The Scandal of Demonising the Unemployed When There Aren’t Enough Jobs


Austerity isn't working: a poster from 2012 based on the Tories' 1979 campaign poster ('Labour isn't working') that helped Margaret Thatcher win her first general election.Last week, I received a comment on one of my articles from April 2013, The Tories’ Cruelty Is Laid Bare as Multiple Welfare Cuts Bite, from a reader — Rick — who, through no fault of his own, has found himself unemployed in a society that has been encouraged to regard anyone without a job as deserving of contempt, even though there are nowhere near enough job vacancies for everyone without a job — roughly one job vacancy for every three unemployed people if you take the government’s statistics at face value (and the statistics, it should be noted, hide an unknown number of people who have given up on trying to get a job and are supported by their partners).

The Tories claim to have created two million jobs since 2010, but those figures don’t stand up to scrutiny: there have been 500,000 job cuts in the public sector, average earnings have fallen by 5.7% in real terms, and far too many of those new jobs are on zero hours contracts, where people never know from one week to another whether they’ll be employed, and are rarely paid enough to live on, or are part-time jobs that also fail to provide a living wage.

The way this cruel and deeply cynical government has manipulated the public about the unemployed is just one example of the profoundly negative campaigning they have been encouraged to indulge in by their Australian PR guru, Lynton Crosby, and, to be frank, by the darkness in their own hearts.

Since they took power with the support of the Liberal Democrats in May 2010, the Tories have tarred the unemployed as feckless scroungers, just as they have tried to portray the disabled as liars — or as sub-human — and just as they have also gone along with and played up to fears about immigration that anyone with any genuine sense of responsibility would have tried to play down. I have been writing about these disgraceful policies since 2010, in articles like The Cruelty and Stupidity of the Government’s Welfare Reforms, Brutal Benefit Cuts for the Disabled Are Leading to Suicides in the UK, Who Will Rid Us of This Callous Government, Assaulting the Poor, the Unemployed and the Disabled? and The Tories’ Vile Workfare Project, and How It Has Now Infiltrated the NHS.

The results have been predictable. By encouraging, or failing to challenge, the drift of society towards intolerance — of the unemployed, the disabled and immigrants — the Tories clung on to power, but have helped to remake the country into something that all decent people should fear. Not only is it almost incredible that people in droves have failed to realise that the real problems facing the country are the parasitical bankers and corporate tax evaders and their cronies in government, but, in addition, the hardening of hearts against those less fortunate cannot lead anywhere good.

From the late 19th century to the 1980s, the establishment of the welfare state, and socialist ideals, improved life for the majority, but since Thatcher and Reagan that progress has been in reverse, and in 2010, for the first time in my lifetime, a government took office that openly failed to conceal its disdain for the least fortunate members of society. And when that happens, history teaches us that barbaric options follow — the workhouse, or something much worse.

I thought Rick’s thoughts were worth making available to a wider audience, so his comment, and my reply, are posted below.

Rick wrote:

I’m ashamed to live in a country like this. Yes, the British public will be all for benefit cuts, after all they have seen the numerous programmes on TV depicting the workshy drunks living the easy life while on benefits. It’s not the norm for the vast majority of claimants, but it makes good entertaining TV programmes I suppose.

The reality is somewhat different, I’m afraid, and the great British public that support these draconian measures (unless they’re a secret millionaire) are closer than they’d ever think to experiencing at first hand the indiscriminate application of these Victorian poverty state policies.

It’s easy to understand the spoilt brat/millionaire attitudes of people like Cameron and his ilk, who’ve never had to work for anything and find it easy to tell everyone else that they should be able to survive on £70 per week. It’s very telling that these spoilt brats probably wouldn’t think twice about spending the same amount on lunch for a day, but what amazes me is the rank and file (ordinary working people) that follow this thinking like sheep in the farm yard.

Yes, the benefits culture did need reforming and needed some original ideas to combat the something for nothing mindset of the minority of claimants, but this one size fits all mentality doesn’t fit.

My own personal opinion is that someone who is claiming needs help to get back into work, but that help isn’t there (I speak from personal experience). If someone has been unemployed for 2 years plus then they either need additional help or a kick up the ass to point them in the right direction. The key word here is HELP, not draconian measures to punish!

My own personal story: I’m a 52 year old male. I’ve worked constantly since I was 16 years of age, apart from 3 years when I looked after my dying father. I worked in education for the last 20 years (full time). Not a teacher, but ran Apprenticeship programmes and functional skills learning. Well qualified in I.T., Management and Health & Safety. Made redundant in Aug 2014, but lived off my redundancy and didn’t claim benefits till Dec 2014 (didn’t want to be classed as a scrounger).

