Tag Archives: social aspects

(385) Two viewpoints

Sir John Major and Russell BrandUK media carried forth two interesting socio-political moments this week in the form of unexpected statements about the general state of things.  First up, comedian Russell Brand, fresh from a gig guest editing The New Statesman magazine.  Second, former British PM Sir John Major.

Major, now 70, hit out at his classmates running the UK who are allowing an increase in the price of natural gas.  Brand, not yet 40, got emotional about the need to quit voting and ditch poisonous political systems that are wrecking the poor and the planet.  Brand’s animation put a veteran journalist onto the back foot with a straightforward call for lefty revolution in consciousness and pretty much everything else from ending tax havens and curtailing corporate power and abuse to serving the poor and addicted, two states Brand knows well from experience.  Sir John pointed out that the price increase for natural gas is above a reasonable reflection of gas company costs and capital needs.

Brand’s statement was custom made for the age of the Internet and social media where it is still racking up the metrics.  Major’s statement is more grown up stuff: very specific,  about cause and effect, delivered from the point of view of an elder statesman, successor to no less than Margaret Thatcher.  Major told his Tory old boys that if the gas price increase goes forward many people in Britain will have to choose between heating and food this winter.  Both men contrasting individuals yet authors of political statements with a great deal of portent.  Interesting and delightful.  If there was such a thing as a suburban-poverty.com lapel pin both would receive one at no cost via the freshly privatized British post office.

Russell Brand on the revolution: we no longer have the luxury of tradition
Dangerous Minds with link to Paxman interview on YouTube 10:46 and to New Statesman

Sir John Major calls for windfall tax on energy profits
BBC News with video of Sir John and a rebuttal of the windfall tax from shadow energy minister

image: via Wikimedia Commons


(372) Studies indicate poverty impairs cognitive ability

worryThe poor are stupid.  You’ve probably heard somebody say this at least once.  Maybe you’ve used the phrase yourself.

Perhaps at times the speaker is expressing frustration with what seems like an ability on the part of those in social difficulty to compound their own problems, be their own enemy.  At other times, of course, this statement is merely nasty, reductive, inarticulate, and hateful.  But what if there was a neuroscience of poverty?  What would we have to say if there appeared to be evidence the stress of poverty impaired your cognition and made you less able to handle complex situations?  Research along these lines ought to make us stop in our tracks whether we describe ourselves as left leaning, right wing, centrist or politically indifferent.

The journal Science has just presented two studies indicating the stress of poverty reduces human cognitive function.  This reduction in function may help to explain decisions and behaviours on the part of the poor that seem to perpetuate or intensify their own difficulties.  Shoppers in New Jersey and rice farmers in India were the subjects of study.  Individuals demonstrated difficulty with spatial and reasoning tasks when known to be burdened by processing their problematic financial status.  The impairment was seen to equal the loss of an entire night’s sleep or being a chronic alcoholic, some 13 IQ points.  The studies are available at www.sciencemag.org and were picked up by the mass media in several countries.

Is your money on your mind?

Poverty saps mental capacity to deal with complex tasks, say scientists: study suggests being preoccupied with money problems is equivalent to loss of 13 IQ points or losing a night’s sleep guardian.com