“A View from the Precariat”

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A few days ago, I found myself involved in a twitter conversation about desperation. My impression of my fellow conversationalists is that they were mainly salariats (people receiving salaries) for whom, I imagine (because I don’t know), the austerity policies of the UK’s Coalition government have had some impact but have yet to undermine their foundations of existence. Participating as a precariat, my response was markedly different.

 

In less than three months time, I will be encountering the precariousness of my existence when the DWP requires me to, once again, attend a WCA (Work Capability Assessment) with Atos to see if I am ‘fit for work’ after the 6-month reprieve my GP won for me last March. These so-called fitness tests have already been found unfit for purpose, yet they continue regardless because, as far as I can see, the plutocrats who run my country have decided that only they know best and blatantly refuse to consider any evidence that doesn’t accord with their beliefs. If I remain within this system, there are two ways my future is likely to be mapped.

 

First – depending upon how my mental and physical health holds up – I will attend a WCA and fail it because that is how the system has been designed. In the past, I could appeal and spend several months with reduced income until my case was heard by a tribunal (I’ve attended two of these already and won) but the system will have changed by the time I arrive at this place again. Now, when I fail my WCA, my case has to go back to the DWP for reassessment before I can appeal. I have yet to see details about how this works but, as far as I can tell, there is no longer any provision for me to keep my ESA until my appeal is heard – so to maintain my already precarious ‘life-style’, I would have to claim Job Seekers Allowance, which implies I am ‘fit for work’. So I have a choice – no benefits until my appeal is won (assuming that it is), probably for months; or JSA.

 

If I apply for JSA, I am then subject to a different kind of system. What is certain is that, as a prospective employee, I have little or nothing to recommend me to an employer: ex-offender (therefore ‘criminal’), aged 58 (“too old”), long-term unemployed (therefore less likely to get employment) at a time when jobs simply don’t exist and to cap it all, a woman living in the most deprived region of England.

 

What is absolutely certain is that when I am subject to this kind of ‘treatment’, I become suicidal.  I’m not alone in such feelings and I wouldn’t be the first to act on them either as any simple search will show.

 

This is no plea for sympathy – these are the facts about the future I face in less than 3 months time and one I am going to have to deal with. Nor am I unwilling to work. What I am is unwilling to comply with a system that marks me as ‘vermin’ and whom no ‘decent’ person can regard as socially acceptable. I’m unwilling to work for employers who refuse to value their employees because it would kill me as surely as the DWP would. As a member of the precariat class, the human right to life no longer seems to apply to me and if the changes to legal aid go through, our loss of ‘Right to Life’ will be enshrined in law.

 

It doesn’t matter that, in the three years since the end of my sentence, I have worked my arse off as a desister. I get on well with my neighbours; have an excellent relationship with both my landlady and her agent (to the extent that when my housing benefit was reduced, they accepted the new rate because I have value, not just as a good tenant but as “the best tenant they have on their books”); have worked hard with local Mental Health agencies to grow away from my suicidal ideations, and I continue to look for ways to contribute to my society via the social media. The system I am now caught up in dismisses all of this in favour of work-shy, skiving scrounger propaganda,  which alleges precariats are personally responsible for all the country’s financial woes, and who needs to be taught a lesson. Never mind that, prior to my physical and mental health breakdown, I had worked for over thirty years, including 12 years of self-employment.

 

These are the facts that inform the ‘desperation‘ felt by us precariats but which seem largely misunderstood by anyone who hasn’t actually shared the experience. We make up ONE THIRD of the UK’s population yet are effectively excluded from participating in our society in favour of a minority opinion of some very selfish people.

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Desperate times lead desperate people to do desperate things. Oh, I intend to explore what possibilities there might be, work and social-contribution-wise, that might enable me to hold my precarious existence together come September but, during this period of my reprieve, I also need to look at my ‘bottom-line‘. This is what it looks like from where I am standing now. Perhaps I’ll be one of the “lucky ones” who find a benefactor, and perhaps I won’t. What I do realise is that I’m unwilling to be subject to this death by a thousand cuts. Let death come quick and clean – in the meantime, I can start making arrangements for re-homing my beautiful cats; I can begin to make arrangements to recycle my present home to help those not so far down the despair scale as me; and I can continue to raise my precariat voice.

