Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Dying To Work

It seems cancer with a 3 month life expectancy is no barrier to the scumbags at the DWP. Dying is to be regarded as no real inconvenience to the determined jobseeker, thanks to these idiots.

And to round it off, there's a jobcentre adviser in Britain happy to tell someone, 23 weeks into their pregnancy, they are being sanctioned. All for telling a prospective employer at a jobs fair they are pregnant (as if they could forever hide the fact).

Welcome to Britain 2014.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Even Nature Can't Escape Cuts

The cuts seem never ending with the perennial promise of more, just in case we step out of line. 

Perhaps it's a sign of the times that I, out walking, find that the local council are happy to waste money on cuts that have acutely saddened me. I'm not talking about anything life threatening here, not the reduction of support to people that need it (as seems to be the case ongoing in the UK), but instead a countryside path/cycle route/bridleway. 

The council have sent in a maintenance team to basically cut the hedges/verges and treeline to nothing. First world problems certainly, but it's just sad to see such small minded attitudes. Granted this region isn't the Amazon or the Masai Mara, it's still nature. It's wild and it should be free. But instead council jobsworths with money that could be much better spent just to make sure some leaves don't land in the wrong place.

Unfortunately this area is also rich in wildlife; it has everything from birds and adders to deer and foxes. It seems all to typical of our attitudes these days; instead of letting something beautiful through being natural, it has to be artificially managed in order to be pleasing. None of this was causing a hazard nor in anyone's way. I doubt there was a crisis of sickness though I'm sure, when I can get hold of the right people (the parish council are completely in the dark), the reason will be to manage the land better.

Well in my opinion the land has managed just fine up until now. It doesn't need councillors with money to waste interfering. It just makes me sad to see even something as simple as a hedge along a country lane being fiercely cut back. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Not Much Help

So the Work Psychologist tried to speak to the asperger diagnostic person, but to no avail. That ends a five month diagnostic process ending in failure; a process that is deeply flawed when it comes to adult diagnosis. If you cannot or will not diagnose the individual as they are, then what's the point. Surely if I had what they wanted - a full developmental history from childhood - then I'd already have a diagnosis. Everything else would be anecdotal and probably dismissed, as I have been. 

The last conversation I had with the Work Psychologist, who has done nothing else, featured more of her telling me how great I am, which is of course no help at all. It's like telling the condemned man you cooked him the best meal he'll ever eat. Telling me how much you think I can do whatever I put my mind to doesn't actually tell me how I can do that without any support. 

All she could do was give me the number for yet another social enterprise, this time Alliance Homes, who, I'm guessing, are a housing association. There are a number of these organisations and I've spoken with a few of them, all to no avail. I do not imagine they will be any different. How can they be: they don't have any real power to change the system, nor any influence over decisions made within it. Like the Work Programme (these are the sort of groups that become providers) they can't create opportunities, and have no expertise in mental health, learning difficulties or autism spectrum issues - or anything health wise. 

I am meeting them next week, but I don't have any expectations anything will come of this. I am fully expecting things to be twisted and my position misrepresented. This is what happens now: the individual is always the scapegoat for his situation. He is either lazy, stupid, or ignorant. Always something of his own making. If society cannot get past such superficial attitudes then I don't see how anything can improve.

More likely they will recommend me to visit Positive Step (again) whom they, I'm sure, will know to be the local purveyor of mental health solutions. They will of course have no idea whether CBT, the only thing Positive Step offers, is suitable or even effective. In fact it seems CBT is being pimped by the Jobcentre.

I've tried the 'Beating the Blues' programme. This is what Positive Step offered when I first dealt with them (they have no in-person programmes I could get to, though it would be exactly the same curriculum). I seriously question the efficacy of this programme for anything except minor phobias: like dealing with a fear of spiders (unless you live on the Planet of the Killer Spiders or something). Dealing with more existential problems, such as depression in an era of crisis capitalism and neoliberal class warfare and social engineering overseen by cruel hypocritical greedy aristocrats, requires something else entirely. 

