The fact that there is now such an extensive gap between Conservative rhetoric, the claims being made and reality makes the task of critical analysis difficult.
But the most striking thing isn’t just the disorientating gap between rhetoric and reality: it is also the gap between the bland vocabulary used and the references, meanings and implications of what is actually being said.
Lying, saying one thing and doing another, creating a charade to project one false reality when something else is going on, is very damaging: it leaves people experiencing such deception deeply disorientated, doubting their own memory, perception and sanity.
To cover their tracks and gloss over the gaping holes in their logic, the Tories employ mystification techniques, the prime function of which is to maintain the status quo. Marx used the concept of mystification to mean a plausible misrepresentation of what is going on (process) or what is being done (praxis) in the service of the interests of one socioeconomic class (the exploiters) over or against another class (the exploited). By representing forms of exploitation as forms of benevolence, the exploiters confuse and disarm the exploited.
The Conservatives also use Orwellian-styled language – semantic shifts – and construct incongruent, dissonance-inducing narratives to misdirect us, and to mask the aims and consequences of their policies. For example, the words “fair”, “support” and the phrase “making work pay” have shifted to become simple socio-linguistic codifications for very regressive punitive measures such as cuts to social security support.
The semantics are also stratified. People who are unaffected by austerity policies will probably take the bland vocabulary at face value. Cameron said:
“The British people are decent, sensible, reasonable, and they just want a government that supports the vulnerable.”
However, the “vulnerable” know a very different reality to the one substituted and described on their behalf. People who are adversely affected by Conservative policy will regard the bland vocabulary as bewildering, deceitful, frightening – especially because of its incongruence with reality – and most likely, as very threatening. Such rhetoric is designed to hide intention, but it is also designed to deliberately invalidate people’s own experiences of Tory policies and ultimately, the consequences of an imposed Tory ideology.
Not that there can be any mistaking the threats aimed at sick and disabled people from Duncan Smith in his Conference speech. He said:
“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”
Of course the Work and Pensions secretary employed a traditionally Tory simplistic, divisive rhetoric that conveniently sections the population into “deserving” tax payers and “undeserving” non-tax paying citizens, to justify his balefully misanthropic attitude towards the latter group, as usual. However, the majority of sick and disabled people have worked and have contributed tax.
Tory claims are incongruent with reality, evidence, academic frameworks and commonly accepted wisdom.
As Dr Simon Duffy, from the Centre for Welfare Reform points out, the poor not only pay taxes they also pay the highest taxes. For example, the poorest 10% of households pay 47% of their income in tax. This is a higher percentage than any other group. We tend to forget that people in poverty pay taxes because we forget how many different ways we are taxed:
- Income tax
- National Insurance
- Council tax
- Social care charges, and many others taxes.
Mr Duncan Smith said that many sick and disabled people “wanted to work” and that the Government should give them “support” to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs.
Ah, he means the “making work pay,” approach, which is the Tory super-retro approach to policy-making, based on the 1834 Poor Law principle of less eligibility again. The reality is that sick and disabled people are being coerced by the state into taking any very poorly paid work, regardless of whether or not they can work, and to translate the rhetoric further, Duncan Smith is telling us that the government will ensure the conditions of claiming social security are so dismal and brutal that no-one can survive it.
Cameron also claims that the Conservatives are the “party for workers”, and of course lamblasted Labour. Again. Yet it was the Labour party that introduced tax credits to ensure low paid workers had a decent standard of living, and this government are not only withdrawing that support, we are also witnessing wages drop lower than all of the other G20 countries, since 2010, the International Labour Organisation reliably informs us.
This fall not only led to a tight squeeze on living standards (the cost of living has rapidly increased), it also led to a shortfall in treasury income in the form of tax revenues. But all of this is pretty standard form for Conservative governments, and shouldn’t come as any surpise, given their history and ideological foundation. We see recession, lower standards of living, wages being driven down and poorer working conditions under very single Tory government. Thatcher did the same, for example.
And Cameron’s promise during his address to the Conservative party conference that “an all-out assault on poverty” would be at the centre of his second term is contradicted by a sturdy research report from the Resolution Foundation that reveals planned welfare cuts will lead to an increase of 200,000 working households living in poverty by 2020.
Duncan Smith also criticised what he claimed was Labour’s “something for nothing culture” which was of course a very supportive and fair, reasonably redistributive system. He also dismissed and scorned the protests against his policies, which his party’s conference has been subject to. But demonstration and protest is a mechanism of democracy for letting a government know that their policies are having adverse consequences.