 

Desperation is not something we can ‘put aside’ because that’s how ‘they’ want us to feel (one of the comments made in the conversation which inspired this blog) – for precariats, desperation has become a way of life, courtesy of the rich, and it is literally killing us in our thousands now. None of this was ‘unknown’ – all the issues raised in this piece were known ahead of time. Our Eton-educated government decided it knew better. Despite overwhelming evidence that the ‘austerity algorithm‘  itself is flawed; despite all the evidence of the lethal hardships being placed on the poorest in our society; despite all the acknowledgements of ‘errors’ or ‘mistakes’; we see little or no change in attitudes towards the precariat. In fact, hatred levels are rising.

 

This is what I live with on a daily basis – like millions of others in my society – whilst those who have more cling to the wreckage and counsel against desperation. Tell that to the mother who cannot feed, clothe or house her children. Tell that to the sick and disabled, shunted through a rigged system designed to make them work or die. Tell that to the young people whose home life is something they daren’t return to who are now homeless and abandoned by a government with a vested interest in high unemployment.

“the coalition government is sticking to its Plan A because spending cuts are not about deficits but about rolling back the welfare state. So no amount of evidence is going to change its position on cuts.”

Ha-jung Chang – Cambridge economist

 

The thing about being a precariat is that every single welfare cut hits us in some way or another. We are required to abide by (unlawfully) harsh rules at every turn by a system that is actively seeking to find a reason to harm us, whilst our plutocratic ‘betters’ seem to have no standards or laws applied to them at all. People talk about the hypocrisy of government as though it is a debatable matter but when we can clearly measure it by the death-count, then it really is time to stop talking and start doing something about it instead! The evidence is quite plain. The consequences already roosting in our social statistics where each and every number is a human being in pain, suffering or dead.

 

Perhaps collective desperation will start being felt when other social groups start really feeling the impact of what the Coalition Government is doing to the people of the UK. By that time, however, the precariat will be the historical statistic that showed how UK Tories and their Corporate masters demonstrated how to do a ‘Final Solution’ properly.

 

As a member of the precariat, when all the chickens finally find no roost because there are wolves in the hen-house, I hope the ringleaders of this social obscenity experience the full weight of international law.

 

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23 responses »

    • Thank you for writing this; it is superb. I can only hope that you have positive support networks close at hand. The cruelty of the conniving Coalition continues to corrode the lives of so many. You are strong and there are others who recognise the depth of your struggle, indeed have their own experiences of this horror. How to rise and reverse this?

  1. Politicians actively seek power . People who seek power are not to be trusted, not because it is true that power corrupts, but because the seeking of it means they believe they are better than the hoi polloi and should be ‘in charge’.

    • The very best people for holding this kind of power are the ones who don’t want the job.

      I’d like to believe you are wrong but all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that you’re spot-on.

  2. One fact is if you are forced to claim JSA not only does it imply your able to work but to get benefit you have sign a legal document declaring you are fit and able to work from this point on you will lose your appeal for ESA as you have declared yourself fit and able the Ba***rds have you no matter what way you turn good thoughts coming your way

  3. Such a powerful well written truthful piece- my heart goes out to you as someone who is caught up in the game myself I know where your coming from – I never thought there would be a worse government as that led by Maggie Thatcher but this lot are the most evil self serving bunch of (fill in the blanks) ever to have been in power and are more of a threat to human life in Britain than a random terrorist – I do hope that they are made to pay for what they are doing to ordinary decent human beings – my thoughts are with you -wish I could do more than that

  4. Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    This is a beautifully-written, moving and heartbreakingly bleak post. Please read it for a better understanding of the daily reality faced by increasing numbers of our most vulnerable citizens, including the disabled.
    It must be so easy to despair, but I hope the lady who wrote this post – who could be my neighbour for all I know – will take some kind of strength from knowing the we’re not all fooled by the government’s despicable tactics and propaganda.
    With every day, with every new thing I find out, it becomes ever clearer that if we want to salvage our humanity as a society, we *must* get rid of this pathetic excuse for a government – and show solidarity with its victims in any way we can.

