Sunday, 6 April 2014

"Benefit scroungers" and the "undeserving poor"

John Keane's historical biography Thomas Paine: A Political Life provides an insightful portrayal of the ruthless state and church-sanctioned cruelty levelled against the hapless poor of the Georgian era in 18th century England. Within the context of Paine's birthplace, Thetford, Keane accounts how those accused of petty criminality, or "crimes" such as a failure to pay stipends from meager incomes to the national church, would be imprisoned in dungeons upon arrest by sheriffs. Then facing trial from the crown's magistrates, they would face flogging, hanging, or deportation to the Empire's penal colonies.

There was a designated segregation of the paupers which easily reflects present political rhetoric. The "deserving poor" (read "hardworking people"), such as those of a certain level of disability, old age, or perceived work ethic, would be granted a rationing from local funds of monetary provision to sustain themselves. But the "undeserving poor" (read "workshy benefit scroungers"), those considered to able to work despite an impairment causing difficulty to engage in labours demanded of them, would either be banished to destitution or to other communities in organisational social cleansing. Informed by religious fundamentalism deferent to patriarchal aristocracy, women who became pregnant out of wedlock (the hated single mother) would be similarly driven out of town and stigmatised.

This is why it is fundamentally misguided for left-wing commentators to cite dehumanisation of social welfare claimants as a phenomena engineered in recent decades by mass-market tabloid newspapers or political campaigns, when it has been culturally embedded in the social narrative for centuries. Indeed, Beveridge's welfare state was founded upon the notion of a contributory ethos to distinguish the deserving impoverished from the feckless, which the right-wing intelligentsia are keen to make note of. Iain Duncan Smith's agenda, on behalf of the Conservative Party, is to primarily deepen the poverty of those non-"hardworking" undeserving plebeians in a regime of institutional punishment, as opposed to addressing the structural economic malaise that perpetuates poverty for the employed, unemployed and vulnerable alike.

There is no doubt that Paine's sense of social and economic injustice was informed by the torture and execution of the "undeserving poor" in Thetford, who lived under the jackboot of landowning aristocratic families, who much like today's multinational corporations hoarded wealth and corruptly influenced government and local political orders to act in their favour. Paine, of course, was the first to moot the concept of a guaranteed basic income in his Agrarian Justice. In the true spirit of philosophical liberalism, a universal basic income would provide a fixed sum of money to every citizen as a human right, regardless of their preexisting income level or socioeconomic status. In an act of truly libertarian anti-statism, it would abolish the need for a government-controlled welfare state that implicitly sustains class divisions and impoverishment through the rationing of resources that are sparse in the grand scheme of national capitalist wealth.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Savile and institutional complicity

How exactly was paedophile Jimmy Savile, the serial rapist and molester of many dozens of children and vulnerable people, never held accountable for his crimes? How was he never arrested and brought to prosecution when he was alive, despite multiple corroborating historical (from the 1950s) and recent (from 2009) police complaints from his victims from across the UK's legal jurisdiction?

Are we to believe that Savile was simply conniving enough to be able to conceal his actions and character effectively at every turn? And that the simple tragedy of human error within institutions, such as care homes, the BBC, schools and hospitals, facilitated him? To me such presumptions are a patent absurdity. Savile, in his twisted way, was logically intelligent. His psychological profile indicates a clinical psychopathy capable of limitless and ruthless manipulation of external conditions. He understood, in summary, that institutional authorities are frequently more concerned about their own reputations and personal interests than protecting children from harm. His amoral accessories were more than willing to cover-up for a rapist and paedophile destroying and violating the innocence of vulnerable people in the name of PR and salaries. They hushed up the victims. They had psychiatric patients abused by Savile interred in solitary confinement and branded as delusional when they spoke out. They ignored complaints and destroyed documents. Their Kafkaesque "investigations" referred to self-referring documentation which met the preconceived conclusion of their being no abuse or culpability. 
Savile as legacy of sexual criminality was not simply a product of his own monstrous id. He was fundamentally protected and empowered by a culture of victim blaming and selfishness that abusers thrive upon at every level of our society.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Discrimination and mental breakdown

I am writing this very personal blog post out of sheer desperation and frustration. One thing that prominently confronts me is that many of my own life experiences exemplify the social injustices and maltreatment that I preoccupy myself in speaking out about. I am only naturally reticent and insecure about doing this, but I can stay silent about this particular, recent matter no longer. I primarily seeking to spread awareness, not seek sympathy. I have written posts on this blog infrequently in the past few months because my stress-induced mental illness has overwhelmed me. I am a psychiatric outpatient diagnosed with acute stress reaction disorder (which very well may be further diagnosed as being PTSD).

I was sexually abused between the ages of 12 and 14 by a then-friend two years older than myself. I reported this to the police in 2012 as a historical matter, and it was appropriately investigated, but the case could not proceed to prosecution due to insufficient evidence. Nevertheless, speaking out about these traumatic experiences in this way provided me with a relieving sense of consolation. But the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Housing Office decided to accuse me of "harassing" the man after I verbally objected to him committing acts of gross indecency in front of our home in 2013, in full view of small children next door, and threatened my mother and I with eviction from our home. They passed their and his allegation, including totally unfounded ones, onto the police, who came to our home to threaten me with arrest. This resulted in my first act of self-mutilation and pushed me over the edge into stress-induced emotional outbursts that are now easily triggered under stress and/or antagonism. Our abuse and victimisation by this man, his family, and his associates, culminated with a group of men threatening us with sexual violence and murder for speaking out about not only his crimes against me, but also the paedophile and drug pushing rings we had very good reason to believe he was involved in. We literally fled for our lives.

