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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 12:18 GMT
Your comments
Gated community
In the film, wealthy residents want protection from the poor
Imagine that by 2014 the inequality gap between rich and poor in Britain is wider than ever, and resentment on both sides of the divide is growing.

We want your thoughts and opinions on the issues raised by If...things don't get better.

This online forum is now closed.

A fascinating and disturbing program. I agree with the lady who said that the important thing is equality of opportunity. Simply doling out cash is not the answer - it makes people dependant rather than independent.

Not all poor parents are bad parents
Scott, Portsmouth
This is just like the old "Give a man fish and he'll eat fish for a day, teach a man to fish and he can eat fish for life..." proverb.
Chas Newport, Barton St. David

Rob: London. That's such a generalistic view. The way these children behave is not solely on the adults. Where are the parks? Being concreted over for middle and upper class offices and luxury apartments. Where is the money to run after school activity centres? Tied up in some waste of money scheme on making the town centre look attractive.

The parents can't keep the children indoors or follow them about. Boredom sets in when the youths are on the streets and so too does deviant behaviour to cure that boredom.

Not all poor parents are bad parents.
Scott, Portsmouth

Brilliant! No answers I'm afraid. The program showed the difficulty of the dilemma. Too much taxation, brain and talent drain. Yet taxation is the only way to distribute wealth. Glad I'm not a politician.
Ida Watson, Gorleston on Sea, Norfolk

A very depressing program, certain to become fact. The program and society misidentifies the causes, which are absence of purpose, discipline and respect for other people.

Problems that are propagated by inadequate social curriculum at school, simplistic ratings driven media and career minded politicians that don't understand cause and effect, in a greedy, selfish, godless, scientific society. There will never be equality but we could settle for fairness.
Julian, Evesham

This equality is reflected globally and we have already seen what that has created. People who have nothing to lose cannot be beaten into submission.

Perhaps Marx had something after all in that if the poor were ever to realise their enormous power from their sheer numbers then we do indeed face a frightening and violent future. It certainly looks increasingly that way.
Josephine Burton, Rotherham

There are many views expressed about people not making the effort to better themselves in order to rise above the threat of poverty, in an ideal world we would all be in well-paid jobs.

But who would do all the real work? Who will sit at the tills in the supermarket? Who will make certain the streets are not full of rubbish? Who will be seeing my children safely across the roads?

There are many of these low paid jobs that need to be done, fortunately there are many people like me around to do them.

Inequality will always exist it cannot be avoided, but we must do something to try and maintain it at a mutually acceptable level.

In this day and age in a country like ours we should all be able to live in reasonable comfort and security.
Jason Walker, Cardiff

From some of the comments that I have read thus far, it saddens me to realise that there are some particularly naive interpretations of the issues raised in this forum.

I think that a good proportion of the population are aware of the divisions within our society, but in this age of an unhealthy fascination with money it is the unfortunate consequence that inequalities result.

People born into underprivileged sections of society are not usually afforded the same opportunities as their more affluent counterparts. Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule.

Education does not equal a way out of poverty
Cheryl, Bracknell
The "social polarisation" issue needs understanding from all quarters before we can even attempt to address the issues effectively.

I believe that we all need a huge shot of reality combined with some structured solutions and perhaps more importantly, some positive media action in helping our society to overcome these uncertain times.
James, Newbury, Berkshire

There are two huge questions that this country and society must ask itself:

What happened to philanthropy? And what happened to discipline?
Steve, Bournemouth

People have commented here that the "poor" are unable or unwilling to discipline their children. This upsets me greatly. I live in a largely middle-class area and the worst behaviour of adolescents comes not from the "disadvantaged youths" more from the spoilt brats of the middle-classes.

The perceived lack of discipline and motivation of the lower-classes is a product of a dysfunctional society which sees the haves living next door to the single parent (through death) family.

The family in reality is a no parent family because the children see their mother/father working two or more jobs to support them but they still can't afford the cheapest luxuries.

These children who grow up in this environment cannot be given the tools to get themselves out of poverty and they are cynical and bitter before they get to secondary education.

We cannot allow our society to become socially stratified along class lines
James, London
Oh by the way, who is it that's going to be guiding these children? Where will they get any sense of citizenship? They know that they have been marginalised before they even begin.

Education does not equal a way out of poverty. I worked hard at university to do the job I wanted and I still depend on tax credits to live and there is no way in the world that I could afford to buy a garage let alone a house in my home town and a good few others too.
Cheryl, Bracknell

The gap between the rich and the poor is just as much to blame for this new generation of under-achievers. It's not that they are not given the opportunities to make something of themselves, after all, we all have the right to an education.

