• Philip J Connolly

Disability, Self-Sufficiency and Mutualism

Updated: Aug 22

Ok, so you've signed a petition, been on a march, added your details to the

sum of evidence and yet still been ignored. What’s left? What's right? What

remains? You've read Thoreau on self-sufficiency and Gandhi on swadeshi but

know the dynamics of life are more like football or cricket in that you must win

your own game. Yes, you can still win.

You the activists leave the court building knowing that you had the moral

authority but also knowing that the courts weren't required to listen to a moral

case. In the Queen's speech the Government gave itself more powers to deal

with climate change protesters yet none to deal with actual climate change

crisis. Though we need an empowered citizenry acting on climate change the

state will not cede power. The possibility that the Government will seek to

repay borrowing to deal with the pandemic by cutting welfare haunts the

economy. I don’t think that the Government has the right to make disabled

people poorer. Like the curve ball in football or the unplayable delivery in

cricket, we must find our own solutions.

First, we must understand what the crisis is. It may not be as simple as just the

inadequate level of benefits but may have other causes and effects. I recall

once sitting in a DWP seminar on the Sustainable Millennium goals at the same

time as a claimant survey attributed the slow and bureaucratic benefit

payments by DWP as their major cause of poverty. When delays are the norm

people get into debt and in the event of a crisis such as a washing machine

breaking down the debt can get much worse and even be unmanageable. We

can find our own story.

Next, we must discern who is being justifiably blamed. The cost of living crisis is

not being blamed on people's chaotic lifestyles as I once heard a future

Government minister tell everyone so perhaps one dividend from the current

crisis might be that those in trouble are not victimised. We can identify the

characters in the story and who they represent.

Disabled people like many others require sufficiency in money, shelter, food,

energy and the opportunity to obtain these themselves or to do so with

support. The underpinning knowledge and skills required can be taught to

them and internet connectivity can provide the means to stay updated. Mutual

support can be introduced via schemes were by members earn credits that can

be redeemed for lifts e.g. Liftshare or acts of care e.g. Southwark Circle.

Skillshare schemes such as tenant minor repair and maintenance schemes

could be offset against the rent and spare land (characteristic of many older

social housing estates) could be given over for food growing projects like the

freedom gardens of the second world war. These projects are inherently social

and would connect residents to one another thus raising social capital.

Everyone has a story to tell.

Other possibilities may exist if relational welfare was trialled e.g. those learning

independence skills such as in IT were encouraged or incentivised to pass these

skills on to those with newly diagnosed needs or wants. Asset exchanges such

as sharing the use of electrical white goods could extend the life of domestic

appliances or provide access to a machine in an emergency. Ultimately new

forms of self-governing resilient communities will emerge, and the process

supported by civic institutions in the interests of disabled people.

The Government too will need to practice self-sufficiency. When the Russia

and the Ukrainian war broke out the country was vulnerable to the subsequent

reduction in the supply of gas. The countries lack of reserve energy stocks and

also food too meant its exposure led to the cost of living crisis. It also means

that the more centralised that Government policy response is the fewer the

citizen led initiatives there are. Thus there is a route – the resilient economy -

for civic society to lead and compel Government to follow.

Civic society must plan for a different ending. It must offer civic institutions

that society and especially disabled people want to join. We are already

members of society lets start, transform and then join these new institutions.

In our image: join the Disability Resilience Network by downloading and

submitting the form at www,disabilityresiliencenetwwork.com

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