Monday, 31 October 2011

We all know someone who could work but doesn't - Don't we?

Well, there's that Jim at number 27. Have you seen his garden?? Out there all weathers he is. It's like the bleedin Chelsea Flower Show. Now you can't tell me he couldn't work? 

Jim is 62. He has epilepsy. He was born with it and back in the 50s, most people still thought you were possessed or evil if they saw you having a fit. His mother never used to take him out for fear he would have a seizure in public. He's never been able to drive. He gets "warnings" before the 4 or 5 seizures a week he has, allowing him to get inside to somewhere safe. No-one ever sees his disability - he wouldn't dream of talking about it with a neighbour.

He still never leaves his home. The shame he grew up with never really left him. His garden is his life. It gives him joy and purpose. Somewhere beautiful where he never feels lonely or ashamed.

It's just got ridiculous! There's this girl in our village - never done a day's work in her life....and she jogs!! Hours she runs up and down with those earplugs in, round the village, out on the quiet country roads, sometimes she goes out in the morning and she runs til lunchtime!! Why should she get my hard-earned tax money just to do nothing?

Laura is 26. From the age of 6, both her uncle and his friend used to sexually assault her. She never told anyone, they said they would do it to her brother if she did. As she grew up she became more and more withdrawn. Sometimes they hurt her physically and she had to try to hide the bruises away.

She never made any friends and ran away from home when she was 15. Living on the streets, people took advantage of her and she soon became a prostitute with a crack habit.

At 18, she managed to get a place in a hospice and with the amazing help of mental health workers, counsellors and a safe environment, she got clean. She moved away, moved to a nice safe village, kept working on her past and found solace in running. All the time she runs, music pounding in her ears, she can forget. She feels free and alive.

She has managed to start volunteering in a local centre working with other young people who've been through what she went through and hopes that one day, she might be able to make a career of it.

She has never spoken to any of her neighbours, she's still too damaged, and she certainly wouldn't tell them about her childhood.

Do you remember Doreen? She never stops that woman, out at work all hours, looking after the kids, running em here and there. And all her husband ever does is lie around on the sofa watching daytime TV! 16 years it is since he worked! The man must have no shame. 

Karl served in Kosovo. It was brutal time and he lost many good friends. One night, just after midnight, he and his men were taking cover behind an old burnt out coach. A bomb suddenly exploded and every last man but him got blown to pieces. He was taken away and held for days with little food and light. They questioned him at gunpoint until he soiled himself, then left him sitting in the mess. He saw women raped and children left to die at the side of the road, their eyes pleading with him as he marched past.

Since then, he's suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has terrible periods of depression, flashbacks, sweats and night terrors. He can't sleep and when he does he wakes up screaming. He barely pays attention to his family, and though the television might be on, he never sees the programme. He only sees one programme now, running through his mind every minute of every day.

He makes Doreen promise she won't ever tell anyone what he goes through. She wouldn't dream of talking about it with her neighbours.


The BBC seems to be running a "Scrounger" season. You are being asked to judge our social security system in a flurry of documentaries, based on anecdote. A GP who "feels" it's unbelievable that we have so many people on sickness benefits, random women in the street who share stories like the ones above.

No evidence, for the evidence is most certainly not with the programme makers. Rather they feed into a stereotype that is being used comfortably by all main political parties and the media to push through welfare reforms. We already have one of the toughest welfare systems in the developed world with the toughest sanctions and among the lowest rates of fraud. But you will never hear that from these documentaries. You almost certainly won't believe it now, but it's true. Pesky evidence.

No. These "documentaries" ask you to ignore the stories that make up the person and simply judge your neighbour.

Nasty eh?


gwenhwyfaer said...

The stories that people tell, to fill in for the stories they don't know, are just excuses. Ultimately, even if they were confronted with the reality of what vulnerable people face, most would still say "well, that's very sad and all, but I still don't see why their pain / hardship / weakness / inability to pull their socks up is my problem. I have a hard life too, and you don't see me lounging around on benefits."

When compassion disappears from society, it doesn't wither away for want of information. It leaves first, and the rumour mill arrives in its stead.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you.

I worry that people do the same with me when they see me doing my horses. I can't ride, or walk far, I suffer excruciating, but invisible pain, but the horses are the sole reason I have for continuing. They get me up in the mornings. I would spend far more time with children had I had any, but would not be judged the same way. My parents pay for them, when I cannot, but I fear all the time I will be judged able to work because I can stagger to my field and throw hay at them.

LeahD said...

Thanks so much for this post.

I have Fibromyalgia and CFS. I look great considering I feel so crap, which probably doesn't do me any favours as some people might think I'm just a lazy cow. I'm in pain every day and I tire out ridiculously easily. When I'm tired (although 'tired' doesn't begin to cover it) I lose all coordination, balance and strength in my muscles. I walk like a drunk, mix up my words and can't be trusted with a knife or a kettle as I'm so clumsy.

I live in fear of my next medical knowing how biased the Con-Dem (Con Them, more like it!) Government is against disabled people. I should apply for DLA but I'm too scared.

Maria Blackmore said...

I hear this kind of thing from people I know, everywhere.

I don't suppose we could have a trigger warning on this, could we please?

Order and Chaos said...

Fabulous article, so so true, have linked to it from Facebook. Should be required reading for all who believe the shite shoved in their faces by the media.