As The Cost Of Living Crisis Bites, No One Should Feel Shame About Not Having Enough Money

Let's stop equating money with success and the lack of it with failure, says Polly Vernon

Piggy banks

by Polly Vernon |

If Covid was a crash course in us finally, fully understanding that a few people have A Lot, while everyone else has Far Less (/ Nothing At All), what the hell will the cost of living crisis be? How much more of Rishi Sunak making The Sunday Times’ Rich List while 77-year-old Elsie, who can’t afford to heat her home, rides the bus to keep warm, can we endure before… What? Revolution, or weary resignation, engulfs us?

It’s gonna be another rocky couple of years, my loves; you needn’t be a hawk-eyed economist to see that – or a raging Corbynite to resent it. I am neither, though I do think class is the issue that matters most, yet is most routinely ignored. I can get chippy about it, particularly how it’s impacting the arts and media, guaranteeing a future of news, TV, music, books and cinema created only by People With Money, because no one else can afford to break in. Think about what that’ll mean, in terms of perspectives favoured – and talent lost.

Though maybe that’s the piffling side-concern of a woman who isn’t having to choose between heating and eating, who hasn’t been told by MP Rachel Maclean she just needs to get a better job to shore up future finances, or that, should she be forced to shoplift to feed her family, new police recommendations propose leniency in prosecutions, so fine.

But how to help those who are? I have one idea. It’s small; it’s not going to feed the hungry, but it might ease some stigma. What if we de-shamed dosh – or rather, the absence of dosh? Stop equating money with success and the lack of it with failure? Stop revering those who have it as innately superior, those who don’t as people with a lurgy we’ll catch if we get too close?

I heard a report into the cost of living crisis on the radio recently in which the reporter referred to spiralling numbers of people ‘admitting’ to debt. This was a compassionate item on the pity of new poverty, yet the use of ‘admitting’ felt gross: like debt is a crime, as opposed to an inevitability for people who once chugged along OK, but are now so suddenly and horribly reduced – by factors far beyond their control – they’re staring food banks square in the eye.

As for money being a signifier of superiority? Come on! It can’t have been just me who watched the Wagatha Christie court case while wondering: at what point – precisely, to the penny – does money stop making your life lovely and start enabling you to make daft decisions that ultimately make your life completely shit? Poverty is a trap – but it seems like extreme wealth might be one, too.

So yes, I’d say a little reframing of money was in order. I’m not talking burning the bankers or eating the rich (some of whom I know and rather like), more a realistic assessing of what money really says: about those who have it – and those who do not.

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