Fear this, eugenicists…

November 4, 2009

I used to work with a bloke who had 7 kids and a job as a builders’ labourer.

He was a proud and caring man. He was a smoker, but only part-time – during the few days after getting his weekly pay.

Many is the time he would say to me that poverty isn’t a crime and that though he may always be poor he would never be lonely. He looked after me and my safety as a new young worker with the same patience he showed to his kids; I was never allowed first up an untied ladder. He had earned good money in his time working away from home on the motorways and then all over, helping convert the country to natural gas.

He had had a tough upbringing though he didn’t talk about it much. What he talked about most were his kids, how they were doing and his hopes and aspirations for them. The eldest two, one of whom had left home already, did well for themselves; not doctors or lawyers but each got a trade under their belt and looked forward to an easier working life than their parents. This meant a lot to him.

Of course, he was on and off benefit all the while. As he struggled to read and write, the problems this posed were rarely solved and I would be surprised if he ever got the entitlements that paying his stamp entitled him to. Some of his kids were undoubtedly conceived or born during periodic bouts of unemployment; he could have smoked all week if he didn’t always put a little by to cushion the next time he might find himself back on the dole.

He expected, if he was lucky, nothing more than to continue working 40 hours a week and to remain poor – though he did check his pools coupon each week when the results came on. He couldn’t afford his children and his small home was a complete tip. He never tired of saying that his wife was one in a million.

Though he was a gentle, non-judgmental person and generous of spirit, I think he would have taken up arms against anyone trying to remove the right of him and his wife to have kids.

And I wouldn’t have blamed him.

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