Forgive me while I have another rant:
I've been going over the talks regarding the DWP reform, and I have to say, one thing has really struck me about the whole thing - and when I say struck I mean "bashed me repeatedly in the face". Mainly, that working in paid employment is a great, wonderful experience - it gives you joy and fulfilment and puts a spring in your step and a song in your heart. It would be better for us than any drug - we'd feel amazing and perhaps find our lot in life a little more bearable. In short, employment is an amazing gift and we should be grateful for it, and it will rise us up on the same level as the gods.
Now, maybe the Powers Wot Be get on a different tube than I did when I was working full time, but I don't recall anyone going to work singing, laughing, bright eyed and enthused about their 9-to-5. There were no dancing chimneysweeps doing backflips a-laMary Poppins.Everyone looked bleary-eyed, barely awake, putting on their makeup whilst trying to stay in an overcrowded seat. Listen to the tones people use when they describe their job: "No, I can't go out, I have towork." Obviously, this isn't the amazing miracle pill of awesome-sauce the Government wants us to believe - at best, work is a tolerated necessity. At worst, it's a sentence. And it seems that's perfectly understood by the masses as well; their cries of how everyone should "pull their weight" and "I shouldn't have to work just so someone else can sit on their backsides" makes it rather clear that misery loves company. Anyone who isn't suffering along with them must have it easy...and that is unacceptable when said Upstanding Working Citizen has to toil and slave at a job they only tolerate, not love.
This isn't to say that We the Broken People don't find work enjoyable - I love writing, and I love painting. However, I'm also aware that most people don't see that as a "job". A job is when you go somewhere and get a paycheque regularly. Anything else is just a "hobby" - no matter how many hours you spend working at it, promoting, sending off prints , staying up late to hit the deadlines, and so on. It's the same for anyone staying home to raise their children - the future taxpayers of the country. The future is immaterial - we're concerned with the Right Now as We Can See It, and the parent isn't working, ergo, they're holding everyone back. The writer, artist, musician is just mucking about doing something no one can understand, and therefore they're wasting time: and all the cuts to the Arts and to families seems to back those statements up.
I imagine most of us aren't buying it - I would hazard a guess we're more than aware that getting a job as a cashier isn't going to give us mountains of emotional wellbeing and fulfilment. We're not going to have an up-welling of joy and thank our lucky stars we are part of the Employed every time we say "Would you like fries with that?" And so, it seems the answer is to put a bunch of spin on employment, and make it sound like the Holy Grail for all our ills. The masses will back this up most readily - even if they know it isn't true - because the more of us who are as miserable as they are, the more able to shoulder the yoke of their dis-satisfaction. People want to be able to say smugly into our battered exhausted faces "See? That's how I feel every day, but I do it; now you're no better off than I am." No matter that they complain every single day about how much they hate what they're doing, how they wish they had never dropped out of Uni, how they should have studied better in school....if they can put the brave face on in order to sneer in our direction, they'll do it.
There's always so much bluster applied in these sorts of arguments: "You bet I'd clean toilets if that was all I'd get, and I'd do it gladly too!" But somehow if it came down to it, I sincerely doubt they would. I've heard the exact same type of folk disdain taking on janitorial duty in the office or the workshop because it "wasn't their job to do that". It's easy to claim you would have no dignity if you needed to stoop down so low you were squatting when you don't actually have to follow through with it.
I've done some really horrible work in the past, and I can heartily attest that there is no way on earth I'd ever do them again. It's why I do what I do now...because I actually do like what I'm doing and even though it doesn't pay much, it keeps me going. I do enjoy what I do...but I've had two businesses before this which I also loved and thanks to disability and further cuts to work-access programmes, I had to stop. I didn't WANT to - I still don't want to, I really wish I could be doing soap and toiletries again, but I simply cannot do it.
"Well that's fine if you do but there's all those OTHER people..." Really? Unless you're living someone's life from 24/7 how do you KNOW the person down the street is a slacker and faker. It is amazing that it seems everyone knows someone who is faking it, who is 'on the sick'. Again, are you really absolutely certain of that - do you have some sort of pain-o-meter which measures whether someone is really in pain or whether they're not? If you do, patent it; trust me, it will come in handy for all the assessments we're going to have to have. Regardless of what the government is saying to us, We the Broken KNOW what the assessments are going to do: they're not designed to bust the .5% of people who claim benefits as a scam; they're to trim anyone and everyone who claims benefits by 20%. This means that 19.5% of people in England who are claiming legitimately are to be cut. I'm using that word with precision - legitimately claiming. The point is not to find cheats, it's to cut corners.
Stop lying to us about the Amazing World of Retail; we've done it, it isn't all that great. I am still completely baffled at how much pressure there is for us to enter the Job Market when the Job Market isn't ready to employ people like us - how in the world do you get someone with severe anxiety/agoraphobia into the office?! Give them a typing job at home; we have the software, we have the tech - it's not impossible, I've certainly done it myself. And yet that's too much of a forward-thinking stretch at the moment. Again, there is this communication issue with asking us what we actually want to do, and then find a way to carry it out. Want to type at home? Fine, let's sort it. Want to become a carpenter? You'd be amazed how few of those are around these days and the demand is there. Provided it's physically within the realm of our disability, then what's the problem? Surely we're talking creating more jobs here by helping us tailor a business we can keep up, giving us mentors who can guide us through it who are also well aware of our illnesses, and accountants to help us balance the books so the Government can reap the ever-so-important taxes from the fruits of our labours.
But....that isn't happening. Perhaps it's too much like special treatment: the fact we'd all have this available for us so we wouldn't be absolutely miserable after two months is too much an advantage when everyone else was miserable as well. How dare we??? But that's just it - I don't know why it couldn't be something available to everyone. Maybe the fellow ranting so badly against the benefit scrounging scum once really wanted to learn to play the cello - he did it in high school and was rather good at it. So, fine, how about some lessons? He may never be Yo-Yo Ma, but if he was happy, wouldn't it be worth it?
I guess my point - if I have one, rants so rarely have those and that's how this started out - is that getting into work will not automatically cure us of every ailment which plagues us (and that goes for disability as well as national debt). But I also don't feel that anyone, disabled or not, should be forced to suffer doing what they cannot stand solely out of some sense of obligation enforced upon them by a Governmental phrase. Do what you love should always come first, as the disabled are living proof at how quickly the time to do things one enjoys can be cut short. Why wait?
Originally posted as part of the One Month Before Heartbreak Campaign Jan, 2011