We cannot allow our society to become socially stratified along class lines, this will not only cause conflict and anger that will take years to end, but will also damage the economy which needs a large intelligent workforce.
James, London

Firstly, I object to all the posts regarding "rich" people. You seem to forget that many (not all) have worked very hard to get where they are. Why should they be penalised because of it?

The Regent's Court gated community featured in tonight's programme is actually the Bow Quarter - where I live. Whether you agree with the idea of gated communities or not, they do serve a purpose. Bow isn't the nicest part of London as I'm sure most people would agree.

The streets outside the BQ have police signs everywhere warning people of muggings. Cars are broken into. When I get inside this complex, I feel safe. I would never park my car on the street. In here, it's much safer.

I like living here and am proud of it. I'm only 22 but have worked hard since I was 17 to ensure that I have a lifestyle like this.

You make your own luck and create your own path through life. Don't blame others for your problems!
CB, United Kingdom

It's just that a lack of motivation and effort amongst the younger generation is going to cause problems in the future. This can also be blamed on the simple access to high benefits given by this government.
Gary Denton, London

We have the opposite problem in my street instead of being gated they are fencing us in.
Peter Bloomfield, Bodelwyddan N.Wales

Once again, those that fail blame those that have achieved. This is an example of the politics of envy prevalent in Britain today. The solution is not to continually take from the haves to give to the have-nots, but to provide the opportunity for everyone to achieve their full potential.
Pat, Southend on Sea

Yes we must stamp out poverty and the fortunate members of our society must support any government in achieving such aims.
Liz, Hertford
It would be nice to see some form of 'equality' across the country, it is all about how you achieve this. If we were all earning similar wages through stepped taxing I would give up my high-pressure job and return to serving behind a bar! I do not believe I should work hard whilst some do nowt to receive handouts because they can.
Andrew , Huddersfield England

I had heard about the gates going up in Liverpool before the programme, so I am aware that this is a real issue. I do feel though that we are all given good opportunities and some of us waste them. Who can blame hard working people who have made something of themselves for wanting to protect it?
Tim Smith, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

How can equality be achieved when wages are totally disproportionate. Introducing a maximum wage and increasing minimum wage would help a fairer repartition of wealth.
Fabienne , London

Inequality is a natural state that we are born in. Everyone is different and have different gifts bestowed by genes and luck. That is natural and normal.

So far it seems that capitalism - a society regulating system based on mimicking nature's survival of the fittest is the only workable, sustainable solution. When polarisation between poor and the rich becomes too large it automatically corrects itself by explosive revolutions or peaceful evolution. This is basic human nature.

It is an utter arrogance and waste of time and resources to try to engineer artificial political solutions that go against basic human instincts.
Miroslaw Grabiec, London

Given the absence and unwillingness of the police to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour the gating of communities and the private provision of security staff is only to be expected of those that can afford to do so and should not be condemned. If the police did their job and were visibly present then the need for gating estates and private security would not arise. Equally as a matter of equity high educational standards for long eschewed by the left are a high priority for providing routes out of poverty and low income.
Edward, Woking

At Last! "If" voiced some of the anger and frustration that we middle classes endure. This isn't 2014, this is NOW! When are we, the hard working, law abiding, tax paying, indigenous people of England going to have rights too?
Ray Johnson, Henley, Oxon

Yes we must stamp out poverty and the fortunate members of our society must support any government in achieving such aims.
Liz, Hertford

Three things in life are certain. We're born, we live, we die! It's up to everyone to make there own path through life's twists and turns. Tax is something we have to balance just right, it's not something we can afford to get wrong.
Alan Torr, Dagenham, Essex

Equality is not natural, some are stronger than others and some are smarter
Steve, Nottingham
The problem lies in class and their behaviour. The lower classes seem unable to teach their children how to act, therefore is it any wonder that the middle classes seem to want to separate themselves from them!
Rob, London

Competition is natural, those that want to win, will, those that don't, won't. Social engineering will never be able to alter that basic fact. And should those that don't want to win be rewarded for their failure?
David Price, Market Harborough

I would happily live with and support those classed as poor if everyone plays fair. To stop crime you have to have a social conscience, or better yet martial law.
Alex Chatwin, Durham

Adam from Stortford, if most rich people earned a lower income I'm sure their views on taxing would change!
Virgil, Windsor

Equality is not natural, some are stronger than others and some are smarter.
Steve, Nottingham

I come from a "poor" background, but I worked hard at college to get a decent job. Poverty is no excuse!
Sid, Wakefield
Brilliant! A great insight into serious issues that are emerging in Tony Blair's Britain and the continuing aftermath of Thatcherism.
Emma, Edinburgh

