I used to be happy to admit to occasionally allowing myself to lapse into sloth. However, in the present climate of opinion, such an admission is no longer ‘PC’. Indeed, if we are to believe some of our politicians, Britain is in the process of becoming a nation of slothful social security scroungers. It’s all the fault of the welfare state, they whine, as the disabled, the elderly, the sick and unemployed are all lumped to together with the tiny minority who have abused the country’s benefit system.
In the same week as welfare reforms come into effect, spread all over the front pages of the newspapers is the archetypal ‘scrounging scumbag’........Mick Philpott. Listening to government ministers, their message is loud and clear; the welfare reforms are necessary to prevent individuals such as Philpott from living it up on taxpayers’ money.
A recent report, entitled ‘Benefits Stigma in Britain’, commissioned by Turn2us, an anti-poverty charity shows how the media has ‘ramped up’ the anti welfare rhetoric in the last ten years. The researcher, Elizabeth Finn, examined more than 6,000 articles on social security between 1995 and 2011 from the major newspapers – the Times, the Mirror, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun and the Daily Express.
Thirty per cent of all articles focussed on benefit fraud even although, rates of fraud have never exceeded 3%. The study shows that disproportionate coverage of fraud is linked to higher levels of stigma, with the readers of "stigmatising newspapers", such as the Sun, believing there were "higher levels of deception within the welfare system. The report says three newspapers – the Sun, Mail and Express – show an "exceptional focus" on claimants' apparent "lack of effort", unfairly stigmatising millions as lazy and slothful.
The prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus himself had considerable sympathy for the poor and the disadvantaged. It is therefore little wonder that four churches (from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Church of Scotland) joined together to criticise the government's welfare reforms as unjust - they fear that society's most vulnerable will be disproportionately hit .
While the popular press has been railing against sloth, medical researchers have been busy producing a world map of sloth. Published in the Lancet in July 2012, to coincide with the Olympics, the study by Pedro Hallal of the Federal University of Pelotas, is the most complete portrait yet of the world's busy bees and couch potatoes.
Dr Hallal and his colleagues pooled data from health surveys for 122 countries, covering 89% of the world’s population. They found that 31% of adults do not get enough physical activity. This is defined as 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three days a week, or some combination of the two. Malta, according to the report is the most slothful country in the world, with 72% of adults getting too little exercise.
Sounds like a very civilised place to live..........I might just consider moving !!