A lot of people have this dream. The dream to shatter the glass ceiling. The path to riches. Money going to money. If not that they at least have this dream about winning the lottery and having no money worries ever again. Not having to worry about the need to ever depend on the NHS or worry about if they’ll ever need any form of benefits. All of that worry just scrapped. It made me think about how much money we actually need to live. How big a house we really need to live in or how expensive the clothes we need or how expensive the car we drive. It just doesn’t seem right at the moment. Thoughts of people going to foodbanks, toybanks to get their children Christmas presents. While the other half worry about the next big car or extortionate priced car tyre.
We have so many wealthy people and we have so many more in poverty. The divide is huge and it’s set to get bigger with not only talks but the action of cuts to families out of work, the talks of cuts to ESA, the ongoing difficulties of trying to obtain ESA and todays announcement of further cuts to families who have a third child (wasn’t it four not too long ago?) cuts to universal credit, increase in the minimum wage. Hooray, the minimum wage has risen, that’s great news and it really is but still not for single parent families who don’t have the option of the second wage. It’s turbulent times and all thoughts of it have today left me feeling totally shattered.
My partner and I went to watch ‘IDaniel Blake’ last night. Twenty four hours later and I’m still recovering from the shock. I mean, I’m not stupid. I said at the general election and argued with people that everything that is happening now would be happening. But oh no I had the arguments back that it would never get that bad. I argued and insisted that you can not just dismiss children who are born, we’ll end up with workhouses, more people on the streets, more crime, more people staying in bad and abusive relationships due to poverty. Get that bad! IT HAS GONE BEYOND BAD and is about to get worse. The topic reached out to the very core.
There were about thirty of us in the cinema room, sat on plush comfy dentist type chairs. All cosy and comfy with large arm rests. Drinking coca cola and eating bags of pop corn. Nice full belly’s.
I’m not going to give you the storyline of the film as I think you should watch it yourself. I think everybody should watch it, in fact I think it should be compulsory viewing for all secondary school children. Perhaps too, channel 5 might like to replace Benefits Britain with it. The Tory party say it’s fiction. Well they would as they’re too removed and from where I’m standing their lives are far more fictional. But like I said the other day, Art in any form is a brilliant form at showing serious subjects and I can say as a Creative Writer that a lot of research must go into writing any piece of fiction to enable it to be as close to reality as possible. ‘IDaniel Blake’ is the genre realism not fantasy. Even in fantasy or science fiction you will incorporate elements of realism. But then. What does a Politician so far removed understand? He/she certainly do not understand the creative process.
What I will tell you from the film is that it followed a part of a hard workings mans life after he had suffered with a heart attack. First time in his working life and going onto the benefits system. Worked honestly all of his life for a wage but a wage which would not have set him up for great riches and retirement. A wage that enables you to live. In fact not just going onto the benefits system, they don’t want to make it that easy. No. Struggling to get onto the benefits system in the first place. Needing to use computers, being left to struggle without the help or support and actually not getting that help or support. It covered the unfair ESA system which is designed to break you down, so that you have to appeal and appeal again. A man has a heart attack and he’s asked how his fingers, arms and legs are working? I know the accuracy in that film as I too tried to claim ESA. The questions were like that and there to trick you at every corner. Like a man said as we walked out of the Cinema. Why are the Drs not giving out the ESA? They are the ones who are most qualified to say who is fit for work. Those were words, I’d used in the past myself. So while you’re waiting for ESA you have no choice but to go on Job Seekers, even when a Dr says you are not fit for work.
And Job Seekers let me tell you now is much harder than actual work. I’m thirty nine years of age and in my life I’ve been on Job Seekers for four months of it. One month under the last government and this year for three months – it wasn’t even fully Job Seekers because I was doing an element of self-employment. Luckily I managed to get work and I have varying self employment pursuits. I’m the lucky one. But Job Seekers they do put you through it. They stick you on courses even if you tell them you can do them. I’m a writer with an English Literature Degree. I did not need to go on CV writing courses. I’ve held jobs down for years. I did not need to go on a ‘how to hold a job when you’ve got the job’ I’m very articulate, I did not need to go on ‘how to behave in an interview.’ I’m well dressed, I didn’t need to go on any ‘What to dress for interview courses’ If anything I think I should have been telling them to watch and learn. But I was just a statistic. Just a number to get off the books. I had many humorous moments in that job centre with a lady who spoke to me like a four year old “Oh I don’t know, self employed is a difficult route…”
and I’d tell her, “I’m not stupid, have you seen my qualifications?”