I’ve been applying for jobs since Xmas 2014, must have 250 plus under my belt so far, 2 per cent get back to you (very discouraging). I’m overqualified for the basic jobs I apply for (they think I’ll leave as soon as something better comes along) and competing with people half my age for the higher end jobs. I’m no idiot, have good qualifications, a good CV and a good attitude but what seems to go against me is my age. I know that legally these companies can’t ask that, but I’ve never filled an application out yet that hasn’t asked me to provide my date of birth (sort that out, Mr Cameron).

I received a letter today to say I’d been awarded £11.40 council tax rebate. At the same time I received an e-mail telling me I would now receive £62.10 per week as my council tax rebate was counted as income. I thought the law stated that I needed £73.10 to live on per week? The wolves are at the door, the worst being the water company, closely followed by the council tax (both foaming at the mouth to bring a court case asap). I’m already resigned to the fact that the house will be re-possessed. Fair enough (nothing I can do about that). But where do you good people think I’m going to go from here?

I wrote back:

Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your story.

I find the indifference — or even hostility — of our fellow citizens towards those unfortunate enough not to have paid employment profoundly shameful, and while I understand the malevolent role played by the media, and the black propaganda of the Tories, it reflects very badly on the people of the UK that they are so willing to be openly hostile to those without paid work. What we never hear about is how, even using the most conservative estimates, there are nowhere near as many job vacancies as there are unemployed people, and that as a result it is profoundly unfair to condemn people for being workshy, scroungers etc.

In January, for example, the Department for Work and Pensions claimed that there were 700,000 job opportunities across the country.

At the same time, however, the Office for National Statistics was pointing out that “There were 1.91 million unemployed people.”

The only way to demonise 1.91 million people for not getting 700,000 jobs would be if there was a governmental guarantee of full employment, and we haven’t heard that since capitalism pronounced that it had killed socialism, around the time the Berlin Wall fell. George Osborne’s promise in March 2014 — his “commitment to fight for full employment in Britain” — was something else; the empty words of a Tory politician. As the Guardian noted at the time, “Britain’s employment rate among those aged 16-64 presently stands at 71% — ahead of the US, France and Italy, but behind Germany, Canada and Japan. Leapfrogging them would entail creating up to a million more jobs. Manage that, George, and you might get the full three cheers.”

I also find it interesting that the ONS statistics hint at potentially huge hidden unemployment figures, because the percentage of people aged from 16 to 64 who are in work is only 73%, and 9.09 million people “were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive).” For more on definitions and an analysis of economic inactivity, see this article from the Economic & Labour Market Review in 2009.

As The Poverty Site explains, “[C]an [we] simply ignore the economically inactive when looking at issues of work? The answer is emphatically not. First, the fact that they are not working means that they have no earned income and many are therefore poor. Second, many of them say that they want to work and it is just due to their personal circumstances that they count as economically inactive rather than unemployed (e.g. lone parents would have to make arrangements for childcare). Third, their numbers are large, much larger than those who are … unemployed.”

I looked up whether the £73.10 that the law says people need to live on is “inalienable” benefit and found that someone had made a freedom of information request and had received this reply in November 2014.

That document explains how deductions may indeed be made from the “inalienable” benefit — for unpaid bills, for example, and includes the insulting claim that “In effect we are acting in the best interests of the claimant — we want to avoid them being evicted or having a utility switched off etc.”

I also agree about ageism in the market place. I’m 52 and wouldn’t want to have to try and compete with people half my age, but as you note it’s not something that anyone wants to talk about — similar, I think, to the way that disabled people, subject to a cynical review process designed to find them fit for work when they are not, are not supposed to point out that, even if they are able to work, they are extremely unlikely to be chosen for jobs if the other candidates are not disabled.

Mostly, though, your story is one of many that ought to be more widely heard, and people should, I believe, be regularly told — preferably through the media — that, unless we’re really quite rich, we’re all only a few steps away from having no job, and having to endure the kind of hostility and indifference you discuss so eloquently.

In response, Rick sent me further comments, including the following, which I think is a good point at which to end this discussion for now, although I hope this article will lead to further discussion. Please feel free to add your own comments.