When I tried the course they featured a number of case studies to illustrate
each part of the programme and how it works. One of them was a struggling single mother who's biggest issue was her lacking income. It was quite telling that, in the end, the best they could offer, from her experience of the programme, was that she was reportedly feeling more positive. That's great (assuming it was true - never mind what became of her which we do not know, so how effective the long term prospects are is anyone's guess), but it won't pay her bills, rent or buy her food; exactly the sorts of crises that lead people to feel depressed in the first place.

Essentially the programme tries to teach that you need to develop an objective awareness, in the moment of crisis (such as when you have a wobble about not being able to buy food for example), so as to step outside of yourself and deconstruct your thinking. This is why I say it's useful for minor phobias because we know that, say, encountering a spider in the bath isn't a permanent crisis in the way being sanctioned is. Thus you can, after momentarily calming yourself, realise that the spider isn't a horrible agent of death out for and capable of eating you while you sleep. 

You cannot deconstruct what you can't control, and as the article linked says, you can only be taught to acquiesce. To accept your shitty lot and attempt to make peace with the agents of that system (assuming they aren't of the ilk that will sanction you at the drop of a hat) and take the banker's deal, Noel. Aside from how immoral that is, it's not going to help your self esteem. But they don't want you having self esteem (that breeds confidence which breeds independence of thought), they want your compliance. In that way you can be held responsible for all the failings of the capitalist system, as is the lot of the sick and the poor currently.

Oh and just to remind readers: Positive Step work with Atos (maybe that will change to the new guys, Maximus)!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rememberings

So many things I keep meaning to post about, but then...don't. Not exactly a promising advert for someone that wants to write, but perhaps reasonable when factoring in learning disabilities/neuro diverse cognitive functions etc. I find that I get ideas, sometimes dictate them into my mp3 player, and then...procrastinate. That's one of the main difficulties I have. I can't function except at my own pace. I can't be forced nor coerced into making things happen because then I lose the plot.

Anyway.

Today is that time of the year again. The time of remembrance. What does that mean for most of us? I can't remember the second world war; I can barely remember the seventies: the decade in which I was born. So how do I remember the sacrifice of people I don't and will never know? People might think that a rather contrary and facetious point to make since what they really mean is that we remember the simple fact that British people died when nations collided. They died for our freedoms, though we will never know what would have happened if they had 'failed' since we won the war and we get to write history.

This is important because the problem with all this poppy day business is propaganda. It is important we remember, but it is even more important we remember accurately; history as they say is written by the victors and we aren't really being compelled to remember the dead from all sides. Isn't it time we did so? Otherwise how can we truly get past the attitudes that lead to nations colliding?

All I see with respect to Remembrance Day is a parade of medals and badges, emblems and esprit de corps. Where is the individual commitment to a personal reflection amid all this groupthink? When people turn up on the TV at this time - for whatever reason - if they aren't wearing a poppy they are pilloried. It has to be a red poppy too, the correct colour, white for peace, is frowned upon worn alone (Caroline Lucas wore both on TV last week). Red is the colour of blood, do we need any more bloodshed? As we are being compelled into this now-religious annual sanitised ritual the government is posturing to commit what will be mission creep in pursuit of the obviously-barbaric Islamic State.

Now religious: remembrance is the purview of the Christian church. The process of remembrance is held within. Why? War and religion seem fatally intertwined with the blood of ordinary, sadly gullible men and women, being both sacrifice and reward. Given the history of their relationship, shouldn't we at the very least be questioning the role that Churches play just as we should question the integrity of politicians and Prime Ministers who are invited to lay their phony wreathes at sanitised war memorials? Where is the blood? Where is the flesh and bone of those who died, in ignominy and horror, to serve these people? Why is a concrete memorial chosen as an epitaph of remembrance and not the mud and blood of the trenches? That's where these poor souls died? That's why they died. Instead we have concrete emblems that must be kept so clean that any speck of dirt is the most foul desecration in the eyes of society.

Sanitised: this year's memorial 'song' is a version of The Green Fields of France that omits the anti-war message. What is the point then? To make it appealing to viewers of Downton Abbey or patrons of the Simon Cowell dominated 'pop' industry? A nice 3 minute gentle song to make us all remember the 'heroes' and not the reality? If we can't see the truth of war then how can we ever see it for the disgusting obscenity that it really is?