Then I’d go in the next month taking in my cheques. Then another ‘Oh I don’t know whether tutoring…’ so I went in and showed her work I’d achieved. Like I said I was in between that 0-16 hours a week. Even though I was barely getting a penny I had to go in and show up and prove my worth. I even took my daughter with me once and said to her,
“See that building, once you’ve got your National Insurance number, you’re indebt to that building for the rest of your life.”
She told me it looked scary.
Luckily for me a perfect job came up that I adore to work around my self-employment activity. The day of my sign off was class.
“Well that’s such a good job you’ve got. So many people would want that job. I knew you’d get it.” She said. “Look how far you’ve come.” She patronised.
I told her straight. “I never doubted I would, I knew the self-employment would work out.”
Then she said again, “Oh but you know, I don’t want you struggling for money.”
I replied, “You barely gave me any.”
She went on, “Well I think you’ve actually done really really well, it must give you confidence.” I think they genuinely want you to feel broken so that it makes them feel good.
So I replied, “I always had it. I knew I was right. Now in the nicest possible way, I hope I don’t see you again.” And I walked out.
I was lucky. To a point I felt I conducted those meetings but then again I can use computers and don’t need that sort of help. For me it was a different experience, I’m strong enough to deal with the likes of that. For the likes of ‘IDaniel Blake’ the job centre would be a terrifying and confusing place. Surely the likes of me who don’t need silly courses, the money could be spent on the likes of Daniel Blake and more support. But it’s one size fits all at the Job Centre. One size fits all. Criminals for needing support.
There were many tears out of the thirty who were sat in the cinema. Real wailing at times. The film covered a part in a single mothers life. A single mother who was shipped out of London – social cleansing. With her two children and no family support. Daniel Blake befriended her and helped her and her family, even gave her twenty quid when he didn’t have the money himself. There was a point in the film where the single mother gave food to Daniel Blake and went without herself, he didn’t want to take it but you could see that she felt indebted to him for his help. Why should she feel like that? I asked myself. She shouldn’t need to feel that way? It was clear she was going hungry to feed her children. her face going pale. I heard something silly once. “People who go to foodbanks go because of irresponsible spending…” ummm it was made up nonsense by somebody who I know for a fact does a lot more irresponsible spending just luxury irresponsible spending. Not basic spending at all. But that’s another tale. And I think it’s natural human instinct in many to look at what others have and not to look at what they have themselves.
Daniel Blake took the lady to the foodbank. Lines of people waiting to go in. Just like the days of rations. And those lines will be longer. But the true horror and when I started crying was the moment she stood in the corner at the foodbank ripping open a can of beans and pouring them onto her hands and shovelling them into her mouth. I cried. The cinema were crying. The lady next to me was crying. Those tears in that cinema restored my faith in humanity. For all the ignorant people out there who have nice and should have nice lives (I wouldn’t begrudge anybody a nice life), perhaps looking down their noses at people not so fortunate. There are good people who genuinely care. Real good people. They were all in that cinema. You can guarantee it’ll be those good people offering the charitable services. But why should they? It should always be down to the government to make sure people in the country are not treated like that. Not broken down to a level of starvation. To me it makes a mockery of democracy. How can you have democracy when half the people don’t have a clue or simply don’t want to?
The lady in the film, I could relate to. She moved into her house with such hope for her and her children, she wanted better. A part time job and to study with the Open University. I was fortunate I did both. The hope to do her house and garden up. I was lucky I did both. She should have what I had. My landing was soft in the sense I was fed so I could take care of my children. Hers was much harder. You can’t achieve those goals while in starvation. I cried and I cried because I thought “that could be me.” but not just that, it shouldn’t be anybody.
The thirty of us walked out of that cinema shell shocked and we stood around the cinema talking about what we’d just seen. You see everything in that film I knew would happen. But I’m not going to say anymore. It’s a must watch film.
For me, I believe that the strongest who have shattered the glass ceiling are not actually the strongest. For me, I believe that those at the bottom are. It’s time austerity was abolished and that those at the top took a bit more responsibility. If I could be Robin Hood I would. You only need so much to live a good life. And the fact you have people at the top crying if they have to lose a bit is what is wrong with the entire country. Greed and scrounging is at the top not the bottom. Lower the glass ceiling and close the divide.