Rick wrote:

I suppose the main point I was trying to make was that today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you or anybody else. The great British public who so enthusiastically  jump on the bandwagon and applaud benefits being cut to the bone may one day soon (through no fault of their own) be on the receiving end of these Victorian poverty policies. It’s not just down to one political party, it’s all of them. Who would have thought 30 years ago that one day food banks would be common in one of the richest countries in the world? Who knows what’s coming next: the return of the workhouse?

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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50 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, following up on comments I received from an unemployed reader. It features our exchange of comments, and my reflections on the cruel and unfair rhetoric used by the Tories to demean the unemployed, and the harsh policies used to target them for punishment, when the blunt truth is that there are nowhere near enough jobs for those without paid work. It’s just one aspect of the Tories’ heartlessness that constantly appals me.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma L. Nunes wrote:

    unemployment is a huge problem …

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, and while much of the world outside of the privileged Western countries suffer from chronic unemployment of all ages, in the West it’s youth unemployment that’s a particular disgrace, Zilma – although one that governments try not to discuss, because otherwise people might realise that, for the sake of greater corporate profits, far too many jobs have been outsourced to other countries, where workers can be more easily exploited.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    In March 2015, the unemployment rate for under-25s in Europe was 23.7% in the Euro area, with Spain having 53.5% youth unemployment, Greece on 49.8% and Italy on 43.8%. The lowest rates were in Germany (7.4%), Austria (8.9%) and the Netherlands (9.7%). UK youth unemployment stood at 16.3% but that figure, obviously, excludes those on all kinds of dodgy work schemes, like workfare:
    For youth unemployment details, see:

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Marion Heads wrote:

    Conservative government = Peers before people, arms before children,wealth for the few, poverty for the masses

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s a succinct summary, Marion. Here’s an audio reminder!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I will read this now, Andy. This video and book has some background. Our society has been reshaped to make unemployment normal, desired by bosses and permanent. I saw this as early as 1992

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George​. I don’t think anything in it will surprise you, but I was moved by my reader’s authentic voice.
    I keep finding myself thinking of the precariat – it’s a clever word, and a powerful way of describing how more and more of us are being excluded from anything resembling a living wage or any form of stability.
    Here’s a good review, by the journalist John Harris, of Guy Standing’s 2014 book, ‘A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens’, featuring a chilling quote from Tony Blair at the Labour Conference in 2005, when he said, “The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition. Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice. It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change.”

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    “Unforgiving of frailty.” In that one phrase, it seems to me, George, is presaged the elimination of the welfare state. Very disturbing.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Good review. Holland was a good place to observe and think about the Precariat, while being in the group more often than not. The country is small enough to see political processes at 2nd or 1st hand. The cuts in education made that possible for me.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s interesting trying to work out how it particularly developed here in the UK, George, but I think it’s pretty clear that it was in the Blair years. Under John Major, the existing model looked poorly, and was widely challenged in terms of counter-cultural movements, and in some ways a riotous joy amongst the young. Then suddenly it all became about money, and my impression of Tony Blair – beyond his role as a war criminal – is of his Britain being a place where the rich could do what they desired, but he wanted those who were poorer to shut up and go to bed early and not cause any sort of trouble. That really is my abiding domestic impression of him! – and I think, in an insidious way, the materialism of those years, plus this authoritarianism regarding dissent, created the soulless society that is so prevalent today, from which, of course, the precariat are increasingly excluded, and, of course, prevented from making too much noise about it one way or another.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Good stuff, Andy I remember the Yuppies, bottled water shops for example. Examples of unbridled materialism.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    I sometimes feel like I fell asleep for years – a decade, in fact – and woke up in a shiny dystopia, George. It may have been parenting that caused it, or the aging process, or both, but I find things regularly dislocating; find that the world of so many around me in London bears no relation to the one I grew up in – the one that wasn’t overly materialistic, and seemingly self-obsessed, with a very particular sense of entitlement. It’s shocking to me, I think, because I used to believe there was a left and right, politically, whereas now the conservatism is much more pervasive.

  14. damo says...

    I feel ashamed of this society,its become repulsive we realy are liveing it seems in the age of mamon personel greed and egotisum out of control ,distracting gibber jabber technology ….the curse of the iPhone ….distracting and brainwashing people from what’s going on,I agree with your last comment its like I fell asleep and awoke in the middle of a nightmare I could go on and on and on about this nightmare of the now ,we as humans who love life ,love the world and all its many,many life forms ,we who love peace and want a clean healthy world ..we must unite AND reject and rid the world of the deathongers ,the blaires ,the bushes,the camerons,the bankers and all they represent ..we must fight back and repel and reject everything they represent ….if we don’t this biosphere and everything upon it is as good as dead and a fucked up mad max future awaites us ….watching all those energised young kids at the anti torie protest last week was wonderfull ,they get it…there alive…there full of love….this is there world now we must all get behind them and wake the world from its coma…..tick tock,tick tock,said the clock….its now or never…….dxx

  15. damo says...

