Iain Duncan Smith is not happy with Ken Loach’s film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, he says it focused only on, “the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody.”
Dr Simon Duffy on behalf of the Campaign for a Fair Society, published by The Centre for Welfare Reform, found that due to cuts in benefits and services the burden on people in poverty was 5 times the rest of population, the burden on disabled people was 9 times the rest of population and the burden on people with severest disabilities was 19 times the rest of population.
The Child Poverty Action Group found that 3.9 million children were living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15 and the Trussell Trust reported that 415,866 children were given three-day emergency food supplies between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016.
In his 2015 budget speech George Osborne said, “So those who oppose any savings to Tax Credits will have to explain how on earth they propose to eliminate the deficit, let alone run a surplus and pay down debt.”
Lastly, Lord David Freud, one of the chief architects of the welfare reforms, said in 2012, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose.”
All of which merely provides the background for this piece but not the point.
The point being, what kind of people beat up on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society? There is no accident here, no error, this is government policy, to pick on those with the very least and the least able to defend themselves. Coupled with a complicit media which set out to monster those on benefits with great success, the entire body and power of government has attacked, and continues to attack, those who live the most fragile lives in Britain.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I spent an evening with a good friend, both of us in tears. His partners younger brother, in his twenties, had hung himself. The coroner, in talking to his family used the expression, “Under the circs,” repeatedly. Text speech to a family in the bottomless pit of grief and devastation? What on Earth is happening? Are we becoming a nation of zombies, our dead not even worthy of whole words like ‘circumstances’; just another suicide? Yes it was a totes traj, now move on.
Has Ken Loach featured someone hanging themselves in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ (I have yet to see the film), because that is the worst that did happen to that young lad? I am not laying the death of that young lad at Iain Duncan Smith’s door, but what I can and do lay at his door is that he is an architect of misery, deprivation, hunger and want as a Government Secretary of State, and even though he has now resigned, the devastation has been passed into new hands and continues.
The Tories are well known as the party of the privileged and members of parliament do not suffer want. Iain Duncan Smith has no place criticising ‘I, Daniel Blake’, any more than an architect would have any place denying the experiences of those living in misery in a building designed to be hideously awful as a dwelling.
I was devastated when David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister without a backwards glance. The Independent reported that he walked off into a life in which he will ‘earn £1.5 million from (his) memoirs and £50,000 per hour giving after dinner talks’. What about lying to parliament that disabled people would, of course, be exempt from the bedroom tax, and the 2015 election expenses scandal, austerity, food banks, sanctions, (the list is enormous)? Nothing! He has simply turned his back on the nation.
During his six years as leader of the Tory party, Cameron appointed and supported those who brutally set about demonising and hounding poor and vulnerable people. He behaved like the privileged rich boy he is, especially during Prime Ministers Question time which was a circus of mockery, jeers, jibes and sneers as far removed from the realities of ordinary people as it is possible to be.
As a film, I, Daniel Blake does not appear to be saying anything that has not been said tens of thousands of times in the six long, brutal, years since 2010, but Ken Loach is saying it as a brilliant, inspired (and inspiring) film maker.
The very simple truth is that we, ordinary people, are being abused and denigrated, our intelligence insulted, our living presence denied in the most patronising and most brutal ways imaginable, our lived experience dismissed, our voices ignored, our needs for food, shelter, warmth, stolen, sanctioned and denied us, our health and public services privatised. And why is this? In essence it is that capitalism (neoliberalism) has turned its rapaciously greedy eye on the vast untapped wealth of the nations taxes, dutifully extracted by law and paid by the vast majority of ordinary people, and strenuously avoided by those who hunger to fill their already overflowing coffers from the public purse.
The word is ‘greed’, in the pursuit of which our lives simply don’t matter. Greed, which would quite happily suck the marrow from our bones, already sells our blood for profit (‘Plasma Resources UK, which provides blood supplies to the NHS, has been sold to Bain Capital, a private equity firm set up by (ex) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.’ reported in 2013) and robs us blind.
