Written by Fiona Longmuir

In The News

Kindness Vs Cuts

It’s the first full Tory government since 1997 and already the forthcoming cuts look swingeing. Left-wingers and liberals have responded with anger, but, argues Fiona Longmuir, it’s kindness that will really count.

cut-out figures holding handsSo we have a not-so-new face in Downing Street. And like anyone who has been given an unexpected second chance, Dave is keen to show us all what he’s really made of. On sparkling panto villain form, he has begun by cutting back to work programmes for deaf and blind people, installing an Equalities Minister who voted against equal marriage, appointing walking Spitting Image puppet Michael Gove as Justice Secretary, moving to rid us of that pesky Human Rights Act and putting fox hunting back on the agenda, because he’s down with the ordinary folks like that.

It is not shaping up to be a good five years for a lot of us.

Understandably, the majority of non-Conservative voters have responded with anger. Anger can be an amazing force for change if you harness it properly but there’s something that we need more right now, and that’s kindness.

We can campaign for new voting systems, protest against harsh cuts and pressure our representatives to support us, but change can be slow and, while we wait, there are people suffering all the time.

The worst thing about the society that is being created is that it’s self-perpetuating. When people are put under threat, we become insular, cynical and cold. We start to think of ourselves in terms of haves and have-nots, and do whatever we can to avoid becoming the latter.

“Poverty can happen startlingly, terrifyingly quickly. Poor people are not poor because they lack ambition and drive. Disabled people are not on benefits because they are lazy. Young people are not unemployed because they think they’re above working.”

This right here is a promise to myself that I’m not going to do that. I promise that I will grow stronger, louder and kinder in the face of cruelty. I will not accept people going hungry, living in poverty or being abused as the norm. I will not allow myself to buy into the narrative that the people who have less deserve to be where they are. I’m lucky that I have never been hungry or homeless, in part due to an incredibly supportive family. But I do know what it’s like to eat chickpeas and rice for dinner every night and sleep with a hat on because your flat is so cold. And this happened to me after I’d graduated from one of the best universities in the country and landed ‘the dream job’.

What the people who are systematically dismantling our support services are failing to understand is that these systems are not propping up the ‘scroungers’. They’re propping up the unlucky. Poverty can happen startlingly, terrifyingly quickly. Poor people are not poor because they lack ambition and drive. Disabled people are not on benefits because they are lazy. Young people are not unemployed because they think they’re above working. The people who peddle this idea are the ones who have never had to struggle, who have never had to fight for everything they have, and who are blind enough to assume that they won’t ever have to. We have somehow created this idea that vulnerable people are having everything handed to them, when in fact, they’re the people who most need our help. And if the government isn’t going to help, I’m going to do what little I can.

Real-life superhero Emma Pite decided to start a change.org petition with the same mission. Although it’s not really a petition at all, it’s a promise. By signing, you are pledging to combat the hard times ahead with little acts of kindness. These don’t have to be sensational or attention-grabbing, just little gestures to help out where we can and remind people that they’re not alone.

sculpture of a circle of figuresWhen people feel afraid or hopeless, never underestimate the power that a hand reaching out and taking theirs can have. Take a pot of soup to the old lady on your road and ask her how she’s doing. Buy a copy of the Big Issue. Hold a bake sale. Donate to your local food bank. Let’s remind ourselves that compassion and kindness are powerful and worthwhile. Let’s remind ourselves that we don’t have to stamp someone else down to raise ourselves up. And maybe next time, our votes will reflect that.

Emma has created a Twitter account @KindnessVsCuts for people to share ideas and success stories. Be sure to get involved and tweet her any suggestions.

@EscapologistGl

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Written by Fiona Longmuir

Fiona Longmuir is a professional storyteller, reluctant adult and aspiring funny girl. When not getting naked in tube stations and binge-watching inappropriate TV shows, she can be found scribbling at the Escapologist's Daughter.