This is no different to the cheering insecure masses with their plastic flags waving on the royal wedding, desperate for a sense of purpose and place. Or the ceramic poppy display outside the Tower of London, described somewhat unfavourably in the Guardian. The poetry of war as written by jingoists and politicians, not the ordinary working souls sent to their deaths or, perhaps worse, their survival.

Well how do you do, Private William McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart are you always 19.
Or are you just a stranger without even a name
Forever enclosed behind some glass-pane
In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Well, the sun it shines down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches are vanished now under the plough
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it is still No Man's Land
And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation that was butchered and downed.

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end war?
The suffering, the sorrow, some the glory, the shame -
The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipe lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

No more war. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

All’s Well That Carswell



It’s easy being UKIP; you don’t need policies, you don’t have any real responsibilities.

And that’s the way they like it.

I don’t think they actually want real power: governing a country, or participating in international politics, for example. Why would they? They’d have to deal with all those grotty foreigners for one!

They thrive at the local level. There they get to enjoy the quagmire of parochial NIMBYist politics where nothing changes and they can stand up for ‘community values’. But they don’t have any real responsibility: they get to continue to agitate with respect to the EU (which I don’t think they ever want to leave given it’s their meal ticket) and immigration without having the responsibility of being able to deal with it.

So when Carswell ‘won’ the by-election in Clacton (where there is no issue of immigration), it was a victory for their small minded brand of politics. Ironically though it represented none of the kind of sea change the party claims to represent: they had won an MP because he was already there. The only change that had occurred was the colour of his tie.

A couple of weeks ago I rang their freephone office number (no way would I pay to talk to these reactionary idiots) to ask their policy on both the environment (they hate windfarms) and welfare (they hate benefits). They still don’t have a manifesto and all they could do was point me to the members responsible for those areas – at least in the case of the former since they couldn’t’ find a welfare spokesman. Consequently all I could get from them was the email for massage loving science denying homophobe: Roger Helmer who, dismally, speaks for them on the environment. How ridiculous is that?

They cannot be taken seriously, and yet they have to be thanks to a toxic media that splashed the I word with the subtlety of a nuclear meltdown. People have tied themselves up in knots over the issue of immigration and yet, as James O Brien expertly exposed, cannot articulate why they support UKIP. Meanwhile NigelFarage aligns himself with the most vicious right wing politicians in the EU (of the sort even France’s Marine Le Penn rejects), just so he can keep his snout firmly in the trough. That’s why I say they don’t want out of the EU – it’s their bread and butter (but emphatically not a croissant – and you can keep your margarine too!).

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Because You Aren't Worth It



I don’t recognise our society anymore. I don’t recognise a society that is accepting of the idea of bribing employers (yet again) to hire disabled people. I don’t recognise the attitudes that criticise opposition to this; as if the opponents were in favour of denying vital opportunities to those people.

Who decides the worth of people? What gives an unelected banker, who has been handed a glut of unearned privilege, the right to decide whether someone is worth even a sum of money as risible as the NMW?

Who has decided that money is the sum of a person’s worth?

If a disabled person can do the job then a) hire them and b) pay them at least the NMW. Anything else is exploitation. To then patronise a disabled employee by trying to argue he or she is only worth £2 beggars all belief.

Oh, but these are people that are by virtue of their disabilities, aren’t as productive!

Is that the measure of a man these days? Who decides a person’s rate of productivity? How is this measured? We are human beings with thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, we aren’t fucking robots! By arguing that a person should somehow be paid less than the legal minimum you are reducing the entire worth of a person to a risible pittance. £2 an hour anywhere else would get you laughed out of town, even the Jobcentre couldn’t compel you (though I’m sure they’d try) to work for that amount precisely because it’s below the legal minimum; it’s an employer openly and obviously trying it on.

