and suddenly you may fall into a place
populated by strange
empty hours filled with the hesitant light of afternoons
or of being caught unawares in conversation, and
startled – like birds,
clear-felled lots, hastily forgotten,
bald hillsides, prone to erosion,
is this a wilderness, or a devastation?
A loss, or a pause?
* * *
nb. And Suddenly is a very old doggerel of terrible Vogon poetry by yours truly. Mental Health by way of ecology, or “writing-with” nature – as inspired by the works of Robert MacFarlane, Gary Snyder, Murray Bookchin (kinda).
I haven’t got around to watching I, Daniel Blake, although the angel of my better brain has. I’ve been avoiding it like sometimes I avoid the radio – a premonition that yep, things really are going to be as bad as they seem. For the occasionally fretful, doom-laden, check-the-clockers, wince-at-the-phone-ring and can’t-leave-the-room breed such as myself, it seems wise to manage our daily dose of despair. But I imagine that it will go something like this:
“Did you fill out these forms/look at these bills?”
“No, I couldn’t understand them/they freaked me out.”
“You do know you can get help with that, right?”
“There’s no Citizen’s Advice in my town, and the nearest operates every second Tuesday, under a full moon”
“Well, there’s a helpline?”
“They put me on waiting for an hour, and then just clicked off.”
“Why don’t you get a doctor’s/consultants/support workers help?”
“You can’t get to see your doctor, theres a six month to a yr waiting list to see a specialist, but you need a doctors referral before you get a support worker”
Why does it seem so impossible for the Tory Government to recognise these problems? Should we characterise it as an unwillingness or an inability? Both, perhaps, as the Tory’s response to the UN’s statement, through Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green refuses to acknowledge any of the UN committee’s findings.
Understanding the disabled experience can be hard. It’s even harder living with these conditions. As with the above examples, disability isn’t the same as, say, a car with a faulty engine [fix it and move on], but a congruence of, I suppose you would say “soft” forces. Not only is there the dangers and implications of whatever conditions the person suffers, but also the elaborate and messed-up network that the disabled person is most likely to swim through. Over-stretched GP surgeries, under-funded specialist departments, de-funded social care groups, layers of complicated automation designed to have the least amount of human input, for “efficiency” purposes. Access to justice in the forms of work tribunals or legal aid curtailed (funding scrapped). Punitive control measures. The answer doesn’t rely on, say, hiring a few thousand private ATOS and Capita doctors with the express mandate to fail 50% of the current claimants. Or of introducing payment-linked-to-performance targets for Health trusts, social care sectors, entire councils [creating a postcode lottery].
This debate is about the social contract (a dirty phrase, it appears in modern times), and how our understanding of it has shrivelled to that of a mummified pea. It’s not a phrase that deals exclusively with voting, or with law and order, civic duty etcetera, but it does contain those things. The first clause of the social contract is the notion that if we are to be governed (have to abide by laws, have to pay mortgages, have to go to work for wages, have to pay taxes) then at the very least we should be afforded individual and collective respect. In essence then, every attempt by the State to attend to individual needs, whether in the form of the GP surgery, the Out-of-Hours service, the specialist, the advisor, the lawyer, the consultant, is another instance of that social contract. A hundred thousand network of contracts, hopefully operating every day. If the State undermines all of those instances by scrapping funding and reducing access, then in effect and quite simply; they are breaking their promise.
Wake up, bleary-minded. Bed is warm with the press of bodies (wife and cats) and the light is just ’round the corner from arrived. Pray. Water. Then strong coffee. Try not to trip over the cats now chirruping about the kitchen floor. Get washed, open the windows. Take a moment to be an outside creature; wordlessly snuffing at the ozone and looking at the plants. More nicotine and caffeine in equal measures. Make sure that everything and everyone is fed and watered before the business of the day starts properly. Later I’ll boot up the laptop and check the world hasn’t done anything stupid while the sun hasn’t been around this side of the hemisphere. Morning injections of data supplied through the crackling radio, or from the email lists. At some point stretches, and a (very) brief attempt at some yoga.