Mary Douglas. An old favourite of mine. Author of Purity and Danger. Mary (I think I can call her that) argues we categorise things in order to create a sense of order. That we can’t categorise, is pushed to the margins. And becomes ‘other’, creating feelings of revulsion in “us”. Of matter out of place. Bit like walking round a cattle field then putting your wellies on the kitchen table. Or cleaning the kitchen sink with the toilet brush.
Ah. Why am I rambling on about this? Why indeedy. Because of two articles published today.
First, Ian Duncan Smith wrote about his determination to get rid of Disability Living Allowance; “I’m not too scared to light the fuse on disability reform” (now with inflammatory sections removed). Making a series of inaccurate statements, and drawing on made up statistics, he said;
“70% [of people on DLA] had lifetime awards, which meant that once they got it you never looked at them again. They were just allowed to fester.”
So here we have the Work and Pension Secretary suggesting that disabled people ‘putrefy and rot’ or ‘generate pus’. Pus. A perfect example of matter out of place. And one that engenders revulsion. Not only that, but disabled people choose to fester and “we just let them”. The old us and them that is becoming the defining feature of this government.
Cristine Odone hot on Dunky’s toes, produced (in about 15 minutes by the look of it) a nasty, made up little piece; “Smith must not give in to the disability bullies.”
Now it’s not clear whether these disability bullies are part of the “truly disabled” she refers to (the blind who get less than the drug addicts and alcoholics), or the gang of “back ache fakers who stay off work, earning money to do so.” Whatever, they are prepared to take extremist tactics to stop changes to benefits. These tactics? Marching in central London at the weekend.
Being labelled cruel and insensitive to the plight of others is a politician’s nightmare. The disability lobby includes politically-savvy activists who know this, and know just which buttons to press. Like PETA, the animal rights lobby, these campaigners are prepared to fight dirty in their effort to embarrass the authorities into doing a U-turn. Emotional manipulation and shock value are routine in their demonstrations; this will only increase if IDS stands his ground.
Well Odone is, like IDS, reinforcing Douglas’s work very nicely. She talks about playing dirty and compares disability campaigners to animal rights campaigners. I’m making no judgements about animal rights activists here, but I don’t think throwing fake blood on the pavement, or wearing gloves to symbolise cutting off hands, compares to some of the strategies employed by PETA and other organisations. Far from it.
Douglas suggests that ‘we’ can respond to ‘anomalies’ negatively or positively; ignore or condemn them or effectively embrace them by creating a new reality that includes them. Dunk/Odone’s position is clear. Condemnation.
Me? I’m left feeling revulsion. About a government who are increasingly matter out of place.