    Andy theres a piece of film on youtube I would love you to watch and wright up on hear the speach from the wonderfull ..Charlie Chaplin…his film the great dictator ..the speach..please go and watch and tell me wot you think….dxx

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Damo. I agree with you. We need ” energised young kids” who are “alive” and “full of love.” Couldn’t possibly put it better!
    Today provided another opportunity for people to protest. It was pretty sedate, but I’m not going to complain, because people are getting an opportunity to meet and share stories and ideas, and that’s very important. I had a long chat with a great social housing campaigner, Eileen, at Trafalgar Square, where there was a PCS protest for the National Gallery workers facing privatisation:
    I then met a Labour campaigner, an old friend from the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, at another union protest outside 10 Downing Street, and we had a great chat. My son and his friends also turned up, after being at Waterloo for a UK Uncut demo, and that was obviously great, because they’re all 15 and politically engaged. What we need is for there to be protests all the time, but I do think this is a good start.
    The next big date is June 20. I hope it’s as big as possible!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Do you mean this speech, Damo?

    These are the opening lines:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible: Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

    Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote, in response to 13, above:

    Here too, Andy. Students here are conservative more often than not, it seems. It is their world, I am excluded. Many teachers too. They lack a lot of knowledge because they have never learned many things. Not from their families either.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I find that, George. What those of us know who lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s, even most of the 90s is, to many young people now, and many of the older, materialistic amnesiacs, ancient history – for which the history books have been destroyed.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Funny that, Andy, exactly the same thing is happening in Australia. It is like all the right wing nutjobs copy each other.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, unfortunately they are all copying each other, Willy – copying each other’s terrible policies, of course, never anything good. One of my main thoughts about the Tories is that, when, in their long years in the wilderness, they came up with all their dreadful policy decisions – and there are so many of them – they literally made sure that anyone genuinely intelligent wasn’t in the room. And then you look at what they get excited about, and every time – every time! – they listen to the crooks and the cranks and the snake oil salesmen – on nuclear power, on fracking, on badger culls, to name but three.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Andy, I fear this country is heading into darker times. Unemployed, poor, disabled and vulnerable people are locked into a cycle of defeat. I describe my own experience of trying to escape the trap of poverty here as standing in a hole of dirt, trying to claw my way out, as those who stand over me, shovel more dirt over my head.
    Even if you want to find a job and are vigilantly looking for one, there are so many factors standing against you. Many jobs are advertised when companies or firms have already preselected friends or colleagues for the positions. Nepotism is rampant. If you have been out of work for any period of time, it reflects negatively on the applicant. This is where the overall mindset of the society locks you in – when the employers believe a ‘scrounger’ to be a negative from the onset – they are less likely to believe in them or want to hire them.
    The same goes for single mothers, the minute you mention your home responsibilities, the moment you lose a chance to be considered. If those on the hiring side have a specific candidate in mind: a young, ambitious, recent graduate (for instance) that prevents anyone who falls short of that from succeeding.
    Many immigrants have difficulty finding work in their own fields of study because their credentials are not recognized here or they do not have ‘British Experience’ to get the job. Many find work in warehouses that call for long hours and sometimes the pay is even less than minimum wage. (Is that not a form of modern day slavery!)
    IF you are lucky enough to get a zero-contract hours position – then you live from day to day – never knowing what salary to expect and never having any stability or security.
    You are told at the Jobcenter that if you find work, you will be so much better off. But if you are working a minimum wage job in this country, you can’t even afford to cover a basic lifestyle. You would need at least two or three jobs to make ends meet and that would leave you with no quality of life whatsoever (especially if you have a family).
    The benefit cap, the bedroom tax, the new cuts coming to child benefit and child tax benefit will only hurt families and innocent children who depend on these supports to survive!
    Food banks are not dependable, you can only use them a maximum of four times and that will not feed the poor for any useful length of time.
    There are many countries in this world with no social systems in place but in those countries there is a different structure to society – families and neighbours help one another and support one another. In Britain there is no such structure. People live in a very separate lifestyle to others (even family members) and their neighbours (in general).
    With services being cut everywhere you turn, there are fewer places to go to ask for help and fewer things that service agencies can do. It does make people feel hopeless. If you are one of the unfortunate disabled in this country, you now have to prove how unable you are! I mean how cruel can you be? To make someone who is already suffering – prove how useless they are! That sort of thing could destroy someone’s self esteem and self worth.
    What does this prove about the people living in this society when they want to punish the poor for being poor and not be willing to help them out or not be willing to stand by them when they most need help and support.
    Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Are we a human family or are we enemies pitted against one another?

