War without bullets

In summer 2010, Cathy McCormack, a Church Action on Poverty supporter and community activist from Glasgow, was invited by the Australian Psychological Society to talk about her analysis of the ‘world war against the poor’. She found some striking parallels with our own situation in the UK.
War without bullets

Cathy McCormack is a community activist from Glasgow

Professor David Fryer and I have been working together for 23 years to try and expose this war, that I have termed the 'war without bullets'. David is a Community Critical Psychologist and world expert on unemployment and its affect on health and the propaganda aimed at the poor.

He is now a professor at Charles Sturt University in Australia but I first met him away back in the early 1980s, when my family, like millions of others, was thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap and forced to live on welfare. This was the time when Britain under the Thatcher government was changed from an industrial to a money market economy. At the time the Governor of the Bank of England was quoted as saying that three million unemployed was "a price worth paying".

So when all the propaganda started about the unemployed being lazy scroungers, I realised there was a war going on, a social, economic and psychological war against the poor.  Only this war had no need for tanks or bombs because it was a ���war without bullets��� that was being waged with briefcases instead of guns - a war that has now intensified under our new Coalition Government.

My journey confirmed that this war is not just local but global, and that unemployment and poverty is not an accident of government social and economic policy, but constructed to create a vulnerable workforce and coerce people into taking up low-paid stressful jobs.

I found it really shocking, however, to learn that the Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory who were already subjected to discrimination and living in appalling conditions had being used as guinea-pigs under their government's 'Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Bill 2009'.

Last year, compulsory income management was enforced in these communities that have already been traumatised.  First the white man steals their land, steals their children and destroys their culture, and when some try to escape this trauma either through drink or fags they are further punished. Now, instead of getting money they are being issued with ���BasicsCards��� similar to the Azure Cards issued to people seeking sanctuary in the UK, further reducing their dignity.

Most Australians are unaware of these welfare reforms - first brought about by the Clinton administration in the US, later the mantra of Tony Blair, now possibly being extended to welfare recipients across Australia.

Like here, it will cost millions in administration - it has been estimated that it will cost around A$4,000 per person a year, about eight times the amount it would take to provide employment services to support jobseekers to compete for jobs.

While in Australia I met up with psychologist Dr Katie Thomas, who had just published her book Human Life Matters ��� The Ecology of Sustainable Human Living vs The Rule of the Barbarians.  Her title says it all, and her book is a fascinating insight into the brutality of our very own dog-eat-dog, get-rich-quick-and-rip-off-everybody-including-your-granny culture.  The author leaves you in no doubt that that human suffering and hardship are socially constructed, and all the propaganda aimed at the poor is meant to be hurtful.

For the first time, I started to get to grips with how our society could become so brutalised that our most vulnerable citizens - the poor, the unemployed and the sick, who are the real casualties of this war - are all portrayed as criminals.

How some people on incapacity benefit who are terminally ill are being forced to sign on as jobseekers.  How mothers fleeing violence and in refuge are only given three months to get their heads together before having to sign on as a jobseeker. If they refuse to take any job that is offered, then they will be forced to work for their benefits at the equivalent of ��1.60 per hour. Who is going to look after their children?

Professor Oliver James, the top child psychologist in Britain and author of Affluenza who also writes for the Guardian, has also been challenging the government on our ���welfare reforms���. He regards these reforms as absolute insanity.  He understands that these reforms which are costing the tax payer billions could result in even more billions having to be spent to treat the symptoms of all this unnecessary human suffering and hardship. As he said, the only people who are going to benefit from this social atrocity are companies like Tesco.

Having read Katie���s book, I feel now that our new Coalition Government have no intention of providing public services to support all the people in my country who are already traumatised and left destitute by these welfare reforms.  Is that not what their ���Big Society��� is really all about?

When I started out on my journey away back in 1985 in search for the truth, there was no way that I ever envisaged that our country would allow slavery in through the back door. But at the end of the day, we are all responsible for the monsters that we have created.

Meeting Katie Thomas also confirmed what I understood a long time ago.  That this global market economy, which the politicians and bankers still keep referring to as being ���free���, has in reality enslaved both rich and poor in a race towards human, social, economic and environmental destruction.

The Wee Yellow ButterflyMy journey also confirmed that you cannot cure a social disease like poverty unless you first find the courage to diagnose the root cause.

Cathy McCormack tells the story of her activism in her book The Wee Yellow Butterfly.

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