Posts Tagged ‘activism’

This will make for an interesting court case.

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From other socially responsible people who shall remain valued.

Irene Sendler verses Al Gore

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Return Racism

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Nothing Changes

Taken from A Girl Called Jack’s blog. 

Hunger Hurts. (July 2012)

Today has seen fourteen job applications go in, painstakingly typed on this Jurassic mobile phone, for care work, shop work, factory work, minimum wage work, any kind of work, because quite simply, this doesn’t work.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, this month my Housing Benefit was over £100 short. I didn’t get a letter that I know of, but I can assume that it’s still the fallout from the cockups made by the various benefit agencies when I briefly went back to work from March to May. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to work out that £670 of rent can’t be paid of £438 of Housing Benefit. So I’m a week in arrears, almost two, as by the time Thursday comes and the next £167.31 is due, there’ll still be nothing coming in. The Income Support went on keeping me afloat, briefly, as did the Child Tax Credit. Now I’m not only in arrears, but last night when I opened my fridge to find some leftover tomato pasta, an onion, and a knob of stem ginger, I gave the pasta to my boy and went to bed hungry with a pot of home made ginger tea to ease the stomach pains.

This morning, small boy had one of the last Weetabix, mashed with water, with a glass of tap water to wash it down with. ‘Where’s Mummys breakfast?’ he asks, big blue eyes and two year old concern. I tell him I’m not hungry, but the rumblings of my stomach call me a liar. But these are the things that we do.

I sit at the breakfast table, pencil and paper in hand, and I start to make a list. Everything that I have was either given to me by benevolent and generous friends, or bought when I earned £27k a year and had that fuzzy memory of disposable income. Much of it has gone already. The Omega Seamaster watch, a 21st birthday present, was the first to go when I left the Fire Service. My words, ‘you can’t plead poverty with a bloody Omega on your bloody wrist’ now ring true for most of my possessions as the roof over my head becomes untenable. My letting agents take care to remind me that I am on a rolling contract, and they can ask me to leave at any time, for no reason. I sell my iPhone for less than a quarter of its original price, and put my SIM in this Jurassic Nokia that I found in a drawer from days gone by.

Tomorrow, my small boy will be introduced to the world of pawnbroking, watching as his mother hands over the TV and the guitar for an insulting price, but something towards bridging the gap between the fear of homelessness, and hanging in for a week or two more. Trying to consolidate arrears, red-topped letters, and bailiffs, with home security, is a day to day grind, stripping back further the things that I can call my own. Questioning how much I need a microwave. How much I need a TV. How much I need to have the fridge turned on at the mains. Not as much as I need a home, and more importantly, not as much as small boy needs a home.

People ask me how I can be so strong. People say to me that they admire my spirit. Days like today, sitting on my sons bed with a friend, numb and staring as I try to work out where the hell to go from here, I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel spirited. I just carry on.

First you turn your heating off. That was in December, it went off at the mains and I parked furniture in front of all the heaters to forget that they were ever there in the first place and alleviate the temptation to turn them on. Then you turn everything off at the wall sockets; nothing on standby, nothing leaking even pennies of electricity to keep the LCD display on the oven. Then you stop getting your hair cut; what used to be a monthly essential is suddenly a gross luxury, so you throw it back in an Alice band and tell your friends that you’re growing it, not that you can’t afford to get it cut. Everyday items are automatically replaced with the white and orange livery of Sainsburys Basics, and everything is cleaned with 24p bleach diluted in spray bottles. You learn to go without things, and to put pride to one side when a friend invites you to the pub and you can’t buy yourself a drink, let alone one for anyone else. There’s a running joke that I owe a very big round when I’m finally successful with a job application, and I know I am lucky to have the friends that I do.

Then you start to take lightbulbs out. If they aren’t there, you can’t turn them on. Hallway, bedroom, small boys bedroom, you deem them unnecessary, and then in a cruel twist of fate, the Eon man rings the doorbell to tell you that you owe £390, and that he’s fitting a key meter, which will make your electricity more expensive to run. So you turn the hot water off. Cold showers were something of the norm in my old flat, where the boiler worked when it wanted to, so you go back to them.

You sell the meagre DVD collection for an even more meagre sum, the netbook, a camera, you wash clothes in basic washing powder that makes your skin itch. You pare back, until you have only two plates, two bowls, two mugs, two glasses, two forks, two knives, two spoons, because everything else feels like an indulgence, and rent arrears don’t wait for indulgence.

In a world where people define other people by their job title (this is Sue, she’s a lawyer, and Marcus, he’s an architect) and by the number plate on the type of cars they drive, and the size of their television and whether it’s 3D or HD or in every room, my world is defined by the love and generosity of my friends, and the contents of my bin shed. You sit on the sofa someone gave you, looking at the piano someone gave you, listening to the radio someone gave you, perched on the chest someone gave you.

Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off. It’s not a tourism trade, it’s not cool, and it’s not something that MPs on a salary of £65k a year plus expenses can understand, let alone our PM who states that we’re all in this together.

Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.

Ms Jack Monroe, Southend on Sea.

Socialist Cycling

In the 1880s Robert Blatchford was a successful journalist for the Morning Chronicle newspaper. But his editor refused to allow him to write about Socialism and finally he walked out, declaring “You will not have Socialism in your paper – and I won’t write anything else”.

So, in rented offices on Manchester’s Corporation Street, Blatchford set to producing the first really accessible Socialist magazine, combining political articles and editorials with songs, poetry, short stories and illustrations.

On 12th December 1891, the first issue was released; it was a huge success and by 1908 the Clarion had a circulation of 80,000.

The paper encouraged not just a Socialist readership, but a Socialist way of life and off-shoot entertainment and activities soon appeared.

Clarion rambling societies, photo clubs and choral groups sprang up all over the country. There was also the Clarion Cafe which opened its doors in 1908 and lasted until about the 1930’s.

via Clarion Cycling Club.

via Socialist Cycling.

Starvation Strategy?

Longer than my usual but really worth the read!

Dear Mr Cameron,
I have taken the liberty to write to you following an article that appeared in the Guardian a few days ago. I have a specific question that I would be grateful if you could answer but first let me outline the reason for my writing.
I have just read of the tragic story of Mark Wood, who was a 44 year old man with a number of complex mental health conditions. Mr Wood starved to death at his home last August, months after an Atos fitness-for-work assessment found him fit for work. This assessment meant that the jobcentre stopped his sickness benefits, leaving him just £40 a week to live on. His housing benefits were stopped at around the same time. This was despite a plea from his GP not to stop or reduce his benefits as this would have ongoing, significant impacts on his mental health. Mr Wood’s doctor told the inquest that the Atos decision was an “accelerating factor” in Mr Wood’s eventual death. He was very distressed that his housing benefit had been cut off, and by letters about rising rent arrears and warnings from the electricity company his supply would be cut off.
I have no personal knowledge of Mr Wood but for 15 years I have worked, and continue to work in mental health and know that Mr Wood’s tragic circumstances are far from unique. Mr Wood had struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues all his life, which made it impossible for him to work. Although his family ‘worked for years to create a place for him to live safely, this stopped when his benefits were stopped. He tried so hard to survive’. Mr Wood’s sister was distressed that Atos did not seek medical evidence from her brother’s GP, and made the assessment that he was capable of preparing to return to work after a half-hour interview at his home. The Atos report concluded his mental state was “normal”.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind confirmed that this tragic case was not an isolated incident for people ‘struggling to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system.’
And now to my query. Mr Alan Budd, who in May 2010 came out of retirement to be the interim Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility was, as you know, a chief economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. Mr Budd has since gone on record in an interview with the Observer in 1992 to confirm that
“…the 1980’s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending were a cover to bash the workers. Raising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working class. What was engineered –in Marxist terms-was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labour, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since” (pp 284-285).
At the time it was always assumed by most that any political activity was always in the interests of the population. This quote served as confirmation that the raising of unemployment during the Thatcher era was a deliberate tactic. As unthinkable as that might have been at the time, there was a clear decision to destroy lives for political capital. My question, and I ask this in all seriousness is whether your administration is currently also having a different set of private conversations to those that the public hear. Just as the Thatcher administration reassured the public they were trying to lower unemployment when they were intentionally increasing it, can I ask whether your cabinet has had conversations about how desirable it would be for a few vulnerable people to starve to death. It could be seen after all that a few examples of what can really happen when the safety net is removed might mobilise others who draw on benefits to stop ‘scrounging from hard working taxpayers’ and move toward the labour market. So my question is
a. Have you deliberately set out to drive a small number of British people to starvation as a political tactic?
The reason I moved to ask such an extreme question is because to make someone die of starvation in a western democracy in 2014 isn’t actually a very easy thing to do. It needs an awful lot of very specific activities to conflate at once in order for it to become possible for vulnerable people like Mr Wood to starve to death. You would need to put in place a systematic regime of wage stagnation, a raft of brutal benefits cuts that disproportionately attack the vulnerable and disabled. You’d need to develop and sustain an orchestrated campaign of misrepresenting vulnerable people through the media and you would need to put in place a privatised work assessment regime that rewards morally bankrupt companies who assess people as fit for work regardless of their circumstances. To achieve this you would need to make possible the most hideous and inhumane political coalition since Asquith’s feckless cabinet contributed to 1m deaths at the Somme.
Regardless of whether a starvation strategy has been deliberately orchestrated or is a tragic by-product of one of the most sustained political failures of modern times, I do wonder Mr Cameron whether you will see Mr Wood’s emaciated and desperate face when you close your eyes to go to sleep at night. For the sake of the many other people around the country approaching such extreme destitution, I genuinely hope that you do.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Carl Walker

From: Since 1545

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