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tashi. I am sorry they are so bleak, but true – although as you know, those of us i the UK who care do not have access to those in power, or any way to change their minds. Darker times are indeed ahead, and I can only hope that people do wake up and discover a sense of solidarity and community.
    Your closing line sums up how things are now – “Are we a human family or are we enemies pitted against one another?” We are the former, but the cynical people – even sometimes the evil people – who are in positions of power (in government, banks, corporations and the media) have convinced us that life is a battle, amongst ourselves, rather than a battle against our oppressors in their ivory towers (gated communities, privatised public spaces, their gleaming skyscrapers of glass and steel).

  24. damo says...

    Tashi it is bleak out there,we are being ruled over by literaly monsters and it seems at times like an endless night …..but….there’s allways a dawn….and the monsters can allways be slane …Tashi …right now we all have to stay physically and mentaly strong…to become hardened ….but not bitter or cruel….just tuffer we have got to…and I say this to everyone ..get back into your education get into learning,get back into becomeing fit and healthy get your mind together,have love in your heart …if were all gonna get through thease dangerous time and change it all …we all have to be fit healthy and have our shit together become unified ….I’ve been watching a lot of Dr cornel west on youtube ,he,s a cool dude he,s realy on it……Andy that was the speach great isn’t it …dxx

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Yes it is appalling, Andy – it’s appalling everywhere on the planet that rich, fat and old fools decide to destroy everyone in their path to hold onto a penny as they line their own pockets. Who cares about the people…There’s gold to be hoarded

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jan. Yes, we can see them doing it systematically everywhere, looking at everything and everyone in terms of how much can be screwed out of it/out of us. I really do sometimes wonder how so many people just don’t see it.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Andy – I agree. I have to look at survival being the main reason people don’t see it. If we are too busy trying to stay alive, how can we have time to look around? Especially with the steady drip of dehumanizing acts against the people who are fed a steady stream of lies to keep them placated on some things and afraid on others. The whole planet is beginning to experience PTSD

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Survival is one good explanation, Jan – raising the cost of living so people feel trapped, as so many young people do here in London, for example, paying a fortune in rent or on a mortgage. I also think there’s another form of deception at work, whereby people want to think they’re “better” i.e. wealthier than they actually are, or that they will be, and fail to recognize who they actually are, and what their real peer group is. We need solidarity. We need community.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, great speech, Damo. I like your call for people to keep learning, to be healthy, and to have love in their hearts. A very strong and positive message, my friend.
    You would like my friend Neil Goodwin who dresses up as Charlie Chaplin (he calls himself Charlie X) and holds silent protests, but always with great props that are designed to bamboozle the authorities. Years ago, he freaked out the police around Parliament, but these days he’s mostly in South Africa, where his partner’s from. Our loss. Check him out on Facebook here:

  30. damo says...

    I love Charlie Chaplin he was so ahead of the game ,he was a real humanitarian he wrote the speech from the great dictator and directed and wrote ..all his movies …the kid was voted one of the greatest movies of all time another great movie that shows in a way how to live is the 1969 film Harold and Maude (Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon) a wonderfull film with a superb soundtrack by the then cat Stevens ..have a look at Dr cornel west …he’s realy on it.

  31. damo says...

    Like joni mitchell says we’ve got to get back to the garden,….how …..on it…..were that generation…those wonderfull 60,s 70,s people and the powers laughed and didn’t listen ,I think its time to go back a take a fresh look at what they were saying.. they were right.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    One of the things I was determined to do for my son, Damo, was to make sure he had some great comedy influences early on – so that meant Looney Tunes and silent movies. The latter particularly involved, when he was very young, a massive boxed set of Laurel and Hardy films, and, a little later, some early Charlie Chaplin films – from 1915-16 when he was just starting out. What amazing physical comedy!
    Funny you should mention Harold and Maude – one of the most subversive films I have ever seen. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who doesn’t trust the status quo or the establishment’s point of view.
    Here’s an article about Bud Cort from a few years ago that touches on some of the reasons for the film’s greatness – the extraordinary relationship between two outsiders, one a privileged but alienated young man, and the other a non-conformist old woman, and that also discusses how the film bombed at the time of its release:

