During my childhood I was given an insight to social stigmas and problems from a very early age, things I do believe shaped and made me the fighter I am today. Fortunate enough to live in the countryside we had a house where unmarried mothers came to stay during their pregnancies, my parents looking after them during this time of rejection. Then there was the constant flow of children arriving for short breaks and holidays. Children from “deprived areas” as they were referred to some of these children having been removed from homes for protection and others on respite holidays giving their parents a rest. Then there was the penpals as I knew them. Back in the 70’s my father decided whilst all this was going on to sponsor some children in Tamil Nadu. This was way before large NGO’s created schemes you could buy in your local charity shops or adverts that brought you “their” stories in-between episodes of Big brother for as little as £5 per month. I was curious as to this other world but only to find out it was a harsh and brutal world. So this is were I had my first lesson on the subject of debt bondage.
This is what I learnt. 70’s Sivakasi Tamil in Tamil Nadu was an area where a lot of third world slave labour was used to produce goods for the western market way before you started seeing made in China embossed on the bottom of your new plastic toy. This is how it worked. Families lived in small settlements in semi industrial conditions. Sometimes the land wasn’t theirs, neither were they squatters so they did not have anywhere to grow anything or they came from nearby villages. It turns out that the children my father was sponsoring worked in one of these settlements/villages and were making match boxes.
Here you were with entire communities relying on one company. I can’t imagine what the conditions were like but when you see how they treat the children in the textile industries in the 21st century I dread what abuses were taking place back then. Now most children work from their homes so companies can not be accused of hiring children in their factories and the term “cottage Industry ” is widely used. And this is how it was explained to me as a child the only version you could tell if you hadn’t seen evidence of abuse yourself. That the boys parents worked for the match box factory and had fallen into debt. The initial debt would have been against their pay at the end of the week, obviously if you couldn’t afford to survive with out these payday loans than how would you survive and pay them off as well? Paying for living, food, and so the cycle goes on. These debts had to be serviced to stop them from increasing and the way this was happening was children having to work in debt bondage, sometimes having to make 3000 match boxes a week even before you started paying off your debts. Children as young as 3 would be working long days so their parents may even have half a chance of paying back their debts to the company. There were stories of children working 18 hour days and illnesses caused by the work they were doing and basically a horrific life was portrayed to me and it has stayed with me. Bonded labour is one of the worst forms of labour not only for children but also for adults. In India bonded labour has been illegal since 1976 when Parliament enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. However the practice is still widespread.
Moving forward to the early 90’s and living on a large North London council estate most of the families were working on the lowest wages or living on benefits. The minimum wage having not yet been put into place. Every Monday would be the same. Monday the day that mothers got the child benefit. Monday the day you would see them walking around the balconies up and down the flights of steps shouting at each other when the door wasn’t opened, the Loan Sharks!!!! Weekly I used to pass comment on their illegal activities and every time I saw them knocking on a door I would question their morality. There were times I even saw them walk to the post office with the debtors. Out and out extortion. I could feel the pressure they were under, I myself had pawned jewellery and had debts that made me lose sleep and worry about opening my post but never opening my door to out and out scum threatening you in your own space for money.
So here we are in 2014 and what has changed? Loan sharks have suddenly become “Pay Day” loan companies. How did these loan sharks become legit? Companies like Wonga have somehow have managed to use the Internet and slick advertising to make you think that they have become the good guys and help you. Helping you feed your family, pay your fuel bills, pay your bedroom tax and keep the wolf from the door, But they are the wolf. The advertising companies themselves being complicit in the act of conditioning us, using OAP characters, people that we associate safety and stability. Advertising on children’s TV grooming our children for a life of debt bondage. The banking crisis has caused a gap in the money lending system and it has been filled by this immoral and disgusting type of lending. Wonga adverts are misleading and confusing, the enormous interest rates validated by the company in the fact that they are short term loans and clients being able to pay them back with in the month. The reality is the loan companies are hoping you won’t be able to pay them back, that is how they make their money. They are the enemy of the working class. Rather than deal with the ever increasing problems caused by payday loan companies the Government has transferred regulatory responsibility for the payday lending sector to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) since 1st April 2014. This however does not mean that immediate regulations will be put into place. The FCA does not currently believe that an interest rate cap is the most effective way to address consumer detriment.
So Nothing is changing we have wage slavery and we are on our way to total debt bondage. The cycle continues and the Capitalist system manages to control us and keep us on this wheel of servitude. How long before our children become responsible for their parents debts. I am sure if they can find a way this will become practice before long. This situation has to change. In the words of Rousseau “Man was born free and he is everywhere in chains” The time for change is right here right now. Occupy London, DPAC, Queer Resistance, The Resistance Movement of the UK, Class War (Not the Political party), and Fuel Poverty Action along with many other groups have come together to take to the streets on May Day.
Time to take back what is ours
Time to take to the streets
Time for change.
All details on the event page
In the words of Warren Buffet “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war, and we are winning “
Not for much longer Mr Buffett the times are a changing. See you at the barricades.