An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Monday, October 02, 2006


Last night's piece brought varied and odd responses so let me immediately clear up a few issues raised by people commenting on the piece.

It was not my intention and at no point did compare the American system with any other, favourably or otherwise. The idea that I was somehow praising the UK system would be laughable if the commentator knew me at all well. The UK "safety net" has been, sadly, allowed to deteriorate in the past 30 years and you have only to talk to any of the poverty stricken pensioners scratching their last years out over there to confirm that it is a sorry and ineffective safety net these days. Were it subject to Health and Safety legislation it would surely be closed down. Under the Sale of Goods Act one would be able to claim ones money back. So - no I was not comparing the US system unfavourably with the UK system. They are both clearly inadequate.

It was most definitely not my intention to solicit charity for poor Ric and his wife - charity is not the answer to systemic problems - not in the US nor in the UK. It is often the case that charities spring up in response to such systemic failures but there is no convincing evidence that they do anything to address the causes. It can, however, be convincingly argued that they actually salve sufficient numbers of consciences and alleviate the consequences of a sufficient though small number of cases to ensure that the causes themselves are never addressed. Has Oxfam solved the problem of famine once and for all? How is it that cancer research in the UK is funded from charities (there are 620 cancer charities in the UK alone)?

And if charities are private responses to systemic problems as I conjecture then consider the following from the Guardian: There are more than 185,000 registered charities in England and Wales. The number is rising by 5,000 a year. As you read this, another charity will be created somewhere in the country. So - no I was not soliciting charity for Ric.

Once more however, the man that hit the nail on the head was young Liam. The thing that irked me most about Ric's situation was not that it happened - as our friends across the pond often say "Shit happens". It was rather that Ric blames himself for this failure, these circumstances. That personal sense of failure is the dark flip side of the American Dream. It is a fundamental of the dream - if anyone can be anything in the American system then it follows that if your life is a mess that it is your fault. And as Liam so perceptively points out "As it is, he sees himself as a failure - but that is misplaced, and he must ignore all such negativity otherwise it will completely immobilise him, mentally and physically, making his plight worse." Nail on the head" prize of the day goes to Liam.

Just for completeness my own take on Ric's situation is that a solution would be to get a court order to ensure that his ladlady accepts his monthly rent in weekly or fortnightly installments. When I was last living in the UK I believe that the Citizens Advice Bureau could have arranged such action - in the US I have no idea as to how this could be organised but surely one of my American readers does. Barry?

1 comment:

  1. yes, it varies from state to state, but i would think that washington state, being fairly progressive compared to other states, and where ric lives would have a renters' coalition of some sort that has legal standing to represent non homeowners who rent the space they live in.

    there are also free legal aid societies that deal with rent issues that can offer advice

    however, from personal experience, granted it is in this most regressive of states, most renters must sign a lease agreement that has binding elements in it that would prevent a change in the contract unless mutually agreed upon...i'll get an update and info from ric when i next see him online

    and i should mention that i agree that charity does not change the systemics involved. i should not have mentioned my involvement i guess, as it is also perhaps an inappropriate reflection of my actions, and the attention should not be on me. however, for what it's worth, i do think that personal giving is appropriate and can alleviate some immediate worries and concerns.

    the fact that there is a burgeoning plethora of charities can also confirm that there are portions of our society that are not meeting the needs of its citizens