Time for an off-topic rant?

It is ages since I’ve written an off-topic rant, though I have been tempted once or twice ;-). Those temptations have now got the better of me, so please don’t mind if I just let off a bit of steam against the silly things that people in what passes for the government here are saying – plus the banks and a charity.

1. Single mothers are blamed for the recent riots for not bringing up their children with proper discipline. Rubbish! J K Rowling is (was) among many sterling role models for single parents. Many people find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own – a situation in which overwhelmingly the mother is looking after the children while the father(s) disappear, often providing no, minimal or meagre financial support. Most mothers are highly responsible for their children and do their best for them, whatever the circumstances. If anyone needs to be “blamed” for family break-ups, I submit that it is not (usually) the mother – she is the person left to carry the can.

2. Why has UNICEF now produced yet another patronising, superficial report, this time telling British parents what a bad job we are doing for working too many hours and giving our children too many gadgets compared with Spain and Scandinavia? As usual with these reports, the conclusions are based on a survey of 250 people; as well as being unrepresentative it is simply ignorant, in failing to consider relevant factors such as the cost of living necessitating work and the influence of US TV and its materialistic culture on an English-speaking nation compared with a non-English speaking one. But more to the point, I have been giving UNICEF a monthly donation for about 20 years because I believed it to be helping children living in poor countries and/or conditions, not for producing mindless reports for the media to shout about. I am going to stop my donation and give it to some other organisation that helps those most in need, as a small gesture of protest.

3. Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory minister, tells the “middle class” (his term) that it is our fault in some ill defined way that people live in poverty because we turn a mass blind-eye. Another load of rubbish. The “middle classes” are an easy target because we are too busy working, paying our taxes, educating our children, maintaining our living environment, and so on, to respond to this type of drivel. The truth is that it is these “middle classes” who pay our government’s salaries, part of which is to provide leadership and strategies to help all those in our society to maintain or improve their lot. Motes and eyes come to mind here.

4. Chris Hulne (Lib Dem energy minister) lambasts us for paying too much for our energy. He says we should be switching providers to cheaper ones, taking advantage of deals. What a load of hot carbon dioxide. Price-comparison websites are a nightmare in this regard in terms of how much information one has to provide to even get the comparison, as are the people employed by the charlatans who run our energy companies to knock on our doors at night to persuade us to change from one to another provider. And what happens if one does change to a cheaper gas or electric company? It puts its prices up after a few weeks so one is worse off than before. Mr Hulme would be better off regulating these companies better so they don’t charge so much in the first place, and while he is about it he could stop British Gas from making its minimal direct debit deduction much more than the energy consumed, only providing a “refund” once a year.

5. Banks are fodder for endless rants, but the recent report that almost but not quite recommends a split between investment and retail banks misses some tricks on the sharp practices of these odious institutions – odious because they use people’s money excessively to further their own profit motive, and they use technology to bamboozle the customer (so stupid as they even bamboozle themselves in this way, as yet another disastrous “rogue trader” has just demonstrated). Banks persuade customers to use online banking by reducing the number of branches, staff, etc, but they blatantly use the technology to foist loan offers on you every time you log on, providing no means to switch off this irresponsible garbage. Further, banks provide savings accounts at a certain amount of interest, but then “close” that type of account and reduce the interest payments to near-zero, often without bothering to inform savers. Therefore, to avoid being fleeced, one has to keep watch, and go through all the hassle of going to a bank, waiting to see some “advisor”, being pitched for all kinds of unwelcome “services”: all hoops to jump through to switch into another account that pays the same-ish, relatively meagre, rate of interest as the first account. Surely ending these sleazy practices are simple reforms to achieve that would be welcomed by every suffering customer?

12 thoughts on “Time for an off-topic rant?

