Why We SHOULD Ask “Why Haven’t You Killed Yourself Yet?”

Why We SHOULD Ask “Why Haven’t You Killed Yourself Yet?”

Recently, there has been a wave of fury over the fact that PIP (Personal Independence Payments – a welfare allowance sometimes made in addition to basic UK disability support payments) assessors, who are NOT doctors, have been asking claimants “Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?” Disability News Service report.

It’s interesting, for a start, that the mainstream media hasn’t covered this. Perhaps they’re aware, as the social justice and alternative news sources seem not to be, that some questions, however unpleasant and upsetting, do need to be asked, and have a right to be asked.

“Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?” is creative negativity in action.  It asks a negative question in order to find a creative answer, one that can be worked with. When you haven’t killed yourself yet, even though you’re struggling, even though you can’t imagine things ever getting better, there’s a reason for that. You’re not still alive simply because you hadn’t got round to ending it all. Something is keeping you here – and, once it’s been established what that is, you can take that and run with it, working it into a sense of purpose that will help you work towards achieving whatever you want from life.

If you don’t know why you’re here, it’s very difficult to succeed – I know. I’ve been in that place, feeling that there was no point to my existence. Trying to kill myself. Failing. Turning up for work the day after.

I haven’t tried to kill myself recently, not because things are wonderful and I have no problems, but because, right now, even though the depression is still with me, even though I’m struggling to make self-employment financially viable, even though I’m trying to support my wife, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, with no help from anyone, and on very little money, even though I can’t afford to fix either the toilet or the boiler, I can – just about – cope. And if I can cope, I have no right to walk away and leave others to pick up the pieces.

My reason, my purpose, is that I believe in being responsible. Which means that my purpose is to find a position in which I have responsibility, and fulfil that responsibility as best as I am able.

When I’ve attempted suicide previously, the reasons haven’t been to do with there being no end to my troubles. The reasons have usually been that I could see how to resolve a situation, but I couldn’t afford to take the necessary action.

Poverty can kill – and we mustn’t pretend that’s not the case.

Nor must we leave people without a vital tool of self-knowledge by being afraid to ask difficult questions.

I’ve always had too much anxiety to manage submitting a PIP claim, so I’ve never been asked this question by an assessor. My wife, who was refused PIP, wasn’t asked it either. I’m not sure how many people are asked it, but I’m willing to bet those who do get asked are those who seem to lack a sense of purpose and direction.

No, the PIP system isn’t great – I personally object to the fact that people who are in full time employment can claim PIP: we have a national minimum wage that applies to disabled workers, too. You do what everyone else has to, and make a fully informed decision about whether you can afford to take a particular job or not. If you decide you can, then you live within the means of your wages, the way everyone else has to. I feel similarly about Working Tax Credits – if these options for didn’t exist, wages would go up, or prices would fall. People used to manage to have modestly decent standards of living before the national minimum wage, before Working Tax Credits. On the whole, these “benefits” are a salve, a way to stop the lowest-paid kicking up too much of a fuss about the tax cuts for the wealthiest.

In the 1950s – which the rose-tinted-spectacles-and-bigotry brigade believe was the best period in our history – the top rate of income tax was 90% or more. The wealthiest paid nearly all their earnings in taxation, which then ensured the rest of the country could be adequately maintained and improved.

Now, top-rate taxation is under 50%, and people are relying on top-up payments and food banks. Unemployment, insecure employment, and unpaid employment has skyrocketed. Prices are going up all the time. Public transport is either non-existent or unaffordable.

Why haven’t I killed myself yet? Because part of the responsibility I have is to be a voice in the desert of refusal to fully engage, the shelter and the storm against the pointless rage of social justice warriors, and the bigots they mimic whilst claiming to oppose.

Creative negativity is a vital and necessary skill to have – and I will gladly accept the responsibility of ensuring as many people have it as possible.

So – what’s your purpose and focus? Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?

Dis-abling “Disability”

Disability. Disabled.

They’re powerful words – words that are used to define people, describe people, condemn people, limit people, shut doors on people. Words that get people abused – verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually. Words that get people abandoned. Words, sometimes, that get people killed.

