The Journal of an Ordinary Voice
by 'Ann Derbyshire'
26th February 2017
Something I saw posted on social media had the effect of questioning how we use the word ‘need’, how we use the term ‘someone in need’ and how the use of the word ranges, depending on perceptions, financial status, circumstance and life experiences.
Strictly speaking in the English language ‘need’ is defined as something that is necessary or essential. We all use the word out of context, “I need chocolate” or some such ridiculous statement. The post I saw was not in the context of helping anyone who desperately needed food or clothing or help to find a home. It wasn’t asking for help for refugees or medicines for those who can’t access them. I could not understand how the word ‘need’ could be applied to the request.
What does the word ‘need’ actually mean, how do others perceive ‘need’? Why are there huge differences in those perceptions? There are thousands of people struggling to feed their children, there are people living in poverty on our streets, people all around the world in war zones without enough funds to secure basic medicines. Those people genuinely ‘need’ help; they actually have an urgent requirement for humanity to come to their aid.
The disparity of the post has disturbed me. There is poverty and extreme need everywhere I look but it seems not everyone can see it. Am I wrong to feel so perturbed by the apparent lack, of those financially comfortable enough to have luxuries and assets, to the plight of those in dire circumstances? To the apparent lack of understanding of those people to the definition of ‘need’ in our society and the world at large? Isolated this request wouldn’t be of much concern but is it the tip of the iceberg? Is there a huge sway of society unaware of the struggles faced by those less able to live without worrying if they have enough money to pay their fuel bills or feed themselves, without relying on foodbanks and charities? Are those people who are financially secure, deliberately unaware? Do they also think that people choose to live in poverty; that poverty is something that is avoidable because all you have to do is work hard and save for the luxuries that the better off are able to afford?
I am fortunate that I have an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances; I know people who are well educated formally, people who are self-taught, knowledgeable, and/or experienced. I know people from all sorts of backgrounds, people who are non-skilled to highly skilled, people with very different levels of financial income, and people with very different political beliefs. I’m now not sure how many of those people would view funding a necessity, in order to prevent the sale of a large expensive asset, would be “helping someone in need”. Ken Loach has just received a BAFTA award for his film “I, Daniel Blake”, the people who need to see this film and accept that austerity policies are affecting people, struggling with day-to-day living, are likely to be those same people who would see ‘need’ as not selling an expensive asset, the same as receiving food from a foodbank. I just wish I knew how to reach those people more effectively and relay the message that anyone can, at any time, fall into the poverty trap.