Thank goodness it is Monday. I feel like the Rev IM Jolly when I say: “Ah’ve hud a helluva week!” It all started when I was awoken one morning to my mobile phone quivering like a fiddler’s elbow. Why? I discovered I was attached to what felt like a ceaseless barrage of notifications from that bottomless void known as Twitter, which provides habitation to a coterie of extremely peculiar creatures with an inflexible capacity for free thought. Twitter, useful as it is, requires a Teflon-like personality to avoid any residual impact of people’s negativity.
Every seven days, I strain every synapse over each sentence in an attempt to convey ideas with the greatest clarity I can muster. I often send the final version of each column to the editor with a degree of trepidation, cautious I may have said something which may be misunderstood or considered contentious. Oddly enough, it is often the columns I consider least belligerent, which evoke the most aggressive responses. Such was the case last week and yet, the truth is, most of you are racking your brain to work out what I said to have attracted such ire.
Decent editors, like Dave Lord, routinely afford columnists free rein but will very occasionally invite reflections on a topic which piques the interest of readers, like recent events on Broughty Ferry beach. In a criticism of the “lesser half” narrative peddled by those of a morally superior disposition, some interpreted the headline (‘Beach brawl gave Broughty Ferry a taste of how the lesser half live’) as an attack on our city’s working class. To the contrary, those who read the column knew it was, in fact, a strident defence of free bus travel for low-income families.
Of course, it only really enraged about 40 people, most of whom either did not read beyond the headline or completely missed the point. Ironically, I received not one complaint from the tens of thousands of impoverished souls in Dundee to whom I have delivered food parcels over the last 20 years nor any of the underpaid Asda nightshift employees for whom I organised an anti-cuts demo last week. When I told my retired pal Tam from my Hilltown local about the outrage, he responded by text: “Your column was straight to the point, read it, don’t see the problem.”
The first response described me as a “specky worthless snob”, an “ignorant p***k and a “sad pathetic little man”. However, I believe when people refer to the ‘other half’, they cite the perceptible division between caste or class. Every time we sanction a poor person, in a manner we once dealt with foreign dictators, just for arriving two minutes late to a Job Centre appointment because their bus was rerouted due to roadworks, this alludes to a two-tier society spliced between what one former minister described as those who strive and those who skive.
Simply stating an inequality exists is not an endorsement of it. Like most columnists, I know a great deal about very little, which is why this column generally levitates around three areas – politics, poverty and people. The greatest writers I observe know their limitations. However, if there is one area I know both personally and professionally, as someone who has been a Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit claimant and worked on a zero hours contract, it is poverty.
Therefore, if there is indeed a lesser half, I am most certainly part of it.