Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tories Are Trying To Kill Me Again

Well, not me specifically (although never discount the possibility that one's paranoia is fully justified) but the sick and disabled generally.

Because of my wildly unstable mental condition, I am unable to hold a job. In the UK, that means I am eligible for two benefits specifically for the sick and disabled: ESA and DLA. DLA is the Disability Living Alliance and is only available to some of the disabled. ESA is the Employment & Support Allowance. In order to claim this, your doctor has to consider you unfit for work. Then, because the system assumes your doctor is a liar, you're examined by a notoriously corrupt company called ATOS. In theory, you can then be classified as "fit for work" (remember, you got ESA in the first place because your doctor considers you unfit), "partly fit for work" or put you in the "support group" (meaning utterly unfit for any kind of work). Except that as far as ATOS is concerned, the third category doesn't exist. ATOS considers me "partly fit for work". The rather more through DLA test considers me not just utterly unfit for work but an active danger to myself and others if I try.

When we had an election last month, the Tory party (which won by the skin of their teeth and was forced to form a coalition with the Liberals to take power) promised there wouldn't be a return to the tyrannical greed-is-good policies of Thatcher (think of her as Ronald Reagan in a dress and minus the charm). Having achieved power, they've interpreted it as a mandate to re-enact all of Thatcher's policies. The ones that have or will affect me are a re-examination of all ESA claimants (due to ATOS's "everyone can do something" attitude, we are already examined at least every six months), extending the same test to DLA claimants (test is notoriously bad at evaluating mental conditions and administered by a profoundly corrupt company). In future, all JSA (unemployment benefit) claimants will have their housing benefit cut by 10% after the first year. Seems that everyone knows we are in a recession and jobs are hard to come by until the subject of benefits comes up. Then everyone forgets we're in a recession and assumes jobs grow on trees.

This morning, the Tory Chancellor (finance minister), the frankly sociopathic George Osborne, announced that ESA will be cut. He claimed that he will protect those in genuine need but encourage those who can work into work. Remember, the whole reason you're on ESA in the first place is because your doctor says you're unfit for work. Under the current system, AFTER your own doctor considers you unfit for work, 68% are classified as completely fit for work and 23% are classified as partly fit for work. Only 9% are classified as unfit for work. As I said, ATOS think that category doesn't exist. Prior to the election, the Tories claimed that one in five ESA claimants were fit to work (again, and I'm repeating this to stress it, your own doctor has already certified you as unfit for work). According to those close to Osborne, he thinks many more are fit for work. I know what he's saying. He means every single one of them. As far as the Tories are concerned, there is not and never has been any such thing as someone incapable of work. If the horrendously biased test judges you fit for work (decision makers are supposed to take other evidence into account. They never, ever do), you're moved onto JSA, amounting to a massive cut in benefits which are already pitiful. After a year on JSA because, despite what the completely misleading and biased test says, you're unfit for work, your housing benefit is cut by 10%, presenting you with a choice between rent and food.

Osborne is simply lying. There will be no attempt to protect the most vulnerable. In fact, the vulnerability of the sick and disabled is exactly why they're being targetted for cuts. Based on a right-wing media campaign that there is masses of fraud in the benefits system (a complete lie), the public have now become vicious advocates of social darwinism and the Tories, who always were social darwinists, are more than happy to play along. Of course, libertarians and anarchists have a simple attitude to this which is "fuck you, it's your fault for being sick". Mental instability is already heavily stigmatised and being a benefit claimant has become the social equivelent of being a child molester thanks to the weekly two-minute hate of the tabloids. Now, it seems the already small amount of money we get is to be taken away as well. Of course, everyone (especially the Tories) can see what the result will be: Suicide and homelessness will skyrocket but then, that was their intention to begin with. My mental condition means that I am fighting every single day to fend off suicide. It seems that the Tories are determined to systematically encourage me to give in.

