The biggest lie ever told about told about poor neighbourhoods is that the people living there don’t care about the plans and decisions that affect them. The lie takes multiple forms. The complacent: ‘We’ve tried all sorts of things, meetings, open days, but you can’t get them out of the house.’ The pernicious: ‘They’ll be there, first thing at the post office, but that’s it. Then they’re back on the couch.’ The faux-compassionate: ‘Why should they get involved? If I was living hand-to-mouth, with all those kids, I wouldn’t sign up for some community panel.’ The lie persists because it fulfils the basic function of deceit: it comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. It allows the powerful to blame poverty on the poor. The lie is self-reinforcing. You hear it used every time people don’t respond to meaningless surveys or poorly advertised consultation exercises. ‘We did our best, we … (To read the full article, subscribe below)
John P. Houghton is a freelance public policy consultant.
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