Another perspective from outside Zone 1:
Posted below is a transcript from a recorded interview with Paul, 47. This interview was recorded in mid-January in Oldham.
This is a story about resentment. On one level or another, a lot of the interviews on this site are. I speak mainly with people who rely on social security systems. They have not thrived as attitudes towards people who receive benefits have hardened. You find a blistering anger a lot of the time. People say they resent government. They resent being patronised by the officers they must deal with in the social services bureaucracies they must use. They resent people who they perceive as activists, do-gooders and meddlers. They resent, poisonously, their lack of power over any of these things. As you would.
Paul said he was on Incapacity Benefit (the benefit may have been the Employment and Support Allowance). He lives in a housing association flat in Ashton. He said he worked as a painter and decorator when he was younger. He receives his benefit for stress, anxiety and depression.
Paul doesn’t vote in general elections, but he did vote in the EU referendum. He voted Leave. He voted Leave, because he wants “proper border control… because [what we have ], it’s non-effective… I voted Brexit, because it is not about fundamentalism. It’s about not wanting to be taken over. It’s about the fear of being taken over, of being a foreigner in your own land…I feel a foreigner in my own land. Ridiculous, isn’t it…it’s a league of nations here.”
Paul resents this government – “the prime minister. She doesn’t live in the real world.” He dislikes the “patronising” left – “they have just bought into this philosophy – of all feel sorry for us.” He is angry about benefit sanctions and at people being forced to steal when their benefits are stopped – “it’s a shame that [people] have to burgle, because most of them have been sanctioned.”
I post this conversation, because it is one of many that I and others have with people on similar themes. I also post it because the views of people who rely entirely on benefits at this point in history should be recorded and heard. There’s a great deal of talk in the mainstream about (politically useful) Jams and Squeezed Middles and the rest, but I feel that we hear less from people who must exist completely in the system and who are not thought relevant because they don’t always vote, they don’t make money and they’ve been thoroughly dismissed as scroungers.
I often think there’s a feeling out there that if you ignore people who are already marginalised, they’ll ultimately go away. Actually, people don’t go away. They get angry:
“Leftwing liberalists, liberalism,” Paul said when I asked him what he thought was wrong with the world. “They have just bought into this philosophy – of all feel sorry for us…they buy into this philosophy of – “Oh, show a real caring heart, because they like to. They’re hell bent on patronising people, these liberal lefties. They don’t just want to patronise us. They want to patronise the foreigners as well.”
“…the prime minister. She doesn’t live in the real world. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown [and] when it was a coalition – Clegg. He’s another one.”
I’d say this, too, just by the way. Stand Up To Trump coalitions and Pro-Europe marches can seem a very long way away when making and transcribing these interviews. That’s not to say Trump and Brexit should not be stood up to. They should be stood up to. It is simply to say that when you’re out and about, campaigns you see discussed all-out on Facebook seem a long way away.
We recorded the interview below in January at an Ark voluntary action lunch in Oldham. The Ark group puts on a free meal at the Salt Cellar each Tuesday. There’s the food, prayers, sometimes a bible reading, a thought of the day, music and, in the middle of the room, a popular pool table. People who are dealing with addiction, homelessness and other issues attend. It’s a social place. Paul travels to the Salt Cellar from Ashton each week by bus to meet and chat with others. I go along every few weeks to record interviews. People give their views on topics such as politics, benefits, sanctions, Brexit, immigration, work, housing, religion and sport.
Here’s Paul, 47, on 17 January 2017 at the Salt Cellar with his perspectives:
“[The big problem today] is leftwing liberalists, liberalism…. They have just bought into this philosophy – of all feel sorry for us. Feel sorry for us… gone too soft… [They] buy into this philosophy of, “Oh, show a real caring heart,” because they like to… they’re hell bent on patronising people, these liberal lefties. They don’t just want to patronise us. They want to patronise the foreigners as well. They are hell bent on patronising foreigners, because that’s how they get off. Their egos. It’s their personal own private egos, because they’re on an ego trip.
How does [the left] patronise?
Paul imitates. [Lefties say] “Oh, what a shame, isn’t it, I feel sorry for them [poor people], but we’ve got to keep in with the church, haven’t we. We got to create jobs for these people who are in these foodbanks. We’ve got to be seen to be doing something” – when really, it’s that personal fucking ego that’s driving all that. You know what I mean – sort of, “let’s integrate everybody into this big bubble.”
What does England need to do now? What are the problems?
Proper border control, because it’s non-effective [as it stands].
