Friday, 2 February 2018

Book Review - 'Poverty Safari' by Darren McGarvey

Ex-PTC commissioner Darren McGarvey has found his voice. The book is a series of personal memoirs and reflections, often controversial, that sometimes link and often go off at tangents. His mother’s early death from alcohol and drug abuse is the framework on which he hangs a contrasting account of the changes he has made in his own life, overcoming addictions and an attitude of blaming everybody else. It’s a moving story and he tells with great honesty.

But what makes the book compelling is his often angry perspective on how the world looks from where he grew up in a troubled family in Pollok. He suggests that child abuse and domestic violence, even if they are not at the root of poverty, play a role in holding it in place. He describes the stress of living in poverty, naming it as “the connective tissue between social problems such as addiction, violence and chronic illness, as well as the multiple crises in our public services”. There’s plenty to take in from the perspective of the schemes.

So why Poverty Safari? I understand this to be Darren’s interpretation of what middle class people are doing when they are paid to “regenerate” working class areas. The well-meaning middle class folk are parachuted in with middle class values and alien agendas prepared by remote institutions. In a chapter called “The Outsiders” he illustrates the discrepancy between government rhetoric and what is delivered on the ground, and the consistent failure to meet local needs. PTC Commissioners should read this chapter, even if they skip the rest.

It’s lucid and articulate, and a great read. I recommend it.

Patrick Boase

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