Book review: Poverty Safari

Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s Underclass 

By Darren McGarvey.

Published by Luath Press Ltd , December 2017, 192 pages

Glasgow has recently been at the centre-point of a video
that popped up on my Facebook news feed. It talks about how the Glasgow police
force worked with local health services to tackle knife crime; they did this by treating it as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem. In 2005, when the Violence Reduction Unit was set up, there were 135 homicides in Scotland — 40 in Glasgow alone, by 2017 it had gone down to 36.

Despite Scotland being voted most beautiful country in the world on more
than one occasion, it has parts that don’t pop up on the picturesque
calendars, areas of Glasgow come to mind. Often seen as the ugly stepbrother to Edinburgh, Glasgow has had a rough deal.  Famous for its thick Glaswegian accent, deserted council estates and its football team, Glasgow is one of the major cities in Scotland and is the basis of the Scottish urban stereotype .

Coming from a working class background is difficult, then you throw in real
life stereotypes of alcoholics, drugs addicts, thick accents and aggressive
Scotsmen, and teenagers from this area are likely to draw the short straw when applying for their futures. Loki, Darren McGarvey, is a rapper from Glasgow and in his book, Poverty Safari, he talks about many things like this that affected him growing up. In this part polemic and part biographical book, Loki taps into what is the undercurrent of the working class: a feeling of being used for votes and angry. 

By saying that you may think this is an aggressive attack on the conservative upper-class of the UK, more so England, however Loki does not hold back when discussing the liberal left city swingers and fancy media types that are there for the story today and gone tomorrow. A fair opinion after years of neglecting working-class communities and suffering from more broken promises than there are working class MPs.

The anger at the ignorance from much of society resonates
with me, as it is something that is clear today in the UK with the current media coverage of Brexit. Over the last three years the media has mainly concentrated on the halls of Westminster dealing with Brussels, and it also reported on the call for a People’s vote despite the lack of support for it in parliament. It only tends to focus on the working-class areas, such as Swindon, when there are points to be scored for ‘a cause’ like factories shutting down and job losses. A clear mirror image when put alongside Loki’s examples of him hosting BBC documentaries being told what to say but not interested in his
ideas. In both cases media soon leaves when they have what they need, a
footage reel and a nice point of view that fits the media’s narrative.  

Another interesting aspect of this book is the opinions that Loki draws upon
about left wing politics. How left wing political parties have mixed in with
the liberal middle-classes that care more about identity politics than poverty and evidently seems to have lost its way. The left has been in flux in recent years and Brexit has thrown the conversation because of the split in the country. Politics is never what it seems and politicians are not text book ideological followers which appears to frustrate many and make others question their beliefs. No one is really sure which way the world is going.

Loki shows how the world should be portrayed in a book, not the black and
white non-reality of the Daily Mail, or even the Guardian on the other side,
but one of mixed opinions, anxiety, not forgetting bitterness and optimism in equal portions. That being said, the mere fact that we are talking about
real left-wing policies in 2019, following the easily accepted austerity of
2010, is something to be hopeful about. The world has the ability to change,
Loki has said how it has changed for his local community up till now, one story that is mirrored over the UK. Loki is optimistic at times about the power in the community and the power that it holds. Yet, if the left abandon its core vote, then left wing policies that can help the working class may remain a thing of conversation and not reality. No matter what your political stripe is, it is clear Labour have a tightrope to walk and it could lose its balance.

This book reminds us that society is more than just giant blobs of
stereotypes and predetermined likes and dislikes. Loki conducts his
language in such a way that is illuminating yet not overly bearing. Writing
this book shows that he is mature enough to criticise something fairly, whilst remaining on its side, this is not only the sign of a great writer but
also an insightful person that the UK should hear more from.

Loki comes across as the sort of person who thinks before he types
which many in Westminster and Fleet street could learn from.

Buy it here

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