Yes, poor people suffering is good business. Recently Concentrix lost its contract for causing chaos in the tax credits system. Paid by results, they falsified claims against ordinary people using ‘the flimsiest of excuses to end tax credit claims’. Whilst tax credits have been taken back, in house, by HMRC, the insane race to privatise everything continues unrestrained.
Our publicly funded, free at the point of use NHS, is currently almost dead in the water as the race to privatisation reaches a critical stage with the launch of 44 STP ‘footprints’ which are going to be a disaster for health care provision across the UK. Of the 140 full A&E hospitals in England in 2013, most will close leaving somewhere between 40 and 70 to deal with emergency situations. It is simply not credible that lives will not be lost, travel time, and delays, alone will account for many before even arriving at hospitals which right now are already at breaking point.
Our lives are forfeit for private gain. And who is to blame? If you believe government and the media, the prime culprits are ‘Immigrants’. Yes, they are peddling that bullshit like fury.
So the question is, how is this happening?
It is happening by stealth, deceit and outright lies. Whatever Iain Duncan Smith says, this brutal cruelty and destruction is routine, it is planned and orchestrated by government and private interests aided and abetted by a complicit media and they are literally playing with our heads. They don’t care what effect any of this has on us, our lives and well being simply do not matter. Tens of thousands are already dead, they care nothing for the psychological impact on us. Mental health? What is that compared to profit?
Does all of this beggar belief? It should, because our beliefs are defined by the past. The legitimacy of government, the supremacy of law, the orderliness of society, the social order. Parade the Queen down the street and the masses will throng the sidewalks waving flags and bunting. They’ll even pay with their own hard earned money to celebrate the Queen and never stop for a moment to ask why?
Ask what the Queen has ever done for you and you’ll find yourself in a field of lean pickings.
However, what the Queen may or may not have done for me is not something that keeps me awake at night. What does keep me awake at night is how abysmally badly we are regarded and treated by our inglorious leaders, currently led, by divine (dis)appointment, by Theresa May. Austerity isn’t merely an idea, or academic concept, it informs policy, and in particular, it informs policy directed at me/us. If the government has done anything well, it is the cruelty and brutality of their austerity pogrom bringing want (and death) to the doors and the lives of the most vulnerable people in society.
I am constantly aware that at any time the government can and will bring out some new pestilential policy to attack our lives. As a relatively newly retired man, I do not, and cannot, regard my pension, a pot I have paid into all my working life, as secure. The government lumps pensions in the ‘benefits’ pot and as such pensions (like all so called ‘benefits’) are fair game for cuts. Benefits, like WAGES, are marked by insecurity, given on sufferance with little or no security. Workers and non-workers alike have had security stripped away. What Cameron called, promoting social mobility.
All of this torment and cruelty is predicated on a ever failing market model of privatisation based on greed. The wealth goes upwards and the brutality comes downwards along with all the market failings which we end up paying for as well.
Part of the mythos of our time is the impotent voices of ordinary people. Yet the same means of communication exist for each one of us as for our enemies, the Murdoch’s and politicians of this world. What they achieve in a wealth dominated communications market, we have in a sheer weight of numbers communications market. Images and words have power but somehow we’ve been persuaded that our words and images don’t count. They do. It’s just another myth that we need to discard. It’s a simple question, who benefits from our silence? So the answer is to create as much fuss and noise and disobedience as we possibly can and give it too them, not least because it is good for us, it’s good for our mental well being and its good for everyone else. Yes, even for those who still buy the Sun, they are the most vulnerable to suggestion, to the prevailing tide, the popular wave of public sentiment, as Murdoch knows only too well and exploits for all he’s worth, because that’s the kind of arsehole he is.
Like it or not, we’re in it for the ride, they have made sure of that by creating hardship and leaving us no choice other than to accept it, kill ourselves or fight back. I refuse to accept it and I refuse to kill myself and I like the third option a whole lot.
KOG 30 October 2016