When I got home from work today I had to try to explain to my three year old son that Daddy has had to go back to work in the UK and that we will see him again, hopefully, in about four weeks’ time.
So it is time to count our blessings:
- We are all healthy today.
- My 16 month old daughter, my three year old son and I live in a spacious apartment with a beautiful view across Dubai Marina.
- Our home is clean, because although I still have to work long hours, I now bring home enough money to support a live-in cleaner/nanny.
- While we still have huge debts, they are now slowly shrinking, and hopefully will no longer be paying interest by Christmas, and might be completely clear by March 2015.
- All our friends and family are well. I believe. (I cannot see them until next year sometime, but I have heard no bad news, so hopefully they are all okay).
- We are all healthy today (repeated on purpose).
Now I feel much better about my son’s sadness at Daddy’s departure, because I know it is for a good reason and that it is only temporary (another 10 to 14 months).
I had a reality check over the weekend as I have indirectly received an excellent response to my “Squeezed Middle” post, from a lady I have huge respect for, who has slogged through the system for many years, managed to build herself a career and simultaneously raise a delightful young man, single handed. I do not remember all of her story, as I cannot claim to be a close acquaintance, but I think I have this much right:
As a rebellious teenager, she got pregnant, and when her family insisted she have an abortion or be disowned, she decided to keep her child. So John (not his real name) was born to a mother who had nothing, no qualifications with which to get a job, no time, in which to work, no partner or family to support her. The system did not provide enough income for them to live on and she took whatever work she could, day and night to make the extra. When I first met her, John was already a funny, polite and bright teenager and she was working by day and training as a nurse by night.
So when she read my “Squeezed Middle” post she had every right to be upset, as I must have seemed like a proper “poor little rich girl”. Sorry, my friend, I did not mean to present the idea that I have had it worse than anyone else.
Where am I going with this? This time next year I hope to be back home with my husband, friends and family having escaped our debt trap living in the Utopia that is; having an income which exceeds your essential outgoings, maybe even with the ability to save up for things like a meal out, or even a car that is economical to run, or start saving for my children to go to university, maybe save for retirement (now I’m getting ridiculously carried away). I understand that John’s mum is now living in this kind of dream, and I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more, or for who, I have greater respect. She is one AMAZING lady.
My point is this: I doesn’t need to be this hard. Not in 2014. Not for me, in the squeezed middle, or for the very many people who have it much tougher than I do. The vision of everybody in the world having access to clean water, nutritious food, healthcare and free education is still a distant dream, but the system that we have now could be changed to vastly improve the lives of so many people, that not to change it is almost criminal.
At the moment there are many things in the system which are not clever and certainly not fair. The obvious example is the welfare system. There is no route to feedback when it is not working, so no route to continuously refine it or report when it is dysfunctional. I was stuck in the trap of still paying maximum taxes at a time when I couldn’t buy food, but because such a large sum whistled through my bank account I was not eligible for relief. If I had not fled the system, then I would have had to give up my job (sufficiently cheaper accommodation within a commutable distance does not exist), sell my house and request state assistance in order to feed and house my family. That is much more expensive for the state, than offering a tax, national insurance and student loan repayment break for people with children below school age who do not have family or friends who could care for their kids while they go to work.
Likewise it would be much cheaper for the state to invest in building low cost housing on brownfield sites (simultaneously providing sustainable work for many different trades and businesses) than paying for people to live in the properties of private landlords making the landlords richer on taxpayers money.
It’s just stupid. And it is unfair. Needlessly unfair. And there are so many examples.
So I am not just going to bleat on about how hard done by I am, and how I wish I could see my friends this weekend, or this month, or this year. I am going to try and do something about it.
I’ve read a few books on politics and economics, enough to know that the people at the top don’t actually know what they are doing, and that centre-left and centre-right doesn’t make any difference to real people’s lives (and we wonder why only 34% of registered electors bothered to vote in May 2014).
What we need is for more people who have experienced life as it is for the vast majority of people to be representing the people. What does a man who went to Eaton know about having to choose between paying the HMRC or paying for your electricity this month? What does a fine arts graduate know about the most cost effective and low carbon emission balance of power generation? Nothing, this is why the UK has had no coherent energy policy for over a decade and a contributing factor to our inflated electricity bills.
We have the wrong people making decisions. These people do not represent us, and they do not have the skills to solve the real, but completely fixable, problems in our society.
So I am planning to stand in the General Election in May 2015. Because I want to make people’s lives better. I want to help make those smart changes that will make the difference for real people between being able to pay the bills and not being able to.
Changes that will make the system more cost effective AND fairer.
Because it IS possible to ask people what will make the difference for them and to find a way to make it happen.
And it IS possible to have both a thriving economy AND green electricity.
17/03/15 POSTSCRIPT: You can view my General Election Campaign Website here.