This week my love-hate affair with writing has me in its thrilling and painful grip. Writing is like an old friend who sometimes annoys the fuck out of me, and sometimes wraps me in arms of pure co-operative elation. Recently it’s been a see-saw between both and admittedly the ole Borderline has a role in this. But, it helps as much as it hinders. Exquisite highs bring great bursts of creativity as much as the pits of anguish that lead me to unfortunate behaviour and the whole frustrating circle. Occasionally the fast dips into desolation can result in outpourings that stand up to later scrutiny.
It was very trendy to be Mad this last week or so. Mental health ‘poster girl’ Ruby Wax did her stuff in fighting the stigma in the work place. I do get a tad uncomfortable. The portrayal of Mad people (whatever our precise shrink labels) can be saccharine. It doesn’t always feel full bodied enough – is that too scary? Perhaps. I suppose there’s always the danger of it becoming like a Bedlam tour reborn. In a programme most likely made by Channel 5. The Woman Who Sliced Her Skin Off and Made Herself Vomit (et al).
I do acknowledge that generally it seems any kind of PD makes even the toughest mind medic blanch. I told my newest ones as much last week. They tittered and argued this was not true. I pulled a face and went hmmm.
I met Ruby in August 2011, as mentioned in my blog of Oct 2011. I’m down from my high now, not so much disappointed in Ruby as working my thoughts around to a realistic view. She is still new to this. I asked her last year at the audience Q&A if she thought there was anything positive to be found in having a mental health condition. She paused, then said ‘no, do you?’ I smiled and said, I believe it makes me who I am, how can I not?
In one amazing tangential leap I will move to the Olympics. (Tangential conversation and thought is one of my personal hobbies, no apology.)
Controversy alert! I’m enjoying them. Is it the sense of history perhaps? Being a Londoner, and a scribbler? I don’t even like sport much, before we even mention ATOS. Maybe Danny Boyle slipped a subliminal message in the opening ceremony, which I also adored. Music of my youth! The Clash, The Jam, for fucks sake. Irresistible. Made more fun with some close friends over to share the experience.
A couple of us indulged in live Tweeting as we watched, adding another intriguing layer. MP gets the hump at the ‘leftie multi-cultural crap’, tweets swarming to attack him, UK Uncut get an image out there of the arena after the NHS ‘advert’ section, we laugh at the remarks that everyone outside of the UK would think what the damn is this about? But they love it anyway because all Brits are eccentrics. Aww.
Back to the sport. I don’t watch it obsessively, I tune in now and then, entertained for a while, mostly by the personalities and STORIES than the actual winning bit, then I’m bored and go back to my film obsession.
As for ATOS. Let me be clear. I detest ATOS. I loathe the overt capitalism blatant in the sponsorship of the games and hate that ATOS is part of that. I will join in any protest against ATOS that I am physically capable of. I was there at one of the first demos, I do my online stuff, my local campaigning and will continue. I don’t see a conflict in supporting the actual participants because it is ATOS who we must fight – and surely this is a great opportunity to highlight their hypocrisy while acknowledging the talents of the individuals who are committed to their sports, art and cultural participation.
Is this bias? I don’t care. A few of my friends are in the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. I am proud of them and the exhausting work they have put in. They are fully cognisant of the role ATOS plays in the attacks upon us. They see the line, and know where it is.
I will try and go to the Paralympic opening ceremony, when there’s a scandal over unsold tickets… AND to an ATOS demo. I am a writer after all, and if euphoria hits on those days, well, what entries for my bulging, greedy journals!
As I am in the tower of word, to half steal a line from Leonard Cohen, I am letting my good friend Gabriel Pepper have his say here today, in the form of a speech he did for his local DPO, where he is Campaigns Officer.
Gabriel is a powerhouse of political activism, from going on actions, to constant online work. It is central to his life now as he sees what we are fighting for.
I politicised Gabriel over the years we were together. I am very proud of him, and hope you will take heart from his impassioned words.
"......The next three years represents the most important years ever in the history of the fight for disability rights in UK. Yet we and disabled people in the past have fought hard for benefits, DLA, independent living, a semblance of equality and transport and now, what is happening?
The UK has a severe problem, because we have a government that has done its best to destroy the welfare state. This government has totally ignored everything disabled people have said, but for instance, have just ploughed ahead with the appalling Welfare Reform Bill and Legal Aid Bill.
I regard these as an act of right wing fascism by a tiny minority of extremely rich people, who do not care at all about the misery they will cause. It’s all about money to them, and most disappointingly they have used the British public against disabled people, influencing the media - resulting in propaganda and endless TV and newspapers crammed with bogus statistics.
Friends of mine, even my father, have been saying that the measures are needed because we cost too much, and I have told each one that they have been fed a lie.
One thing the Tories love to do is to blame the poor for being poor, indeed the government have effectively declared war on disabled people. Therefore if I can reiterate the words of Winston Churchill - “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat”, in the same grim spirit of defiance.
Let me tell you what I foresee, because it needs spelling out. Part of the problem is that the government have no clue about being disabled and getting benefits.
These people may believe that disabled people will find jobs, in a job environment where there is none. They have also made it nearly impossible to get legal aid, so the awful decisions made by ATOS (the company which throws people off benefits) will stand. There will be no appeals.
At the same time as this we have a top to tail reorganisation of the NHS, due to a bill forced through, no one was allowed to see the risk register. Let me be clear. This bill was detested, every medical professional was against it. Its only necessity was money and the ideological need to destroy the welfare state.
Let’s not forget the now infamous and hypocritical words of George Osbourne, when referring to the Welfare state - 'we are all in this together' – and the empty promises of ring fencing NHS funds.