I come back from Cyprus, me, ten year ago. The flight was half an hour late, because of the turbulence. It circled around Manchester five times and then it come back. I were coming through blinking passport control at Manchester and it were literally …. all the guy said, the Manchester Airport guy, was “just go straight through to the carousel. Just go through to the luggage carousel.”
Blinking ridiculous. Didn’t have to show a passport or nothing, because there’s that many coming through. That were about three days before Christmas, that I come back from Cyprus. Been there for a week. Come back and then it’s, “go to the carousel, taxis are over there…” Ridiculous. It’s a joke. They’re a joke. Don’t get me wrong. That was about three days before Christmas. Maybe that was their way of saying “Happy Christmas,” but it don’t make it right, does it.
They’re [migrant workers] undercutting everyone [with low wages], aren’t they. You know – [migrant workers say] “we’ll do this for peanuts,” so they’re blocking people. They want to block people. Oh, it’s a measly amount.
[I worked in] painting and decorating. [There’s] not really [much work around]. Not really. Not got work at the moment. No, I’m on Incapacity.
They send me to these… [disability benefit work capability assessments].
They try and force me to go to Manchester [for ESA work capability assessments at Albert Bridge House], but I don’t want to go, because I were there when they bombed Manchester [when the IRA bombed Manchester in 1996].
I said, “I don’t really want to go to Manchester after that bomb blew up. You’re not sending me to Manchester. You’re going to send me to Stockport.” So, I go to the assessment centre at Stockport. I can get the bus straight there. Stagecoach.
I won’t go Manchester, because when the Irish blew the Arndale up, that was because of football. There were that many nationalities in Manchester that day – all these different nationalities, because they had the Euro (‘96 competition). They were all battling for the Euro. There were that many nationalities in Manchester. They targeted it.
It made it worse because England were playing Scotland and the Irish were jealous, because they weren’t part of the Euro football, because they didn’t qualify. No, they didn’t qualify – not for that one. Not for that Euro. So, they got jealous, didn’t they. 1996.
So, every time they try and send me to Albert Bridge House [for a work capability assessment], I turn around and say – “Ah, no. I’ve got bad news. You’ll send me to Stockport. Make them send me to Stockport. It’s under Underbank.”
[The ESA work capability assessment] – It’s been French. It’s been that Atos [Atos is a French company]. Now they’ve changed it to Maximus, the American one. They were French, but the French got so sick and tired of it all [running ESA work capability assessments], they left. The Americans wanted to take it for their own ego – their egotistical nature, because they’ve got a certain nature. They got off on an ego trip of….[sanctions]…
[I haven’t had my benefits] sanctioned, but I’ve heard a lot of disturbing tales. A lot of people who have been sanctioned have been forced into burglary – breaking into houses.
[They say] “Knock, knock, knock – let me in, little pig. Let me in.”
“Not by the hair of my chinny chinny chin.”
“Well, I will just kick your door in.” So, when people are being sanctioned, they are being forced into burglary – breaking into houses. Burglarising whatever they can burgularise.
It’s a shame that they have to burgle, because most of them have been sanctioned, but that’s the real world. See, a lot of these politicians don’t understand the real world. Like this woman here [Paul points at a picture of Theresa May on the front page of a Metro paper lying on our table]. She don’t live in the real world. She’s like Cameron and blinking Blair and Gordon Brown. They don’t live in the real world. They live in a fantasy island – Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Write it down. They live in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
[A really good time to live in England] was maybe when there was a lot of rebellion around jobs. You know, when the coals were open – before they shut all the coalmines down. Before all these big consortiums started ripping off all the energy to such an extent that they don’t need the coal any more, because they find all the ways of recyclable energy.
The group that runs the lunch session we’re attending today starts bible readings and songs now. Paul raises his voice to speak over the music.
Nowadays, it is all recyclable energy. All these environment consortiums – recyclable sort of fuel. I think this is what the Irish are on about. There’s a big debate going on in Ireland in Stormont in Belfast over these energy companies ripping customers off. I can understand what they are saying in Stormont, but I don’t like the Irish, because of what they done to Manchester, because of the Euro football.
I didn’t think it was going to be Manchester [the bombing]…I thought [it would be] London or Birmingham. It was only because of the football, because they knew that all the nationalities would be around [in] Piccadilly, because it was a nice, soft, sunny day. That was another turn up – the sun. They knew that everyone would be out sunning themselves. They’d all be out watching the England-Scotland civil war – the civil war from Wembley stadium. They’d all be in the pubs watching the English civil war… They decided to go in there with some fertiliser – took a two tonne fertiliser [bomb] in a van, took a van and put a two tonne fertiliser (bomb) in the back of the Arndale centre and put it on a timing device, and sent a recorded warning…
The singing and music continue.
