Poverty Safari

Poverty Safari

People from deprived communities all around Britain feel misunderstood and unheard. Darren McGarvey, aka 'Loki' gives voice to their feelings and concerns, and the anger that is spilling over. Anger he says we will have to get used to, unless things change. He invites you to come on a Safari of sorts. A Poverty Safari. But not the sort where the indigenous species is surve...

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Title:Poverty Safari
Author:Darren McGarvey
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Edition Language:English

Poverty Safari Reviews

  • Ophelia Sings

    Everyone should read this book.

    Rather histrionic, perhaps, but the truth. Shocking, visceral, angry and anger-inducing, Poverty Safari shines a light into the darkest corners of society, highlighting the forgotten, the overlooked. If we have anything about us, we should see this book as a rallying call; it is surely time, as Grenfell still smoulders and the queues at the food banks snake ever longer, to examine where we as a society are going wrong.

    Fluently and beautifully written, Poverty Safa

    Everyone should read this book.

    Rather histrionic, perhaps, but the truth. Shocking, visceral, angry and anger-inducing, Poverty Safari shines a light into the darkest corners of society, highlighting the forgotten, the overlooked. If we have anything about us, we should see this book as a rallying call; it is surely time, as Grenfell still smoulders and the queues at the food banks snake ever longer, to examine where we as a society are going wrong.

    Fluently and beautifully written, Poverty Safari is challenging and enlightening and a very, very important book - and an urgently timely one.

    My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jack Greenwood

    Poverty Safari challenges you to think about why you think what you think and what impact that might have on your perceptions of, and actions within, society. In an increasingly polarised national community, the capacity for self-reflection and introspection are those that will enable us to reach compromise.

    Darren McGarvey is a voice I enjoyed hearing from, one that is not often afforded the chance to make an extended case for his beliefs in public. He engages with a vast array of societal chal

    Poverty Safari challenges you to think about why you think what you think and what impact that might have on your perceptions of, and actions within, society. In an increasingly polarised national community, the capacity for self-reflection and introspection are those that will enable us to reach compromise.

    Darren McGarvey is a voice I enjoyed hearing from, one that is not often afforded the chance to make an extended case for his beliefs in public. He engages with a vast array of societal challenges from poverty and mental health, to intersectionality and identity politics, wedding those themes to personal experience to provide a clearer picture of the progress, or lack of progress, that is currently being made in marginalised communities.

    His words on blame, generalisation and assumption are particularly poignant and call for a reappraisal of your convictions, regardless of your political stance. Read, reflect, and re-evaluate your judgements with genuine consideration for the perspectives of others; there is no debate on the utility of this maxim purported by Loki.

  • Darren Blance

    An admirer of McGarvey's work, I was very excited when it was announced he was writing a book and I immediately contributed to the crowdfund for the project, already named Poverty Safari. However, despite peeing my pants with excitement on the day the finished product finally arrived through my door in all it's glory, for some reason I put off reading it until now. I wasn't sure what that was about, but as I opened the book, I was aware of something lurking just beneath the surface - a secret de

    An admirer of McGarvey's work, I was very excited when it was announced he was writing a book and I immediately contributed to the crowdfund for the project, already named Poverty Safari. However, despite peeing my pants with excitement on the day the finished product finally arrived through my door in all it's glory, for some reason I put off reading it until now. I wasn't sure what that was about, but as I opened the book, I was aware of something lurking just beneath the surface - a secret desire to not enjoy it. I had, after all, found myself agreeing almost unbendingly with everything I had ever read by McGarvey, elevating him to an untouchable pedestal in my mind. I wasn't just a casual admirer - I was a fan. This realisation made me uncomfortable. I wanted to read this book with critical, open-minded interested, not self-congratulatory righteousness. I realise now that was a bit silly. Yes, I've found myself in perpetual agreement with McGarvey's writings, but that was never a comfortable process. In fact, that's why I've enjoyed his work so much - often jarring and uncomfortable reading, forcing me to stretch my rigid worldview and reconsider what is sometimes an all too cosy personal position. Well, Poverty Safari has been no different. In fact, it made for the most uncomfortable reading so far from McGarvey, and I'm going to have to re-read it just to make sense of a few things in my own head.

    People across the political spectrum of left and right will enjoy and learn something from this book, though almost none of them will find it comfortable reading. Even as a self-described "lefty" like McGarvey, this book was challenging reading for me. He holds an intelligent and articulate mirror to himself, one of those magnifying make-up mirrors that show your skin up close in stomach-churning detail, and encourages you to take a look too.

