Yesterday, all across the country, people were out marching against austerity. It is humbling to read the stories of those ordinary folk, who are taking a stand against the appalling policies of this government.
It is infuriating to read the bitter sarcasm of those on the right, who mocked those people and their reasons for marching.
One right wing commentator, Peter Thompson, incurred special fury by expressing his “sympathy” for the protestor who “was stuck in her IPhone 5 contract whilst her friends are on the IPhone 6.”
This wanky response wasn’t missing the point as much as it was ignoring it and taking a cheap shot at a strawman target.
As if that wasn’t enough, he then tweeted that millions of people in the country “voted for” austerity, citing the commitment to it in the manifestos of the Labour Party, the Tories, the Lib Dems and UKIP.
In other words, millions of people were forced to vote for it because it was, essentially, all that was on offer. This doesn’t constitute support any more than my paying tax constitutes support for the renewal of Trident. And he knows it.
He also knows that over one third of the country didn’t vote at all.
This isn’t someone revealing astonishing ignorance, although in a sense it is that too.
It’s someone using gutter commentary to hide their true motivations.
What he’s actually doing is revelling in cruelty.
By and large, those people who took to the streets yesterday weren’t marching for themselves. They were marching for those in our society who are being brutalised by this government, a government of appalling, almost breath-taking, wickedness.
What has happened in their name almost defies belief.
It should offend every right minded person in this land, and that those who’s feather-bedded position in our nation was built on the back of such suffering, sneered at those on the marches yesterday is offensive to me (and should be to you all) on every human level.
Earlier in the week, I was reading about the consequences of austerity in Greece.
One of the most shocking is that the male suicide rate has rocketed, and it’s now at its highest point in 30 years.
This isn’t limited to that country. Rates have been steadily increasingly all across austerity rocked Europe, and I’ll tell you right now that there are few bankers and stock traders amongst them.
The bastards who caused this crisis – and we’re now seven years into it – well, they are riding high.
A lot of others are sinking fast, those who’ve not already sunk.
And this is set to go on and on and on.
Political discourse in this country has barely moved from “the need for cuts” in the last five years.
The last two general elections were fought on that basis, and little else, and now, with a Tory majority, the state will be cut back to 1930’s levels.
Feeding this narrative is the media, which for reasons of its own seems perfectly content to see the demonization of the poor continue well into the foreseeable future.
That the media won’t even properly highlight the social consequences of this tells you exactly whose side they are on here.
In 2012, an official study estimated that austerity had been responsible for over 1000 suicides in the UK.
Three years ago, okay?
Four years after the banks collapsed, and only two years after Cameron’s coalition was elected.
The cuts which have been introduced since then are far worse and have doubtless been responsible for many, many more.
The media has ignored statistics like that.
How do we measure what would have happened if they’d not?
There’s a very simple way which will put those numbers into some kind of perspective.
In the time between the start of the US-UK invasion of Afghanistan and August 2014, a period covering some eleven years, there were just over 400 UK fatalities. I don’t want to play down the significance of that or the sacrifice these people made, but the number is less than half the suicide rate for the two year period of that study.
Those military deaths were all major media events.
Every time a British soldier died in military action it created a wave of news stories, particularly the latter ones, with most of those questioning what in God’s name we were still doing over there.
It’s a self-evident fact that this coverage changed the nature of the national debate on the “war on terror” and our role in it.
When the terms of that discussion moved on from unqualified support to a position where the media and, through them the public, started to oppose the deployment of our forces in that country, it moved us steadily towards disengagement.
Can you imagine what the public perception of austerity would be if those 1000 suicides had been highlighted in the same way?
That’s a major new story every single day of the week.
Do you think the major parties would still support austerity if our news channels were running a never ending series of funerals?
If the families of the bereaved were on TV every night highlighting the cruelties in the system that drove their loved ones to the brink and then past it?
Of course not.
In April 2013, a study revealed that austerity had made 10,000 families homeless.
Even without suicides arising from that, we can’t even quantify that in terms of the enormous psychological damage it has inflicted, and then there are the people who are living on the edge of a calamity such as that whose numbers can only be guessed at.
The key word there is families, of course.
Parents. Children. Traumatised.
Young minds being conditioned to the most awful circumstances, a society which treats them like animals.
Do our news services show that?
No, instead they make “poverty porn”, focussing on the small number of people in our society who could actually benefit from a system that tried to lift them out of their dire surroundings, not that the present one even remotely tries to do that.
The fact it’s based on sanctions instead of support should be a pretty big hint as to what the bastards who “reformed” it have got in mind.
