Successive governments have used many a mantra to get the public onside regarding welfare reform but for me one of the most pernicious is the ‘something for nothing’ one. The language is designed to rubbish people and dismiss those who are unable to earn enough to live on. In reality, the reverse of 'something for nothing' can be found in every nook and cranny in society. There are untold numbers of people who receive nothing for something. That is, they give something and expect nothing or very little in return. This generosity of spirit is particularly prevalent in the creative arts. Think of all the e-pictures, e-books and music downloads that are given away daily on the internet. Think of all the wonderful photos, the satirical blogs and cartoons you enjoy on Facebook and other social media. The Big Society is alive and kicking on the internet. People give and share their creative endeavours for free or for little remuneration. A government that really cared about the creative talent of its people would invest in its artists, and would subsidise those unable to be economically self-sufficient. They would encourage the long term sick and disabled who spend their time creatively and beneficially, instead of seeing them as only economic units to be beaten, bullied, controlled, disempowered and erased.
It might be an alien concept to politicians and those steeped in greed and corruption that there is a generous and giving community out there which they could be encouraging and valuing.
But alas successive governments don’t value the arts unless they are economically productive. They only value people as economic units, hence all the ‘something for nothing’ rhetoric. People are worth nothing to them unless they are economically self-reliant and when governments refer to hard-working people, when did you last hear this in relation to artists? When did you last hear them mention the 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration that is the driving power of artists? In an aggressive Capitalist society, artists – and I use this in the widest sense of the word - are dispensable if they can’t be self-reliant. Governments talk about the creative industries and the creative talent of our society but they are withdrawing tax credits for self-employed disabled people.
There are countless others those who give their time and expertise to others freely out of kindness and altruism, those who care for their fellow human beings, family members and animals, those who help others get legal or benefits advice, or help others get access to justice. Many of these people offering such expertise are unwell or disabled. Again, these are flourishing online in the form of blogs and websites. Surely it is time to value and celebrate that which is ‘given away’ for the benefit of all instead of devaluing people as economic units?
Isn’t it high time we had a real and intelligent debate about work in the wider sense of ‘using one’s time valuably’ for the benefit of the whole community?
If you are interested in sharing your creations or just hanging out with like-minded creatives, please join our Facebook group to find out more. Although it was set up for those with long term health problems and disabilities, all those who agree with this ethos will be very welcome.