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By Jason Michael
Austerity is killing people and we all know it. But how long will it take for us to wake up to the reality that we have to fight back. It is time to get off our knees.
Britain’s programme of austerity, now with the introduction of an appalling and dehumanising Universal Credit scheme, is a brazen assault on the lives, health, and dignity of the poorest, most defenceless people in our society. Over the weekend I received an account of one young woman’s experience as a victim of Universal Credit – an account that will be published in full on the Butterfly Rebellion website tomorrow. It makes for a harrowing and horrifying read.
Since 2008 the number of people in the United Kingdom dying of malnutrition and complications arising from malnutrition has been steadily increasing, and, despite the government and the media’s attempt to disguise this trend behind other illnesses causing diminished nutrition, there is no doubt the state’s policy towards the poor is now killing people. Late last year a report published by the British Medical Journal established a clear relationship between British government policy – namely cuts to social funding – and 120,000 unnecessary deaths in England and Wales since 2010. It is therefore by no means hyperbole to accuse the British state of “economic murder.”
Frances Ryan, writing for The Guardian in August 2015, summed this dire situation up when she wrote that:
Death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system. That is not hyperbole but the reality that the stress caused by austerity has led us to. Shredding the safety net – a mix of sanctions, defective “fit for work” tests, and outright cuts to multiple services – has meant that benefit claimants are dying; through suicide, starvation, and even being crushed by a refuse lorry when a 17-week benefit sanction forced a man to scavenge in a bin for food.
Alarm bells ought to have started ringing – like, really ringing – when in February 2014 it was revealed a seriously mentally ill man, 44 year old Mark Wood, died of starvation more than a month after all his benefits were cut. Atos Medical, the private healthcare contractor employed by the British government, found him “fit to work,” starting the ball rolling on a chain of events that saw Mr Wood slowly starve to death in his own home.
No alarm bells rang, and in spite of the publicity the system has continued and continued to worsen. We now find ourselves at a point where, by 2016, malnutrition was the underlying cause or a contributory factor in 351 deaths in NHS hospitals in England and Wales. This is the highest these figures have been in a decade and the same austerity programme and sanctions regime is being forced on the people of Scotland. I can now no longer count on one hand the number of people I have met and spoken with who have been left with no income for more than five weeks.
Pauline, the woman who shared her story with me, a fellow independence activist, is right now facing the prospect of being sanctioned – having her benefits suspended – for a staggering five months, leaving her completely dependent on her sick mother. With no income whatsoever for months on end, it is little wonder rates of clinical depression and even suicide are skyrocketing, not to mention the number of those being admitted to hospital as a result of malnutrition and diseases related to starvation. What bothers me most, reading her and others’ accounts of this sick policy, is how docile the population at large is in the face of what amounts to a cull of that part of society the state quite obviously sees as surplus to requirements.
We can’t blame those who are on the receiving end. Clearly they have more immediate problems, like finding food to eat. But when we stop and consider the extent of the problem and the fact that as it continues more and more people are being caught in the trap, it becomes quite evident that British austerity threatens us all. There are few people in Scotland, working in the precarious labour market or in low-to-medium salaried jobs, who are much more than a pay packet away from being in the exact same position. Why are we so quite?
The purpose of austerity is to so completely and utterly destroy the ability of ordinary working people to resist the advancement of this government’s neoliberal ambitions. It is where class war gears up into total war; an all-out war of annihilation on the poor by the rich. It is designed and executed in such a fashion so as to fracture the bonds of society, weaken community and class solidarity, break the family, and crush the individual. Brexit – the British establishment’s hoped for break from European regulations – can only make the scope of austerity more far reaching, more devastating.
This must surely leave us wondering when it will all end. At other times in our history and right now in other societies this unnecessary and punitive regime would have blood on the streets and heads on spikes, but not here. Why? What we are experiencing, this present docility, is as Naomi Klein argues a result of the shock we are in. Thatcher introduced us to the “shock doctrine” of rapid cuts to social spending, deregulation, and tax cuts for the rich, and this policy – true Milton Friedman neoliberalism – has been refined and extended by successive Labour and Conservative governments, leaving us in a state of shock – unable to think, organise, and resist.
But this will end. It will end as surely in England and Wales as it will in Scotland. In Scotland we have the option of independence and ending this nightmare for ourselves, but without that, and along with our neighbours south of the border, austerity will end. It will end in one of two ways; either with the British government realising that the writing is on the wall or with the British state being torn limb from limb in a conflagration in which the victims of the state know they are fighting for their very lives. It is about time we all started wakening up to what is going on and begin the process of sending this murderous government some messages it won’t mistake.
Tony Benn – 10 min History Lesson for Neoliberals
4 thoughts on “Why are we Not in Revolt?”
A lot of the blame must go to the MSM and our broadcasters. Our MSM blame immigrants, There is no reporting of the extent of the damage being done to people’s lives and long term health or indeed the threat to us all. For anyone whose only source of news is obtained from our state broadcasters and MSM this is their world.
I noted that WM have delayed the passing on of Social Security benefits to Scotland and I am anxious that there is more to this than meets the eye.
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I agree with Isabel. The people who read the likes of the Daily Fail don’t know what’s really going on in the UK.
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Aye, but those who do know what is going on, what are they doing about it? What are you doing about it? What am I doing about it? The horrible reality is that we are all waiting for ‘somebody to do something’. Was this what it felt like in the lead up to the Communist revolutions in Russia and China? Except that I have no sense of waiting just great complacency. The reality is it is going to get a lot, lot worse before it even begins to get better. Except in Scotland, where we do have a chance. If only we (collectively) get off our backsides and take that chance.
I feel like I am living in the middle of the Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’…
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You ask what am I doing about it. Well, I’ll tell you. I’m part of Blether-In Forfar which is an indy hub on the High Street of Forfar where people come in for a chat and a cuppy and cake. Where people can read The National and various indy articles which are printed out. There are now Blether-Ins in Montrose and Brechin, both doing a great job in getting the truth out there.
So, why are you waiting? Get out there and talk to your indy pals and see if you can rent a space, or even a window, to get the truth out to the people. Saor Alba!
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