Tag Archives: discrimination

The Curse of Lottery Winners

Today, the winners of the huge £161 million Euromillions lottery win made themselves known.

Like most people, if I had won, I wouldn’t have breathed a word to anyone but my nearest and dearest, but there have been comments that the couple were pressured into making their announcement. Some said they were told it would be “safer”, but I have no good sources to back that up. Personally, I can imagine they were pressured, but mainly because it benefits the consortium to show the public that “rags to riches” stories do actually happen. Then more people go to buy tickets, and the owners cash in even more.

(I do indulge in a Euromillions ticket now and then, so I’m not condemning buying them. Just the profiteers pressuring winners to make such a potentially unwise decision.)

I can’t say I’m not a bit envious. I can’t imagine ever spending that much money, but I can imagine helping all of my family and friends, my favourite charities…the list goes on. And, not so philanthropically, buying a house with a library, and having a walk-in wardrobe filled with Vivienne Westwood and original 1920s dresses…and a holiday apartment in Paris *sigh*. When it was announced that there was only one winner, and I knew it wasn’t me, I thought “lucky bugger!”, and hoped it would be someone nice. Not another cocaine snorting, obnoxious oaf, dripping in gold chains.

I was amazed by what people on Twitter were saying about the couple. It’s human nature to be envious (personally, I don’t think it’s a sin), and people will always make snarky comments. I’m hardly Snow White in those stakes! But I think there’s a line between being a bit bitchy, and being outright cruel. The winning couple are both big, overweight, whatever you want to say, and the husband obviously has mobility problems as he uses a walking stick. They said that they have both had serious health problems in past few years. It sounds about time that they had some luck!

There were a few minor bitchy comments. That isn’t what got my back up. There was some name calling, which I won’t repeat, but most was based around characters from Star Wars and Austin Powers. That started to rile me, but worse was to come. Tweets and Facebook statuses such as “f*cking fat f*cks. Kids are starving and they’ll spend millions on burgers”, “first thing they should do is get surgery so they don’t look so f*cking disgusting” and “if there [sic] to [sic] stupid not to eat so much, it’s a wonder they could fill out the ticket”, with retweets and ‘LOLZs’, really pissed me off.

I have recounted these tweets because people on my personal time seemed to think I was overreacting. Maybe I am, but I just cannot see how such comments are justifiable. Why does weight have to be such an issue? Not that they need a particular reason, but their severe ill health, and subsequent mobility problems might just have something to do with their size. You can’t very well exercise if you struggle to walk! Not all big people are so because they don’t stop eating! It wouldn’t be acceptable to bring race or religion in to it, and rightly so. And I do think, that given their health problems, there is a hint of disablism, conscious or not with some of the commenters.

All the couple have done is win a game of chance, which anyone could do. They’re not (as far as we know, at least) criminals, hate-mongers or anything unpleasant. Just two people who are happy to be able to help their family and friends, and being able to travel in a way that accommodates their health problems, having not been able to before.

Maybe it is just life, but I don’t see how body fascism is that far removed from racism and disablism. I would also say the same if the nastiness had been directed at people who were very thin. I’ve had family members suffer with anorexia, I’ve had family and friends abused for being “big”, and I’ve had friends abused for being thin (which apparently equals being vain, shallow, and whatever else!).

Maybe it has really riled me because I’ve been bullied because of jealousy. Not because I’m rich or beautiful (definitely neither of those!), but because I got “special treatment” i.e. being pushed in my wheelchair. I’ve also seen my loved ones to be attacked due to jealousy over their partners, their jobs, their clothes, even their fingernails! It hurt them, and I hated to see it.

Maybe, in fact probably, the couple don’t care what people say about them. I’m sure they are on Cloud 9 right now. But maybe it will hurt them; wealth doesn’t mean you suddenly stop feeling pain and humiliation. Look at these celebrities bleating to the media.

Earlier I said that we could say “that’s life” whenever someone is horrid. I didn’t mean that all horrible statements are equal in their offensiveness, as I’ve said above, but that we could dismiss all hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia and disablism as such. You get horrible people saying horrible things in life. It’s also life that people are living in poverty and dying of illness, but we rightly act against those things. Conservatism believes we are all inherently bad and need controlling. I believe the opposite, that we’re inherently good, even though we might naturally tend towards some negative traits like envy etc, most people do far more good than bad. I believe that only the goodness in people can spark change. I guess that’s why those tweets upset me so much.

I do not think that everyone in the world is a horrible sexist, racist, disablist, fascist person; I’ve been mean, and I’ve insulted people and bitched, when the recipient or target has done something wrong or hurt me or a loved one – not that I’m excusing it – but these people haven’t hurt anyone.

I’d love some of the ‘haters’ to say why they think they were so much more deserving. Maybe they’d like to say here….

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Will the ConDems allow the disabled to live?

I like to think that I’m a fairly intelligent person, and yet one thing continues to baffle me; the idea that disabled people enjoy claiming benefits.

I wish I could gather all of those misguided, ignorant, self-righteous creatures together and tell them this – no disabled person would be choose to be disabled and dependent on other people, whether those people are our family, friends, or tax payers.

Yes, some people claim benefits unjustly, but here is a key point: those people are not disabled. Can you see the difference? Those people, who are in the minority, despite what the scaremongering in the media might lead you to believe, choose a life of sponging off of the state, despite the fact that they could work for a living.

Disabled people have no choice but to be disabled.

I desperately want to be able to work. When I listen to my friends discussing their duties in the workplace, their colleagues habits (good and bad), even the irritating person on their train that morning, I feel a pang of envy. They are out earning their livings, they are contributing, paying taxes, they have a sense of purpose and of achievement. When they get their wages each month, they know what they’ve done to earn it. I would love to experience that, to know that I’m a contributing member of society. I don’t need any more “incentives to work” than these. I just need to be able to work.