  • Fiona Welch

    I strongly recommend this book for anyone looking for fresh thinking on poverty in modern Britain/Scotland. The author is very honest about his own experiences and thinking, but of course doesn't guarantee that he's right on everything, and the reflective nature of his writing is both a strength and weakness of the book means that he ends up contradicting himself more than once. IMO, this is a book encouraging the reader to challenge their own ego and assumptions, so if you are reading this in t

    I strongly recommend this book for anyone looking for fresh thinking on poverty in modern Britain/Scotland. The author is very honest about his own experiences and thinking, but of course doesn't guarantee that he's right on everything, and the reflective nature of his writing is both a strength and weakness of the book means that he ends up contradicting himself more than once. IMO, this is a book encouraging the reader to challenge their own ego and assumptions, so if you are reading this in the hope of a pat on the back, you will probably be disappointed. If you want food for thought, this is a feast.

    I could join the chorus of voices saying that the perception of what middle class people do and think is unfair, but the point isn't to paint middle-class people that way, but rather to illuminate that is how many people from "the lower classes" (the author's terminology) think of "the middle-class". It would be very easy wallow in my personal offence, but it's more useful to think about why those assumptions exist, and serves as a reminder that no-one likes to be on the receiving end of negative generalisations. If you keep reading, McGarvey describes one time he got that very wrong. Instead, focus on the descriptions of his own experiences and the grinding challenges of poverty that are about more than not having much money and are rarely articulated. Too often the impacts of a disadvantaged background are glossed over as irrelevant because we have the occasional example of someone from a poor background ‘made good’. We don’t need to feel bad about having a more privileged background, but we should be honest enough to acknowledge that it helped us to get where we are now. Again, it may be tempting for the reader to decide that many of McGarvey’s problems as coming from a dysfunctional family, rather than a poor one, and thus under-estimate the impact of poverty, but the two are intrinsically linked. I feel like this was so obvious to the author that he didn’t articulate it quite as clearly as some cynics may require.

    The strength of this book is the criticism of the tribal nature of politics. Too much time spent on trying to prove yourself right and your political rivals wrong for the sake of ego, rather than thinking about what we could do now if only we listened to each other a bit more and occasionally admitted we were wrong and your opponents might have the odd good idea and not be inherently evil. I thought this might have been a good place to mention voting systems, and the campaigns by the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Matter to ditch the archaic FPTP and to bring in fairer systems that reward collaborative working and let more of the small voices be heard, but there is only so much you can mention in a single book. Instead, there is a very worthwhile discussion of the perils of confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance, which impressively, presumably deliberately, doesn't use the terms.

    There is a warning to well intentioned 'middle-class' campaigners who might rely too heavily on academic or specialist language from their own particular area of interest that alienate the wider community, although there are a few passages of this book where the author could benefit from his own advice, because they read like he's trying to impress his sociology tutor.

    The McGarvey warns against investing too much energy and faith to the delivery of political silver bullets, because even if you do think that a change of government/the end of capitalism/Brexit/nationalism/Corbyn/Trump/not Trump will solve many of your problems, you could still be waiting for a long time, and if you aren't prepared to work within the current political system, then it become just another protest movement that wants to keep people angry for the benefit of the movement, not the community. When you think you have nothing to lose, then hoping for the banks to fail sounds like fun, but in reality, the poorest would still end up suffering the most.

    The other big theme is that of personal responsibility. The author believes that his life got a lot better when he stopped trying to externalise blame for all of his problems. In taking responsibility for his own diet, lifestyle and mental health, his own quality of life improved considerably. This is obviously a lot more complicated than it sounds, and much more difficult for those who grow up in poverty, but the point being that it didn't take a big political change. He throws down the gauntlet to the reader to take responsibility for the things we do have control of, especially those things which contribute to our health in our day to day lives. He reminds well intentioned people that they may become complicit in perpetuating problems by appearing to suggest that external factors are the key. Yes, better town planning and sensible regulation could make it easier for people to live healthy lives, but that only takes us so far.

    My criticism would be the ease with which McGarvey dismisses some apparently abstract concerns that he thinks are mainly of interest to the middle-classes. He rightly insists that the views and interests of working class communities should be considered in decision-making, and that we should be less dogmatic in what we assume is for the best, but is sometimes quick to dismiss other points of that at times veer towards Gove’s “we’ve had enough of experts”. It feels a bit churlish to complain about this, given how often he admits to getting things wrong, and his willingness to learn, but it still jars.

    However, this book isn’t pretending to have all of the solutions, nor should it be judged according to how ‘fairly’ it presents all points of view. This book seeks to present a particular point of view that is too often overlooked, and does it well. I hope it becomes widely read.

  • F

    A very honest commentary of both experience and thought

    1 - Change is good

    2 - Not everything/everyone you don't understand/relate to is bad or has bad intentions

    3 - Admitting you are wrong, accepting other opinions & Lifestyles and CHANGE is the most radical thing you can do!

