Thursday, 10 November 2016

Us and Them and Me



NB: This is quite a personal and emotional blog post. It is written in one go to express some very real experiences. It may not be scholarly, objective or properly cited but that makes it no less true or valid.

Talk about the US election and indeed politics in the UK has brought up the concept of "elitism" and perceptions of people considered "educated". This is a big thing that needs to be considered carefully.

I want though, to talk about these concepts in an area which is more personal to me and also that highlights the duality of stereotypes that can occur.
As most of you know I had my PIP assessment on Tuesday - a benefit I need as I have a chronic illness and am unable to work and can be considered disabled due to my limitations.
A phrase that came up during the interview was "I can see you are well educated and intelligent ..." which in this scenario was deemed to be a good thing.

Being seen as intelligent, articulate and educated is a social privilege in this country. It means I get taken more seriously and that people are more willing to listen to me. It means that PIP assessors are willing to explain things and talk over issues in depth. It means that my cognitive disabilities are considered with empathy and in comparison to what I used to be capable of: I am not seen as merely stupid but that there is a marked difference between what I am clearly capable of and the stuttered half sentences I produce in person these days.

It means that I am also viewed as probably honest, as not "lazy", as more likely to genuinely be ill and disabled and in need of help. It means I can articulate my concerns and navigate the buracracy (though I can still never spell it) on their terms. Consequently I am more likely to be believed and treated fairly. That is a privilege I am lucky to have.


Yet at the same time I am seen as not really poor (thanks to my partner we are not) or in need. No matter how hard my living situation, how desperately I need a government who cares about me and who will provide. No matter that I have had times when I have had to choose between food and heating. No matter that I am treated like a waste of space, a liar, a cheat, a fraud, a burden by large parts of the country I am still, because I can type it out with some eloquence and because I went to university, one of the elite. I am not one of them. I am not one of the people. I couldn't possibly understand (and sometimes I don't) what people go through, and more damning, it's perceived that I couldn't possibly care. 

Classicism in the UK, as developed in the 19thC, matured through the mid 20thC and violently clashed in the 1980s doesn't exist anymore. Now we have elitism. We have educationism. We still live in a world that expects an attitude of "well we're not like /them/" regardless of money and income. We live in a world where we can expect preferential treatment from one group of people whilst being scorned by another and still not afforded any institutional compassion because of artificial descriptors that separate Us from Them. I will be treated nicely because of my education which makes me a part of the Us but, ultimately, I will be cast aside by the government because people like Us don't need benefits. People like Us don't need assistance. People like Them are lazy and undeserving. Only people like Them would dare ask for social security. If you have the nerve to ask for a little more then you must be one of Them.

But we'll at least tell you politely.
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