Dec 152012
 

14/12/2012 · by skwalker1964 · Bookmark the permalink. ·

This is a difficult post to write, but I think it has to be written. So please, don’t make the mistake of thinking what I’m about to say means my heart isn’t breaking at the tragic loss of lives in yet another US school shooting.

As I write, the news media are showing constant footage and updates about the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman has entered a school armed with multiple weapons and killed, according to the latest report, at least 27 people, including 18 children, having already killed both of his parents and, so it’s reported, his brother.

It’s an awful, awful situation. I have three children, though now grown up, and one of them is a teacher, so my heart goes out to those affected. But at the same time as I’m appalled and shocked, I can’t help thinking ‘But what about…?’

You see, because of the things I write about, and the research I do for what I write, I’m aware that there are things which are just as bad – and on a much greater scale – going on constantly in this country. The news channels are devoting non-stop coverage of the events in Newtown, and it’s understandable. What isn’t understandable is why the events in this country – also horrific, and hurting far greater numbers of people – barely merit a mention in the news media, let alone saturation coverage.

Already, in the US, the pro-gun lobbies are mobilising to defend the ‘right’ to carry guns. Within minutes of the coverage beginning, I had already heard a commentator talk of how the ‘gun lobby’ was trotting out its well-worn claim: ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people‘, and is even trying to use the tragedy to call for more guns, arguing that fewer people would be killed by guns if more people had them ‘to defend themselves’, and that schoolteachers should carry guns to defend their pupils.

The mind boggles. But the thing is, they’re partly right. People do kill people – but guns allow them to kill others in far greater numbers than they could otherwise. Because people kill people, the more you can keep them away from guns, the more sense it makes. If you put guns in their hands, more people are going to die.

But we face a parallel situation here in the UK, and it’s what is causing those barely-mentioned and much larger tragedies I referred to above. Not because we put guns into people’s hands, but because we have power in the hands of people of ill will, stupidity, or both.

Power doesn’t kill people. People kill people. But power allows them to do so on a vast scale. Perhaps you think I’m crass to do anything but join in with the public show of horror and grief about the events in Connecticut – but let me tell you about some of those almost-hidden tragedies first, and then if you still think I’m crass, at least you’ll be making an informed judgment.

In Newtown, 29 people died in today’s shooting, plus the gunman, according to the latest news. It’s truly awful – but here are some other figures, which I hope will shock you commensurately. Because they should:

24,000

24,000 is the number of people who died in the UK last winter because of ‘fuel poverty’. That’s 24 thousand people who died because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes properly, and who died either of hypothermia, or of illnesses resulting from their inability to keep warm.

It’s truly a national scandal. And yet I can barely recall a mention of it on the news channels, and little more in the press. Certainly nothing like the coverage that we’re seeing now about the school shooting – or even the near-continuous coverage of the very sad death of Jacintha Saldanha. One royal-related death is big news, but 24,000 avoidable deaths, in a single winter and from a clearly identifiable, remediable cause, are apparently not. But then, the progress of the Olympic torch around the country was deemed worthy of mass coverage when the plan to privatise the NHS wasn’t, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

Our government has the power to do something about fuel poverty, in order to prevent a repeat of this national shame. So what is it doing? In a time of steep rises in fuel costs that are expected to continue for the foreseeable future – it is capping benefit rises at 1%, well below the general rate of inflation and miles below the rate of increase in energy costs (13% up to October this year, and another 8% or so from January)

330,000 – or 1.9 million

I wrote a couple of months ago about the government’s planned change from Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is currently paid (in varying amounts) to some 3.2 million people, to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work & Pensions devised the new payment with the specific goal of excluding at least 500,000 people from the new payment who currently qualify for DLA, as a cost-saving measure.

Basing my calculations on this figure, I showed that the change will push at least 85,000 people below the poverty line – but that figure is based on an extremely unlikely hypothetical scenario in which every single person excluded is single and has no dependents. On a more likely situation, the number of people pushed into poverty will number in the hundreds of thousands.

But it appears I was over-cautious. Yesterday, the Tory Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, told the House of Commons that, of the 560,000 people who will be assessed for the new benefit by 2015, 330,000 are expected to be excluded from the benefit. That’s an exclusion rate of 59%. 3.2 million people receive DLA, so if the same failure rate applies as they become due for reassessment, that means around 1.9 million disabled people who will lose crucial support. Using the same calculations as I applied to the 500,000 initially flagged to be excluded, it means almost a million people pushed below the poverty line.