And of course, what the public sees on those shows, after editing of course, are people who seem to spend all day sitting on their backsides drinking cheap wine and smoking fags.
It looks like a doss, like a soft option.
But a lot of these people will be dead before they are sixty.
A lot of them will already have serious psychological problems.
Psychiatry and social work are the only growth industries in the areas where they make these shows, that and the “unofficial pharmaceutical trade.”
This government of immoral scum don’t care about those people or those areas and they don’t even care about the budget deficit although it’s all they go on about.
I think that on some level what we have here is a government, and a political system, motivated by base, twisted, even hateful intentions.
They may not even realise it.
But at some point preying on the weak and the helpless becomes its own narcotic.
In 1963 a Yale University researcher named Stanley Milgram set up an experiment where volunteers would be given a series of questions to ask a “candidate”. Based on how the candidate answered, the interviewer would have the option of administering an electric shock, and these would increase in voltage the longer the interview went on.
Before it began, all the volunteers were administered a small shock first, to show them how it felt to be on the receiving end.
They all had the ability to walk away at any time, and Milgram, who believed in the basic goodness of people, predicted to his staff and others thatt less than half of them would continue past the first couple of wrong answers and that only a fraction would actually graduate to delivering the highest voltage jolt to the candidate.
The results must have made him despair, as they’ve been making people despair ever since.
In the first set of experiments over 60% of his volunteers went the whole way.
At some point every single person involved questioned the instructions they were being given, but that the majority of them still went through with it, right to the finish line, and administered a shock that was capable of killing another human being still sickens observers to this day.
The candidates, of course, were all actors and weren’t getting the juice at all, but the volunteers didn’t know that.
To them, they were inflicting pain on fellow human beings, and doing so because they had been instructed to by an “authority figure.”
Our media is engaged in that right now.
Our job centre staff have their hands on the switches.
Our “support services” are making sure the machines are plugged in to the grid.
The entire Social Security system has been turned into a sadists plaything, and this government of arrogant, evil men (and a handful of women) are cranking it up, seeing how far they can go, and what the public, the civil service, the staff on the ground and finally the afflicted themselves will stand before the snapping point is reached.
And along the way, we’re losing people.
We’re throwing families onto the streets.
We’re sending proud, hard-working people to the wall.
Foodbank use has exploded. Charities are busier than ever before – and having their budgets cut; what does that tell you? – and the social work departments that were already buckling to cope are being cut to the bone.
The support structure – the whole social safety net – is being ripped apart at a time when more people need it than ever before.
Worst of all, as studies have borne out time and time and time again, none of this is actually necessary.
The deficit, as a percentage of GDP, has been higher than this for half the century.
You tell me what the need for all this is, then, if not some grotesque experiment to see how much pain they can inflict before it starts to have undeniable social and political consequences?
To those who marched yesterday, brothers and sisters your compassion is a thing of beauty in a country which is becoming increasingly cruel and detached from compassion.
You are the most important people in this country right now.
You are carrying the only flag that matters and it’s not a political one or a national one, but that of simple human decency.
To those who sneered at them, yours should be a Hell even the devil himself would want to be free of.
The enormous pain and suffering which is going on in every corner of this nation, inflicted on those who can’t bear it, by the government you are the principle cheerleaders for, is on you and everyone like you, and the politicians who won’t stand up and speak out.
Of Labour’s “leadership contenders”, only one – Jeremy Corbyn – was there to lend his support to the marchers, and to demonstrate a commitment to those in greatest need.
Shame on the others, those who either placed political calculation above their sincerely held beliefs (I know) or who simply didn’t give a shit in the first place.
I am ashamed of this country, but that is tempered by the knowledge that I worked, and voted, against this despicable, vicious agenda.
At the very least, myself and others wanted to protect our fellow Scot’s from the full horror of it, and in a perfect world would have sent a significant number of MP’s to Westminster to play a role in ending it for everyone on this island.
It wasn’t to be, and I am heart sick by that and the knowledge of what it means.
Those marches yesterday were just the start.
Because I do believe that the pain will become too great, that the strain on the system will cause something to snap, that it can’t go on long like this, that even if the media doesn’t want to highlight it that these cuts do go too far and that enough people know someone affected by them to simply ignore their impact.
This is how real change starts, with small stones rolling down the hill.
The avalanche will come soon enough.
This is a government which is actively engaged in the administration of policies that are killing people.
And in the name of … what? if not deficit reduction then what?
Cruelty, pure and simple.
They’re doing it because they can.
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