Pomp and Circumstance

And so it came to pass that on this day of days the nation wept tears of grateful joy as a feudal anachronism married a bland clothes horse PR opportunity for his dysfunctional family – Kate was heard whispering to William “You had me at ‘join me in my life of stolen wealth, unearned privilege and misplaced respect’”. Jerusalem blared out and William Blake spun in his grave, glad only of the fact that were he alive today he would probably have been arrested by the new police Pre-Crime division, although they could always disinter him…

Well, you get the idea. The monarchy should be abolished and the police increasingly seem to be the paramilitary wing of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. We’re told to celebrate the ridiculously expensive (for us) wedding of a pair of strangers and that this is a proud day day to be British. I didn’t actually watch the thing, am grateful as ever to Twitter for keeping me abreast of happenings.

I’m always puzzled at the notion of being proud of the patch of earth where one arbitrarily dropped out, and it seems to me that the people who proclaim their patriotism the loudest are the ones who are unhappiest with where they live, constantly moaning about the state of the country, ‘it’s going to the dogs’ and other such nonsense. I like it here, wouldn’t live anywhere else, and it irks me that idiots will disguise their prejudices behind the banner of patriotism.

The welfare state is something to truly be proud of, and yet the patriots of the Tory party are aiming to rip it to shreds – for them ‘patriotism’ comes a distant second to the needs of the market and the world of finance. Protest against this and the dominant discourse put forth by the government, aided by the mainstream media, will present you almost as a traitor.

Speaking of discourse and media narrative, yesterday I was on a rare trip out and decided to treat myself to sausage and chips in the pleasant cafe we have in Enfield. As I sat down I grabbed a paper from one of the empty tables. Bad move. It was the Express. A headline joyfully declared that nearly 900,000 people had been taken off sickness benefits. The language used in the article stopped short of accusing them of treachery, but only just. Once again the claimant of benefits was portrayed as being mendacious, lazy and unworthy. I would link to the piece but I do not want the Express website to get any more hits than it already does, and I can’t risk looking at the comments. The reality of the situation has been commented on far more articulately than I could by Sue Marsh on her excellent blog .

The emphasis of this article, and no doubt similarly across the right wing press, may have been on those who claim sickness benefits, but it’s part of a continuing narrative I have previously mentioned, one wherein anyone who claims anything from the state is a burden. On the housing list, why can’t you buy your own house? Claiming JSA, get a job! On the sick, pull your socks up and stop expecting us to pay for you. I have no children and no intention of having any – perhaps I should ask people with children why I should pay for their education and health care? I won’t, though, as I’m really not that much of an idiot. I also believe in a society where we all look out for each other rather than kvetch about what others may or may not be getting – that would be something to be proud of.

The ongoing stigmatization has been ramped up significantly since the coalition (ie; Tories) came to power a year ago with government departments and ministers releasing details of ‘misuse’ of public funds at regular intervals. These reports are always skewed and open to challenge if some proper analysis is carried out but the mainstream media will baldly repeat what they’re told and the damage is done. This is true even of the BBC, an organisation that we can in the main justly be proud of. We are told that the BBC is comprised of left wing, woolly liberals seeking to undermine the establishment – take a proper look at the way they blandly repeat government untruths; in fact, take a look at the slavishly adoring way in which they’ve covered the royal wedding.

The reason I was out yesterday was to make my first claim for benefits in 17 years. It’s a matter of pride to me that in my life I have only claimed about two months worth of benefits and have been self sufficient, and I believe this to be the case for most people. We do not want to have to ‘rely’ on the state for assistance, but when we need some it’s good to have somewhere to turn to.

After taking voluntary redundancy in order to save my fragile mental health after two years of victimisation by my former employers, I need to sign on in order to at least claim my NI stamps. So off I trotted to the local job centre to complete the application I started online. I was seen by a very pleasant adviser who double checked everything and then came the question concerning my fitness for work. I really didn’t know what to say – work for me is part of my ongoing treatment, a distraction from the dark places my chronic depression takes me to. And yet the past two years have damaged my health to such an extent that it took all of my strength to just sit and wait to be seen in the job centre. I want to work, but need to be certain that I am able to. I don’t want to ‘mess up’ again.

In the end we decided that I would be put down for part time work pending me consulting with my doctor. Will this lead to me having to claim sickness benefit? I really don’t know as yet, I haven’t functioned ‘normally’ in nearly two years as a result of my former employers’ dereliction of their duty of care. I will try my best, though, and it would help if the already present sense of ‘guilt’ at claiming benefits isn’t exacerbated by the attacks on claimants by this government. I am not a scrounger or a slacker, and neither are the vast majority of those who claim. I want to be proud of myself and proud of the society I live in; at the moment it’s proving hard to be either.

Anyway, to finish off, let’s all celebrate the happy union and the monarchy with a lovely song.

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