But if you’re different; if you have a psychology or a physiology that’s different, then it’s acceptable not only to offer such a demeaning sum but to criticise you if you don’t jump at the chance. Look, here’s a pair of shiny round coins for you, don’t you want to have them? Wouldn’t your life, all that encompasses you as a living breathing being, be entirely the richer for it? All you have to do is sweep the floor, lick some envelopes or press some buttons (because fuck me if I’m going to stoop to doing the dirty work my business requires to function when I can pay someone as little as possible to do it for me). Why would you refuse?

How utterly and completely degrading is that? But the propaganda is in full flow: it’s better to have these people doing skivvy work (because that’s all they are good for isn’t it!) than sitting at home ‘festering’. Again it’s the assumption that the only activity of any worth in society, of any worth to the life experience of a human, is in paid servitude to another. But even that isn’t taken seriously by those that propagate the notion otherwise the work available would be worthwhile and properly compensated. When the boss wants you to work for even the NMW, never mind £2 an hour, you know they don’t care about your well being!

But these poor folk can’t match the productivity of their ‘normal’ peers!

Who decides? Who says? If someone can do the job, why are you looking to pay them less for it than at least their colleagues? No one’s productivity will be exactly the same as another’s. If you think a disabled person can do the job then, by definition, you are agreeing they are worth at least the NMW for it. If you don’t think they can do the job (assuming you are being honest and not disablist) then don’t hire them – but don’t moan about people that can’t find work receiving benefits.

The only barrier to work for disabled people in 2014 is the attitude of employers. At the very least are there not grants and funds available to help deal with equipping the workplace to make it accessible, etc? Aren’t such schemes the mark of an evolved civilised society? Or is it too much hassle (even though making those adaptations is giving work to someone) for lazy employers – the kind that can’t be bothered to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and want to pay someone (as little as possible) to do that for them while wiping their arses.

As ever this attitude isn’t challenged: the Tories pander to big business and the boss class in society while condemning anyone else when they perceive similar demands are being made. It’s ok to subsidise the wage bill of employers, but not to pay people enough to live on when they can’t find work (keeping them desperate enough to accept the shrinking standard of pay and conditions on offer, of course).

So the attitude seems to be that disabled people will find it hard to get work – unless we offer it to them, but we aren’t prepared to do that unless we are allowed to pay them £2/hour and everyone else, including our rivals in business, make up the rest. If this isn’t the sort of attitude that the Tories abhor, when they perceive it (i.e. create straw men) in the unemployed, then I don’t know what is.

Work is not the be all and end all of human existence. If you want people to make a positive contribution in their lives then give them the means to do so. People that can’t work or can’t find work should be given a decent standard of living, no question asked. They should not be punished by a system frightened that, if they give ‘free money’ they will turn into fat skivers addicted to beer and TV; they should not be victimised by the prejudice of those that have the power to change things. Who knows, with the right support such people might be able to make their own way forward and become self sufficient.

But that’s not what capitalism wants: it wants a compliant, fearful, labour force, willing to believe they are the authors of their own misfortune. This pool is then ready and willing to fight each other for the scraps the masters throw from their banquet table of plenty, like starving dogs. They don’t want people with knowledge and power because then who would choose to work for £2/hour in the gulags of tax dodgers.

Finally, there are obviously limits on what some people can do. However that is true of anyone; people are different whether they are traditionally disabled or not. It has been suggested that Freud’s odious comments were aimed more at those with limited mental capacity: severe learning difficulties or high levels of autism, etc. Not, for example, blind people, or someone whose legs no longer function. I don’t think that makes it any less patronising because the bottom line is the same: if someone is doing a job pay them a decent wage for it. That is surely the best way to creating equality. Ok they might be sweeping the floor or collecting trolleys – and they may even enjoy it (which is entirely their right to do so) – but at least pay them properly, show them they are worth their weight as a human being, not a means of production.

What is our society worth if employers can avoid their responsibilities? Employers should be proud to pay someone a good wage, not look at that as an inconvenience. They should be proud their staff can then contribute economically and not be dependent on foodbanks. They should be proud to pay taxes so their staff can be educated to do the job and cared for if they fall ill.