You get your political extremists … they’re egotistical, because of all these sanctions that they’re handing out to people.
[Lots of people get their benefits sanctioned] Oh yeah, all the time. People like… the prime minister. She doesn’t live in the real world. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown [and] when it was a coalition – Clegg. He’s another one. When the government were in coalition, because they didn’t get an overall majority…
[About Jeremy Corbyn] When he become leader of the opposition, they [the Tories] were all getting drunk, because they all knew that he’d never get past the Conservatives. He hadn’t got the stomach. He hasn’t really got the consistent savvy, day after day, of getting into number 10. He hasn’t got the staying power for a real campaign. He hadn’t got it, so all these Conservatives were getting tanked up, the alcoholic conservative….
I voted Brexit. I don’t vote [in other elections]… I spoil my paper, me. I say None Of The Above, like they did on Brewster’s Millions. I keep watching that film, me. Brewster’s Millions. Richard Pryor and John Candy. They were saying None Of The Above. It’s dead funny, that [film]. I spoil my paper, me. I just say None Of The Above – but when it comes to this [the EU referendum], I vote Brexit, because it is not about fundamentalism. It’s about not wanting to be taken over. It’s about the fear of being taken over, of being a foreigner in your own land. I don’t want to be a foreigner in my own land. I feel it, though. I feel a foreigner in my own land. Ridiculous, isn’t it.
It’s a league of nations here … look at the Premiership. Probably the best league in the world. How many homelands… where are all these premiere league fellas coming from? Look at managers. Most managers are foreigners. Diversity, innit. Under the umbrella of diversity.
The singing and music continue.
[On church] You’ve got to clutch at straws somehow, don’t you. These churches, they will say “let’s all pray,” but…the pews are all empty. They all wonder why the pews are always empty…
The big churches played a big part in this Brexit, you know. [They all said to migrants] “all you come to the land of milk and honey… Jesus told me to come here.” [He] didn’t bloody tell them to come here. It’s all a political football, religion.
Mike Kendrick, from the South Chadderton foodbank, speaks to the group:
“We’ve been reading about Joseph and his amazing technicolour dreamcoat… It struck me this time how Joseph coped with difficulties in his life.
His brothers sold him and he became a slave. It seemed from then on that he sorted himself out, until Potiphar’s wife made false accusations about Joseph… He got thrown in prison. Joseph went from being in a prison to being in a palace. We’re told that Joseph was so trusted to even look after the keys to the prison. He was respected and he was given responsibility.
We all face predicaments. Some of those predicaments are daunting. There is something about looking at the courage that Joseph had and the way that he trusted in God to bring him through this situation… Even the difficulties that we encounter today – God can transform and make a positive force for good.”
[I don’t mind the church] To feed people who are hungry… otherwise they would be malnourished, wouldn’t they.
Some people [who sign on for Universal Credit or jobseekers’ allowance] – they have to hit targets. They have to look for so many jobs every day. They can’t just make it up any more [I think he means that in areas where there hasn’t been a lot of work, people fabricated their jobsearch records, because there were no jobs to look for or searches to record]…because my claimant adviser, believe it or not, she turned around to me in the jobcentre… and she said “Just make it up.” [she knew there were no jobs to look for].
Now, there are restricted safeguards on their part to say, “let’s follow up these claims and see if these claims are true,” so you get a follow up an assessor that does all the phone calls.
[I’m signed off for] stress, depression and anxiety. It’s enough to make anyone stressed or anxious. I thought to myself – “I’m giving up. It’s too much intrusive checks. As soon as this Big Brother caught on, it went global. Every nation thought, “well you must be doing this jobsearch, because Big Brother is watching you.” This land now is a concentration camp for the Big Brother society.
We need some sort of robust leader.
I read the Guardian, the Observer, the Telegraph, the Independent, the i, the Sun, the Star, the Mirror – read them at libraries. I’m computer illiterate. I wasn’t born in this digital age. All this Big Brother caused it all. I can’t breathe some days, because everyone is doing this [mimics looking down at a phone] walking around like cyborgs. You know – like from some other planet. We’ve been invaded by these cyborgs from another planet.
It’s just a craze that we’re stuck with. I don’t think I’d want kids in a world like this. Too much of an evil world. Kids were stabbing each other with these blades they take out of pencil sharpeners. Kids killing kids in school, kids killing teachers in school with these blades out of pencil sharpeners. Can you imagine that.
I’m glad I’m not young today.
Who wants to bring kids up in the world like that. You can’t take them out of school, because they have to go to school. That’s the law of the land. They’ve got fined and for taking kids out of the school and it’s a substantial amount. Whose got the substantial amount?