It is often in times of tragedy and crisis that we witness what is best in humanity and the human condition. This was undoubtedly the case in Edinburgh recently, when hundreds of volunteers turned out to join in the search for the missing - and tragically killed - three-year-old child Mikaeel Kular.
Motivated and moved by the plight of an innocent child, the people of Drylaw - the working class community in the north of Edinburgh where Mikaeel lived - came together in a way that the affluent middle class producers of Channel Four's Benefits Street could never hope to understand.
The experience of life in communities like Drylaw compared to the leafy, affluent suburbs inhabited by the people who made Channel Four's disgustingly sensationalist and skewed depiction of people on benefits could not be more different. Indeed, given the huge gulf in incomes and wealth in Britain today, people living in both are to all intents and purposes living in entirely different worlds.
Working class people are not scum. Far from it, they and their communities exist as the antithesis to the rampant greed, unearned privilege, and elitism that clogs our television screens on a nightly basis as the virtues to which society should aspire. In the process words such as solidarity, unity, compassion, and cooperation have almost been struck from the nation's vocabulary, deemed to be words of a dim and distant past when working class people could expect secure employment with a living wage, dignity, and decent public services in return for their role in creating the nation's wealth.
In a process lasting over three decades the collective ethos and spirit that lies at the heart of working class communities has taken a battering under successive governments, politicians whose conception of society is of an atomised mass of disconnected human beings concerned only with themselves, striving to get rich regardless of the consequences for anyone of anything else in life. Greed, selfishness, and individualism have assumed the status of virtue in this Dystopian world, and woe betide anyone who dare dissent for they shall perish.
Channel Four's current offering of poverty porn - Benefits Street - is the culmination of this assault on the poor and the working class communities in which they reside. It is an assault unleashed by the rich and those who've imbibed the values of the rich, when the truth is that the recent outpouring of solidarity among the people of Drylaw in Edinburgh is the norm for people on low incomes.
Over the two days in which Mikaeel was missing hundreds of people from Drylaw and beyond turned out to help the police search for him in scenes that served to remind us of the common humanity that unites all of us. Those volunteers represented the hope that filled all of our hearts that this little boy would be found safe and well, affirming the precious status that children have in our hearts regardless of race, creed, or colour. Our thoughts went out to his mother and family, sympathising with their pain and anguish, while doing our best to resist the nagging doubt in the back of our minds over his mother's original story that this 3 year old boy had got out of his bed in the middle of the night and managed to get out of the flat and stair where he lived without drawing any attention to himself.
Preferring not to believe the worst we hoped and prayed and hoped again that this child, whose image of innocence and vulnerability moved us beyond words, had not come to a bad end. Alas, and tragically, those hopes were dashed when the news came that his body had been found and his mother detained and charged by the police in connection with his death.
Yet, still, in the midst of such an awful tragedy, the sight of so many people banding together to help in the search for this missing child gives us cause to hope. For despite the vicious demonisation that working class people and their communities have been subjected to by this rotten Tory government in recent years, aided and abetted by programmes such as Channel Four's Benefits Street, working class people and their communities will not be vanquished. On the contrary, they continue to survive in testament to the principle of collectivism that is the non-negotiable foundation of any civilised society.Suggest a correction