Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Prime Minister, the Pig, and the Poor

News that UK Prime Minister David Cameron- according to a source who would indeed know- allegedly performed a sex act on the severed head of a pig while he was a student at Oxford in the 80s is all over every inch and byte-space of global media. And honestly, if you just go back and read that last sentence again, how on Earth could it not be?

It’s a horrifically fascinating story, and I’ll not spend a lot of time recounting it here.

Most of the commentary on the allegations has revolved around whether or not it’s true, why Cameron’s people haven’t explicitly denied it, and whether or not Cameron can survive the scandal.

I’d like to look at it from another angle.

The incident allegedly occurred while Cameron was a member of Oxford’s Bullington Club, an ultra-exclusive, secretive society dedicated to excess, debauchery, and social advancement.

This is the elite of the elite;

former members fill Cameron’s cabinet, the government, and the board rooms of major banks and corporations.

Unless your wealth and family connections nearly guaranteed that you would run large parts of the global political and economic superstructures, it was an impossible club to join.

It’s ironic that many of the benefits that the poorest people in our societies rely on for basic survival are often referred to as ‘entitlements’, because being a Bullington would make you nearly the dictionary definition of ‘entitled’…

One widely-reported claim about the Bullington Club is that new initiates must burn a £50 note in front of a homeless person.

Whether true or not, the claim had me reflecting on the fact that, even though we talk about the poor and the homeless ‘living among us’, we often forget that they actually do.

The homeless, the asylum-seekers, those surviving on public benefits, the unemployed, those trapped in the gears of an economic system that sees them as worthless;

They see and hear, watch and listen.

Even if we’ve never actually burned money in their face, the waste, built-in obsolescence, and debt that our consumer economy is built on is nearly the same thing.


In the Book of Sirach, included in the biblical text by Catholic and Orthodox churches, we read:

My son, deprive not the poor of his living,

    and do not keep needy eyes waiting.

 Do not grieve the one who is hungry,
    nor anger a person in want.

 Do not add to the troubles of an angry mind,
    nor delay your gift to one who is begging.

Do not reject an afflicted suppliant,
    nor turn your face away from the poor.

 Do not avert your eye from the needy,
    nor give that person occasion to curse you;

for if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you,
    his Creator will hear his prayer.

What the text makes clear is that the poor are not simply sad and depressed;

They are resentful and angry, and with good reason.

They know full well that they are being at best ignored and at worst willfully exploited.

The text gives us a picture of a cold, raw February night,

In London, Dublin, New York, or any major city;

A stiff figure sits up against the wall of an exclusive eatery, wrapped in two used coats, holding a sign that says ‘Please Help’.

A Lexus pulls up and is met by a valet parking attendant.

A well-dressed couple gets out, wrapped in leather and silk scarves.

As the couple walk past the huddled figure, the man says to his date, ‘You hungry? God, I’m starving!’

She responds, ‘Let’s just get inside. Jesus, I’m freezing to death!’

The huddled figure watches and listens.

As they move past, he quietly murmurs,

‘God damn you, fucking parasites…’


The Sirach text explicitly states that one prayer in this story is answered…


So, as the Bullingtons of the world slash the safety nets of the most vulnerable;

As they demonize those uprooted by conflict and poverty;

As they malign those who are fleeing religious and political extremism as perhaps being terrorists themselves;

As they look after each other with benefits, bonuses, tax breaks, privilege, and positions,

And all the while paying lip service to ‘family values’, ‘hard work’, and ‘Christian heritage’…

The Sirach text is a disturbing, uncomfortable read.

Put that in your pig and smoke it…

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