Something New In History?

In a certain deprived area of London, half of all children come to school without breakfast. This has happened before, which is why the “Oslo Breakfast” was introduced in the 1920s, and free school milk in the UK, which I myself am old enough to have drunk.

But back then, the reason cited was simple poverty; now, something different seems to be happening.

In the said deprived area, fathers have been spotted escorting their daughters to school with chocolate ices as their breakfast. What do those cost relative to something more nutritious? Can we avoid the conclusion that what we are dealing with here is not poverty but ignorance? If so, the next question might be whether ignorance on this scale is something that has ever existed before. Surely the most impoverished peasant of the Middle Ages, the most downtrodden day-labourer in Africa or India, knew what food was, even if he could not get any. As Chesterton might have put it, this is a remarkably complicated form of ignorance.

The political divide has always pitted against one another those who thought that the poor were poor because they were not paid enough and those who thought that the poor were poor because there was something else wrong with them, for which they could be blamed. Sometimes the latter thinking got rather unpleasant. And yet the former side has also been at fault for a denial of personal responsibility verging on the promotion of gross incompetence in the business of living.

Once upon a time the workers’ movement was teetotal, on the grounds that drinking all your wages trapped you in misery, but anyone advocating an updated version – which might criticise sending your children to school with chocolate ices for breakfast – would now be excoriated for middle-class condescension. No doubt the chocolate-breakfast manufacturers are very happy about that.

Posted on December 25, 2011 at 11:16 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, Resistance Is Futile, Miscellaneous

Leave a Reply