All in it Together?

I’ve just read a piece in AL Kennedy’s book ‘On Writing’ prompted by the ‘Coalition’s’ cuts in their early days and a bit in yesterday’s Guardian about the injustices carried out at Job Centre’s. The latter was prompted by the suicide of an ex serviceman who had his benefits stopped for a technical infringement of the ‘Coalition’s’ new stringent rules. They both filled me with despair at what is happening to Britain.

Someone sent round one of the Change.org’s petitions about the latter case a week ago. It appeared on one of the wargaming forums I lurk on. I signed and was happy to. Many others did as well. There are several ex-service personnel and related groups on this forum and we obviously empathised. Someone else signed as well but felt it necessary to explain that he was signing on the understanding he was generally in favour of cracking down on benefits.

Not benefit fraud note.

Benefits.

When did we buy the whole neo-Calvinist bull that the USA substitutes for societal responsibility?

I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m having a go at the USA. I’m not. I like America and most Americans I’ve met. But I wonder about how the nation that nurtured the New Deal can have become happy to consign a percentage of it population to perdition because society fails to provide a job for them to take. I know there are more charities dealing with the poor in the US than the UK but is ‘charity’ really the way to go in dealing with a structural element of successful Capitalism? Capitalism requires mobile, temporarily unemployed labour to move from failing businesses to successful ones. While that is happening, what is the ‘pool’ of ‘labour resources’ (and its children) supposed to do? Go into suspended animation? Die?

Anyway, we don’t have that infrastructure of charity designed to deal with the product of failing Capitalism in the UK, although thanks to the ‘Coalition’ a tottering and shabby simulacrum is growing up. So the ‘Big Society’ ends up being food banks and suicide.

The Welfare State (not a pejorative term, but a shining product of the real idea that ‘We’re All In It Together’) meant that those who were not required by ‘capital’ at the moment were kept alive, healthy and ready for redeployment, when the opportunity came, by the society that benefitted from their existence. Now the new bottom line oriented corporations don’t even want to do that. Globalisation has meant that there always pools of poor starving workers who’ll work cheaper and harder when and if the time comes. The rationale seems to be ‘as long as they breed faster than they die we don’t need to worry about a ‘pool’ of ‘labour resources’.

From a morality free view of the accounts – that works fine. And that seems to be where we have landed. The pay off in the UK is that ‘we’ abandon the unemployed, terrorise them, bully them and shrug our shoulders when a small percentage of them despair and die.

And if there are some who ‘cheat’ the system? What do you want to do with them? Kill them? Imprison them? (costs a lot more than benefits), force them to work? (do you want them in your business?). There will always be cheats – the most successful run global corporations, the least successful blag a few benefits. Do we re-jig our systems to penalise, harass and demonise hundreds of thousand in an attempt to prevent a few misusing the benefits system? A few who probably get round the new laws anyway leaving the people who need help, without friends, helpless and in despair?

Something has gone badly wrong with our society if we can be tricked into persecuting the many to catch the few.

Capitalism can work and work well, but it has to be capitalism tempered by morality and mercy. The market, red in tooth and claw, fails to satisfy that and a Capitalism that eschews morality is sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

 

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