What A Weekend
0 comment Thursday, June 12, 2014 |
The One Month Before Heartbreak has gone on for the past two days and the support has been tremendous. There's now almost 2500 signatures on the online petition, more than double was there before the campaign. The blog entries are being retweeted and shared all over, not just to disability coalitions but to mainstream sites like Deviant Art, Myspace and Facebook. People who are not disabled and had no idea of the changes are signing on, horrified at what is being proposed and showing support.
Of course, all this publicity also means we get the other side of things as well - the people who say "I don't get DLA so this doesn't affect me" or, worse still, who accuse the whole campaign of pity-seeking and scaremongering. The thing is you don't wait till AFTER legislation to launch a protest. It's much easier to get things noticed before it starts than try and fight the law once it's already a done deal.
There are arguments that we are "seeking attention" that we have "No dignity" for daring to post what we've been posting for the past few days. I know it goes against the whole ingrained stiff-upper-lip thing to actually try and bring some attention to one's plight, but that is the only way things can improve and progress. And the simple truth is it took centuries for the disabled to achieve any sort of equality or even status as a human being.
It's worth remembering that only 100 years ago, disabled people were institutionalised and kept out of the public eye so that the public would need not feel embarrassed to look upon a disabled person. Accessibility was not an option as the disabled were expected to stay indoors, locked in attics. If you had the social standing to have a nurse, they bully for you. If not, your family provided.
Treatment was nearly non-existent; if you were female and mentally ill you had "nerves" and just needed to buck up. You'd be dosed with laudanum or even prescribed to have children to "give you something to do". In some cases, mental illness was defined as sexual tension and you would be manually masturbated by an attendant (read sexually assaulted/raped) as part of "treatment". Operations were rarely successful and more often than not fatal.
This wasn't all that long ago, merely a century. The current social standing of disabled people only came into being after WW2, probably due to the fact so many soldiers came back with irreparable damage both physical and emotional (several grandfathers of mine were walking casualties from the war). DLA and welfare came into being in the late 40's. But now, a scant 70 years after such measures have been taken, they're about to be revoked.
Some of the legislation is so baffling (treating people with mobility aids as being without disabilities and therefore not in need to assistance, yet no explanation as to how people would be able to get funding for these aids in the first place is one which springs to mind) it almost reads like a joke. Maybe the sheer disbelief that anyone could honestly make that kind of claim is the main motive - it sounds so ridiculous that it cannot possibly go through, and hence it is ignored. However, this is the way things are going to roll.
During the Thatcher era, comedians joked that the Tories were proposing a tax on "wheelchairs, white sticks and glass eyes". It was a joke and people laughed. Now? That actually doesn't seem so far off, and hence the campaign.
Is it "scare mongering"? It's not scaremongering when people who are normally silent admit they are truly afraid. Bravery, yes. Gods knows most papers only want to run the feel good stories about how "brave" someone is being about their illness like a proper Tiny Tim as opposed to admit to the incontinence and crawling up the stairs and being spat on. No one likes to admit that they find disability distasteful, but it's probably time people owned up to it, even if one wants to look away instead.
Is it "attention seeking"? Again, a lot of people who have contributed to this whole campaign have done so with a qualm. A good portion of getting through life when you have a disability is to not think about all those awful things which slow one down - in short, exactly the sort of thing you have to put on the humiliating DLA forms in the first place just to get a few quid.
The thing about protesting something which people don't feel affects them is they're already predisposed to look right through you. So, you have to get them to notice you in order to listen. This is what marching protests are designed to do. It's what speeches and publications do. None of these things are open to the disabled populace due to energy, infirmary or mobility. What's the alternative, sit quietly and hope?