  1. Agree with all points.
    1) That single-mother scapegoating goes on over here, too. Right-winger Ann Coulter wrote a book blaming single mothers for everything, when they are the ones who raise children and do everything to take care of them.
    2. What is UNICEF talking about? People have to work even harder these days to take care of their own families. Costs are so high over here that many people work 2 or 3 jobs to do this, as everything costs so much. They should be helping poor children around the world, not blaming parents who are doing the best they can.
    3. Blaming the middle class because people are poor makes no logical sense whatsoever, but who says that these politicians are logical? They aren’t here. They blame people who are having a hard time themselves and then blame even worse people who are poor. Yet they are cutting food stamp programs, which because of the high unemployment and unemployment is at the highest rate ever, as is the number of people living below the poverty level , now one in five children. The politicians could do something about jobs here or health care or a lot of things but do not except play the blame game.
    4. And to hear politicians blame people for paying too much for energy! Again, no logic. Yes, why not set top limits on energy charges and fees on the utility companies? I know here my utility bill is going to compete with my rent bill soon as the charges are soaring, and I was informed last week, the rates not only went up this year but are going up next year again. No kidding! And they suggested I turn off my gas stove to save funds! I asked how I would manage to eat. No answer. Ridiculous.
    5. Yes on banks, to all points. Absurd situation. No point in even dealing with them if one is not a corporation or investment company.

  2. You know me…love a good rant…on or off topic. The only reason I don’t include OT ones on my blog is my fear that if I start I will never stop.

    I should no longer be astonished (but still am) that women get the raw end of most deals, including the single-mother nonsense. If you ever see a bloke who is a single parent he is universally lauded as some kind of latter-day hero but all the women who do it day-in, day out often without financial or other support are lambasted en masse by so called leaders. It is abhorrent this is still happening in 2011. It is also sad that such a clearly complex issue as the recent riots in the UK is explored with such shallowness. There’s no way that there is a single cause for what happened.

    I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time for the UN in any of its incarnations so I am not surprised that its kids arm has produced a load of nonsense of the type you describe. I have had more to do with the outputs of its health body (WHO) and they are, for the most part, utter balderdash of the most ignorant kind – costing a small fortune and offering no sensible solutions to anyone on any topic, often incorporating alarming untruths in order that the leaders of some tinpot country somewhere will not be offended (e.g. AIDS prevention messages are virtually non-existent by the time all the sensitive ‘African interests’ are taken into consideration).

    One of the few areas where I must tip my hat to successive Governments here in Oz is on regulation of banks. Our country has fared comparatively well in the most recent global economic mess for two reasons…1) the mining boom (our dumb luck we are sitting on a whole lot of crap the Chinese want though heaven only knows what will happen when we’ve dug up the last scrap of useful minerals from the place)…2) some of the toughest banking regulations in the world which include very strict consumer protection rules which govern things like being offered credit that one can’t afford and having to make full disclosure with regards to all special offers. You know that regulations are good for ‘us’ when the industry fights tooth and nail not to have them adopted…but they have saved a lot of people in the past few years I imagine.

    Sadly our energy sector is not nearly so well controlled and I too am fed up with being bombarded by strangers ringing, emailing and appearing on my doorstep at all hours of the day and night urging me to switch to some company that has existed for less time than most of my pairs of underpants (and just so you know I do upgrade my undies regularly).

  3. Maxine – You make such well-taken points! I nodded my head vigourously the whole way through your post. It is unconscionable that in this day and age, single mothers are blamed (even if that’s not the word used outright) for some of the things that happen in our society. We see the same thing here. I work as a teacher educator, and one of the things I often see is teachers and other school officials blaming poor school performance on lack of parental interest and involvement, especially if the parents are single. The fact is there is a constellation of factors that interact to affect school performance – putting poor performance down to just one of them is inaccurate and possibly damaging as it causes school professionals to make assumptions they should not be making. Worse, it makes it easy for school and government officials not to look at factors that are just as important (funding, social inequities and so on). It’s too easy to opt for the “Well, what do you expect? These kids have single mothers who just don’t want to take the time to be bothered with their school work?” attitude.

    It is also unconscionable the way the middle class gets blamed for all sorts of social and economic woes. I won’t go on and on and on but trust me, there are many examples.For instance government officials, banking officers and energy company executives have been known to say that the middle class should pay “its fair share of taxes,” should have spent more wisely (and then the economic crisis we’ve been facing wouldn’t have happened) and should be responsible for lowering the price of utilities by using less energy. That is, the middle class should fix everything. This perception allows those people to avoid making any changes in their own practices. Trust me, you don’t want me to go any further on this…

  4. With all of this blaming middle-class people, single-mothers and the poor, it seems like we’re leaving the big cheeses off the end of the blame pointing. Millionaires and billionaires are doing quite well in the states. In fact, record profits are being made — in a “jobless” recovery. No new jobs, 25-30 million unemployed or underemployed, 50 million without health insurance, 46 million on food stamps, countless losing homes to foreclosures to often unscrupulous mortage companies and banks.
    Profits are the highest ever. In fact, some big companies like General Electric, which had record profits last year, paid no taxes and even got a rebate. And yet, we who scrimp and save to pay these exorbitant energy bills are blamed. Someone has to set limits of energy rates and bills.

