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With a shop and a skip

And while we are on the subject of charity, I’ve just been invited to sign a petition demanding MPs force supermarkets to donate their excess food that is still fit for consumption to the poor.

I signed it, because something has to be done, but I really didn’t want to. I felt the organiser – Lizzie Swarf via Campaigns For You – whoever, simply hasn’t understood the slightly more nuanced nature of the problem.

There is something Victorian and condescending about poor people – whoever they are – I’m poor, a pensioner, I live on half the average wage and can’t get a job – being handed-out free food from the back door of the supermarket, that the rest of us have to pay to take out the front. Couldn’t they just let all the people have all the food a lot cheaper?

It isn’t a simple equation: x waste handed out, not incinerated = x more poor people fed. It is in fact two entirely  separate problems: waste, and poor people.

The first part of the problem is waste. Supermarkets throw out tonnes of food every night, that they haven’t sold. It’s obscene. Why did they order it in the first place?

Supermarkets have to have fully stocked shelves. It’s an image thing. They have to give an impression of infinite abundance.

Supermarkets know exactly how much and what consumers buy. Their EPOS systems can predict with perfect accuracy, how much we will buy tomorrow, and what. But to maximise what we buy they have to order more. They could order just enough to replace the stuff they’ve sold. But they also have to feed the shelves, knowing shoppers will not buy it all. The more food they have on display, the more consumers will be persuaded to buy. But we can’t buy it all.

Food safety regulations require manufacturers and supermarkets to determine what is a safe date by which perishable food has to be consumed. They play too safe – most food is said to be unfit for consumption long before it really is. So they have to throw it out. They’re not allowed to give it away to poor people at that point, it’s illegal. That’s something MPs would have to fix. But they can’t on their own, because it’s an EU regulation to prevent hardworking families from getting poisoned. They’d need to find another way.

This sort of thing is why I signed the petition only with reluctance. It sounds like an easy problem to fix but it’s not.

Of course, consumers throw away just as much as supermarkets do. They buy a multipack, they can’t eat it all. They buy a whole chicken and roast it and eat the good bits and chuck the rest away. They buy unripened fruit and avocados that won’t ripen on the windowsill before it rots, they throw it away. They scrape the uneaten leftovers into the binbag because they can’t imagine a better use for them tomorrow. The milk goes off, down the plughole it goes.

MPs need to do something about the throwaway waste society. We already enjoy spectacularly cheap and abundant food, but if we wasted less we could spend even less on it. Food prices would come down so the poor could start to buy food again and regain their dignity, not to have use-by-now food shovelled over them indiscriminately out the back door by some sneering operative. Food could become healthier and not be bulked-out with poisons – wheat, and sugar.

The poor are not some kind of social dumpster (UK: skip), they have their dignity.

And they are the other problem – remember, it is not an equation.

MPs need to get rid of the poor.

Who are the poor? You? Me? Why are we in this situation? There are a million job vacancies currently in the UK, that are speedily filling with immigrant labour. I have nothing against immigrant labour. People should be allowed to live and work and pursue whatever happiness they can find, anywhere in the world they think they can find it. I don’t believe in borders, controls – countries.

The point is, UK government policy is to clawback jobs from where they were exported to the Far East after the 1980s. That means making them a lot cheaper. It means allowing employers once again to shit all over their workforce, like they did in the C19th. That’s what we want to ‘renegotiate’ in our contract with the European Union, the right to shit over people again.

I work part-time in a university. I have friends who are desperate to build or sustain academic careers, high-powered people with research and teaching skills, publications to their name, PhDs with cutting-edge knowledge, who are working zero-hours contracts with no job security and taking whatever temporary hours they can get. Meanwhile the money is shrinking as student numbers are falling off a cliff.

If it is like this for the nation’s brightest and best minds, what is it like for the poor cunts in the call-centres and the salt-free environments of the fast food outlets where they flip shit that is killing poor people 16 hours a day? What is it like for people in social work and the health services and in clearing up everyone’s mess? What is it like to live in a place where there is no work? It seems I can answer that one.

To get rid of poor people we only need not to make them poorer. Tory politicians cannot be expected to understand that there a comes a point where you are too poor to work, but it is a no-brainer. Modern work contracts require employees to be able to sustain themselves even when they are not being paid enough, or at all. How is that miracle to be performed?

The modern jobs market requires employees to travel around to find work. Public transport is more expensive  and lousier than ever. The cost of constantly moving home is exorbitant: poor people cannot afford to pay a firm £2000 to move their unpaid-for furniture somewhere else. Rents are at an all-time high: there is insufficient housing, and what there is is being snapped up by exploitative buy-to-let Tory landlords at virtually zero interest.

MPs know how to get rid of poor people: they will only allow themselves to take the easy option of allowing them to go to the wall, or whipping them into pointless low-paid jobs that don’t pay for food or spare bedrooms, because that is what produces the most satisfied braying noises from the ‘squeezed middle’ class, some of the most selfish and self-satisfied, undereducated and overprivileged donkeys on the planet.

The way to get rid of poor people is to allow them to have more money. To buy their own food. To not be a dumpster for charity food handouts. That’s why I’m reluctant to sign, Lizzie pet. Because you’re asking for the wrong thing.

(But I signed it anyway, I always do. Only, just don’t expect me to go on Facebook and tell all my invisible friends about your petition. I’m not on there.)


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