Philip J Connolly
Disability, Self-Sufficiency and Mutualism
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
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