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    I agree, Damo. What I particularly love about the 70s is how the rules were being broken as a matter of course. Now inevitably, when you throw away the rule books, you’re in an unknown place, with nothing to fall back on, and often what ensued was a disaster. But the best way forward was for people to learn from their mistakes and gradually to end up with something better than what previously existed, and in many ways the 70s involved huge advances – in co-operative and communal organizing, for example, and the coming of age of the environmental movement, as well widespread challenges to the imperial and colonial perceptions of history and to the class system, and advances in embracing equality, through the rise of feminism (which, I must acknowledge, was often aimed at some of the less progressive aspects of the 60s/70s revolution), and the movements that sought racial equality and an end to discrimination against gay people.
    I’m very glad that I grew up in the late 70s and early 80s, but of course as an adult I found my world hijacked by Thatcher and her social butchers, who were opposed to everything that was good about the 60s and 70s, and whose malevolent legacy – continued by her heirs Tony Blair and David Cameron – is the world of today, with its braying greed, and its dull, dull, dull conformist drones – all looking identical, too smart, too clean, and with all dissent and wildness suppressed.

  34. damo says...

    I have a copy of a little picture on my wall I cut it out of a magazine in the 90s its a copy of a photograph taken on the steerage deck of an America bound Atlantic liner in midwinter ice and snow everywere in about 1907 its of a troupe of vaudville performers the max karney troupe ,poseing on deck in hats and thick coats …on there way to America for the first time two we know amongst that little hudle of imagrants….Charlie Chaplin and Stan laurel…there just something about this picture that I adore ..just the scence of optermisum,the hope the adventure the takeing of one of the biggest chances they would ever take they are beaming and so alive,…..people are so scared now….so controled…..were did that spirit of revolution go it is still here ….but only just it seems

  35. damo says...

    There has been horror of some sort throughout history in every decade and the 70s were no exeption ,but there was a scence of optermisum and hope it seems now a sunnyer time , where people were freer, more willing to be open to tryout and embrace new ways of…thinking….being….loveing,living….just being,and the incredable people that decade produced its music and its films….seems like a golden age, two more films for your list Andy …the phantom tollbooth and the magnificent one flew over the cuckoos nest I forgot to mention an obscure 60s film that I recomend everyone watch its on youtube….the 7 faces of Dr lao …enjoy

  36. Bill Jones says...

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    That sounds like a wonderful photo, Damo – and yes, when we reflect on that energy and optimism, which was in so much US culture throughout the 20th century – up until the 80s, I think, when the corporate takeover really began – it’s impossible not to conclude that we have been horribly ripped off. I’m with Bill Hicks, who, in shows in the early 90s, began by asking if anyone was in advertising or PR, and telling them to go and kill themselves. If Bill came back to life now, I’m sure he’d find it hard to believe just 20 years had passed. We are sold lies about crap we don’t need and how inadequate we are every second of every day, by people who take anything cool and buy it up as quickly as possible to make their selling of crap we don’t need appear even more cutting-edge and necessary. The whole thing makes me sick.

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest left a deep impression on me as a 17-year old seeing it in 1980, Damo, when I used to see a lot of great films at art house cinemas. I never saw The Phantom Tollbooth, though, but it’s here on YouTube:
    I also hadn’t heard of The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, although I can’t find it on YouTube, or, at least, not available in the UK.
    There was so much interesting film-making in the 60s and 70s. Again, so many things that would just never get made today. I was pleased to have had an education via BBC2 and art house cinemas!

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, really, Bill, you have to look at what’s being spent before you can say that so breezily. A fortune is spent on supplementing the costs of working people, because they don’t earn enough compared to how much it costs to live. Then there’s the housing benefit scam, whereby landlords charge as much as they can get away with – and remember, 100% of that goes to the landlords, none of it to the poor tenants portrayed as the scroungers. Then we have a huge pension problem that no one mentions when they talk about the welfare bill. No one’s cutting that but it’s unaffordable. People who aren’t born yet will be forking out for the pensions of people now, retiring on half-pay and living for 40 years after retirement. That’s simply unsustainable, but no one wants to talk about it because older people vote.
    You also, I think, fundamentally misunderstand the realities of deficits and debt, and the suicidal nature of austerity. Paul Krugman wrote a very interesting article about it for the Guardian recently, which I wholeheartedly recommend:

  40. damo says...

