I feel like writing an essay. A proper one. With citations. Not something I have felt like doing for several years. Maybe this is a sign that I’m growing up, that I finally want to write one. There is only one other time that I have been so interested in writing an essay and that was when I was doing my undergraduate degree.
We had to write one for the behavioural psychology module which seemed to be mostly about animals rather than people. I was at a loss for what to write about, when I remembered a documentary I’d seen about the matriarchal social structure of the spotted hyaena. Our recommended textbooks and the library had very little to offer in the way of spotted hyaenas, but, undeterred, I emailed the BBC, who gave me the name of the producer, who gave me the name of the husband and wife research team, based in Germany. They must have been a little mystified by the random British psychology student, but were extremely helpful, emailing me copies of their studies.
For the next few weeks, I lived and breathed the spotted hyaena (ADHD hyperfocus is a wonderful thing and enables me to do such things as learn to make medieval tents on a whim). I can’t remember what sort of grade I got for the essay but I had a fantastic time writing it, which is, in my opinion, at least as important as the grade itself. Bear in mind that I was the type of student who, in order to entertain myself, spent as much time illustrating my essay on perceptions in virtual reality with pictures of the X-men, done in coloured pencils, as I spent on the essay itself. How I ever got my degree at all is beyond me, given that I barely knew which day of the week it was, much less what I was supposed to be writing or when it had to be handed in by.
But I digress( I do this a lot)
My essay has been inspired by the complaint from some members of the white working class that they are the ones who are discriminated against, rather than people from ethnic minorities. (oooh, just found this interesting report, will read it for the essay “Who Cares about the White Working Class?” ) Now the evidence shows that they are wrong, all things being equal, people from ethnic minorites tend to have a rather harder time of it, however, I have felt for some time that being on a low income should be viewed as belonging to a discrimated-against group. I sit on the equalities committee of my trade union, and that is the issue that is never discussed, that of socio-economic inequality.
It’s my personal view that the lack of participation in the field of classical music by BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) musicians is, in some ways, the visible effect of SES. (Socio-Economic Status) and the class divide, as if you are BME in this country, you are more likely to be poor. I’m willing to hazard a guess that you don’t get many working-class white musicians in classical music either. Same goes for the lack of black faces in the media, certainly behind the scenes. (see Lenny Henry for details) The creative industries are notorious for being a middle class preserve, if we want more diversity, we need to address this.
That is what my essay will be about. I hope that I get the time to write it. It’s not so much the time to write it though, it’s the time that it will take me to read, or reread the studies and articles that I will be referring to. Because, I am currently spending all my time trying to scrape a living. Mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends. I spend my whole life either juggling bits of work, or trying to drum up more bits of work, a process which is more exhausting and less rewarding than doing the actual work itself (my varied work is awesome)
I’m not saying this to elicit sympathy. It will go towards informing the essay, that I have first hand experience of what it is like to be trapped in a seemingly never ending cycle of low pay/no pay. At least I have some autonomy as someone who is self employed. I have many strings to my bow, when one goes through a fallow period, I have others. I would dearly love one job, that I don’t have to chase constantly, that pays me enough to live on (I don’t need that much to live on). This would free up my headspace to get serious about getting back into psychology, as well as the cash to do it. Yes cash.
You see, it’s not enough that I volunteer my time and skills, the IAPT that have offered me voluntary work do not offer to pay travel expenses. I will have to find these out of my already stretched budget. Of course, if I take on a full-time job that might pay more (not that these are offered to ex -community musicians, as, after all, all we do is float around woodlands being creative whilst wearing fairy wings), I cannot afford the time to do voluntary work, or attend events, or network. And I have an ever-growing wishlist of textbooks that I’d like to read, which for some reason, cost twice as much as any other book.
I’ll figure out a way to do it, I’m sure. I always do. But again, it highlights to me the barriers faced by those on a low income when we try and get ourselves out of said low income. Any attempt at self-improvement comes at a cost, which although, in the great scheme of things isn’t a great deal of money, it is when £15 can make the difference between you eating properly in a week, and not.
It would seem that we live in a society that offers very little in the way of support to those that are trying to claw their way out of the misery that is a low-income existence, and then tells them that, if they are poor, it’s their own fault. Of course, there are those that point to the examples of people in impoverished circumstances who managed to get out and make successes of themselves, good luck to them, but I wonder how many more fall by the wayside into despair and destitution. As my partner says, “there is no such thing as a self-made man”. He’s right. Somewhere along the line in a successful person’s life, there is/was at least one other person that helped them. Whether it was supportive parents, an inspirational teacher or a boss that took a chance on them. Some people never get that leg-up, just criticism and a society that tells them that they are worthless.
Why does society demand so much more resilience and superhuman effort from the people who have the least resources than it does from those who have so much more? There should still be a place in society for those that do not have such enormous levels of intelligence, talent, confidence, drive and resourcefulness, no matter what social class they are from.
I’m gonna stop bimbling now. I wrote the beginnings of an essay plan (well a pretty spider-diagram, which is how all my essays start life). Maybe one day, I’ll write the whole thing. And I’ll enjoy it. Almost as much as my essay on the spotted hyaena.