Factor that into the death rate from energy poverty, and you’re looking at a situation where the 24,000 deaths last winter will look like nothing compared to what we’re going to see, let alone the 30 innocent deaths in Connecticut.

453 – and counting

That’s the number of additional suicides that happened last year, compared to before the financial crash. As growing numbers of people face financial catastrophe, more and more are seeing suicide as the only escape. The government’s response? To demonise the unemployed,  disabled people and low earners who are forced to claim benefits – and then to cut those benefits and deepen the despair, while the rich get richer.

73 – a week

This, according to the campaign group DPAC, is the number of deaths (including suicides) among disabled people as a result of the government’s programme of Work Capability Assessments (WCAs), which is categorising people as fit for work when they are plainly not. 70% are eventually overturned on appeal – but the stress of the process and the fear of losing essential support are killing some and causing others to commit suicide. And the government is responding by capping benefits even for those who do pass the test – and closing Remploy, which provides suitable work for disabled people, while Iain Duncan Smith sneers at them and tells them ‘this is better’.

24,000. 330,000. 1.9 million. 453. 73 a week. All numbers at least as deserving of mass media attention as the 30 killed in Connecticut – and all conspicuous by their absence from the BBC and other news media.

Power doesn’t kill people. People kill people. But people with power can kill a lot of people – and this government is wreaking havoc among ordinary and vulnerable people.

The deaths of the 30 (as of now) innocents in Newtown will, rightly, bring people out onto the streets in the US – for prayer vigils, to lay flowers, to protest in favour of (and, insanely, against) gun control.

If the people of the UK became as aware, en masse, of what is taking place under the coalition government as they surely are now of what has happened in Connecticut, the streets would be packed with people protesting – and streaming to the polls in 2015 or earlier to get rid of those in power, killing people.

Which is, probably, why we’re not seeing those other numbers and many like them on our television screens.

With many thanks to Steve for agreeing to repost- please support this excellent blog-see more at http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/media-full-of-newtown-tragedy-but-far-worse-is-ignored/

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  10 Responses to “Media full of Newtown tragedy but far worse ignored”

  1. Thanks all for the kind comments! Joe, I think the (parliamentary) Labour party is trying to win the ‘prudent’ proposition in order to seem electable to waverers and business. I understand why, but in my opinion it’s misguided. What people are crying put for is a real, distinct alternative to austerity, a party that’s not afraid to come out against it and which has the alone to outline clearly why it’s not necessary. I don’t think Ed Ball’s has come close yet – but the recent stance by Miliband & Balls of saying they’ll vote against Osborne’s sneakily-motivated ‘updating bill’ on the 1% welfare cap is a step in the right direction.

    One big reason I write is to try to galvanise – and make Labour politicians aware of – the massive grassroots desire (in and out of the party) for a radical, bold stance. We’ll see how successful I and others are in that, I guess.

    One thing that might be of interest: the Tories are running a blatantly skewed ‘poll’ on the fairness of their welfare changes. Because it’s so obviously constructed to make people vote in favour, I set up my own poll at http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/an-honest-poll-to-counteract-the-tories-cowardly-one-2/

    Please add your input and take a look at the results. I think you’ll find them heartening.

    • The difficulty that Labour has is that the Tories and Liberals have been repeating the mantra that Labour was responsible for the effects of the global downturn in the UK. .If you throw mud often enough, it sticks and it now goes unchallenged, even by Labour Shadow Ministers.

      I’m not sure how Labour loses the reputation of mismanaging the finances, which if you look at the shambolic way the current Government conducts itself is truly laughable. The concerted attacks by the gutter press on benefit claimants has taken root particularly as so many families are now struggling who were doing fine.

      The total lack of compassion and concern for struggling families and hungry children shown by this Government is truly sickening. They say we all have to take our share of the pain but they and their friends are not hurting.