The government have set in motion a care catastrophe, which will mean that countless people will suddenly be unsupported in multiple ways. With nowhere to turn, without being able to get meds for illnesses, they will descend, in critical states, on the NHS A&E unit and the like, which will be unable to take this strain.
There will be some people who become desperate. Those people will do acts like setting fire to themselves in public, and already two people have. Everywhere there will be people dying. All over UK there is a fine network of care, everyone knows someone who is disabled. We can only hope there will be a tipping point, an outcry from this network AND ourselves, after which there will be a huge vote of no confidence in the government. We must work with all our allies in this sector to lobby for this to happen, pushing home the reality of what is coming our way
There are many examples of this government’s dangerous ignorance and brutality. One is the new PIP, which everyone who gets DLA will have four weeks to claim for. If individuals are unable to respond for practical reasons, or are distressed by the process itself, then it appears they will be cut off from benefit support, something which will particularly hit people with mental health issues.
It must be said though, that this is if the new computer system which has a laughably huge cost to process all this, does work. Signs are that it is not expected to.
To rub salt into the wound the government have also enforced an awful scheme called workfare, where they expect people to be exploited by rich companies without being paid, most famously recently with the jubilee stewards. Studies have shown there is no evidence that more people will find work, it is an attack on the poor and unemployed.
A harsh part of this scheme is benefit sanctions, which can be for as long as three months. Meanwhile the operators of workfare schemes have been defrauding the government for as much as £40 million pounds. I said to my disability activist friend the other day, 'how do they expect us to find work, when there is none'. She said, 'they don't expect you to find work. They expect you to die dear'.
The government has shown several things already. First they have shown an extraordinary degree of incompetence, taking UK into an unnecessary recession, doing 35 U turns, and repeatedly turning out toxic policies. The Tories have become associated with toxic policies, and this will eventually destroy them. When the tipping point is reached and the laws are revoked, we will at last be able to move forward.
One result that these attacks have achieved is that they have brought disabled people together. To fight these vicious attacks, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been organised, and I am a member too. DPAC have been joined by the Scottish group, Black Triangle, UK uncut, Boycott Workfare and Socialist Worker along with a host of smaller organisations.
The fact that disabled people have now become more political has now mobilised the Labour party, particularly John Cruddas, who I think will be a key figure in the fight to save the Independent Living Fund.
Regular demonstrations are being held, the next is on 28th July, when Counter Olympics is running a March starting from Mile End. DPAC is anti-Olympics because of the Tory ideology connected with the games, and their disturbing use of ATOS for sponsorship. Boycott Workfare hold regular demonstrations, indeed I took part in one in Walthamstow in January 2012, a month in which I was also chained up in Regent Street as part of a direct action organised by UK Uncut. To finish, I want to paraphrase some lines written by UK uncut:
When everything you have is systematically taken away, why not make a stand? When your voice is taken away, why not shout from the roof tops? When you look over your shoulder at the privileged, protected from this mess by their ability to bypass public services through flexing their financial muscles, why not get angry?
There’s nothing left to lose. Welfare, health, social care, support funding, voluntary sector, housing, legal aid... there isn’t anything this government won’t dismantle or sell to the lowest bidder.
The deal you thought you had with the state has been broken. You were led to believe that … money would be used to build a society built on fairness and equality. You believed if your circumstances changed, you would be supported; and your children, your parents, your friends.
Instead, your money funds private moats, duck ponds and an Olympics which will break the financial backs of those who are least welcome at it – us......"
I will be back soon myself. I'm fighting with every word I commit to the page.
The sun is out, I have a new garden to play with (huh, for now) and my mood is a tad better. I’ve been in the wilderness of serious ill health and dealing with the consequences of that. But I’m coming back into the throng, slowly. The Abnormally Funny People gig was good, though laid me low for awhile. I am maybe a little more scarred at the edges that’s all. Scars inside and out, and ones I wear with honour.
I feel many of us will be battle scarred by the end... Today I attended a consultation run by my very excellent DPO, regarding the change from DLA to PiP, which the crypto-fascist government intends to force upon us. I had read summaries of the changes but here was the vile reality laid bare in much more detail. And that reality left me incredulous and afraid. For myself and for us all. We really are teetering on the brink of being forced back into being the crippled, mad, sick undeserving poor of a workhouse era. The stick to beat us must be hard and punitive. We must suffer. How dare we be who we are and scrounge.
In my view PiP is an instrument consciously designed to fail, to help us on our way to early and money saving death. It is ghastly in its cheek, a weak pretender of progress in the form of a terrifying executioner. However, I am also struck that this murderous proposition is so unworkable and unsustainable that it cannot in the end succeed. I hope. Yet I fear there will be a lot of pain before that is realised. Pain and lives destroyed; lives lost. Which is exactly what they want.
My glimmer of hope struggles on from realising how many people this change will effect. I believe it will be millions. The ConDem devils are not interested in ‘real’ disabled people, in our lived lives. The ideas within PiP give evidence to that. We are the scapegoats of the national debt and we are considered a soft target. But with us comes those around us. Carers, paid workers, families. Disabled children with outraged parents. Elderly disabled people with outraged offspring. It goes on and on, a tree of ramification and consequence we MUST utilise.
My mum received Attendence Allowance for me when I was young – the precursor of DLA. It was essential to her in multiple ways the ConDems cannot possible imagine in their rich boy wallet bulging dreams. But mums and dads will be angered. Daughters and sons will be angered at the imposition of PiP. With more to come… so let's grab hold of this!
WE must all be angry. We must speak out, come forward, be counted. A few people said to me about the consultation process: "isn’t this pointless, they’ll do what they want anyway?" Perhaps they will, but we must fight in whatever way we can. For me this is through my work, my words, always, within the boundaries of my impairments and the barriers we face every day.
I will NOT go gentle into that good night! Now, back to the garden, while I can.