Many of the disabled protesters at the conference are being hounded, hurt and persecuted by this government and actually, we are fighting for our lives. But clearly this is not a government that listens, nor is it one that likes democratic dialogue and accountability.
In his teeth-grindingly vindictive and blindly arrogant speech, Duncan Smith also criticised the old Employment Support Allowance benefit for signing people off work when they were judged by doctors as too sick to work. He claimed that Labour treated disabled people as “passive victims.” I’m wondering what part of professional judgements that a person is too sick to work this lunatic and small-state fetishist finds so difficult to grasp. Duncan Smith is a confabulating zealot who drives a dogmatic steam-roller over people and their experiences until they take some Tory neo-feudalist deferential, flat-earth shape that he thinks they should be.
Let’s not forget that this government have actually cut support for disabled people who want to work. The Access To Work funding has been severely cut, this is a fund that helps people and employers to cover the extra living costs arising due to disabilities that might present barriers to work. The Independent Living fund was also cruelly scrapped by this Government, which also has a huge impact on those trying their best to lead independent and dignified lives.
By “support to get jobs”, what Duncan Smith actually means is no support at all. He means more workfare – free labor for Tory donors – and more sanctions – the removal of people’s lifeline social security. He also means that good ole’ totalitarian dictum of “behaviour change,” a phrase that the Tories are bandying about a lot, these days. Ask not what the government can do for you.
And what about the very frail and elderly people needing support?
The public care sector has been cut by a third this past 5 years, yet people are still aging and living longer, so demand for the services has risen. We know that private residential care homes notoriously put profit over care standards, as yet there’s not been an equivalent local authority scandal, but cuts and gross underfunding mean care workers are stretched beyond limit, and there aren’t enough funds to run an adequate home care service. It’s mostly the very frail and elderly who need this service. And it’s those vulnerable citizens that are being increasingly left without adequate care, and certainly not care of a sufficient standard to maintain their dignity.
These are citizens that have paid into a social security system that was established for “cradle to the grave” support if it was needed. This government has so wickedly betrayed them. That’s hardly making a lifetime of work and contribution “pay”.
The knock-on effect is that many people without adequate care end up stranded in hospital, taking up beds and resources, through no fault of their own, and as we know, the health service is also desperately struggling to provide adequate service because of Tory cuts.
Tory policy is all about social engineering using justification narratives founded on an insensate, draconian ideological and semantic unobtainium equivalent. It’s clear that this government lacks the experience and understanding necessary for the proper use of psychological terms. The content of their smug and vindictive justification narratives and stapled-together, alienating and psychopathic rhetoric deviates markedly from even basic common sense and good judgement.
The Tories reduce long debated, complex ideas to surprisingly spiteful platitudes, and hand us back dogmas gift wrapped in aggrandized certitude.
They bandy about insidiously bland, psychobabble words like “incentivise” in the context of coercive state actions – such as the ideas for welfare increased conditionality and brutal operant conditioning based sanctions.
I sent an Freedom of Information request (FOI) to the Department of Work and Pensions asking about the sanction figures from 2010 to present day, and I also asked how sanctions can possibly “incentivise” or “help” people into work, what psychological/academic/theoretical framework the claim is premised on and what research evidence supports this claim, after I pointed out Maslow’s motivation theory based on a hierarchy of needs – accepted conventional wisdom is that you can’t fulfil higher level psycho-social needs without first fulfiling the fundamental biological ones.
If people are reduced to struggling to meet basic survival needs, then they can’t be “incentivised” to do anything else. And even very stupid people know that if you remove people’s means to eat, keep warm and shelter, they will probably die. It’s worth remembering that originally, benefits were calculated to meet only these basic survival needs. That’s why welfare is called a social “safety net”.
No response from the Department of Work and Pensions yet.
There can be no justification whatsoever for removing that crucial safety net, and certainly not as a political punishment for people falling on hard times – that may happen to anyone through no fault of their own.
No matter what vocabulary is used to dress this up and attempt to justify the removal of people’s lifeline benefits, such treatment of citizens by an allegedly democratic, first-world government is unacceptable, despicable, cruel: it’s an act of violence that cannot fail to cause harm and distress, it traps people into absolute poverty and it is particularly reprehensible because it jeopardises people’s lives.
And what kind of government does that?
This is an excerpt, taken from a much longer article about the Tory Conference.