion, and it is needed now more urgently ever. It is the white working class.
Everybody is shocked by the terrible murder of Jo Cox, yet nobody is surprised at the alleged culprit – a maligned, jobless, working class man said to be beset with mental ill health. We condemn what has been said to be the violence and extremism within him yet we know deep down this was not the root cause of his behaviour, merely a most extreme manifestation of a poison endemic among the poor. There are two tragedies. Firstly that a woman, a mother of two children has been so senselessly taken from all who knew and loved her, and secondly, the working class as a whole now risks being punished for the actions of one man.
The left are already hurling their words like stones, not simply at this one man, but at the entire British working class. Merely for wishing to vote leave, they call us bigots, racists, nationalists, and small minded Englanders. They see us as backward looking idiots who at best vote want to leave out of fear and ignorance, and at worst from hate and spite. The stones injure. They hurt people already with the boot on their face. It doesn’t matter if it is a left boot or a right boot, what matters is that the social conditions that so beset the lower working class, the conditions that are fertile breeding grounds for mental -ill health and social catastrophe are finally dragged into the light, scrutinised and named, and finally dealt with compassionately. They not be heckled as the work of a dying patriarchy by young liberal feminists often with wealth and position, nor sneered at by a Left that cannot fathom why their clipboards of statistics fail to arouse any kind of enthusiasm about the future of Britain. Certainly they must not be abused by caustic smears that risk framing the white working class as a dangerous subset, a looming threat to comfortable progressives, who are becoming increasingly paranoid that the poor may one day need to be controlled by force, lest this swamp might suddenly come alive and consume them.
The lower white working class is in social free-fall. On one side it is aided and abetted by a welfare system that merely keeps it members alive, and an immigration policy that threatens to jeopardise what little hope remains for an unskilled people increasingly out-competed for work and government attention. The lower white working class recognise what the politicians do not – that social conditions at the bottom of society are no longer fit for human habitation. They recognise that this vast human misery is not diluted by pouring hundreds of thousands more people into the toxic swamp at the bottom of society, and that uncontrolled immigration merely swells its ranks.
From this toxic swamp monsters emerge.
I cannot speculate about the inner motives of an alleged killer because I have never met anybody who might be one, nor can I fathom such a degree of hatred that may produce it, but I know about the swamp from which these men emerge. My own unemployment and attendance at job centre courses, followed by disability care work, followed by years of being a tattooist, has given me a glimpse into the lives of men whose days are filled with a poisonous hopelessness, a class for whom the withdrawal of traditional conservative values of family, social and community have been nothing short of catastrophic .
I tattoo a lot of men like Tony Mair. I dread it whenever a man tells me he has lost his job or his wife, or been signed off on the sick. I dread it because in a short space of time, in a matter of months, I see them begin to hollow out. Their voices become flatter, their stories less animated, their appearance becomes shabbier and they begin to lose the will to look for work. Eventually they succumb to the apathy that allows them to tolerate living in poor conditions and misery for years on end. They will talk less of the outside world and the future, and more of their current moods and anxieties, which becomes the ever present black dog in their lives. Then comes the medication, whole rattling pill trays of the stuff, and a conviction that their fate is now unalterable. They become miserable and self obsessed. This is what happens to human beings beginning to recognise their own redundancy, who see no future for themselves. It is as though their life force slowly drains out of them, and what is left is a ghost.
Yet out of the thousands of men in similar situations, few resort to violence, which remains a choice even for the very poor. Indeed, many of the jobless men I know who also suffer from mental illness appear to double their efforts to find something to cling to and live for – they take up hobbies, or travel long distances on foot to visit friends, anything to make sure they get out of the council house. It seems that the majority of disaffected white working class are shamefully tip toeing out of existence, but that doesn’t make the problems any less serious because they didn’t chose the path out of extremism and violence.
What does it matter to men like Mair if they spend the rest of their lives life in jail? What loss of freedom will he undergo? This man had nothing to lose, allegedly he has effectively just ended his own purgatory, exchanging it for a brighter future in jail.
Imagine the true reality of life on long term benefits: twenty years sat in the same dirty room. twenty years of diminished human contact, and twenty years of festering and dwelling. No structure, , no value, an ever diminishing intelligence and an ever increasing apathy that over the years obscures their ability to assess their situation accurately . Add mental illness, and you have the recipe for disaster. Each week, dole money appears in the bank accounts of these people, so they may continue to feed themselves and fester. They know nobody is interested: neither the political elites nor the people at the job centre. We cannot continue to throw money at social problems; Mair most likely had money thrown at him for twenty years.
The days of those signed off from society are not filled with debate and conversation, or any kind of human experiences at all. The passage of time is marked by the thousands of days they spend watching shadows crossing the walls of the rooms they rarely leave, and the only human voices in their lives are electronic simulations. What do these conditions do to a man’s capacities after twenty years? We recognise that concrete cages and isolation warp the minds of animals and zoos, yet we call it social welfare to leave human beings to languish in the same conditions. For those that succumb, it is not usually murder but suicide that marks their exit from the hell of council assisted living.
It is time the left woke up and looked down at the beggars at their feet. What business does the political elite have in inviting scores more people into this un-ending social misery? A country with the highest teen pregnancies, the highest prison population, the highest obesity and the highest rates of depression? A country only second to Ireland in single parent households, a country with the highest crime rates in Europe, a country in short, not fit to accommodate.
Liberalism and self regarding ‘virtue signalling’ cannot fix the problems , nor will immigration dilute it, nor will name calling shame it out of existence. It is now everybody’s problem whether they chose to look the other way or not.
You have written an interesting piece. However you propose no solutions to the ills diagnosed in your article. Do you have any suggestions for tackling the issues on which you touch?
Interesting, if depressing essay. You are correct. Old men go grey in personality, clothing, walk. In other societies where I have lived – such as Arab – the old men are revered. Although the modern computer world is catching up, the tradition is so important that the oldest will lead the discussion (shura) and even the emir will pay respect.
Another aspect of this is seeing the silent old man in a family group being told what to do ‘Just stand there’. I don’t think this has to do with ” choice”, it is a major cultural shift.
Lindsey, what is your view on tattooing?
I see all the men and women covered in tattoos from head to toe now. footballers are plastered in it. what is the appeal? I am missing something?
This article is odd for the Salisbury Review. It is materialist, The philosophical basis behind Marxism. It leaves no room for the choices people make as the determinant of their current condition, i.e. that they are complicit in their fate. This complicity in their fate is the basis of Theodore Dalrymple’s contributions to this magazine which I find to be a refreshing & valuable change to the Marxist point of view that continually exculpates the individual from their condition. If these people are so badly off, how can they afford tattoos? If they have the money to have tattoos done how come they do not spend it on something more worthwhile. This is a matter of choice surely. No one forces them to be tattooed.
They are most certainly complicit, the issue I am trying to raise is that a life of benefits is more than financially destructive, it is socially and mentally destructive as well. Liberal policies enable the complicit behavior, and decreases a persons sense of responsibility for their own lives. It as an area of society that liberals seem to wish to pay off and turn away from.