    Bill Jones are you the local village idiot??? Or wot do you live under a stone or are you so fabbulasly weathy that none of whats going on aplies to you ….well you the lucky one then….buffoon……

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    I think, Damo, that what’s most interesting is how much we are all generally kept in the dark about what has been happening economically. This is from Paul Krugman’s ‘The austerity delusion’ in the Guardian, which I do think everyone should read:

    When economic crisis struck the advanced economies in 2008, almost every government – even Germany – introduced some kind of stimulus programme, increasing spending and/or cutting taxes. There was no mystery why: it was all about zero.

    Normally, monetary authorities – the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England – can respond to a temporary economic downturn by cutting interest rates; this encourages private spending, especially on housing, and sets the stage for recovery. But there’s a limit to how much they can do in that direction. Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t cut interest rates below zero. We now know that this wasn’t quite right, since many European bonds now pay slightly negative interest. Still, there can’t be much room for sub-zero rates. And if cutting rates all the way to zero isn’t enough to cure what ails the economy, the usual remedy for recession falls short.

    So it was in 2008-2009. By late 2008 it was already clear in every major economy that conventional monetary policy, which involves pushing down the interest rate on short-term government debt, was going to be insufficient to fight the financial downdraft. Now what? The textbook answer was and is fiscal expansion: increase government spending both to create jobs directly and to put money in consumers’ pockets; cut taxes to put more money in those pockets.

    But won’t this lead to budget deficits? Yes, and that’s actually a good thing. An economy that is depressed even with zero interest rates is, in effect, an economy in which the public is trying to save more than businesses are willing to invest. In such an economy the government does everyone a service by running deficits and giving frustrated savers a chance to put their money to work. Nor does this borrowing compete with private investment. An economy where interest rates cannot go any lower is an economy awash in desired saving with no place to go, and deficit spending that expands the economy is, if anything, likely to lead to higher private investment than would otherwise materialise.

    It’s true that you can’t run big budget deficits for ever (although you can do it for a long time), because at some point interest payments start to swallow too large a share of the budget. But it’s foolish and destructive to worry about deficits when borrowing is very cheap and the funds you borrow would otherwise go to waste.

    At some point you do want to reverse stimulus. But you don’t want to do it too soon – specifically, you don’t want to remove fiscal support as long as pedal-to-the-metal monetary policy is still insufficient. Instead, you want to wait until there can be a sort of handoff, in which the central bank offsets the effects of declining spending and rising taxes by keeping rates low. As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1937: “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.”

    All of this is standard macroeconomics. I often encounter people on both the left and the right who imagine that austerity policies were what the textbook said you should do – that those of us who protested against the turn to austerity were staking out some kind of heterodox, radical position. But the truth is that mainstream, textbook economics not only justified the initial round of post-crisis stimulus, but said that this stimulus should continue until economies had recovered.

    What we got instead, however, was a hard right turn in elite opinion, away from concerns about unemployment and toward a focus on slashing deficits, mainly with spending cuts. Why?

    Part of the answer is that politicians were catering to a public that doesn’t understand the rationale for deficit spending, that tends to think of the government budget via analogies with family finances. When John Boehner, the Republican leader, opposed US stimulus plans on the grounds that “American families are tightening their belt, but they don’t see government tightening its belt,” economists cringed at the stupidity. But within a few months the very same line was showing up in Barack Obama’s speeches, because his speechwriters found that it resonated with audiences. Similarly, the Labour party felt it necessary to dedicate the very first page of its 2015 general election manifesto to a “Budget Responsibility Lock”, promising to “cut the deficit every year”.

    Let us not, however, be too harsh on the public. Many elite opinion-makers, including people who imagine themselves sophisticated on matters economic, demonstrated at best a higher level of incomprehension, not getting at all the logic of deficit spending in the face of excess desired saving. […]

    Beyond these economic misconceptions, there were political reasons why many influential players opposed fiscal stimulus even in the face of a deeply depressed economy. Conservatives like to use the alleged dangers of debt and deficits as clubs with which to beat the welfare state and justify cuts in benefits; suggestions that higher spending might actually be beneficial are definitely not welcome.

  42. damo says...