Why are disabled people exempt from this? Even if their opportunities are in some way limited, that should not mean they aren’t at the very least paid properly. You cannot have it both ways: to both hire someone you don’t think is up to the job and then pay them a risible pittance. If they can do the job, able bodied or not, then pay them properly. That we are having to have this discussion is an utter disgrace. The Tories have long hated the NMW, they argue it inhibits profit. Sometimes that's a price worth paying.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The System Needs A Fundamental Change



This system needs a fundamental change and I don't think Labour will provide it since they are wedded to the same capitalist ethics as the Tories. Their silence and indeed capitulation since 2010 speaks volumes: it was they, for example that facilitated IDS' 'emergency' legislation re: workfare. Preserving his image was the height of this emergency. Labour sat there and voted in support of denying £130mn worth of money wrongly withdrawn from jobseekers incorrectly sanctioned - never mind the legitimacy of forced labour and penury.

That said Labour is the only game in town for 2015. The whole rotten system needs changing, but that's not on offer next year. The priority must be: ousting this vicious lying incompetent government - both the aristocratic murderers led by Cameron, and their supposedly liberal quislings. 

Vicious: they have ushered in cuts and 'reforms' the like of which we have never seen, all designed to erode the safety net and the meeting of social necessities. The bedroom tax was facilitated by a man later put into the Lords who has no experience of benefit, welfare or government, nor was he even elected to any position, let alone the House of Lords. Yet the BT doesn't even account for people who have no alternative place to move into.

Lying: IDS and McVey have made a career out of spin and outright deceit. IDS was interviewed by Andrew Neil in front of a graphic regarding child poverty that plainly said the opposite of what he claimed. Evidence means nothing to him, what he believes is what is. McVey is a grotesque 'yes' woman, a harridan whose ego thrives on the nastiness of her words who shrieks even louder while egged on by her masters. She so desperately wants their respect it's almost misogynistic.

Incompetent: IDS couldn't and cannot even make his own schemes become reality. The aforementioned Mandatory Work Activity scheme was implemented incorrectly, yet he thought nothing of wasting thousands on endless rounds of lawyers to prove his case in courtroom after courtroom. Anyone that challenges his assumed authority is immediately denounced and scorned. He will not listen and he will not learn. UC was 'on time and on budget' for 2013 - or so he promised. It still hasn't been signed off on while its directors (such as the odious Howard Shiplee) have made hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile the DWP has turned into something straight out of Kafka. Targets for sanctions are an open secret and, when the spotlight shined on the evidence, the managers pretended it never happened and, ironically, wouldn't happen again. However there is report after report, anecdote after anecdote, from individuals and organisations all confirming the awfulness of the current regime. People are treated like scum, sneered at, judged, and then automatically found wanting. People are living in fear of the sanction that will take them below the breadline and into abject poverty, with no guarantee of any support at all. The Tories refuse to explain what help is offered to people that have been sanctioned - and people are subject to these penalties at a frightening rate.

Clearly there have been orders given, by the likes of IDS and the Tories, to facilitate this new brutality, yet what sense does any of it make? The Tories would like you to believe that sanctions are corrective, even character building; they are on record as saying that they have been, in some unbelievable cases, even welcomed. The way an abuse victim, I imagine, welcomes the fist of his abuser.

Sanctions are there to drive people out of society; out of sight out of mind. That no support is systemically offered to people in that position - who still somehow have to sign on if they have any hope of claiming afterward or appealing - is telling in the extreme. They do not want these people to have support; they want them to quietly fade into the night, to turn to dust like hollow souls lost to society.

They will hold these people responsible for their fate because welfare is weakness; money is not a mere energy of transaction, abundant in a society such as ours (while not governed by plutocrats and mandarins), it is the emblem of good character. It is the reward for following the Christianity of capitalism, the supposed work ethic of the entrepreneur. The hypocrisy of it all is breathtaking as these people lap up every benefit they can, arguing they have earned it. IDS deserves his million pound land subsidy, his expensive breakfasts, his underpants, etc; the mundane nature of such expense claims masking the venal nature of the man.

The poor are to know their place; to fight for scraps from the masters table. For the very chance to work for nothing - just to show, skinny and callow, their willingness to say 'how deep' when the rich man with the golden shovel says dig. If you're lucky you might even get the chance to earn a pittance.