“The oppressor must suffer, like the oppressed,” hip-hop artist Akala raps on his latest track Find No Enemy, and the message is a powerful one. For disabled people, our needs and wishes are being presided over by a cabinet of millionaires who have no idea of the daily struggles we face, and never will. How dare this government even suggest the scrapping of the disability living allowance? Is the clue not in the title – an allowance, to help disabled people get by? And let us ask David Cameron himself if he would be able to accommodate the extra needs of living with a serious disability with £73.60 a week, the highest rate of DLA available?
Cameron says that he will put money into services for disabled people, but it is not simply services that disabled people need. It is the independence to make our own decisions and determine our own futures. It is this government’s fundamental failure to recognise this fact that will ConDem us all.
For most disabled people, the greatest challenge is not our own physical or psychological condition, but the ignorance of the society we live in. Why don’t you travel around in a wheelchair for a day? Try to get on the bus. See how the driver doesn’t stop for you, and why the ramp breaks, even when it is put out for you. Try to get on the train, and ask yourself why so many stations are inaccessible to you. Take a trip down the street, and ask yourself why so many people are giving you strange looks. Then consider that experience when you denounce disabled people as the “scroungers” of society.
Today, thousands of us marched to demand that our voices are heard. But just like the thousands of students who took over the Millbank Tower last December, they will be ignored, because the government not only do not understand our struggle, they do not care. The demonstration was called “The Hardest Hit March”, but I personally object to such defeatist language. Yes, disabled people will be among the hardest hit by these cuts, but they will also hit back the hardest. We are not asking for sympathy from the public or from the government, we are demanding our fundamental right to live free and independent lives.
This is not a struggle for disabled people, this is a struggle for every one of us. We do not need to negotiate with the forces that keep us oppressed, and we must recognise that the root of the inequalities faced by disabled people is the same supremacist ideology that allows our government to occupy Iraq, to occupy Afghanistan and to bomb Libya. Those people, whether they are disabled British people, or Iraqis that we are disabling with our weapons, do not matter. Their welfare is of zero to little importance.
Why don’t we refocus our energies from marching through central London – which many people don’t have the time or money to travel into – to organising demonstrations, meetings and occupations in local areas, from Peckham to Pollokshields? The only way we can succeed in our struggle is by providing an alternative to the rampant capitalism presented to us by the government as the only way of living. A different society is possible; one that is not reliant on the exploitation of others, but which stipulates the equality of all human beings.
As Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand. Disabled people, and all people, must demand our rights every single day, until the people in power are forced to concede.
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