I made a decision in May, to stop being a voyeur of society, by keeping my discontent to my close circle of friends. Instead I felt ready to actually do something. It’s all very well being an armchair politician, complaining about the ills that are cast upon you, but does it achieve anything? That said it is actually pretty tough to put yourself out there.
I began with sharing things I felt strongly about on social media. Then came this blog, where my thoughts spilled out into cyberspace, gradually reaching people in far flung places that I will never meet.
Today I felt it was time for physical action.
I decided to leave the house armed with my strong opinions, and face the general public for the first time. I took my story to the streets, deliberately passing the conservative office. I have been advised recently to ‘Just contact your MP love, they’ll sort this out, it’s obviously a mistake.’ Hmmmmmmm.
Well people I have got news for you, by all means write to your MP and ask them for help, but they have no real individual power, even if you are lucky enough to have one that cares. Mine is some kind of minion, or party whip and is rarely seen in Cornwall. I write to her regularly in a polite and respectful way, and receive nothing other than standard responses.
She can and will do nothing to help me.
In fact she voted strongly for a lot of the measures that are punishing the most vulnerable in our society. We live in Cornwall, recently disclosed as the poorest county in all of Europe, we need her help, but instead she has turned her back on the majority of us. So what choice am I left with? Giving up? No. I am spreading my tale, listening to others, and fighting for myself and my children.
Nobody else will do it for me.
It was with some trepidation, that I travelled to Truro with the children to attend my first anti austerity March. I haven’t been feeling great, and knew I would physically find it hard and painful. I expected there would be a small group of us, and our aim would be to spread our story, and pay our respects to those who have died directly due to welfare cuts and assessments.
We were predominantly employed people who care and have loved ones who are effected, or work with the vulnerable themselves. Tax payers. Parents. Men. Women. Children. Grandparents. A few of our number were disabled. We hobbled stopping and starting (in my case) in a short circuit , doing what peaceful protesters do, chanting, talking to people, spreading our discontent in an orderly and respectful manner.
A man in his fifties in a new estate car pulled alongside me, and rolled down his window. I was towards the back of the small group with my four children, holding my two year old, and struggling along with my walking stick, in heaps of pain, but adamant I needed to be ‘seen’. I’m sick of hiding away from others judgement. I assumed he was checking I was ok, as others walking with me had on numerous occasions.
I’m such a naive fool.
He had actually stopped to shout at me: ‘Get a fucking job you bunch of fucking hippies‘
In front of my children 2, 9, 14 and 16.
While I was struggling to walk with my stick.
I think that moment just about sums up the biggest challenge we face as human beings. The complete and utter disregard by some, for those less fortunate than themselves.
The assumption was made by that man, that we are all in control of our own fate or destiny. To him and others like him I wish no harm, but he should know this; you are one job loss. One bereavement. One diagnosis away from your world collapsing around you.
Do you have enough to ensure you and yours will be ok?
Most people will be lucky enough not to need it, but they can sleep safe knowing that their tax and national insurance provides a safety net, that will catch them should their world fall apart. This net is currently being ripped apart and people, actual real people, are dying because of it.
49 sick or disabled people have died since 2012 directly as a result of welfare cuts. For many, the stress tribunals and appeals had on their existing health conditions lead to their deaths, often just before the decision was overturned in their favour.
Some died destitute, cold and hungry having got themselves into so much debt, due to their benefit being cut. Some poor souls couldn’t take it anymore. A young family expecting another child were sanctioned and left this world together. A few were deemed fit for work and died weeks into employment due to existing health conditions.
These are real people.
49 people, we know of that should still be alive.
The true number is likely much higher.
This was no terrorist attack. This was our own country. Our own government, elected by the British people. It was their actions and decisions, that directly caused these deaths.
Today every person on that list had their name, age, and story read out to the small crowd.
The number 49, became human beings with desperately sad stories, and it was utterly horrific.All of us including the children present fell silent throughout.
We held a Minutes silence for those lives lost once all their names had been read, thinking of how maybe they could have been saved if more people cared, what else could be done to protect people in the future, and our own personal journeys.
For me, I unexpectedly became overwhelmed once the silence was complete. I know how it feels to be utterly desperate, and to see no way out of the situation you find yourself in.
I was there, living it a few weeks ago.
I looked up from where I sat and I saw my children’s faces, and those of a great friend and family, and felt so incredibly grateful to be here, supported, cared for, smart, able to speak out, fighting, able to keep telling people about my life, and hoping that I can get the apathetic to care about this stuff.
I could so easily have been one of those 49.