I am writing this letter as I feel compelled to provide an alternative voice to the propagandist rhetoric that is utterly demonizing anyone who is unfortunate enough to be financially dependent on the welfare state.
Before doing so I should declare a vested interest, I have been completely housebound for the last fourteen years with a severe illness – yes I am one of those ‘feckless layabouts’ who is a constant drain on the country’s finances.
I would also like to point out however, that I have a BA Hons in Politics and two Master’s Degrees, so I think that gives me some right to claim a level of analytical intelligence to complement any bias I may have.
As stated above, I studied for a degree in Politics, which included a unit called Analytical Political Theory. On this unit myself and my peers were encouraged to contemplate what constitutes a truly just society.
Whilst ruminating upon this question I was struck by this comment from one of the political theorists – whatever society you choose to create, imagine yourself being born into the lowest level and you will make damn sure that the people at that level are in the best position possible.
To me this is the best way to ensure social justice – imagine yourself in the worst position in your society and do your utmost to improve the lives of those who have to live in that position – not ignore them and pretend they don’t exist, or worse still label them as worthless scum dragging the rest of society down to their level.
There is a scene in the film ‘The Pianist’ in which Maureen Lipman’s character and her family are sitting down to yet another bowl of “hot water” for dinner, and in the background a Nazi soldier causally throws a Jewish man in a wheelchair out of the window of a block of flats – just one example of the numerous abhorrent acts that took place during WWII. And what facilitated the normalization of such attempts to cull entire parts of a population?
The successful propagation of a political ideology presenting anyone who wasn’t a fit Aryan as directly to blame for all the ills in German society, including financial recession. It seems to me that this Tory government is determined to disseminate a similar and equally shameful ideology. You might object to this comparison and think that it is a step too far, but allow me to explain why I think that at the very least I am justified in claiming it is the thin end of a very similar wedge.
Take for example George Osborne’s sickening attempt to make political capital out of the death of the six Philpott children. Those children did NOT die because their ‘father’ was on benefits, but because he was a narcissist with violent psychopathic tendencies.
Furthermore far from being in any way typical of the average person who relies on benefits to put food on their table and a roof over their head, he is a prime example of a free -rider who was doing his best to play the system, and human nature being what it is, no matter what system you have in place there will always be the ‘chancing’ few who seek to take advantage.
Let’s flip that on its head for a moment – the chancing few who seek to take advantage. I would suggest that this is a perfect description for those at the top of the ladder in this society, rather than those at the bottom.
David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson – three key figures in the Tory party and all three of them are ‘upstanding’ alumni of the Bullingdon Club, which some might say is a breeding ground for a sense of self-righteous entitlement not to mention an appalling attitude towards women. They are not likely to be the type of individuals then to seek to truly serve the interests of the majority of the British population, (but rather to serve themselves and their own kind).
Nor would it seem are their ‘erstwhile’ adversaries – with those in the Labour party at least since the days of ‘Teflon’ Tony being nothing other than Tories in sheep’s clothing.
This is evidenced by their numerous post-election declarations that they weren’t business friendly enough and failed to appeal to ‘inspirational’ people, and their “Thick Of It” style panic at Jeremy Corbyn throwing his hat into the ring – so concerned with getting themselves into ‘power’ that they’ve utterly failed to realize and don’t even seem to care exactly why they’ve alienated core Labour voters.
Moreover, what’s the betting that Lord Sewel is just the tip of the Westminster iceberg?
Again whilst studying for a Politics degree, we were asked to consider whether democracy isn’t in fact an illusion and it was suggested that to determine where true power lies (i.e. not with the voting public), look not just at who sits in the seat of power but who benefits from the use of that power. In which case it is easy to surmise that big business, the banks and the rich privileged few are in control of how things are done – all you have to do is follow the money.
I wonder for example who benefited the most out of Vince Cable’s ‘underselling’ off of Royal Mail. David Cameron was quick to name and shame Jimmy Carr for tax avoidance (who at the time just happened to be one of a number of comedians presenting a series of live programs on Channel 4 that often questioned government policy), whilst failing to mention those within his own circle with offshore funds.