Officially, I have a “disability” – schizophrenia is classed as a disability in the UK. Schizophrenia was what got me sacked from a job in the financial services sector, a sector-regulator-enforced ban on ever working at any level in that sector again, and a blacklisting among other “professional” companies locally – because the manager responsible for my sacking took my dismissal as me “deliberately making (her) look bad” – and so acted spitefully, and unprofessionally. (She’s since been moved on from that company – in a grimly amusing twist, it turned out she’d been covering up for one of the founding partners, who’d been mishandling case files…)

Officially, a lot of people have a reason for employers to distrust them, and refuse to hire them, and for other people to hate them, believing they’re getting “something for nothing”. (Just an FYI – the basic welfare payment a UK person with disability receives, assuming they are found eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (which is never a given), is £5,311 a year. If they are renting their home, their rent will usually be paid – but, in many cases, disabled people are having to pay some of their rent themselves, as the government “doesn’t think they need” a spare room, even when that room is used for visiting carers, to store medical equipment, or because the individual in question is unable to share a room/bed because of the nature of their disability. No contributions towards mortgage payments are made under Housing Benefit in the UK, meaning a disabled person fortunate enough to own their own home with a mortgage risks becoming homeless.  A minimum wage job at the average full-time hours of 37.5hrs per week would, by contrast, pay £12,636 after tax (but before NI contributions.) A person earning the minimum wage and working full time is entitled to claim Working Tax Credits, and, if they rent privately, Housing Benefit (this may be an award of only partial costs, depending on the circumstances and whether the Assessors believe the rent is “fair and reasonable” for a given area.

But this post isn’t about how badly disabled people are treated – there are many people writing far better than I could about that particular topic. It’s in the newspapers every day. You see it, if you open your eyes and ears, all around you.

No. This post is about taking away the ability of the words “disability” and “disabled” to condemn people. To limit them.

An analogy for you: when you switch off the wi-fi function on your phone or laptop, it tells you (well, mine does): “Wi-Fi Disabled.” Same for Call Roaming, etc.

The device isn’t broken: it is still perfectly capable of doing what you bought it for – if you let it.

And yes, some devices are “better” than others – a slow laptop may not be great for internet access, but it’s fine for wordprocessing. If you’re looking for advanced gaming, nothing much short of a QuadCore is going to be worth investing in.

People are a bit like that. We’re all capable of something – I know a man who is quadriplegic: he has a lot of knowledge, and, given the opportunity, I believe, the patience to teach others.  I know a man with cerebral palsy who is an electronics whizz – there’s nothing involving circuits and wires that he can’t fix, hack, backwards-engineer, build, or rebuild. Beethoven kept composing even after hearing loss rendered him deaf, and unable to hear what he was playing. I know a blind woman who is in the middle of an epic sci-fi saga trilogy.

The onus isn’t on those the world has “disabled” to “make the best of it” or “fit in” – the onus is on those who run the world to assess the tasks each and every individual would perform best at – in consultation with those individuals, so that any concerns and preferences they have could be taken into consideration.

Disabled, in the UK, has come to mean “of less worth than others” – what it should mean is “not yet in a role which optimises integral settings.”

Schizophrenia is classified as a disability, yet many schizophrenics have performed well in academic jobs – both as lecturers and support staff – because that world is organised, follows a linear pattern of managed and manageable activity, offers a degree of flexibility, and, because of the nature of academic terms, is not a constant drain on energy and effort – there is time to recharge.

What needs to change in the UK welfare system is the idea that disabled people, being inherently “worth less” than “normal” people (that idea, those words, have been used by UK politicians – and recently, too), should just be shoved into “a job, any job”, because “if someone like Stephen Hawking can work, anyone can” – which neatly avoids the fact that Stephen Hawking is self-employed, in a very specific niche, and probably has a great deal of support to function as well as he does – none of which takes away from the fact that he’s made the effort to get out there and work, none of which takes away from his success – but all of which needs to be borne in mind when criticising “non-employed” disabled people.

Such individuals often ARE employed – just not in a paid role that the powers that be recognise. Many “disabled” individuals perform well, and find a lot of pleasure, in voluntary positions.  Many are self-employed, or trying to make a self-employed business fully viable. Some are heavily involved in activism, both in relation to disability and other areas of social justice. Some are active, knowledgeable, and supportive members of online communities, helping and encouraging others. Some have families they care for, households they run. It should not be the case that Employment and Support Allowance is paid (with deep resentment on the part of the government and “the tax payer”) “until you get off your backside and get a job” – it should be paid willingly, as part of a genuine partnership of engagement in a) whether it is likely, and desirable, from a position of condition-management, that the individual will be able to manage paid, “traditional” employment, and b) where that is deemed to be the case, the areas in which the individual has the best chance of long-term success are identified, and all possible efforts are made with and for the individual to secure them a position, within an environment, in which they feel both comfortable and capable.

Because we are not “disabled”. We, like everyone else, are projects requiring investment in order to achieve (and monetise) our full potential. We are tech startups given human form.

This is “Project Ash”:

Skilled administrative capacity, opportunities to produce written material for both educational and entertainment purposes. Multi-faceted, interactive ideas generation, with multiplayer option. Able to tend to the care, exercise and entertainment needs of a variety of livestock and companion animals. Assistance in manual tasks. Accurate, in-depth grammar scan and spellcheck functions.

Minimum investment required: £15,000 (gross) per annum. Part or full funding options available.

Because I am not “disabled”: I am a project in the initial funding round.