  5. To add to the sadness, it seems today that the leader ofthe Labour Party has swallowed hook, line and sinker the Tory lies that characterise claimants as skivers and shirkers – thus after the next election we can expect no change to the heartlessness demonstrated by Duncan-SSmith and All His Daemons.

  6. Again, this only reinforces my belief that the coalition is hell bent on the survival of the fittest, by using eugenics to get rid of the elderly, disabled, young, homeless, and the poor! Mark my words!

  7. Thanks for blogging; it is important that this blog is widely read and shared – you make excellent points about the vicious catch 22 of what should be ‘social security’. I’m sick to the back teeth of the callous, sadistic behaviour of the DWP and this government. The demonisation of people claiming benefits is hideous. Please keep writing. Solidarity.

  8. Never ever give up. By the time this summer is ov er this lot will be gone. there will be riots, people like you thinking may as well kill myself and deciding to be a suicide bomber and take some of them with them. Do not be the bomber, be one of those standing shoulder to shoulder with others when the time comes to make them see they are finished and must flee for their lives as there will be no protection great enough for them.
    Not what I wanted but cannot see any other result now they have wound up so many people with ideology and spite and lies.

  9. Reblogged this on Grannie's Last Mix and commented:
    This post moved me to tears by its eloquence and honesty. I’d like to think that if Ed Milliband read this he might change his mind about trying to follow the government’s approach to benefits and think again. The answers to the problem of poverty lie far deeper than blaming the poor and any solutions surely need to start with dismantling a system which assumes profit making is the ultimate human right and competition is good for all. The truth is that under the current system there can never be a level playing field on which to compete. And by their very nature human beings do not all have the same level of abilities. But a system whose basic underlying principle was the equality of value of humans rather than the right to make a profit no matter what would automatically ensure that we designed things so that everyone had the same basic income to guarantee them a life worth living.

    • Jayne – too many of the present Govt – and their ‘shadows’ – believe in their own superhumanity – they’re a ‘new race’ which will infallibly win in any struggle with the ‘precariat’. Where do we go from here? I can’t see any political Party with the vision of a future that I would be happy for us to live in.

  10. Beautifully written piece – in some ways uplifting it’s so good, despite the desperate content. All is surely not lost if such insight can be articulated. Lack of real political choice is a huge problem – it used to be the case that governments across a genuine political spectrum corrected each other’s worst errors and because they knew that would happen, were inhibited from divergence from the real consensus issues like the welfare state, the NHS and good state education. Mr Milliband has a unique chance to break away from the ranks of the toffs in suits that run the whole show and align himself with ordinary people – he might even find they are a healthy majority! Is it really expecting too much to want a government that is competent, sensible and humane? Don’t give up – remember the most powerful message the disadvantaged can give is that they’re not going away.

    • Thank you for this bravely written piece; it shows the brutal impact of cold-hearted cuts on the most vulnerable. How many suicides have these caused already. Thank you for continuing to fight rather than give up

  11. Great blog post. I really hope it is widely circulated and read, because you’ve managed to sum up the awfulness of the benefit system for those unable to work due to ill health and disability very well. These are twisted ideological cuts being made. The Tories and Tory-Lites (Labour & LibDems) are so wrapped up in their powerlust and corrupt deals they’ve lost sight of real human values.

    I understand your desperation, but would plea for you not to take your life no matter how bad it gets. These weasels with the morality of cockroaches don’t care, because we are just minions to them! Start your fight-back this year now. For example, get your GP to write a letter to tell ATOS you should not have to attend a WCA because of the stress and depression it will cause you. Get advice before you even fill out the form. Let them come to you if they want to examine you!

    Continue to fight back, because the world needs people with heart and compassion, not just an endless supply of workslaves who pay in to the system that is supposed to protect us. In a decent society values shouldn’t revolve around money, they should hold up creativity, kindness, love and wisdom… people shouldn’t lose all “value” when they can no longer work, because we still have much to offer!

  12. Please don’t end your life…for you have a lot to offer so many people through your inspiration! Anyone with any sense or soul knows this system is heartless…yet there is a growing band of people whose souls are gaining strength in the face of this insanity. good luck in your endeavours…and keep writing please:)

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