What a strange turn of phrase that is – ‘poverty is relative’. According to an article I read recently on The Independent news-site (Click Here for full article), it means that poverty prevents people from being full members of society.
The main focus of this article was some recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that stated that 1/3 of all Britons are too poor to ‘participate in society’.
“Participating is about belonging. Many of society’s expectations require individuals and families to spend money,” the report, Poverty, Participation and Choice, says. “Like it or not, Britain is a consumer society in which people are assessed according to the income that they have, how they spend it and what they do with their time.”
It definitely makes me think about my own experiences over the past year, and how my social life has changed since becoming unemployed and trying to adhere to a very strict budget. I’m not saying I was the life of the party a year ago, but I at least had a life. LOL
I’ve written about reassessing my views on the materialism and consumerism around us all in my post First World Problems but didn’t fully touch on how lonely being ‘poor’ can be. It’s not the same for everyone obviously because everyone has different circumstances, but I think there are some common trends that the study touched upon.
Just under a third of people in Britain are excluded from mainstream society because they cannot afford to join in cultural activities such as going to the cinema, taking a holiday or buying consumer goods.
And I’ve found that to true for me.
A huge part of being social these days is about going out and spending money, be it at the pub, a restaurant, concerts, or day trips to the countryside. It seems wherever you turn, someone is going somewhere with somebody.
But when you’re truly struggling with money, not only do you tend to spend most of your time alone, it also seems less likely people are going to invite you places because they know you can’t afford it. Sure, they may think they’re trying to spare your feelings by not inviting in the first place, but imagine being on the other end and seemingly being excluded from your friends’ lives?
Of course that is a generalised statement, because not all friends will act like that. Some may purposely go out of their way to invite you around for a Sunday roast every so often, or even take you out to the pub for a few drinks on them.
Unfortunately those aren’t regular occurrences in my experience, or more accurately, isolated to a few choice people who do their best to include you.
Some may say (and several did in the comments section for the above article) why not do cheap, simple things at home by inviting your friends to visit you? In an ideal world, that would be terrific.. But doesn’t really work for me personally.
I rent a room in a couple’s flat and really don’t have access or use of the living room since they’re continuously using it. So if I were to have company over, it would have to solely be in my bedroom.
Admittedly that’s fine for certain types of ‘company’ (*wink wink*) but not necessarily for a mate to just hang out, watch a movie on my laptop, or even to come over for dinner… Though even dinner could be a stretch due to budgetary constraints and trying to feed two or three people instead of one.
“The 30 per cent of people with the lowest incomes are forced to choose between the basic necessities of modern life; they must decide which needs to neglect.”
For a lot of people in financial difficulty or living in relative poverty, that above statement is one they wish they didn’t have to live by. Too often it’s ensuring any extra cash is used solely on replacing or fixing broken or worn out items, rather than buying something special or extra.
It’s all about living day to day and ensuring you can keep your roof over your head and food in your belly.
Personally, I just miss being able to go out for a nice meal and go to the movies without worrying that I’ve spent most of my food budget for the week…
But I’m sure I’ll get back to that level of consumerism sometime soon. 😉