  5. At the end of Where Eagles Dare Clint Eastwood says next time you have a mission like this make it an all British affair. I suppose I should leave Maxine’s rant to be an all female affair, but it is too tempting to add my twopenn’orth.

    1] Single mothers- from my family experience they do a fantastic job and make great sacrifices for their children who are surprisingly well adjusted. I doubt that anyone becomes a single mother by design, although it is mostly a situation arrived at by making a confused/wrong/exciting choice of male partner.

    2] UNICEF- Anything to do with the UN is a total waste of space, after all didn’t this organization elected Ghaddafi as President of the UN Human Right’s Commission in 2003.
    We cannot solely blame American TV for all the materialistic culture affecting British children, because our own media glamorize the cult of celebrity to an alarming extent.
    Most surveys, or studies, are arranged to ask questions to fit an answer already arrived at by someone in HQ. In the 1980s there was a trial dental study on children’s dental health carried out in Buckinghamshire and Kingston. Kingston dentists objected to the way the study was conducted and pointed out that the two areas were hardly representative of England. They moved the Kingston study to Bromley. The American equivalent would be doing a study in Marin County CA and Fairfax County VA, and using the results for introducing a system across the entire USA.

    3] To blame the middle class for turning a blind eye to others poverty is utterly ridiculous. Recent governments by allowing property prices to soar [a situation partially caused by making England a host nation] and allowing the costs of basic necessities to rise have taken huge steps in impoverishing the middle class. As Maxine has said the middle class are all too busy struggling to provide a decent life for our children and grandchildren.
    If there was a political party that was more concerned with helping poor people, rather than prancing around the world making deals for oil and selling arms, the middle class might vote for it.

    4] Chris Huhne, Lib Dem energy minister and superb car driver is an expert on switching but the next person who comes to the door advising me to switch to KGB Gas Supplies of Siberia will be told to ****** off.
    The Lib Dems will never ever have my vote, but their election manifesto was a fine work of fiction.

    5] When Vampire Bank cold call ME and then proceed to ask ME to verify who I am, I now interrupt them and ask them for their date of birth, their mother’s maiden name, their car registration number and their home address. That has them totally rattled, and the last time they just put the phone down on me.

  6. Thanks all for your tolerance of my rants & support. Norman, that last idea is great thanks!! I get fed up at being part of a “class” that is derided and mocked by all – ie people who were not given inherited money but have worked hard, educate children and pay taxes. Politicians increasingly seem to be about pandering to tiny “swing” sectors and protecting their own interests (and those to whom they are connected eg in business and media). Bernadette, I wish our banks would return to the ways of yours. I even decided to put my money in the Post Office despite low interest, just to get away from all the crap – only to see that its banking division is now owned by the bank of Ireland! Runs away screaming….

  7. Good rants! Love them! Blaming the middle-class over here is so absurd. So many people have fallen out of the middle-class due to unemployment, then often long-time jobless or having to accept low-wage jobs. Real wages have fallen over here. So many young people cannot find jobs; this has happened to friends’ college-educated children. And middle-aged people who have lost jobs are not getting hired. Yet prices are skyrocketing. So many homes are foreclosed upon because of job loss that it’s epidemic. So the middle-class is losing so much ground.

  8. Yup, another general agreement from me too – excellent points, Maxine, and in the comments too. We live in such depressing times. If I think about it too much I find it paralyses me (and exhausts me too because I actually wake up in the middle of the night wondering what is going to become of everything).

  9. Excellent post, Maxine. Ranting suits you (by which I mean that your ranting cuts through lots of the current nonsense we are experiencing in an articulate and well-reasoned way). Agree especially with your first point. Am a former single mother and I certainly did not enjoy being blamed by all of society’s ills by The Daily Fail. Same problem, depressingly, remains a good decade later.

  10. I think this is more of a reason to turn to global mysteries — for distraction and enjoyment. I just saw a wonderful slogan which I’m going to enlarge and put on a wall: “Stay Calm: Read a book!”

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