Why did I pick up the Sun today?
I’m travelling today, and so I get the excuse of having a large number of newspapers around me to tempt my curiosity. I rather wish they hadn’t. There are days when I swear at the news for what is happening, and there are those days when I get angry because what is written totally misses the point, or is so clearly written with an agenda of injustice.
Under a headline of “Makes Yule Sick” and sub-head “1.5m spend FIFTH Xmas on incapacity benefit”, parts of the article almost sound sympathetic to those few members of the global disabled community lucky enough to live in a country where life is an option for those incapable of working within an increasingly demanding economy. How terrible it is to be able to continue living a whole 5 years of reasonably independent life away from the gutters.
I suppose part of this is my loathing of the Conservative Party’s worldview. Chris Grayling is quoted as saying “It’s truly shocking almost 1.5million people have had to struggle through their fifth Christmas trapped on incapacity benefits – all because they have not been the right help to get into employment”.
This of course assumes several things. It not being Graylings fault that incapacity rates are so low. Its not possible to get by on just a little and still have a fulfilling life. Employment is our atonement for the crime of being alive. Work Makes Free, after all.
I suppose one should expect nothing better from the gutter press, but I just found myself fuming. Often its not the assertions one makes but the underlying assumptions that have an impression on people. After all, as children, we internalise social norms, both good and bad, based on our observations of these turns of phrase.
The final sentence of the report particularly got to me for very much this reason. “Last month a survey by the OECD think thank showed the UK has more young people on incapacity benefit than any other industrialised country”. The statement is a fact – in a completely context-free environment I would probably have responded with curiosity. There could be many reasons for this discrepancy, amongst which could be that we are a more compassionate nation, or that we drive our young people to depression and therefore huge numbers can’t work, or that Britain’s young people are generally from such poor backgrounds that many more must rely on incapacity benefits rather than family assistance. In this article, I have no doubt that what is being implied is that Britain is soft, its youth lazy and that we must end this situation now.
And the graphic attached to the article? Inexplicably, a Christmas pudding with a statistic printed over the top. Is it any wonder people in Britain are feeling greater and greater animosity towards the marginalised when they are being drip fed lies about and more specifically ill-feelings towards those less lucky than themselves.