Saturday, 20 April 2013

Baishou qijia (raising a family with one's bare hands)

Having read so much pro- and anti-Thatcher rhetoric recently I began a process of introspection to try to understand why I am pro-Thatcher.

What's wrong with me? I asked the husband. Why is it that despite reading all that left-wing media as a student, despite working amongst left-wing academics, I am still what I am?

Why is it that 'people up north', after the mines had closed for decades, not got up to do something different for themselves?

Why is there this entrenched hatred of all things capitalist?

It is the capitalists who pay the taxes that pay the schools. When Jessops the high street chain of camera shops went bust, who came to its rescue? A capitalist risking his own money.

Risk. Is that the key?

People moan, there are no jobs. But surely there are jobs: window-cleaning, car-washing, ironing, charring (house cleaning as it used to be called), et cetera.

My father came to Singapore virtually penniless. His older sister had arrived before him. There were a few contacts. He went into labouring work.

I understand that he tried to start a business, but was swindled, and ended up for most of his life as a butcher at Alexandra Road wet market (now demolished).

It was as butcher that he raised six children, with no help from a welfare state. He borrowed money from loansharks to buy textbooks and uniforms for my older siblings. He raised money on other occasions through tontine rings, but always paid back.

Channel 4 News ran a series on how people were affected by Thatcher. Two people said they got her message to do something for themselves and they did. One guy invested the £100 he had buying stuff (anything would have done, he said), sold it, made a profit, and within three to four years was turning over seven figures.

Another decided to leave his safe job to start his own business, and started hiring within two years. But the other two talked about how Thatcher killed industry and communities.

I think anthropologists could make themselves useful by understanding what are the cultural barriers to people striking out on their own. Or even what is the cultural capital that can be harnessed to raise financial capital within communities.

When I went to secondary school I was desperate to join the school band because I wanted to play music. My parents could not afford to give me the piano and ballet lessons I so wanted. I could not afford the band uniform after I fought tooth-and-nail to get in there.

So I bought loaves of bread and made sardine sandwiches to sell them to other girls. I managed to pay for the band uniform after two years.

What is there to stop people from raising capital by making things to sell? Make things out of waste, stuff from charity shops, and start. Buy seeds and compost. Sow them at home. when they are slightly bigger, sell them to neighbours at profit. Once you have made some profit, that bug would bite and you would want to make more.

Here's an example of a website that has useful information:

There are also lots of government grants available such as New Enterprise Allowance. What you need is determination and a willingness to take a risk.

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