What's Christmas without food?
A curious phenomenon occurs around this time in some of my city's poorer districts. In these places, Christmas starts earlier. Often, on a night when the rain is not merely dropping but chibbing you at an angle of 45 degrees, it's not just the orange street lights that dance in the puddles. As you look up a road lined by tenements, on either side here and there you will see little Christmas trees taking up position at the window and pulling on their coats of many colours. Sometimes, a mini-yuletide theme park has sprung up in a garden in Possil where reindeers are pulling a sleigh up the side of a four-storey block and there are enough lights to land a plane. Startled transatlantic jumbo jet pilots have been known to report this light display to Glasgow airport authorities.
A friend has noticed this too and said, a little uncharitably: "They're wishing their life away." For many in these communities, Christmas can't come early enough. To them, more than most, the season of Christ's birth represents optimism, warmth and kindness, qualities that will scarcely have occurred in their lives the rest of the year round. They grab Christmas early and never want to let it go. So the decorations go up in November and come down in late January. Perhaps they are using the light to chase away the shadows of another year when the screw has been turned just a little tighter on our poor.
The United Kingdom is now in the hands of gangsters who think if you're poor then you deserve to be and then penalised further for being so. They think that a few days of mild anarchy on the streets of London is a sign that the balloon has gone up. Then they hand down sentences that make you think the miscreants were trying to blow up the Palace of Westminster. In other countries, there have been revolutions and uprisings because of less than what our poor have endured.
In Glasgow last Monday, an initiative was launched aimed at finding ways of ensuring children from the city's most disadvantaged areas can participate in leisure activities. Government research has revealed what the evidence of our own eyes tells us: that children from affluent backgrounds will gain much more access to leisure activities. In poorer areas, the cost of transport to a city centre location may simply be beyond the budget that week. A trip to Edinburgh to see the laughably named National Galleries is less likely than a trip to the moon.
Meanwhile, those limited facilities offering vital outdoor activities in poorer areas are the first to shut down owing to government cuts. The poor don't vote, you see, and aren't very good at presenting their case, so you can shut things down or turn them off in their neighbourhoods with impunity. Yet a few more discounted services and activities could provide a crucial difference in the lives of citizens from these areas.
Just a week earlier, it was revealed that more than 50,000 people in Glasgow will struggle to put food on the table this Christmas, having been fleeced by unscrupulous lenders. The banks won't touch these people and so they are driven into the hands of loan sharks or finance companies which our governments allow to charge obscene interest rates.
The banks' values are now solely underpinned by the values of greed and avarice. They sell us a lie that they must continue to pay Luciferean bonuses so that they can attract "the world's best financiers". It is as if the knowledge of working the markets is known only to a few anointed necromancers who have studied at the feet of the Father of Lies to gain aptitude at their fell art. Total pish. It's easy to take risks on the markets with a half-decent economics higher and billions of other people's money, secure in the knowledge that you'll never be penalised or prosecuted when you fail, as fail you must.
In Scotland today, more than 100,000 young people are unemployed, more than ever before. This evil is not even deemed worthy of comment by the Bullingdon Club chancers English voters put in Downing Street. As this was announced, George Osborne, a man you can imagine in a Beefeater's hat and a redcoat demanding tithes and a night with your wife, warns companies to stay away from Scotland over uncertainties about independence. He just added another few thousand to the unemployment figures in Scotland. And another few thousand who will now vote yes in the independence referendum.Don't kid yourself that all this misery facing the poor is an unfortunate but unavoidable byproduct of the "recession". In large parts of Britain, recessions don't occur. In the past 30 years, which, by my calculations, have witnessed three economic recessions, top executive pay has increased by 4,000%. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers have lost their jobs, not because their firms were in trouble, but because they had only made £5m that year instead of £7m. The "recession" is something "top executives" invent when they want to take your job and increase their pensions.
Wednesday's strike action by public sector workers is long overdue. It will not, as David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Osborne claim, cost the country millions. It will inconvenience some of us for a day or so. We won't lose our jobs and be prevented from putting a turkey on the table because of it. That's already happened because of the greed, corruption and negligence of bankers and the governments which turned a blind eye to it all. The right to strike is a noble and dignified tool that workers can use when bosses and the government have taken the piss once too often. I'll be backing the public sector workers. The government ought to be thankful that they will endure a mere day of peaceful protest and not the violent uprising they probably deserve.
Kevin McKenna, The Observer