A report by health group ukactive at the end of last month claimed that poor people in deprived areas of the UK “are dying of laziness.” The report had the backing of Lord Coe, who said, “Turning the tide of inactivity would be a hugely important outcome for our Olympic and Paralympic legacy story…”
Whilst the idea of promoting exercise is undoubtedly a good one, I would suggest that the conclusion of the study was both a little simplistic and rather insulting. These people aren’t lazy, they have been denied opportunities – what they are dying of is poverty. We are currently suffering record numbers of young unemployed and under-employed in the UK: most of a generation has effectively been consigned to the scrap heap as great swathes of this country have been left with no opportunities, no hope and no future thanks to swingeing austerity cuts, often to regions still reeling from the legacy of deindustrialisation that began under Thatcher.
It is disgraceful that these victims of political dogma and corporate greed are now vilified as indolent while Boris Johnson and this Tory-led government continue to defend tax cuts for the wealthy and bonuses to the bankers who left us in this state. Still, I guess that victim-blaming allows the rest of us “hard-working families” to feel better about turning our backs on the suffering of our fellow humans. We may try to set ourselves apart as distinct groups, imagining ourselves as somehow different or better than others, but the simple truth is that “they’re not like us” is, more often than not, merely only down to luck and geography.