    It’s funny or unfunny walking on the streets here in west London ,shepards bush and unfortunately shepards bush is being gentrified before my very eyes with the poor and locals being pushed out by the sceptic tide of gentrification ..there an arrogance in the air….its becomeing toryland full of the grasping……profetionals……thease people cop such a rude shit attitude …you got to see it to bealive it they think there demi gods and the main culprits are the white wealthy upper middle class ….who are infesting ..this area Jesus andy they spred like pubic lice ..there everywere like invation of the body snatchers,lol …this is the repugnant Boris New london….that filthy torie…people can only be pushed so far its gonna break soon Andy . Thease fuckers and the rest of the torie fuckers are realy gonna feel the fury of people and its not gonna be pretty…….I needed to let of steam Andy…dxx

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    I think we all need to let off steam, Damo – those of us who are having to put up with the new breed of braying, greedy Brits, and the global rich and super-rich, on a daily basis. When we were younger, I remember how the Tories used to call any effort to criticise the actions of the rich “the politics of envy.” I don’t hear that any more; I hope because they know deep down that the inequality is so extreme that it would just be insulting. Mostly, though, I suspect they’re simply sold on their narrative of “entitlement” for the poor, as though the most “entitled” people aren’t the rich. The Tories bang on about hard-working people all the time, but I don’t see most of the rich people swanning around London all day working at all. Like far too many rich people, their leeching – through property, investments – doesn’t actually require them to work any more.
    I wouldn’t mind so much what these despicable people do if they left everyone else alone, but we have an uncontrolled housing price bubble, with prices so insanely out of control that it’s like permanently waking up in a dystopian nightmare for far too many people, whose entire lives are increasingly devoted just to paying the rent – or their prized but insanely expensive mortgage. We’re also looking at the destruction of social housing, the only lifeline left for so many people.
    I was speaking to a housing activist on Saturday who was telling me,for example, that Tottenham wants to get rid of all its social housing – replacing it with new, private housing that will, of course, involve some social cleansing, and, for those who can cling on, rents that are two or three times what they were previously, which, of course for ordinary workers asked to pay £300 a week, will have to be supplemented by the government, until, of course, the government cuts all support to the lower-paid, as I’m sure they will (beyond raising the rate at which tax is paid, which is a rare progressive policy they learned from the Lib Dems).
    We really do urgently need a London-wide movement to save social housing, and to demand more genuinely affordable social housing to be built.

  44. damo says...

    The Tories have neverbeen hard working there not capable of hard work and real work,you only have to look at them ,narrow shouldered weak backed button cocked baboon tited and that’s just the males,lol the Tories and corperates hold the whip at the moment…I’m sick of the sight of thease ….subhumans…. Thease leeches and parasites….they and there arrogant greedy behaveiour make me angry I wanna beat them…but its me who will end up nicked with an abh record….if people could thease pigs would be tarred and feathered and run out of town…I just feel were all pushed into the corner man …and its gonna blow…dxx

  45. damo says...

    Sorry to rant Andy its just its out of kilter and unfair at the moment

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    I completely understand, Damo. It’s oppressive. The rich behave as though money is all that defines success as a human being, or even survival as a human being. We know they’re wrong, but what can we do about it when they have the power to make life so difficult for so many people? Why should people be slaving to pay the rent to someone who does nothing? Why should people who can’t find work, because there’s only one job for every three people without work, be made to feel like pariahs and driven out of their homes, or driven out of London altogether?

  47. damo says...

    The thing is Andy this area just like hackney was a working class area…thease people….wouldn’t have shat on this area and its peoples 20 years ago…now they want the ground beneth your feet and the shirt of your back…..there winning at the moment Andy ,we have got to rise up… to

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    They have so much money, Damo. I always find myself slightly surprised by how so many people in London are so rich. They’re still outnumbered by us, of course, but there are so many of them – 27% of London’s population, according to “The hollowing out of London: how poverty patterns are changing,” a new Statesman article in March, which also noted that 36% of London’s population are poor:
    Here’s another interesting article I found, “How the super rich got richer: 10 shocking facts about inequality” by Danny Dorling in the Guardian, from last September:

  49. Why It’s OK Not To Want A Job (And What To Do About It!) – Little Green Seedling says...

    […] worth noting that the number of job vacancies in the UK is less than the number of unemployed people. Unless the government creates more jobs, it’s impossible for everyone to be employed. As […]

  50. Why It's OK Not To Want A Job (And What To Do About It!) - Little Green Seedling says...

    […] worth noting that the number of job vacancies in the UK is less than the number of unemployed people. Unless the government creates more jobs, it’s impossible for everyone to be employed. As […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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