Dear Prudence...

So said one of the 21st century's greatest thinkers. Me. Prudence. I believe my lifelong fascination with my own ever-so-smart opinions began when I wondered why I was so much smarter than everyone I met.

As a shopkeeper's daughter, I understood all the poor people who weren’t Prudences. You had to keep an eye on them. They nicked stuff.

Like the stoats and weasels in The Wind in the Willows, poor people were a bit dangerous and bitey, especially when I caught them nicking stuff from mummy’s shop.

They were to be feared and were, to use my mother's words, not very nice. It took a trained furrier, and possibly a leatherworker, to turn the noble Marxist proletariat into a nice, wearable coat, but luckily since the 1950s there has been a remarkable growth in the number of poor people, so my wardrobe is absolutely full to pussy’s bow with human skin suits and fur merkins.

I suppose the welfare state is not entirely to blame, but this is a column for the Financial Review and as a Prudence I am constitutionally obliged, not to mention contractually obligated, to ignore any evidence of structural inequities and pretend instead that there is a purely moral question about how terribly, terribly awful these people can be. And smelly. Oh my word the smell of them.

No wonder government agencies view them with alarm as huge cost centres. The disinfectant bills alone for the unemployment office would make your eyes water, if they weren’t already streaming tears from the foul miasma of the huddled masses. Oh but I do amuse myself, and the editor, who loves this sort of thing.

Of course, the poor are always seen as a deficit. Social workers, traditionally much less useful to me than leather workers and furriers when it comes to skinning the underclasses, absolutely despair of their appalling housework, and the neglect of their children which is entirely wrongheaded. The skin of a poor, undernourished child is delightfully soft and easily worked into the most marvellous cape if you can ensure a good supply, which you can because poor people’s birth rates far outstrip those of Prudences and thus they are a significant contributor to our collective wardrobe.

Oh yes, and they don't vote often. So we have that to be grateful for, I suppose.

Except their children do languish in the growing number of behavioural support classes where it’s diabolically difficult to source them for new season outerwear or a jaunty chapeau.

And once graduated with a basic studies completion certificate and little else, their prospects are not great, due to all the billions of dollars we of the Prudence class diverted from away their wretchedly underfunded public schools, to re-turf the new polo fields at the splendid private colleges attended by all of our little Prudences and Tarquins.

The discipline of work and often its thanklessness also have little appeal to the poor, which makes sense when you remember they’d be working for the likes of me.

But Orwell was right. We must keep the aspidistra flying and shoot the elephant through the heart!

I’m not suggesting the poor are elephants. Good heavens no! I do believe I made a point of comparing them to weasels and stoats, which is very on brand for a Fin Review columnist. But I do so much like the idea of shooting them and since the underclass is not always a happy place to be and bumping into the rest of the world mostly does not go well, I rather do feel as though randomly popping a few rounds from the old elephant gun into their miserable little plywood hovels as I tool past in my Maserati is a win-win for all concerned.

People with chronic mental illness, cognitive disabilities and childhoods of trauma are mixed together in a sometimes brutal way, on the editorial pages of the Financial Review but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. And yet, I like them. My colleagues and confrères I mean, not those other smelly wretches. I like them because they are honestly self-interested, and you always know what they think. And what they think is what I think. And I am Prudence so there is absolutely no room for anyone to think differently.

So long as we keep looking at the billions of dollars that poor people cost us, and not the hundreds of billions of dollars we have extorted and stolen from their entire class in a half-century-long transfer of wealth from the many to the vanishingly few, we will continue to dislike them, reject them and write them off.

Or shoot them like elephants!

Gosh that’s good fun.

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