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Rich Versus Poor Disability Campaigning

Stiletto Wheels Politics Puzzle

I have been offline for a few days – flattened with a cold. So ridiculous. Something which pre-illness I would’ve shrugged off now confines me to bed for several days. Grr, annoying.

Anyway, I slipped back into my usual routine today only to find myself shocked by some horribly vitriolic social media commentary slagging off broadcaster Andrew Marr who, it seems, has had the temerity to have a stroke and sufficient finance to pay for his own rehabilitation and has not become a spokesperson for the ‘anti-disability cuts’ campaigners.

I most certainly do not wish to publicise the hows and whys of the #Marr conversation thread but am shaking my head in dismay as I type.

Predictably, it’s gone – kinda – viral. The nasty stuff does tend to do that but surely I am not alone in not quite getting how it helps anyone who is disabled and poor to attack a high profile man who has just come through a life-threatening illness that has left him with significant residual disability because:

  • he isn’t saying things some campaigners would like him to,
  • he earns a high salary,
  • he has paid to finance his own rehabilitation, and,
  • he hasn’t ‘suffered enough’ by virtue of his privilege.

Like most who have been hit with, the less than pleasant, unexpected events in life, I am only too aware how self absorbed illness/disability can make us, especially in the short term. Like many others, I wage war on the ‘Why me…’ and ‘Life is so unfair…’ moments. But, how does anyone think a torrent of vitriol being poured upon this one man by those purporting to support the disabled will help anyone here … other than as an outpouring of anger and resentment?

And if you feel that angry, wouldn’t it be more kindly constructive to direct your resentment at someone who isn’t struggling right now with illness/disability’?

And, if you’re not mad at all but just a disability campaigner trying to get more PR using a well known named individual who has no public profile for or against your campaign – well, that’s real humane, isn’t it? Or maybe just horribly cynical … but it’s ok … he’s rich – fair game, right?

Most able bodied people who are unaware of the reality of disability will just be confused to see us slagging each other off like this? ‘Are they saying he’s not really disabled because he’s rich or that disability’s not a problem if you’re rich?’  Umm, neither of those works for me.  You?

Anyone with an illness/disability who, like Andrew Marr, pays for all their own support and equipment, as well as paying taxes and supporting those who can’t, are just left thinking: what – my disability isn’t the ‘real deal’? Tell that to my damn body and my bank balance! And thanks for all that supportive fellow feeling …

And, isn’t it entirely possible that, still in the process of rehabilitation, Andrew Marr simply hasn’t thought right at this moment how best, or even if he wishes, to become personally involved in any wider campaigning to assist others like him? How long did it take you to comes to terms with massive body paralysis/debilitating long term illness? He is not obligated to take a public stance on what is for all of us a very personal experience and should certainly not feel pressured to by anyone else. Hard to see this moment in the spotlight as helping him along any …

I’ve got to say that I find it hard to believe that any genuinely poor and disabled person feels better about themselves or their situation by shining a light on and/or being extraordinarily unkind to someone who, whatever you may think of him, has clearly endured a painful, humbling and discomforting life experience … and is just doing his best to recover as much of his life as he can … totally like the rest of us.

If being disabled has become a ‘them and us’ rich versus poor competition then the government/IDS/media rhetoric really have won.

I fear for us all if we are fighting amongst ourselves rather than uniting to support one another – all of us as best we may.

What a depressing social media day.

PS If you would like to positively support those struggling with illness, disability and finance, please click across, read and sign the WOW Petition which has just over a week to reach 100,000 signatures.

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