Poverty is unnecessary in Britain.
Mike, North Wales

If most "poor" people earned a higher income I'm sure their views on taxing would change.
Adam, Stortford

As there is no discipline in today's children it's no surprise that society as we know it will collapse.
Dave, Penarth

Ian from Derbyshire, if...you think that without the rich there would be no culture you do not understand culture.
Alex, Norfolk

Without the rich there would be no culture!
Ian, Derbyshire

I come from a "poor" background, but I worked hard at college to get a decent job. Poverty is no excuse!
Sid, Wakefield

Anyone over the age of 18 who has been out of work for no reason for six weeks or more should be put in one of the armed forces!
Matt, Mansfield

What will the rich do when key workers cannot afford to live, and therefore work, where the rich need them?
Alex, Norfolk

Knowledge is power. Motivate the poor to stay in education for longer. Obviously all education should be free.
Mike, Hove

Will history teach us nothing? 90% of the population keep 10% of it in elitist lifestyles. Is this the beginning of the Dark Ages?!
Michael R Palmer, Hillsborough, Sheffield

Behind every rich man there are 100 men who put him there.
Paul, Leeds

The middle classes suffer most from tax as the rich and poor pay less.
Tom, Exeter

We were always told the measure of a responsible society was how it looks after its more vulnerable members. It could be you.
Maggie, Sunbury
This country has become divided between the haves and the have-nots already because of health, education and living conditions to name a few.
Mary Henson, Coventry

It's not a question of penalising the rich but rather of sharing a very large cake a little more equally.
David, Pangbourne

Inequality goes hand in hand with capitalism and it will always be a fact of society as long as capitalism exists. As capitalism becomes more efficient, inequality is growing exponentially, both on a global and national level.

The logical conclusion is a situation where there are two distinct classes, which will lead to class conflict. Governments should take measures to try to lesson inequality to create a future where people aren't segregated by security fences.

Social problems are the problems of society as a whole, not of individuals.
Daniel Holman, Northampton

Whether it's 2014 or 3014, the widening gap between the rich and the poor will not change. The rich will get richer and the poorer even more poor.
Paul, Durham

Attempts are being made to improve the lives of the "socially excluded" but it will take time though.

We were always told the measure of a responsible society was how it looks after its more vulnerable members. It could be you.
Maggie, Sunbury

Some of the comments which preach a "work hard and you will succeed" philosophy totally ignore the structural inequality which is inherent in both British and United States societies. Yes, there are always examples of the poor kid making good as an entrepreneur, but the reality for many people is that Capitalism requires a workforce, which by the very nature of the system, are underpaid for their efforts, while profits are creamed off. Equality under this system is an illusion.
Jason, Portsmouth

Of far greater concern is the global disparity in wealth which leads to millions of deaths per year. In a developed economy such as Britain it is unlikely that people would become so discontent with their lot that they would engage in "revolutionary" violence but in poorer countries where millions of people suffer as a result of "market forces" violence and wars could easily be envisaged.

Capitalism in itself is not a bad thing but markets are not perfect and do fail and this is where the governments of the world need to intervene to give everyone a fair chance to contribute to society as a whole.
Ron Byrne, Dublin

It's the people without homes, jobs or food who must be helped, not people who have poor paid jobs and a small house.
People, given the correct tools will most often make a better life for themselves
John Mroz, Pittsburgh, USA

As long as everybody is sheltered and earns an income then that is all that matters.

Wealth will always divide us, that's how things are, we just need to focus on helping those with no wealth at all.
Aaron Ahmad, South Wales

I just participated in your BBC poll, "Should governments try to reduce inequality?" I was stunned to see that 70%+ agreed that the government should! I am not trying to preach a USA philosophy but wanted to offer a comment.

I believe that when a country continually looks to the government to solve social problems, they are creating worse issues.

Eventually the government will be unable to provide for continued social programs aimed at income redistribution. It is better to rely on increased education of the middle-class and an increased emphasis on self-determination.

People, given the correct tools will most often make a better life for themselves. Continued reliance on government solutions only creates dependence and dependence creates an ever-growing lower-class.

Less government intervention is the answer, not more.

Incidentally, I came from a coal mining family and did work my way into the upper percentile. I have lived what I preach.
John Mroz, Pittsburgh, USA

Why should the successful be penalised? I accept that I will never be an Olympic athlete. Does this mean that these athletes should be made to compete with sacks of weights on their backs so that I can compete with them because somehow they, by their innate ability and commitment, have "deprived" me of sporting opportunity?

While nobody should be left to live in poverty this does not mean that we should be working to support a population of losers.

We now have a generation who have been misled to believe that they can all be brain surgeons or company directors or whatever, but that no effort or talent is required by them to achieve this.

