An advanced nation, a learned people governed by Laws and justice.
A society that acts with fairness towards all. A people who use their strength
not to oppress but rather to shelter those who are weaker. The opposite
We all have our own ideas of what it means to be civilised and to live in a
But I think that most of us would agree that a society that was cruel, that
engaged in torment, abuse and death of its young, it’s elderly and
it’s weak and helpless would be Barbaric and most certainly not civilised
by our western modern standards.
"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats
its weakest members ; the last, the least, the littlest."
Variations attributed to Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky,
Truman and more.
We have a system of care from the cradle to the grave, a health service
for the nation in which our children are born and our oldest die.
We pride ourselves on aiding others, on our charity and our giving.
There are cases where the above is not true but in general we are a caring
and kindly people.
There are more than a few who take advantage of the generosity of our
system. You see them on the front of newspapers, TV news, News sites
and blogs. People who cause outrage and anger both by the way in
which they abuse the system intended to help those in need and also by the
attitude that they so openly display.
This abuse should not be ignored and the system should work to prevent
these frauds and cons. But as a civilised nation should we not take care
to ensure that the genuinely helpless, those who are disabled or ill, are
still protected? Should we not take care to ensure that those who have a
real need for the support that our society claims to offer are not swept
up in the anger directed at those who abuse our Generosity?
"I sat there and listened to my wife drown in her own body fluids.
It took half an hour for her to die – and that’s a woman who’s ‘fit for
work’. The last months of her life were a misery because she
worried about her benefits, feeling useless, like a scrounger."
The concern over people cheating the system, the number of people who
had been moved to Disability support so the number of job seekers
would look less, the high profile reports and more led to a drive to
clean up the mess.
A new government and a new broom. New policies to clear up the mess.
Austerity Britain needs to make cuts. Zero tolerance for benefit fraud.
All laudable statements and yet where have they led?
Surely in a civilised nation, one governed by law and justice, people would
expect to be treated fairly while their true needs were being assessed.
What country would call itself civilised and then not only deny the ill, the
disabled and the helpless support but make it all but impossible for them
to appeal without charity or family support? How could anyone consider
themselves Humane and then declare that those who had failed the
questionnaire and lost all benefits must either apply for Job Seekers or have no
support for the months until the appeal was heard? Who would give you the
choice, apply for work and invalidate your own appeal or go hungry? What man
would place some of our weakest and most vulnerable citizens in the position
where one government branch finds them fit for work and takes their benefit away
and another, the Jobcentre, then finds them unable to register for jobseekers
since they clearly cannot hold a job?
Paralyzed down one side, blind in one eye, unable to speak properly
and barely able to eat and dress himself . “Even though my dad had
another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go
…He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man, but
even an idiot could have seen my dad wasn’t fit for work.”
A nation can be judged, from time to time, by the actions of its people.
Riots, crimes, sporting success or failure. But from day to day the character
of a nation is taken from its government. Those elected to lead a country are
the measure by which that country is judged.
We call ourselves civilised. We say that we live in a civilised country. Britain
is a great nation we say, we care, we are kind.
Yet we have created and allowed a situation where thousands, tens of thousands,
of our weakest and most vulnerable are treated shamefully. We have stood
silently by while men and women have been denied support and care, have
been cast out, lost their homes, been reduced to charity or begging. How
many who have died after being denied benefits would still be alive today had
they been left with the care and support of their own nation and government.
We will never know.
"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those
who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight
of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the
needy and the handicapped.”
Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey US Vice President and Humanitarian
A lawful nation should punish the guilty. A civilised nation should temper its
law with justice and compassion. A humane nation should protect and care for
its weak and it’s needy.
So what does that make us?