This article appeared in The Sun today. It’s a typical British tabloid article that could have been published in so many of our papers. But it’s a perfect example of the Benefits Shaming culture that this government (like so many before it) is encouraging.
Before we even read the article we can see what we’re expected to believe. With a title like “Batman and Robbin’” the writer and editor want us to believe that this is another case of a person with a “disability” (quotation marks implied) who is “stealing” (quotation marks mine) from the hard working tax payer.
Let me ask you something. If the title and byline were closer to “Even heroes can be disabled” and the content discussed how this brave man overcomes the odds to do brave things despite a potentially crippling life long, painful and incurable genetic disease. If it went on to say that he is able to work because of the amazing advantages that we have in the UK because of the NHS, and the extra support that we (as hard working tax payers) provide. How would you feel about him?
And that’s the crux. The language that we’re using when discussing the most vulnerable people in society has changed. Everyone is considered to be faking it in order to fleece you out of the pittance that the government offers to those people brought low enough by circumstances that they have to beg.
Programmes like Benefits Street and Jeremy Kyle, discussions in Parliament, conversations at work. All of these move us away from the traditional modern British values of caring for the vulnerable. We move closer to the Victorian ideals of the workhouse. The belief that the poor are that way because they’re lazy and not because the richest in society won’t provide them a living wage.
We need to challenge this. The problem with this country ISN’T that too many people are claiming benefits. It’s that we don’t have enough money coming in to support all the great work that Mr Bevan and his group started nearly 70 years ago. Let’s look at the Tax Evaders and Avoiders first before we demonise the people who are reduced to begging for our scraps.
(And yes, I’m consciously using hyperbole and emotional language!)