When I think of socialism, I think of Animal Farm and George Orwell’s 1984. I believe in equal opportunities but not the form of equality that leads to social conformity at all costs. Since I grew up under Thatcherism living in what was then the richest town in Britain, Horsham, I have a strong belief in the power of the individual and the ability of any individual to reach their full potential regardless of their background, if they have the motivation to do so.
At University, I was very active in the Students Union as the ‘Students with Disabilities Officer’, and I took pleasure in annoying the Socialist Workers, who seemed to demand a strike or demonstration for any and every issue. Over the years I have watched the socialist movement latch onto issue after issue as a mechanism to draw support for their ideologies, from the Poll Tax to the Iraq War and Globalisation, to now the welfare reforms and ‘disability’.
The socialist idea seems to capture people’s imagination when we have a Conservative government, especially during periods of recession, and the last 5 years has been rife for them. I would not mind these idealistic activists if it was not for one thing, that they have focused on disability as their current weapon of choice, using a perverted version of my life experience to attack the government. The real problem I have with them is that they are not concerned with what disabled people really want or need, but simply use the deep rooted prejudices and bigotry towards disabled people, which is excused as compassion and empathy, to create a moral high ground that is a fallacy.
This use of disability is very successful because it feeds the appetite of how many people in society see disabled people and their issues. There are also a large population of people who define themselves as disabled, who may not have come to terms with their situation or have kept their prejudices towards disabled people, including themselves. But because these prejudices are so publicly acceptable, as we can see with in the media with horrible stereotyping from examples like the Mirror’s Real Britons, they remain not only unchallenged, but celebrated as the acceptable beliefs of a compassionate society.
But their message is simple, please do not take benefits away from disabled people. This is because under socialism, disability is a form of early retirement from productive society, an end result where disabled people should be grateful they are comfortably warehoused for the rest of their natural lives, or until society finds a better way to manage the problem, and I am suggesting what you may imagine.
As someone born with an impairment, where do I fit into this model? If I am not supposed to work, why provide me with an education? Is my life worth living if I am prohibited from having any purpose? Therefore for a large population of disabled people, those of us who are happy with our impairments, the socialist dream is a nightmare. We want to be included into mainstream society as fully contributing citizens, because we can not understand any reason not to. We want the financial and other support needed to take up the opportunities that lay before us, and there is no reason for welfare to remain a living death sentence, paying us to be excluded from society.
The socialist movement has made disability an election issue, but not in any way that will really help disabled people. The socialist activists, masking themselves as disability activists, have challenged the political parties to be the best at pitying disabled people, asking us to be excluded in the most compassionate manner. While their socially accepted voice is louder than mine, especially on Twitter, I am not willing to accept this death sentence as I campaign for the real and meaningful inclusion of disabled people as equal citizens.
Socialism is a virus and right now, it is disabled people who are suffering because of it. We may not ever be able to get rid of socialist ideas, but we can rescue disabled people from the damage currently being done as the inclusion agenda is lost. But to achieve this, society as a whole needs to do some serious soul searching, and acknowledge the deep rooted bigotry it has towards disabled people, before apologising and moving forward with inclusion. I fear however, we have some time to wait before this is ever likely to happen.
– If you like what I say, have a look at my website at http://www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74