As high priority tenants, myself vulnerable with mental health problems, and both of us under police protection while living at a relative's home, we were provided with a new property to move into. I have naturally been reticent about moving into the new property both due to my traumatic and stress-related mental illness, and the probable autistic spectrum disorder which makes me nervous about adapting to new environments. Some decorating and construction work we ourselves have paid hundreds of pounds for also caused delays in our moving in.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council have thereby accused of us "fraud and deception" and benefit fraud for these delays, despite the work we have done on the house, and despite the bills we have paid for it. Our income is modest at best. Their staff members, from the Housing and Fraud departments have engaged in mental health discrimination prohibited under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in my regard, and elder abuse towards my elderly grandmother over the phone.

This has caused a regression in my mental illness. An illness that has been improved thanks to over a year of NHS psychotherapy and psychiatric assessment, and a recovery being destroyed by this abuse and discrimination. I have had suicidal thoughts. I have threatened to self-injure and kill myself. I have been to attended by paramedics and police and spent over 12 hours in hospital, sleeping on the floor, before being able to see psychiatric staff the other morning/evening.

Some of my readers may be familiar with the years of abuse, discrimination, and ensuing cover-up my family and I have been subjected to by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and its agencies. This recent treatment appears to be a continuation of it.

In many ways, this situation is a product of ideological austerity. A financially-driven institutional ruthlessness towards vulnerable people, and a thin safety net for them to fall into.

Thank you for listening, and please share this blog post.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

United in diversity: the case for Israel in the EU

A 2011 opinion poll accounted that 81% of Israelis favoured the concept of their country becoming a member of the European Union. This is on par with the country on the European mainland with the highest level of enthusiasm for the EU, Belgium, where some of the EU's primary institutions are situated.

Like EU member Cyprus, Israel is not geographically European; but as a multicultural nation of primarily European immigrants in its relative infancy, with these various cultures mutually cohabiting, it is arguably the most European country in the world.

But I will get straight to the elephant in the room: Israel in the present is inhibited from joining the EU, in contradiction to the overwhelming desire of its citizens, due to violations of international law, and thereby the European Convention on Human Rights, by its government.

Inherent to the EU applications of countries such as Turkey and Serbia is that the governments of these countries resolve their human rights issues; Israel would be required to cease its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and its human rights violations against the Palestinian (and Black African) populations within and outside of Israeli territory. Upon Israel's adherence to policies conforming to the conventions of the ECHR, the EU could effectively facilitate and bolster UN negotiations towards a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine.

The EU is an imperfect institution: its enforcement of barbaric austerity onto its Southern European member states most significantly attributes to this. But perhaps, pragmatically, a united Israeli-Palestinian state abiding to the human, social and economic rights criteria of EU membership, a cause which Israelis overwhelmingly support, would be the greatest lever for peace, justice and stability in the region.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

"Progressive" antisemitism

The poison of antisemitism is an age old but insurgent disease in Europe. The French "comedian" Dieudonn√© manipulates populist causes to promote his own overt anti-Jewish prejudices, while the unabashed fascism and neo-Nazism of parties such as Golden Dawn and Jobbik, propagating Holocaust denial and the old canards about Jewish economic and media control, are consistently gaining popularity in Greece and Hungary.

Despite its persistence for literally millenia, we seem to have taken for granted antisemitism as form of bigotry which holds a seemingly archaic veneer.

This is perhaps due to the insurgence of Islamophobia, which in its own regard is often described as being the "new" antisemitism. Islamophobia is often included in reference to opposition to general forms of hatred: racism, homophobia, misogyny etc. 

In reality, antisemitism remains a cultural and political malevolence. And it is a parasite which has begun to grow thanks to this neglect of its combating.

Much like Islamophobia, antisemitism is not reserved to any ideological standpoint. Of course, its takes a pure and overt form in the far-right. But otherwise I have observed it manifesting in a way which is particularly more pernicious and covert. 

An example I refer to is the University and College Union's refusal to relate opposition to Israeli state policy to anti-Jewish hatred in any circumstance, as if alliances with this hatred is an ends justifying the means, even though antisemitic hatred denigrates the campaign against racial segregation and ethic cleansing of the Palestinians comparable to that of the Jews by Nazism.

I have observed antisemitic hatred and propaganda on social media sites that would make Joesph Goebbels proud. And it not propagated by hardcore neo-Nazism, but by persons supposedly involved in causes of social justice, with this hatred seemingly being passively accepted as a morally innocent or legitimate interpretation of narratives relating to economic inequality and elitism. 

The stand against the poison of antisemitism is a cause that must be brought to our moral forefront. The growing persistence of this malignancy must be eliminated.

Friday, 17 January 2014


Edward Snowden has revealed mass surveillance and brought it to the forefront of public discourse. It have would have continued and expanded unabated if not for him. There would have been no posturing, compromises or protestations from the powerful in attempt to pacify the outrage incited by his revelations. History will recognize him as a hero of journalism and dissidence.