Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Some kids apparently think that having no mobile phone is an indicator of poverty. There were campaigners on the radio this morning saying that not being able to afford to buy a present to take to a classmate's party indicates "exclusion".
The best Western World definition of poverty I ever came across was in Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. The president was raised in the hill country of Texas in the 1920s. The parents and children at his school embarked on a protracted money-raising campaign and were eventually successful in buying the team a basketball. (He's the teacher in this picture from 1928.)


  1. It's not exactly a new concept is it? I'm 42 and I was ridiculed at school for not having a digital watch, not wearing 'Jam Shoes' and because my Dad drove an old Escort. That was 30 years ago. It has always happened and until the revolution comes it always will. Or something.

  2. Anonymous9:31 am

    But did you know that half the population is below the average!!! Won't somebody please think of the children!

  3. My sister in law sat in our kitchen last night in a highly perplexed state. Her two eldest daughters (11 and 10 respectively) had arrived home from school and told her that they BOTH wanted the following for Xmas: iPod Nano's, new mobile Phones (despite the fact that they both got new phones in June) and a laptop each. She was then told that if they didn't get this then other kids would think they were poor. I should add that my in laws both have very well paying professional jobs, the kids attend a school in a resolutely middle class town and this is the shit that the kids are coming out with. I sat there slack jawed at the audacity of these kids.

  4. So...which of the parents around here are going to start saying 'no' to their children's excessive demands? I reckon more might do it now, when it's a choice of either paying the mortgage or getting the kids a new moby every two weeks.

  5. Anonymous2:07 pm

    @The Kitchen Cynic

    Please state your source for such a sweeping statistic.

  6. Anonymous2:40 pm

    @ anonymous

    I can't remember, but it also said that half the population is ABOVE the average! Surely that can't be fair?

    [actually, I've always reckoned that as a considerable part of the population must be bang-on average, neither gag can be true]

  7. Anonymous4:34 pm

    My 15 year old refuses to eat breakfast before he leaves the house, will not let us replace his scruffy, too-small blazer and definitely has nowhere safe nearby to 'play'.
    These appear to be hidden trappings of poverty.
    I bloody knew it.

  8. Interesting, the fetishes of the day. Amy

  9. Actually, The Kitchen Cynic, that's not necessarily true. If, say, a small section of the population are on super-inflated salaries, and everyone else's earnings are a lot less, then it's probable that more than half of the country will be on below-average incomes. I know you were being facetious, but let's get it right, eh? Change average to median, and you're about right.

    But yeah, kids today, tuh! etc.

  10. Anonymous5:11 pm

    As I understand it, 'average' is a catch-all term, applying equally to 'mode', 'median' and 'mean'. So in fact, the entire gag falls over for want of mathematical precision.

  11. Anonymous11:47 pm

    I remember visiting an IDP (internally displaced people) community in Guatemala a few years ago and seeing kids playing football with a punctured ball. It did make me reassess my assumptions about poverty, yeah.

    But it's not as simple as that. In the UK the general definition of a household living in poverty is one living at less than 60% of the median income after housing costs are taken into account. I don't know offhand what that is, but it's not much in relative terms. Poverty isn't just about money, it's about how you feel about yourself and your life, what doors might open for you, what choices you might have, how you feel about who you are in the world and how others see you. That's as real here as anywhere else.