Can't pay for your coffee and croisant, worried about paying for your kids art and music lessons, fretting about the mortgage on your huge house. These are the concerns expressed by a self confessed 'Squeezed Middle Class Mother' in todays Guardian. The story is of a couple of graphic designers struggling with a big mortgage in these austere times.
With heart tugging emotion we hear her child ask 'Mum, Dad are we poor?' The writer laughs off the suggestion at the time, but knows the terrible truth.
No, No, No, NO! Stop it! You are not, may I repeat, Not poor. You are not as rich as you think you should be, or as well off as you once were. Maybe the demand for freelance graphic designers is a bit low right now, but by no rational measure are you poor.
Poor is living in a garage, poor is worrying about having money for food not art classes. Poor is also about lacking the contacts, education, skills to ever a good job in the future. None of this applies to the wailing squeezed middle. These are tough times but the perception of 'poverty' is dangerous.
This middle class appropriation of 'poverty' allows us to demand special dispensations, suggest we cannot be expected to do anything for those in the Estate up the road, that we have the right to fight to defend our perks. We can slip into a charity begins at home mentality that ignores the reality of what is going on around us.
It is not nice not being able to afford the lifestylye you once had, and it is hard not being able of give your children all you would like to. But wake up and smell the costcutter coffee. Poverty is worrying about being able to send your kids to school in a uniform that won't get them laughed at, and living in a world where there is only ever money for the basics. It is not about having to ditch the ballet lessons, and having to think twice about the skiing trip.