The Plastic Hippo

December 31, 2012

Just another day

Filed under: Literature,Politics,Rights,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 4:21 am

The chime of twelve in any particular time zone is meaningless in the great scheme of astrophysics and is of no consequence when it comes to the geological nature of an unremarkable speck occupying an insignificant part of the universe. Happy New Year.

However, an artificially created waypoint in time is somehow culturally important to humanity and remembrance of things past marks a new beginning. Many have left us during the past 12 months. Some have left the world a better place than when they arrived and some have departed leaving the world better place for their passing. So today we celebrate the lives of Etta James, Whitney Houston, Levon Helm, Ray Bradbury, Jon Lord, Maeve Binchy, Gore Vidal, Marvin Hamlisch, Bernard Lovell, Neil Armstrong, Hal David, Eric Hobsbawm, Elliott Carter, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Niemeyer, Fontella Bass, Gerry Anderson and William Rees-Mogg. We can leave other notables to face whatever God they followed. There are, of course, many more departed that did not fit into the categories of celebrity, fame or infamy. Consider the fate of Michelle Conroy.

Michelle Conroy was 21. She was killed by a falling tree in the storms of late November. Michelle Conroy was homeless and sleeping rough in Exeter. She had spent most of her childhood in foster care and her friends described her as a sweet and caring person who found it difficult to cope in a “conventional” society. Before she died, Michelle Conroy would visit a Friday night cafe for homeless people at Exeter Cathedral. The local press quoted the Reverend Canon Anna Norman-Walker as saying:

“Michelle had been coming to us for over a year. She was a lovely, polite girl, always well turned out with her hair brushed back in a ponytail. You wouldn`t know she was homeless if you bumped into her.”

The Reverend added that many of the homeless people the Cathedral were trying to help had addiction and mental health problems but Michelle Conroy was not one of these. Michelle Conroy, she said: “may have had issues with things like isolation. She was not able to get a foothold on the social ladder. She was a lonely soul who simply couldn`t sustain an independent life.” Local MP Ben Bradshaw claimed that central government reduced funding to support homeless people in Devon by 12 per cent and as the funding was not ring fenced, the county council could spend the reduced funding on other things instead of homeless people.

Michelle Conroy did not take drugs or use alcohol. Michelle Conroy was not a “scrounger”, a “shirker” or a “something for nothing parasitic drain on society”. Michelle Conroy did not sleep behind closed curtains as the rest of us set off for work and she did not conform to the invented myth of benefit cheats defrauding the state of thousands of pounds week in week out. Michelle Conroy was a vulnerable, decent and homeless young woman forced by circumstance to live in a tent. The BBC, clearly in fear of embarrassing a government strategy of demonising the vulnerable, could not report the words “homeless” or “sleeping rough”. Instead, they reported that a woman in Devon had been killed by a falling tree in the storms and that she had been “camping” at the time. The inference is clear; anyone “camping” in a severe storm has to accept the consequences of their own decision. The BBC has gone on to tell us that the economy is improving but that “good news” comes a little too late for Michelle Conroy.

So as the clock ticks down, we remember the Jubilee and the Olympics and forget the Leveson whitewash, the economy down the toilet, the increased wealth of the wealthy, the Savile cover-up, honours for corrupt bankers and the canonisation of Andrew Mitchell. In The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot wrote:

“For last year`s words belong to last year`s language and next year`s words await another voice.”

Sadly, next year`s voice will not be that of Michelle Conroy or the voices of so many others that are cold, hungry and lonely. Happy New Year.


  1. Meanwhile, north of the border

    Comment by mrianmj — December 31, 2012 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  2. Apologies for doing a catch-up.

    My previous response was unintendedly prescient. Those who decide to govern and infiorm should hang their heads in shame.

    Fat chance.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — January 3, 2013 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

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