  2. I agree that we should continue to concentrate on getting our message to the wider public.Spabbygirl, you are correct on your point re DLA and ESA. In the North West, letters have been sent to some areas, informing DLA claimants that there are changes afoot (PIP is not mentioned in the letter) and telling them that they will get a form sent in the post, at a later date. My understanding, though, is that there are no current plans to replace DLA with Personal Independence Payment for eople over the age of 65 who are already receiving DLA. (The Conservatives have generally tried to protect ‘benefits’ for most Pensioners, mainly because these are the very generation that voted Mrs Thatcher in, in 1979, and kept the Conservatives in power until 1997. “On your question re ”Does that mean that the policies could be overturned’?’, the answer, in theory, is ‘yes’ but there are a lot of Buts. When the coalition came into power in May 2010, they very quickly introduced legislation to change the elected term in power to a ‘fixed term’ (Ie they will be in power for 5 years, with the next General Election date set for 7th May 2015 – there are some extenuating circumstances when the General Election could be earlier, but this is highly unlikely). Previously, the Prime Minister could call a General Election at any time until the end of the fifth year, by which time s/he had to call a General Election. The policies will, therefore, not be changed before 7th May 2015. The only way the policies are likely to be changed is if the 2015 General Election was won by another Party, for example Labour. Having said this, Labour have not only made no commitment to change this policy, but they appear to have no public intention to do so. One area I am very surprised that Labour have not clarified is what the 1% freeze on Benefits for 3 years, means in real terms. The Coalition have said that those on Benefits in the last 10 years have had a 20% increase, whilst those employed have only received 10% increase. This is correct, But…If the average benefit 10 years ago was £60, in the last 10 years they will have received a £12 increase. If the average wage 10 years ago was £200, in the last 10 years they will have received a £20 increase, so in real terms, they have received £8 more. One final point on this, of those affected by the 1% benefits freeze, 60% work, so this totally confirms, in my opinion, that the Conservative-led Coalition are driven by ideology alone, and have no real interest in assisting those in low paid jobs, never mind anybody on Benefits.

  3. it is indeed a well-written & sensitive piece. I agree with Patricia, the tories do know what they’re doing, they are quite happy, & probably proud, of it too. I was quite interested in Nick Clegg’s future intention to speak out about the times he’s spoken out to the tories and made them modify their policies. I guess he’s feeling, rightly from my point of view, that a lot of people see his party now as tarnished because of their association with Cameron & co. I’m sure that will escalate as we get closer to the end date for DLA, because so far only those claiming ESA have been affected (I think, I’m not great at following politics). Does that mean the policies could still be overturned? I have voted LibDem in the past but never would again.

  4. What a well written and sensitive piece. I believe the Tories fully recognise what they will achieve with their campaign against disabled people and disenfranchised as it seems to be a war of propaganda and subversion being fought on many fronts. What is happening in the USA, the third world and the turmoil in the Arab world is awful, but its also reported very selectively, i.e. they tend to ignore the outrages of the Chinese government against the Tibetan People in case it “upsets” the Chinese into not being trade-buddies.

    By their actions this government are killing people that they don’t see as contributing much to their economic wealth – end of. If its an economic necessity, why are they continuing to give themselves and their buddies big tax breaks? And how are they still managing to find money to replace Trident and give aid to Africa for example?

  5. Agree with the article

    I have seen people attempt to address this matter in the media but been shot down because they are seen as unsympathetic. Some have acknowledged this has some value but that what has happened in the USA is more important because it’s happeneing ‘now’ – there’s an awful lot of ignorance around.

  6. Don’t feel bad about making such a comparison.

    I’m guessing that you are a compassionate person – what would the shooting victims friends and family have done, had they heard about the above-mentioned 24,000 people being slaughtered by Government decrees and the ATOS Death Squads, before the shooting? Probably little, or nothing. In the end, we must turn our attention to British problems and know when to give stricken folk sympathies enough, but our own are also being killed, unlawfully.

    I, too, would love for the shooting to have never happened, but I’m sick to death, already, with hearing about it, because our own plight (and that of each of the 24,000 dead because of this Government), is evidently not considered sensation-worthy enough to warrant adequate press coverage.

    Blessings and finest wishes to the victims, their families and their friends, over in the USA – now, it’s time to get ourselves prepared and able to defend ourselves against a far more secret enemy: the State!

  7. Well said. The people of this country are having trouble responding rationally to this government’s policies and the fact is we can’t see the wood for the trees it seems. This article leaves it all very clear.

  8. Brilliant article, very well said.

    Where indeed are the British media in this government-sanctioned slaughter of our own people?

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