Instead I am reminded every day that a section of society voices the worst opinions I have of myself: sponger, worthless, a drain on society.

You may be wondering why it is that I don’t work; it’s because I was born with a genetic skin blistering condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), of which I have the Recessive Dystrophic sub-type. Chances are, you’ve never heard of EB, so I will enlighten you. Due a lack of connective proteins in my skin, the slightest friction or trauma causes it to lift, either in to fluid-filled sacs of blisters, or to detach completely to leave raw wounds. Imagine developing a third degree burn, simply because you turned over in bed, or got dressed, or misjudged your footing. That is the effect of EB.

Having been rampaging around my body for the past twenty-four years, EB has cost me: the sight in my left eye and caused great photosensitivity in the right, the majority of the dexterity in my fingers, my toes (which have fused into a solid mass on each foot), the ability to walk more than a few yards at a time and the ability to swallow (meaning I need a feeding tube in my stomach). On top of this, frequent systemic infections, anaemia, nerve-damage causing restless legs and extreme pain, and the amount of time my wound care takes every day all leave me very tired and lethargic.

EB is unpredictable; I often wake up with corneal abrasions, caused by my eyelid tearing the skin on my eyeball, leaving me blind and intolerant to any light for days. I can suddenly feel very ill due to an infection, or experience a huge amount of pain in a wound and be unable to move. None of these things are conducive to doing a good day’s work. I spend a lot of time at the hospital seeing specialists, and being admitted for surgery and procedures.

Now, tell me. Would you employ me? Would you give me sick pay for all of this time? Would you adapt your office, or supply me with an assistant to act as my hands and feet? Could you afford to pay someone who will be absent so often?

No, of course not. How could you?

But do you understand that this is not my ideal life? That I’m not living the life of Riley on the taxpayer’s (including my parents, sister and extend family) money? It’s worth noting that, whilst the NHS is a crucial part of my life, I have to pay for dressings, treatments and supplies that aren’t covered by the drug tariff.

At home, even though I’m an adult, I am still dependent on my mother, who is my 24-hour a day carer. However much we love each other, however much we laugh together and just get on with it, there is an inherent feeling of humiliation at having to be put to bed, helped into your underwear, even sometimes helped on to the toilet in your twenties. There is also the knowledge that, however much it may be denied, you are a burden to those you love. Even my friends have push my wheelchair, cut up my food and help me get my trousers down on nights out!

You might point out that I’m blogging, that I tweet (yes, Nadine Dorries, I’m admitting it!), that I go out with my friends, that I speak for charity (in order to raise funds to cure EB, which would save tax payers money!), and I don’t deny any of it. But I can only do these things because they are worked around my disability; I have no deadline, and no one is depending on me. If I need to have a sleep half way through writing something, I can. If I need to write spitting in a bowl because I can’t swallow my own saliva, I can. If I need to cancel at the very last minute or leave at a second’s notice, my friends and the charity understand. I could not do those things in the workplace.

When you think about it, it’s strange that benefits are so called. Are they meant to be the benefits of being disabled, the upside to being trapped by your own body? I can assure you, all of us who claim them legitimately would gladly swap for them for a job, for security, for freedom.

Maybe they should be called compensation? No one questions someone being compensated for an injury that keeps them away from work, even if it is caused by an accident. Well, what happened with my genes was an accident, and it caused me injuries that keep me away from work. But disabled people are increasingly begrudged the money they need simply to survive.

I’m really not in the habit of bemoaning my lot. I have a wonderful family and friends, a roof over my head, medical care, and food on the table. But there is a huge amount of injustice in the air right now, and those who will suffer most are those who are not able to fight against it. I have a voice, and I can use it, and so I want to support those who aren’t, for whatever reason, as fortunate as I am.

David Cameron has claimed that “we’re all in this together”, but these cuts won’t affect him in the slightest. He is not relying on friends or family to enable him to live from day to day. He is not facing the prospect of having his care funding cut, and being left to lie in his own urine and faeces all night, because his carer has been replaced with an incontinence pad, nor is he looking at spending every day of his life within a respite home, because the removal of his mobility Disability Living Allowance component has been withdrawn and he can no longer afford an electric wheelchair. He will not be a working person, taking over from the agency carer the local council can longer fund. He won’t feel suicidal because he is being made to feel that he doesn’t deserve to live, or because he simply does not have to means to do so. These are real issues being faced by people with disabilities.

So please, the next time you see a story about the ConDems cuts on benefits in the newspapers and you tut about these disabled people draining the state, please remember three things:

1) Disabled people aren’t spongers, they are people who truly need the money, and desperately wish they didn’t.

2) When you go to bed tonight, you won’t need someone to dress you, or clean your bottom, and you won’t be left to lie in your own defecate. You will be free to do as you please.

3) Not all disabled people are born that way, and many are disabled due to accidents and illness, and you may find yourself in their dependent shoes one day.

On 14th February 2011, the ConDem government will make their final decisions about cuts to Disability Living Allowance, the “benefit” that helps disabled people to fund the expenditure relating directly to their disability, whether care or transport (paying for cabs, an adapted car, or even simply a wheelchair). This decision will impact upon disabled peoples’ ability to have the best quality of life they can possibly have in their various circumstances. If cuts are made, many disabled people will be forced under the poverty line, living lives as second class citizens.

In conjunction with The Broken of Britain, a non-party political action group for people with physical and mental disabilities, and their carers and supporters, One Month Before Heartbreak are giving a voice to those who will be affected by these cuts, and bringing their plight into the public conscious, and hopefully conscience. Please visit their websites to see how you can help us fight for people who might not be able to fight for themselves. You never know, you might need them to fight for you one day, too.

Thank you.

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