  • Colin

    Darren "Loki" McGarvey is a rapper, a blogger, a broadcaster and now, a published author. And, regardless of his frequent self-deprecation, a damn fine one at that. He's also the product of childhood poverty and a highly dysfunctional family, and later, of addiction and mental health problems. In part, this book is his attempt to come to terms with all of that, to take responsibility for the parts that were his to take (he is fairly merciless with himself in that regard), and to understand and f

    Darren "Loki" McGarvey is a rapper, a blogger, a broadcaster and now, a published author. And, regardless of his frequent self-deprecation, a damn fine one at that. He's also the product of childhood poverty and a highly dysfunctional family, and later, of addiction and mental health problems. In part, this book is his attempt to come to terms with all of that, to take responsibility for the parts that were his to take (he is fairly merciless with himself in that regard), and to understand and forgive where he can.

    But this is much more than an autobiography, much more than the "misery porn" that he wittily acknowledges as a gateway to publication. It's also a valuable insider’s perspective into why poverty remains such a seemingly intractable problem in modern Scotland. He writes fairly caustically about why so many anti-poverty initiatives - even the well-meaning ones - are received with less than whole-hearted enthusiasm in communities like Pollok - the area of Glasgow where McGarvey grew up. His indictment of the "poverty industry … where success is when there remain just enough social problems to sustain and perpetuate everyone’s career” is sure to put a few noses out of joint.

    The same, in truth, could be said about much of the book. Not least the sections dealing with the failure of the left to make much headway among the worst-off sections of society (a problem that is surely not unique to Scotland!). MacGarvey is fairly merciless with the largely middle-class university-educated "identitarian" left, who seem - to him at least - to have abandoned concerns with class, and who spend more time policing the manners and language of the ‘lower classes’, than talking and listening to society's worst off. This is hardly an original observation, but it's an important one, even though (even because!) it can be so hard to hear.

    In the next breath, though, he is warning of the inverted snobbery that has seen people like himself react with hostility to well-meaning potential allies just because of their middle class accents and manners. The book's title is a self-scourging allusion to one case that Loki himself feels he got badly wrong, and in part, the book is something of an apology for that. “It then occurred to me, grudgingly, that should I ever feel like ‘punching-up’ again in future, I might want to double-check who I’m hitting first.”

    There's a streak of ambivalence running through Poverty Safari, and it's one with which many of us who've transitioned from working to middle class lives can probably recognise. A fierce defensiveness in the face of snobbish sneering from the privileged ‘elites’ sits alongside a frustrated cringing at some of the self-defeating and even self-harming behaviour of some of the people we're defending.

    McGarvey clearly feels the same way, and a lot of the latter part of Poverty Safari is about reconciling a recognition that a lot of the problems of poverty genuinely are the fault of "the system", and not amenable to individual change, with a warning not to let that become an excuse for complacency and inaction: “If I’m painfully honest with myself, a misguided sense of victimhood and the constant externalisation of blame blinded me to certain facts that would have helped me transcend my difficulties far sooner.” In a time of neo-Victorian austerity politics and gleeful welfare-bashing, this is dangerous territory, and McGarvey is clearly aware of the pitfalls of making poverty sound predominantly like a personal choice. For the most part, he navigates it well.

  • Pierre

    After reading a number of articles both by and about Darren McGarvey, I must admit that I went into

    with high expectations. It’s perhaps because of these expectations that I came away from the book feeling a little disappointed.

    Before I go any further with actually reviewing the content of

    , allow me first to state that McGarvey writes extremely well. The first few pages of his book are dedicated to his love of writing, and walk the reader through how, from a very y

    After reading a number of articles both by and about Darren McGarvey, I must admit that I went into

    with high expectations. It’s perhaps because of these expectations that I came away from the book feeling a little disappointed.

    Before I go any further with actually reviewing the content of

    , allow me first to state that McGarvey writes extremely well. The first few pages of his book are dedicated to his love of writing, and walk the reader through how, from a very young age, McGarvey enjoyed learning and using new words, in ways which would often put him at odds with his environment, where eloquence was usually viewed as the preserve of the privileged middle and upper classes and therefore treated with scorn. McGarvey, in a way that makes the reader feel like chuckling and smiling sadly at the same time, recounts how he was called gay by his male classmates when he dared call the hair of a female classmate “beautiful” (although I can confirm that, even when growing up in my cushy middle and high schools, homophobic slurs were often the insult of choice). This love of words, which led McGarvey to become a rap artist performing under the name Loki, is felt throughout

    Safari, transmitting vividly the writer’s experiences and thoughts through the pages.

