Jacob Rees Mogg. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a Tory who looks like a Victorian marionette that came to life after a witch placed a curse on the workshop of a toy maker who wouldn’t give her a cup of water.
JRM has never been hungry in his whole life, with a wealthy family and a weirdly doting nanny who made sure he was never in short supply of fresh unicorns blood to sustain him. Of course he loves food banks. Right now his party think nothing of continually taking from the poor, safe in the knowledge that in the rest of the country, compassion prevails and we will step up to help each other. In his world there is always lashings of ginger beer and four plucky children and a dog who can catch all the nasty criminals for you.
The existence of foodbanks tells us two things. One, that this government is hell bent on destroying the ordinary people of this country and has implemented policies that they know will actively harm them. The second is that humans are exceptionally good at organising at grassroots levels to meet each other’s needs and do not require a government to take care of us.
Here in the North East of England, food bank usage is among the highest, with numbers doubling in the space of a year between 2011/2012 and continuing to rise thanks the roll out of Universal Credit. And bear in mind that not everyone who is going hungry is using a food bank. Many people cannot access one due to transport or disability and many more are just too proud so are going hungry and using cheaper, poorer quality food when they do eat.
Parents of children who qualify for free school meals are also struggling to put food on the table during the holiday.
In a survey by the National Union of Teachers published earlier this year, a third of respondents stated that children were returning to their schools after the holidays showing signs of malnutrition.
This is happening in 2017.
At what point do we stop normalising food banks and hungry children? One of my favourite anarchist writers, Emma Goldman, said “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.” And thanks to inflation rising faster than wages and zero hour contracts, they can give you work and it still won’t make a difference. Sports Direct employees wonder if they’ll get enough work to meet the rent while Mike Ashley swims in a pool of money in his mansion like a morbidly obese Scrooge McDuck, swilling champagne from one of those giant mugs.
The tireless work of volunteers and the generosity and compassion of donators gives me some hope for the world. But here’s the thing that really bothers me about food banks, besides the fact that there is a need for their existence: Supermarkets and large corporations are profiting from them. Of course they are happy to put a collection bin in their stores- it has less to do with charity and everything to do with the fact that they know their customers will happily buy extra to put in.
In recent years there has also been a huge financial crisis in Greece, and anarchists in Athens have organised to create social centres, which-among many other things- provide food for the poor stocked by ‘dumpster diving’ or expropriating it from supermarkets. Maybe if we take back what is being taken from us, the state and corporate view of food banks would not be as favourable if we stopped allowing them to profit from poverty and suffering.
We have demanded that the government cease starving our most vulnerable. Large and vibrant anti austerity demonstrations have been rife in the country for years and we have not been listened to. What more has to be done to us before we stop complaining nicely along police approved protest routes and signing endless petitions that get us nowhere.
We need to be angrier. That is not ‘politics of hate’ (a nauseating liberal handwringer phrase I keep hearing uttered of late to describe any kind of resistance that involves something more energetic than a Facebook status saying how “cross” you are and have complained to your MP). It’s not about violence. It’s about refusing to listen to lies promising change. To get furious and then use that fury to stop begging them for help and start taking it. Civil disobedience works. Why aren’t we occupying buildings, blocking roads, organising large scale general strikes? Every single civil liberty we have was born out of anger of injustice. And we will continue to lose them if we refuse to defend them, and more children will go hungry.
Listen to your old friends Conflict. It’s time to increase the pressure.