Poverty, Generation Foodbank and Celtic’s wonderful Green Brigade

Sadly, over the best part of the last ten years phrases such as ‘foodbank’ and ‘child poverty’ have become normalised in Scotland. One could comfortably argue that so normalised such terms have become that the average citizen doesn’t feel the need to look twice at a collection bucket with the words ‘Foodbank’ emblazoned somewhere on its signage. Why would they however, so normal the term has become that to hear that the figure of 59 is the number of foodbanks in Scotland currently co-ordinated by the UK’s largest Foodbank Charity, the Trussell Trust, doesn’t even sound that high.

It’s funny how statistics can easily do that however, strip the context and significance away from something which tells a story of inhumanity and suffering which for citizens of our ‘rich’ country ought to be consigned to the history books.

59 is a high number though, specifically when the number in 2009 was sitting at 1.

Let’s try again with the statistics however. Consider that in 2017 between April and September, the same foodbank charity reported its highest usage yet of emergency food parcels, a total of 76,764 to be exact.

Still not having much of an impact is it – how can so many human feelings and emotions connected to suffering and misery become lost in a simple translation of statistics?

Maybe the following statistic will, at long last, bring a picture of inhumanity to this awful yet normalised cycle of poverty. Of those previously mentioned 76,764 emergency parcels, containing anything from tinned food and pasta to toiletries, one third were for our children.

This means that somewhere in Scotland, none more so than the still densely packed and economically undernourished areas of our urban hubs like Glasgow, Dundee and parts of Edinburgh, there are approximately 25,000 children living in poverty – day after day after day.

Cycles of Poverty and Normality

Neo-Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser once stated that it isn’t only family wealth which is handed down from generation to generation, but poverty as well. He is speaking here of the inherited structural inequalities which our societies produce which in turn tend to afflict the same postcodes over and over again. With each of these postcodes and their structural inequalities comes a new generation of children burdened by both the physical and psychological fatigue of poverty who, usually, feel trapped and eventually accepting of the life in which they have found themselves in.

In the Glaswegian context it would relate to the families of areas like the Garngad, Springburn, the Gorbals, Shettleston, the Calton, Govan and so forth. A quick glance at Scotland’s recent child poverty statistics shows that it is just such areas which always top these tables, in Springburn for example, just under 1 in 2 children are classed as currently living in poverty.

It is also no coincidence that the University of Glasgow’s ‘Poverty Hub’, which conducts research into poverty, population and health, not so long ago chose to open its doors in the East End of the city, 200 yards from where Celtic FC was officially born in the Calton in 1887 as a force for good and all things anti child poverty. The Hub chose Bridgeton Cross as its destination, given the East End’s infamy for urban poverty from mid Victorian age to current day, it seems as good a place as any.

Intergenerational poverty and all of the toxic side effects that come with such an affliction – emotional disconnect, poor self-awareness, low self-esteem, lacking in concentration, social isolation, addiction, ease of access to crime and black market subcultures – create environments which barely give their proud, industrious and salt of the earth people a chance of success. Like allowing for a beautiful flower to grow in a man-made disaster zone, the odds are severely stacked against the individual flourishing in a successful and organic manner.

This is what is meant by a cycle of poverty and this is what is happening right now in Scotland to the children of the Celtic family and beyond. Poverty knows no discrimination, it attacks at will if our social structures, economic laws and indifferent attitudes allow it to.

This cycle must be stopped.

Every Illness Needs a Cure

Poverty is a social illness and it is very easy to diagnose these but something completely different and challenging to prescribe a cure for it. Whether it be structural inequalities, cultures of normalisation or the horrific and Victorian attitudes displayed by some of our Tory lawmakers in Westminster which is to be blamed for the continuing cycles of poverty and the unwanted meteoric rise of the foodbank, the prescription for a cure is to be found through various measures. Chief among them would be Activism and Action of dedicated solidarity movements which exist to bring communities together for the betterment of all.

None more so is this better exemplified than with the Green Brigade, our beloved and often misinterpreted yet always loud and proud politicised fan group. For what it’s worth, I firmly believe Celtic Park would be a little bit less of a Paradise if the Green Brigade were to ever be evicted.

Anti Poverty Crusade of the Green Brigade

In relation to their envious endeavours to fight poverty in a substantial manner they have a two pronged attack. One aspect political and ideological, the other practical and powerful.

The ideological aspect is simple – they are vocal and consistent with their political views, generally describable as anti-imperialist and pro solidarity for states or peoples living under oppression. Poverty is at the absolute root of both of these issues, after all what is imperialism if not the open and greedy conquest of land which is not rightfully yours, just so you can enjoy the fruits of an others labour whilst propelling the natives into subordination. Think here the results through the ages of Britain in Ireland, Palestine, India or Belgium in the Congo, to name only a few.

They also pull no punches with their open critiques of both Holyrood and Westminster’s political agendas, all of which thus far, have presided over horrific levels of inhumane poverty and hunger. Examples of all of these attitudes are then publicised through matchday banner, on-line content and the occasional public statement.

This is very important, as although it doesn’t appear to be enacting a tangible change, the very fact that they are advertising a politicised message which is unhappy at both our country’s and more globalised mainstream attitudes, they are in essence getting a message of critique pumped out to a wide audience by using Celtic and our arena as a vehicle for change – something that Celtic Park has always actually been since its inception.

This is the Activism that lays the seeds of thoughts in the minds of the masses which will, over time, hopefully be teased to maturity through debate, discussion and critical thought.

The practical aspect is just as simple but undeniably more powerful in the short term in relation to tackling poverty. It consists of all hands on deck fundraising, food drives and day to day organisation.

Some of the past annual food drives orchestrated by the Green Brigade have actually broken UK wide records in relation to quantity of materials collected. In the case of 2015, all 7.5 tonnes of food drive donations, collected from various entrances at Celtic Park, was further complemented by over £9000 worth of cash donations from our generous public. The food drive is now in its 6th year and usually takes place at a home game in late October or early November.

The generosity and actual donations from the people of this structurally unequal society is astonishing, but none of it would have the chance to make any difference at all if not for the Green Brigade. It is they who selflessly supply the hard graft associated with the planning, logistics and physical platform of such successful food drives.

We Are All Green Brigade

Due to the Green Brigade, just how many of Scotland’s 25,000 children ate a wee bit better, slept a wee bit cosier, played a wee bit happier and, generally, lived a wee bit more humanely as a result of such dedicated action and solidarity?

The Green Brigade are anti poverty warriors of the highest order and they are symbolic of Celtic, our family, and all that it stands for in the name of charity, equality and humanity.

Something that should be considered by our mainstream media, some members of our clubs hierarchy and anyone who likes to bash or de-legitimise the Green Brigade as mere trouble or noise maker, is that in the exact same sense that Celtic FC are more than just a club, the Green Brigade are more than just a fans group.

Sean McDonagh

Did you watch the Green Brigade’s end of season video? No? Then do yourself a favour and watch it HERE.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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