    However, a book, and especially a non-fiction work such as

    , cannot be considered on the style of its writing alone, and it is unfortunately in its structure and in some of its content that this book falls slightly short. To be fair to McGarvey, he does warn us of the ramshackle structure of his debut book, calling it a “series of rants” which seek to shed light on the anger and stress which are so pervasive amongst Britain’s white working class, rather than a political manifesto or an in-depth analysis of the causes and effects of phenomena such as substance abuse, splintered families, and a lack of education on successive generations of the socio-economically oppressed.

    But in a book where we are forced, unflinchingly, to look into a world which is alien to many and invisible to many more, to present so few solutions feels like a missed opportunity. There are plenty of matter-of-fact descriptions of McGarvey’s harrowing childhood, in which he was horrifically abused by his mother. There are also pertinent explanations of white working class people’s anger at their marginalisation from society, and of the political and societal crises which this marginalisation has engendered. Yet when it comes to offering a solution, the most punching advice McGarvey can offer is that “poor people need to take more responsibility for their actions” – a worthy call for working class individuals to look inward rather than outward for self-betterment, to be sure, but perhaps a bit limited when considering the scale of some of the issues

    touches upon. There is also a call from the left to work with diverging political forces rather than seeking to shut down, or “punch up,” in progressive leftist parlance, dissenting viewpoints. Again, a worthy call for increased dialogue, but slightly problematic in a political context where it is populist right-wing forces, not the progressive left, who have made concerted and systematic efforts to dismantle democratic structures and the free speech they are built upon. I would really liked to have seen McGarvey engage more with some of the solutions he is calling for, and perhaps approach them critically (like he brilliantly tackles his response to a middle-class artist’s Glasgow project), rather than simply touch upon then while wrapping up his book’s threads. But who knows, maybe this will come in his later work.

    In short, I enjoyed

    overall, but felt that it could have been fleshed out more in parts. A final point to wrap up: where McGarvey is at his weakest is where he is seen raging against occult forces who are apparently attempting to shut him down. One of the forces he targets is the “cultural left,” made up of the dominant forces in the media, the arts and the higher education sector, a term which sounds awfully like Jordan Peterson’s “Cultural Marxist” cabal which is intent on shutting down free speech and imposing an ultra-politically correct dystopia on the world. Another target, confusingly, is the Guardian, which strikes me as odd given that he has written multiple columns for the paper and given that it is through a Guardian article that I discovered McGarvey’s work and his book. I don’t see the Telegraph or the Daily Mail (I thought the progressive left dominated media?) giving McGarvey a platform…

  • Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't really know what I was expecting when I went into this, but I was left disappointed anyway. I suppose I was looking for a social commentary on the working class and poverty stricken people of Britain, but this read more like a political statement.

    Granted, it was better than a channel 5 documentary that exploits the vulnerable, but I didn't really find it all that interesting either. Good intentions, but it didn't really de

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't really know what I was expecting when I went into this, but I was left disappointed anyway. I suppose I was looking for a social commentary on the working class and poverty stricken people of Britain, but this read more like a political statement.

    Granted, it was better than a channel 5 documentary that exploits the vulnerable, but I didn't really find it all that interesting either. Good intentions, but it didn't really deliver.

  • Pete Mac

    The book start of very well with a powerful description of living with an abusive mother. The author really excels at describing unsettling, moving scenes and his personal experiences of poverty.

    There is an interesting section on identity politics and the intersection with class (which is often ignored).

    However, the book falls down when it comes to analysis and solutions. It seems there is an attempt to write this book for everyone but the left. There is no mention of low pay, of exploitation

    The book start of very well with a powerful description of living with an abusive mother. The author really excels at describing unsettling, moving scenes and his personal experiences of poverty.

    There is an interesting section on identity politics and the intersection with class (which is often ignored).

    However, the book falls down when it comes to analysis and solutions. It seems there is an attempt to write this book for everyone but the left. There is no mention of low pay, of exploitation or of neo-liberal politics in general. The Tories are explicitly off limits for criticism in this book which is pretty surprising given the damage they have done to Glasgow historically and to the UK at present.

    Many passages read more like it was written by a Scottish Rod Little. Public sector workers from middle class backgrounds are mocked and demonised while there is no mention of, say, upper class bankers crashing the economy. West End accents are made fun of while nothing is said of those who have offshore bank accounts and don't pay their taxes. The problem of poverty therefore is seen in a complete political vacuum- instead, and this will delight readers of the Daily Mail, the individual is to blame for their problems. At many times I felt I was reading a Charles Murray book.

    The book ends with some good points on not instantly judging middle class people (although this is negated by the fact the author did exactly that in earlier passages of the book. There is also a bit of a bizarre passage on not wanting to have a left wing revolution (which is a bit of a straw-man since so few in society support this).

    In conclusion, great writing of personal experience but poor analysis of political causes of poverty or solutions.

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