Socialist Worker

Don’t blame the poor

Issue No. 2369

Millionaire celebrity Jamie Oliver has taken it upon himself to tell poor people how to eat. He has leapt on the liberal media’s interest in “austerity cooking” to make yet more money with a pricey cookbook.

Oliver says poor people aren’t really poor because they have televisions.  And if they eat badly it’s because they choose to spend money on big TVs instead of decent food. It’s true that everyone sometimes eats things that aren’t good for them. But Oliver doesn’t get that for poor people, these things feel like treats in a life where there aren’t many others.

The writer George Orwell understood this much better. In his book The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell wrote, “A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. 

“When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’.” The sight of millionaire Oliver telling us how we can get a meal out of stale bread is disgusting.

Why should we have to live on stale bread? Why shouldn’t we have decent wages, benefits and pensions so we don’t have to? Of course learning how to cook nutritious food cheaply is a good thing. But the real problem isn’t the decisions that people in poverty make. It’s the poverty.


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