The Tories are also talking about offering the unemployed "incentives" to move to areas where employment is more plentiful. Of course, that's also going to lead to the further fracturing of an already shattered communal society (Thatcher, famously, didn't believe society existed) and the creation of ghettos and a class of job-seeking migrants criss-crossing the country. Which is entirely the Tories intention. Desperate people with no support structure are easy to abuse. I don't like to use Nazi comparisons much (primarily because I think they're overused and usually misused) but the creation of ghettos for the jobless? Yeah, I'm prepared to call that fascism.

Of course, I'm not ignoring the general publics viciousness here. For years now, the right-wing press (which is most of it, our media being largely owned by right-wing tycoons) media have been spinning the lie that all benefits claimants are workshy scroungers who live a life of luxury on the public tab. It's something similar to Reagan's welfare queen who drive a Caddy and just as fictional but the public, so spiteful, so stupid, have swallowed it whole. If you ever want to see the full outpouring of human bile, viciousness and hatred, start a discussion on the unemployed. It's truly amazing how everyone knows we are in a recession and jobs are hard to come by until teh subject of the unemployed and benefits comes up. Then everyone knows that jobs are ten-a-penny and you must be actively avoiding work to not have one. The general public believes that it's possible to get more money on benefits than from full-time work. Assuming a healthy single person with no dependents and on the average rent, benefits amount to just over seven grand a year. The passage of the minimum wage (which the Tories opposed and still do) means that it is factually illegal for a full-time job to pay less than that. Even if it were not, the general public thinks the solution is to cut the already pitiful benefits amount, not to actually raise wages to a decent level. You have the same phonomenon in the states, in the form of the working class people who constantly argue for cutting wages and eliminating minimum wage laws. In both our countries, the right has won the battle to recast unions (which exist in the first place to protect their members from abuse by business owners) as the enemy of the worker. In fact, the US and the Tories have succombed wholly to the psychopathic Randroid model that business is morally entitled to do whatever it likes and any form of protection for the worker is too much. I actually had some anonymous idiot on my blog yesterday make a comment that seemed to be arguing against the concept of worker's comp. Boy, is he in the wrong place (hey, braintrust, I think corporations are the outright enemy of the common people). As an unemployed, disabled person, I am a member of the most hated social group in Britain. Right now, I can be pretty sure that someone reading this is thinking "Well, you can type, why can't you work?" and the answer is because this is me on one of my better days. My better days are fairly rare and entirely unpredictable. I don't post on my worse days. Moreover, I have no control over when my mental state will suddenly do a nosedive. Even if, somehow, I could take a job where I could only work on my better days (and good luck finding one of those), how is my employer going to take it when my mind suddenly snaps and I start trying to hack my wrists open with a ballpoint pen? And no, that's not hyperbole, that has happened.

Moreover, when did society move from the dignity of human life to dignity of life only for the employed? There are people, lots of them, who wholeheartedly believe that if you can't work, you should be allowed to starve. They're called Social Darwinists or Libertarians and the Tory party is full of them. So is the Republican party. The BBC's "Have Your Say" message board is dominated by them, as are most open political boards. Their belief is fairly simple: If you can't contribute to society (by working, other forms of contribution are ignored), you deserve to die. While they usually won't outright state that or actually execute the unemployed, they will happily, gleefully push policies that will kill such people in droves. Our parents and grandparents worked hard for a living wage. We work like slaves for less (in most sectors) than they earned. We no longer work because we have to. Now, we work because we have been brainwashed into believing it is our duty to work for the good of our masters. We have been brainwashed into believing that our benefit as a society is the same as the benefit of the corporate class that rules over us. Right about now, some fuckwit is about to describe me as "anti-capitalist" or some synonym thereof like socialist or communist (or both since they rarely understand that the two are different things). I say, as I have said many times before, that I am not anti-capitalist. I am anti-corporatist. I am anti- the pervasive belief that capitalism should be treated as some sort of unassailable holy writ. I am anti- the belief that wealth should be valued more highly than labour. Most of all, I am anti- the belief that there is no inherant worth to a human life than their market value or how much they add to the bottom line.