There are parts of the UK that operate like some kind of holding tank for radioactive waste. Except that the waste is made up of people.
Some would call these people skyvers, wasters, people who live on the edge of criminality and addiction. They are the bastards of the welfare state; half lives created out of the fissive heat of market led capitalism. They are gathered together where the housing is cheapest, closest together. Even when new, it is housing no one wants to live in.
And because it is irradiated, those who live in these places become defined by it, cursed by it, captured within it.
What to do?
This has been the subject of study in sociology for decades- ever since the slums were replaced by high rise flats, which in turn were torn down and replaced by housing association faux-villages with their ragged green bits and broken picket fences.
The problem is not welfare even though there are problems with welfare.
The problem is not worklessness even though work is next to impossible to find if you are irradiated.
The problem is lack of hope.
The problem is caused by abandonment, by casting outside, by removing worth, by categorising as ‘other’, ‘less than’. By the death of dreams.
Today the Chancellor announced cuts of £25 Billion to welfare budgets and I want to scream out loud with anger at it all.
But who knows what to do with the radioactive waste? It is too expensive to clean.
I turn to writing as this is the only way I know how to scream. Here is another one of the poems that I am calling ‘protest poems’.
Cowboys and Indians
The wagons circled in that wild place
Under the kitchen table
Brambled by spiders’ webs
Stalked by wrinkled peas
He always wanted to be a pioneer
To ride the range, and
Eat beans beneath the wandering star
But no-one ever leaves this place
His cowboy became Red Indian
His range a reservation
In the streets below roam no buffalo
The distant drums
I grew up in a town called Skelmersdale (no. 45 on the original list of top 50 crap towns … honestly there’s a book and everything!) and it’s that sense of hopelessness that I can remember. Don’t get me wrong, Skem (as it’s called) is full of great people, but not necessarily peope full of great hope.
It’s that erosion and denial of hope – despite all the talk of ‘social mobility’ and creaing opportunities – that eats away at people. And when choices to further limit people economically are being made by multi-millionaires, who have never known the worry and sheer exhaustion of wondering if you can ever make ends get near let alone meet, well that just takes the biscuit.
Which reminds me, a friend told me a (bleak) joke the other day “A banker, A Daily Mail reader and an immigrant are sat at a table with a packet of tweleve biscuits. The banker opens the packet and takes eleven biscuits, then turns to teh Daily Mail reader and says, ‘Watch it! That immigrant wants to take your biscuit!'” Sometimes, you’re just left with dark humour …
Thanks for the post!
Well said Paul! I used to work in Golborne, and for a while in Liverpool, so know Skem!