Spiralling down in a whirlpool wheel spin of casino economics…

Picture a late November Advent evening last year. In a deconsecrated East Belfast church set midst where Morrisonian nostalgia lingered for decades. Oval shadowed across the way from Samson and Goliath’s stilled steel.

In Mersey Street – with the heat from the wood-burning stove escaping far too quickly, swallowed in the shiver of a high, vaulted ceiling, atop paint peeling walls.

Something hard to achieve, I thought – this authentic distressed look.

Though somehow fitting. When we heard the story of how, a few years ago, someone knocked at the door where a faith community met, saying they were just out of the hospital, had no food in the house, and could they help?

The day other journeys began, from Mersey to Mercy Street perhaps, and fittingly, from St Christopher’s to The Larder Foodbank.

But having worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, they seem more than a little daunted by the extent of need currently pouring through their doors. The same stories everywhere, beyond our invisible checkpoints.

In a week when Class War trumped Culture Wars.

It’s not as if we couldn’t see it coming, though. But it’s the brazenness that’s breathtaking. With its top-down punch, or is it the sole of a boot stamping without a trickle of mercy? Those labelled feckless and faulty for not being rich, for failing to climb the pyramid high enough to achieve insulation from winter and other woes. Those who couldn’t save for the rainy days. And Mondays. When the props would be kicked away with abandon. Launching a new age of ‘freedom’ – to swim or more likely sink – spiralling down in a whirlpool wheel spin of casino economics. And one funded by our future taxes, consigning a malign legacy onto the third and fourth generations.

That we may be kind to bankers. And understand that Hydro Carbon companies need an extra pocket or two to pick. And believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Nostalgia’s not what it used to be, either. Now reduced to remember when we didn’t know we were never having it so good. When getting by was the best it was ever going to get.

When we never thought that Christmas at Jacob Rees Marley’s would start earlier and earlier each year. As headlines scream beside stacked September selection boxes.

But what can you do?

I once heard someone say in a discussion on mental health that if you can articulate your pain, you might not be overcome by it. Something about finding your voice.

And might even we find a collective voice – with others also crying out in what seems like wilderness as a tumbleweed blows through our local corridors of powerlessness?

Perhaps, following last week’s ‘Crushed by the Cost of Living Crisis’ forum, convened at Stormont by the impressive Kellie Armstrong and fronted by the eloquently humane Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, I need to take the time to write to my local MLAs and MP urging support for the forum’s emergency four-point plan. Of pausing Social Security debt deductions for six months, delivering a payment of £500 to those entitled to Disability Benefits or Carers Allowance, reinstating the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and removing the two-child limit for Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit.

And after that, though reluctant to rally, I think I might need to. With the ‘Enough is Enough’ folks at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, the 1st of October at 1 pm.

The extent of this crisis is so severe that only by taking to the streets might we halt its slide.

What have we got to lose except our despair?

Discover more from Slugger O'Toole

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.