‘Poverty porn’ is the euphemism given to the increasing number of programmes on television that highlight what is perceived as ‘scrounging’ or ‘benefit cheating’. The programmes highlight the type of people who are happy to live on benefits and show little inclination to get a job. They are in the minority but they are how viewers want to perceive ‘people on benefits’ to be.
Though their producers deny this, the programmes all seem to have the following remits.
1. They are designed to make you dislike the desperate lower classes of this country.
2. To reinforce the idea that people living on benefits are lazy scum
3. To use other people’s misfortune as entertainment
4. To generate anger and outrage rather than sympathy for people who are living life on the edge of chaos.

The fact is that a great many jobs today pay a low wage that doesn’t provide enough for people to survive. They work full-time but still need benefit payments from the government to help them. It is a fact that the greater majority of people on benefits are working.

There is an old folk song (see below) which I first recall being sung by a Lancashire folk group called The Houghton Weavers (their version is still out there on YouTube). The words ‘poverty, poverty, knock’ imitates the sound of a loom in full flow…a constant reminder to the weaver that they might be ‘in work’ now but that poverty was always an unfortunate moment away. The original song tells of all the things that might happen that cou mean the difference between having money and having nothing.

It seems to me that those people today who are ‘getting by’ have not got that prescience, but the simple fact is that the world we live in is becoming more and more fragile to those who are not fabulously wealthy…and that most of us are never that far away from poverty.

POVERTY, POVERTY, PORN

I work ev’ry day till I’m beat
I just want to put up mi feet
Put food in mi belly
In front of the telly
And turn on that Benefits Street

Poverty, poverty porn is what I like to watch on TV
Poverty, poverty porn. It makes me feel good about me.
Poverty, poverty porn. I’m all set to start pouring scorn
I forget how I’m doing whenever I’m viewing that poverty, poverty porn

These chancers they’ve put on the screen
Are as slippy as warm Vaseline
A lifetime of wangles
They know all the angles
I’m fair fit to let off some steam

The buggers they get me annoyed
Their benefits should be made void
No wonder I hate ‘em
They answer verbatim
“I’m better off being unemployed.”

Poverty, poverty porn is what I like to watch on TV
Poverty, poverty porn. It makes me feel good about me.
Poverty, poverty porn. I’m all set to start pouring scorn
I forget how I’m doing whenever I’m viewing that poverty, poverty porn

I think ‘well I’m better than them’
With mi house and Renault Megane
We scrimp like a dosser
For two weeks in Tossa
Which our lass says keeps us both sane

Receivers called in where I graft
They reckon we’ve been overstaffed
I’ll soon be back working
You won’t catch me shirking
Wi’ a five thousand pound overdraft

Poverty, poverty porn is what I like to watch on TV
Poverty, poverty porn. It makes me feel good about me.
Poverty, poverty porn. I’m all set to start pouring scorn
I forget how I’m doing whenever I’m viewing that poverty, poverty porn

At fifty I’m trying mi best
The doc seems to think I’m depressed
It’s not like a fiddle
Sixteen hours at Lidl
And t’ benefits make up the rest

Now times are increasingly tough
No smooth and a whole lot of rough
Our home’s on the market
I’ve nowt in mi pocket
I’m having to sell all mi stuff

Poverty, poverty porn who guessed it would happen to me
Poverty, poverty porn not like those you see on TV
Poverty, poverty porn. For the first time since I was born
I’m viewed as a has-been and they’ve taken my flat screen I’m done with that poverty porn

©gray lightfoot

Hear Gray sing the poem here…