Jack Monroe writes about how her experience of poverty has affected her mental health and her personality. She is not the person she was, not the woman she could have been, because of the stress and trauma of poverty. This is something I have witnessed first-hand. I grew up around a man shaped by the harsh realities of poverty in the 30s and 40s in Kilmarnock. My grandfather ‘never missed a day of work.’ Rain, hail, or shine, hungover, sick, and – latterly – dying he got up and went to the garage where he worked fixing car engines.
Here’s my secret: I am not an independentista. I am a Liberationist. Liberation – the “Let my people go!” of the Book of Exodus – is as much about the liberation of the nation as it is about the liberation of society and the family as it is about the liberation of the person. Scottish independence, then, for me, is as much a cause of national liberation as it is a cause for the liberation of everyone in Scotland from the constitutional, social, and economic conditions that keep us in chains – and we are in chains; for some these are the fetters of poverty and for others they are the bonds of indifference.
The object lesson here is that we are not powerless in our democracy. We do not need permission to act to safeguard the rights of others and the rights of our nation. In a democracy we elect – as free people – to delegate our power (that’s sovereign power in Scotland) to our chosen representatives. Nowhere does this delegation of sovereign power imply that we have given away our power. We have simply lent it, and we can just as simply take it back.
The era of the sick-note has ended. We have well and truly entered the age of “fit to work.” It doesn’t matter if people are fit to work or not, they are being declared fit to work in order to save money, and when people are fit to work in a country where there is no work they are subject to the cutting edge of austerity – the sanctions regime and the foodbank. The purpose of this is to reduce people to destitution, and they are duly complying. Under this pressure people are becoming depressed and stressed; they are getting sicker, suicidal, and dying faster. This was always the plan.
None of this is rocket science. It is a simple case of cause and effect. Cuts hurt people. Worse than this, the government’s austerity programme is killing people. While it is near impossible to examine every death across the UK in order to assess the true scale of this problem, one indicator is particularly useful – the suicide rate.
What makes them obvious from the outside is the conspicuous placement of ornaments on their window ledges and families coming and going from side and back entrances with shopping and school bags.
We’re all familiar with the Christmas story with Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, inn keepers, and the lobster in the school Nativity play, but we have become less familiar with what the story is about.
Every year it is the same thing, the government responds to the news and the pleas with eloquent words and everyone hopes to ride the story out until January when the well-to-do are planning their summer vacations.