It's a bit depressing to see disabled people spewing the same Daily Mail rhetoric they've been reading, but I know from experience it's no different from some women I have met who had rather nasty things to say about feminists, or African-American people I knew in the US who spat the word "n*gger" out to anyone who was earning below a certain wage. I've even heard it out of my ex's mouth - descended from direct Irish boat-traveller stock, he's got the most scathing things to say about "pikeys" now which I find completely baffling and utterly ridiculous. He calls his bigotry "British patriotism". It isn't of course, but he has convinced himself his bigotry is just being a poor scapegoat white guy in the financial banking sector. It's pointless to try and convince him otherwise and I don't try.
Instead, he has had to take over twice last year when I was in hospital, and I've had to explain to him what we'll have to do if I literally cannot continue being our son's carer. No more filling in with child only when it's convenient. No more stashing money away for a mortgage which never happens as he loves his comforts; no more trips to Europe for skiing and once a week pub trips or fencing lessons. Hard work, 24/7, that doesn't ever stop. That alone has managed to get his attention and while it hasn't given him impetus to fight the DLA cuts, it has made him more aware of the struggles I face and he's more willing at least to throw money in my direction, if not necessarily understanding and his personal time. Better me than him is his view, and at least it means I have a pretty big amount of child support to fill in the gaps.
Just like the fight for equality between sexes or races or what have you, with one side trying to get frustrated and accusatory and the other side feeling ashamed and therefore defensive, the main point gets overlooked - what we need is acknowledgement. I don't care if you weren't the ones who put my ancestry in chains, I don't care if you weren't the one who actively made sure I earned less than the men I worked with as a welder even if I was the better welder. I don't blame anyone for my son's autism. I can deal with that. But what I cannot deal with, what I refuse to tolerate, is the blinkered thinking of people who think because they did not have a direct hand in the problem, they therefore have no responsibility to find a solution. Just because you are not female does not mean you cannot play a part in equality. Just because you are not "coloured" (ugh, hate that) doesn't mean you can't at least do your bit to make sure it's not an issue. And if you are not disabled or poor or a single parent does not mean you have the right to turn your back and refuse to get involved.
Conversely, it helps no one to see the enemy in every single white face you see on the street. Maybe as a multiracial person I get that more than most as neither white nor black culture claims me as one of them. I know reverse racism becomes a big buzzword at that point, and herein is the problem - as soon as reverse racism happens, legislation does a u-turn, often very quickly. As soon as the majority starts feeling defensive, the minority will suffer. I've seen it happen time and time again, and the only way it's going to stop is if there can be a whole lot less "you people" on both sides and a lot more "maybe we need to...." There's no excuse for that sort of behaviour when we are talking about "Big Society". That is what Big Society MEANS; you, me, the travellers down the road, the disabled, the single mum, the kids loitering outside. Everyone.
Tear the blinkers off and acknowledge that if we're all in this together, that has to start on a fundamental level of actually responding and standing behind interests which may not directly affect you. It means putting aside some differences which you may struggle with or which are so ingrained you don't even realise you've got an issue. In other words, stop seeing people as upper class, lower class, traveller, Asian, Irish, northerner, or migrant. We are all Britain when we stand on her soil. We can either spend a lot of time blaming someone other than ourselves and waste time, or we can look in the mirror, acknowledge our own person prejudices and decide to look beyond them for long enough to effect change.
Wishful thinking perhaps, but I live in hope.
It's been a very exhausting weekend, and at the end of the day, I'll be changing my profile picture again and going back to talking about gardening and the trials and tribs of being a single mum of a very lovely, challenging boy. I'm somewhat relieved, as this has been a huge drain on my energy and my spirit, but there comes a time when you have to take the everything's-fine mask off and show people what is really going on. This weekend has changed my perspective in profound ways. And I hope it has done the same for all of you.
In closing, I want to link to a post which pretty much sums up everything I have to say about this weekend. It's the two-fingered salute, it's the laugh of defiance. And it's also a reminder that I do not have to suffer solely to be "believable". Nor will I.
Please join us, help us fight, and keep the pressure on.

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