Headlines – The Daily Mail and the Vulnerable

When I can, I browse the front pages of the newspapers each day. While revealing, they tend to follow fairly consistent patterns of (vested?) interest.

One of the things that struck me about today’s was the focus on the Daily Mail‘s front page on charity cold callers. Much as I hate to give their website any extra traffic, there’s a link to the story here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3156846/VICTORY-Mail-expose-reveals-shame-charity-cold-call-sharks-PM-pledges-tough-new-laws-tackle-boiler-room-tactics-targeting-elderly-vulnerable.html?ito=social-twitter_dailymailUK

I’m not disputing for a second that it’s a serious issue. However, it worries me that this can be spun by press institutions to divert attention away from other socio-political problems facing vulnerable people, while simultaneously allowing the paper to claim some, highly visible, moral high-ground.

Vulnerable people are facing a diverse range of existing and potential challenges. Issues involving health, disability, mental health, unemployment, poverty, child poverty, homelessness, low (inadequate) pay, hunger, and so on, are all very real and prospects of radical improvements aren’t exactly looking encouraging. However, despite the new challenges laid out in last week’s budget, the Daily Mail chooses to focus on charities as the institutions who pose the most front-page-worthy danger to vulnerable people.

(That this has the additional effect of taking primarily elder people as their vulnerable people of focus may well be simply an unintended effect of the story exposed. To suggest otherwise would indeed risk trivialising dementia, as well as contributing to a narrative in which the elderly, and their circumstances, are all reduced to a single type.)

Clearly there are very real issues to be addressed, but I marvel at the impressive feat being enacted. Charities, and charitable actions, have helped people across the world and in our own country. They have in recent years fed growing numbers in the UK who have been unable to secure an adequate income. That the very charities who should help people are also institutions that exploit them is indeed an important thing to expose and rectify, but should we not also expose, if only to ourselves, the fact that this press institution can use this scandal to reshape the narrative of vulnerability and exploitation at stake in today’s political climate? If there’s a trophy for institutions that target the vulnerable, it seems that the Mail would award it to charities, while keeping quiet about the competition. (Two days ago it made a valiant attempt to award George Osborne the accolade of England’s patron saint…)

The Mail thus entitles itself to claim that it champions the vulnerable, while dragging into implicit disrepute many people and organisations busy helping the people whose vulnerability goes ignored.

(As an important clarification, it should be emphasised that the Mail does not claim that all charities have acted in this fashion. Furthermore, this post in no way wishes to imply that the story is not worthy of exposure and coverage. If anything, it is instead a plea that the press always be so committed to challenging exploitation and injustice.)

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I’ve mocked you, grinning,

 
I’ve mocked you, grinning,
for the ginger in your beard.
And I’ve poked and pulled the dark hard hairs
which surge up from your face.
 
I’ve worn the grazing rasp
of stubble on my face
(and on my neck
and on my breasts…)
 
And once (a secret)
tweezed your glinting stubble
splintered
from my hands
from my caress.
 
Yet sometimes, when I stare
(I know my staring disconcerts you)
I hardly see the shadow of your beard
but see—
instead and only—
the softening cushions of your lips,
the gentle planes which strain to softness,
which smile in repose
which dance against my own
 

(3/8/13)

 

We’ve loved a summer now,

 
We’ve loved a summer now,
and words have scattered in your sight.
That surge towards you in my heart
pulls smiles, not words, to kiss my lips,
and sighs (and—god!—those moans) to
echo in my throat.
I gasp your words in place of air,
yet trace my scattering phrases
in my touch upon your skin.
 
And now—and now—
as you sleep on Skype,
and snuggle in my pixels,
my heart pumps words within my veins.
And silence flows with feeling now articulate.
And caring comes in whispers
of my pen upon this page.
 

(3/8/13)

Depth (1)

 
All poems are deep;
even those that sparkle
in the summer, glistening
with the scents of sun cream
build the floor beneath our feet
while we, immersed,
experience ourselves,
what it might mean to be shallow,
and the fullness of our height.
 
 

A quick browse of the Internet recently led me to the challenge: write a deep poem.

I don’t really want to argue with the fact that some poems are deeper than others, but the notion doesn’t quite sit completely comfortably with me. It’s not poems that are deep as such, but a combination of the content and topic expressed and the thought that lies behind the poem and is instilled within the reader. Depth, to me, should not be viewed as something geological, as a certain range of topics considered more primary, more fundamental than others. Depth can instead be construed as a burrowing process, as trying to penetrate a surface, and discover the interior. And, moreover, complicate the surface by the revelation of this inside.

That said, of course, sometimes you can burrow a fair way down something and find very little change. The revelation of more-of-the-same is not always that interesting. Sometimes depth in the more clichéd sense we typically mean is the depth to which we can bury something external; what can we take down with us and rehouse? More significant for me is what we can do with the depths we have uncovered. We can open them to the field of our more shallow, open, general surroundings. We can forge connections, redistribute meaning.

And maybe sometimes depth is height. The depth of something is the amount of thought, of interconnected, integrated, accumulated concepts piled up behind one in the act of the conception and creation of the poem. The poem may only be the shallow sliver on top – the depth sits beneath it.

Or, to use a commercialised metaphor, why not state that the poem is the sealed film on the top of a Pringles tube. It can only go on once the tube has been built, and the thoughts that determine it have been assembled. And we remove the lid, and begin our own process of deconstruction, of destruction, of transformation.

 

Someone could have told me then

 
Someone could have told me then
how it would end
that it would end too soon
and then what need to act it out
progress through, scene by scene?
We could have spared ourselves the pain,
the chore, of facing each old day again.
And yet I disagree
for everything must end
what more can knowledge bring
when every minute was itself
a minute end
and more
the stirrings of another hour or day
or week?
What strength the cry
of ending? More treasures fall
to those who live the present,
its all-continuing beginnings.