If you want something, work for it and earn it
Nick, Phoenix, USA
Of course if they don't succeed it is through poor education, etc.

I have taught in "deprived" areas. The schools were well resourced and the teachers talented and committed. The reason the pupils failed is because they couldn't be bothered. One boy said he would rather be a burglar because it was easier than studying or working.
Rob, Oxford

To artificially create equality by taxation or some other method of "redistribution" of wealth is really tantamount to holding up a big sign saying "It's OK to be lazy - the rich will bail you out".

How on earth is that supposed to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs or encourage foreign companies to invest in Britain or buy British products if all they see is a lazy, uninspired workforce?

If you want something, work for it and earn it, don't expect it to be handed to you on a silver platter.
Nick, Phoenix, USA

The gap between rich and poor has never been so small.

The vast majority of people live in houses with light and heat readily available, and with little risk of malnutrition or starvation.

Medical services are not confined purely to the rich, and no people in this country can be legally owned. Go back a few hundred years, and take a look at a real rich/poor divide.
S Blyth, Northampton

The opportunity to accumulate wealth and better oneself is part of the human condition, the motivator to a "better life". It's the spur to general economic growth, for it starts with each of us playing his/her part.

It's called free market capitalism, and it works. Socialism demonstrably does not work.
Taxing those who have worked hard and achieved some level of prosperity will do nothing to close the gap
Richard, London

Someone, after all, has got to make the wealth, as opposed to just making money.

The "I want some of that" brigade doesn't want to take the personal and business risks but want some of the rewards of those that do. That's a recipe for economic disaster, and we only have to look at Britain in the 1960s and 1970s to see the results of that.
Mark, US/UK

The gap between rich and poor will continue to grow if successive governments do not address the situation of poor education and motivation of children in the UK.

If you equip children with the right skills and a sense of self-worth and drive to succeed, this will go a long way to closing the gap between rich and poor.

Taxing those who have worked hard and achieved some level of prosperity will do nothing to close the gap. It will simply encourage successful individuals to quit Britain for countries where their skills and drive will be more welcome and where they will be taxed less than in the UK.
Richard, London

I don't earn a lot but I don't think its right for people who have done well in there lives to have to pay more tax for me
Chris Hall, UK
I don't hold with inequality. People know that if you don't go to school, you don't learn and you won't get a job. Some people are gifted and will make money anyway. Unfortunately most are not.

I worked two jobs to pay for my education. I still study now to progress further. My background is working class, but this matters little these days as people are valued more for what they have upstairs.

There is no secret to the haves and the have-nots save one. We all must take responsibility, and be held accountable for our actions. I could have quite easily left school early, spent all my money in bars and clubs, and ended up with a few dependants. I decided not to.
Jonathan, London

I don't earn a lot but I don't think its right for people who have done well in there lives to have to pay more tax for me.

Why should they? They may have put a lot of hard work in and then they are penalised for it.
Chris Hall, UK

Why should you be taxed just because you are successful? If higher earners are taxed even more than they are, then the lower income people will not want to aspire to hefty tax bills.

Inequality is part of life rather than capitalism
David Jones, Ipswich
You need to have the rich and successful in society in place for people to aspire to something and have take control of their future.

There will always be inequality. We can't all be high-flying to barristers and we can't all be factory packing people. By the very nature of us we all have different talents, many happen to be worth more in money than others.

Some of the divide between rich and poor is beyond an individual's control. However there are many ways that an individual can make a difference if they want to. Sadly we will never be able to stop people from squandering money and loafing.
Kay Haslam, Bath

Inequality is part of life rather than capitalism, and efforts to correct those inequalities are best focused on a quality education for all, to enable and encourage each individual to make the most of their god-given talents.

Taxing higher earners and businesses encourages both to move to less punitive administrations, leaving the remainder to an ever increasing burden of tax to support non-contributors. Many high earners have achieved their status by hard work and self-discipline.

You can have equality or you can have freedom, but you cannot have both
Neil, Surrey

The alternative is a redistribution of wealth on some basis other than of merit, encouraging a population content to be reliant on hand-outs; what incentive is there to strive for betterment?

In my book, the genuinely needy are not those with luxury items such as televisions to watch the increasing number of programmes which give the impression that it is possible to get something for nothing.

In a global economy we will fail to compete with nations such as India and China, the former providing high numbers of graduates, who are motivated and speak better English than native Britons.
David Jones, Ipswich

You can have equality or you can have freedom, but you cannot have both. I'd rather be poor but free, than a serf with no possibility of betterment through my own efforts. The fact of everyone being in the same boat would be no compensation.
Neil, Surrey


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