George Osborne made a big noise in his budget speech about tackling tax evasion yet was curiously quiet about his rejection of the European Commission’s attempts to introduce a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. Moreover of the 800 million that he has allocated to HMRC only 60 million is for serious and complex tax crime and there seems to be no clear definition as to what prosecutions this would include.
He made repeated reference to the fact that Britain pays out 7% of the world’s welfare spending, as if this is something to be ashamed of, yet he has unashamedly and stealthily been spending billions of taxpayers’ money on what some have termed as the ‘Corporate Welfare State’ and with a further reduction of Corporation Tax to 18% (which was already reduced from 28% to 20% in the previous parliament), there’s hardly any tax left to evade – though I’m sure that won’t stop them trying!
Then there’s the question of who funds the Tory party – it’s been alleged that they’ve been bankrolled for years by at least one shady billionaire with the power to pull more strings than a Thunderbirds enthusiast at a sci-fi convention.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that ‘Dave’ employed the likes of Andy Coulson. He repeatedly claims his party is the party of hard working people. Are people on a minimum wage and zero hours contracts not hardworking? I know from years of personal experience with my care workers that they are incredibly hard-working, under-valued and underpaid. And if George Osborne had been truly intent on giving Britain the pay rise it deserves, rather than cynically re-branding the minimum wage, he would have paid heed to the Resolution Foundation for example and used the actual cost of living as his yardstick.
By no means am I anti-business and anti-profit, but I am against greed, and the calculated attempt to keep as much as possible in the hands of the few, the purposeful engineering of poverty, and blaming those who have nothing for having nothing, whilst simultaneously attempting to curb any avenues through which to challenge the status quo – as evidenced by cuts to legal aid, measures to restrict the right to strike, and open threats to the BBC.
In a recent speech to declare his candidacy, Donald Trump claimed he could make America great again, which presumably means dominated by the white elite. My personal definition of a ‘great’ Britain, would be a society in which cancer patients weren’t waiting several months to be assessed for benefits and dying in the meantime, the contract for Work Capability Assessment, worth hundreds of millions of pounds was kept in – house and not given to French incompetent Atos and then to Maximus (already associated with an expense scandal and Medicaid fraud in America), and council coffers weren’t hemorrhaging millions because of LOBO loans.
Most importantly “great” Britain would be a society in which the whole range of its people were truly served by those claiming to be its representatives. Fortune is a fickle mistress and a life-altering car accident for example or a debilitating illness can happen to anyone whilst old age will certainly come to everyone, which is fine maybe if you are corrupt enough to have sufficient funds in an offshore account to pay for yourself. But what if you don’t?
Older members of our society are already having to choose between having something to eat and being taken to the toilet when their care worker comes because of cuts to the budget of Adult Social Care – that is your grandmother/father, mother/father and one day you.
And take it from me if you are unlucky enough to find yourself needing benefits in the prime of life it is soul destroying enough and often takes everything you have just to make it through each day, so how does it feel to then be labelled as the scourge of society? Well let’s just say that I’m not surprised to learn that there has been a surge in calls to the Samaritans since the general election result.
Indeed let me dispel the popular myth that those of us on benefits are living the life of Riley – for the last 13 years I have only been able to heat one room in my flat, I have one hot meal a fortnight and have gone for months at a time without solid food in order to get by – in fact I am considered to be ‘at risk of financial hardship and but for a very kind landlord and his wife I would have been in serious trouble a long time ago.
Yet whilst in this budget I seem to have escaped any further reductions in the amount of help I receive, there’s always the possibility that the Chancellor will decide to decrease the amount I’m given because I have a chronic condition or that I will suddenly be reclassified as ‘fit for work’ – after all I can still breathe! Do I sound bitter? Bitter no. Despairing, yes.
The vultures have got their claws into the flesh of the welfare state and are going to pick on the carcass until there’s nothing left. And to what purpose? To enable people whose pockets are already full to line them even further whilst those who are suffering the most in our society are being dismissed as acceptable collateral damage.
So the question I have for you the reader is this -what type of society do you want to live in? I’m hoping it’s one in which there is true social justice, i.e. there is enough for everyone, the weak and vulnerable are treated with compassion and cared for and valued as much as the privileged and powerful, as indeed are the hardest of hard workers such as carers and care workers .
If that is the case then let this famous quote be a clarion call – YEE are many, THEY are few.
Letter written by Ms Z. Devi.