With the death of we are a grandmother Margaret Thatcher last week, it made me think of one of her other classic statements there is no such thing as society, which both epitomised her style and enraged so many of us. These are the quotes which will keep on coming around. Sadly though, what seems to have had staying power since those days is a pervasive acceptance of self interest at the heart of life – and I don’t excuse myself entirely from this malaise, though I am trying.
While not many people would argue that it was all fine before Thatcher, the ideological hatchet job her government did on the Trade Unions was done with scant regard for the long term consequences of that bitter savagery on the actual communities it affected. I’m no economist, but surely a gentler slower way could have been found to cope with the decline of traditional industry, creating new and solid industries in its place.
While individual responsibility is necessary to life and not something to be frowned upon, society should also mean that there is something actually there when people fall, a cradle of compassion if you like, a sense that the fortunate amongst us will help the struggling, for whatever reason.
I’ve always subscribed to this belief, though without really thinking that one day we might need some help ourselves. A socialist would say this work should always be the responsibility of the state and carried out by the operations of government in order to shape a fairer, more redistributive society. This was always a great excuse for liberals such as myself to hope that it was being done by someone else, somewhere else. But in the absence of these made-up utopias, charities do have a big part to play.
However I don’t buy the Big Society twaddle – empty words Cameron, empty words. In practice it means things like my friend, a speech therapist in the NHS, has been told that there is only a budget to treat the most acute emergency cases, while the valuable work she was doing with severely autistic babies has been cut and she is having to tell new parents whom she was working with that they are now on their own.
I am sick to death of the rhetoric abounding about at the moment which vilifies the poor and the vulnerable. Have you counted how many times the phrase hard working families has been bandied about? Almost as much as benefit scroungers and workshy cheats. Like brainwashing. If you say it enough times people will start to believe it. Sure, there are people who take the piss, but compared to the amount that the treasury is losing from tax evading companies, its peanuts. Interestingly I heard on the radio this morning that it was actually in Thatchers time that so many people went on to incapacity benefit, the thousands of people who had lost their jobs as a result of the closures, as she wanted to fiddle the unemployment figures – running at nearly 4m, remember that? That’s what I’d call how to give people hopelessness not hope.
We’re certainly not all in this together. While the poor are being capped left right and centre, it’s totally ok that huge companies don’t pay their tax and chief execs have unlimited bonuses for banks in public ownership. Places like London have become playgrounds for the super rich while the differential between the haves and the struggling is getting wider and wider. Something is seriously at sea here.
But my post today is also about the charity Perennial, (patroned by the real Queen!) with whom I do some volunteering. I discovered the charity through the website www.turn2us.org.uk which a lovely friend (the one above, thanks M) told me about when illness struck my husband. We were fortunate in the sense that we didn’t need financial assistance but we found ourselves reeling from the impact of what was happening ie: our world being turned upside down. We were assigned a case worker and just having someone visit us who had an inkling of what we were going through and understood the turmoil that ensued was incredibly comforting. They also helped with the minefield of long forms which needed to be filled out in great detail and were pretty distressing. And 0ur case worker has continued to support us. Of course it’s possible to empathise with people who are going through difficulties, but until it actually happens to you, you’ve really got no idea.
So this is to say thank you to Perennial and to hopefully help promote the excellent work it does and spread the word, both to people who are in the outdoor industries who might need help and to people who may want to support it.
Anyway, we raised £1082.84 recently at the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show at Boconnoc House and Gardens. The success of the Cornwall group is due in the main to George Kestell, who despite being a gardener and lecturer gives up tons of free time to organising and attending all the Perennial events, as well as appearing regularly on a gardening programme on local radio.
Another freezing day, at least on the Sunday, when I was there, but the plucky public turned up to peruse the exhibitions and buy the wares on sale. Check out those coats!
Sharon, a fellow volunteer
George, on the left.
If you know anyone who might have a need of Perennial, now or in the future, please share this information. Or indeed if you’d like to help, donate or whatever…actually they have lots of gardening type information on their website and run workshops, tours and have a volunteer pool of speakers for gardening clubs etc. www.perennial.org.uk
Oh ok I know you’re missing the cows…they’re missing you too…
Hello, they say