I don’t disagree with the petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith to stand by his words and live on £53 a week. I have general problems with online petitions, but this is not the blog post where I talk about that.
My problem is this. No-one should have to live on £53 a week. Not even IDS. I understand we are trying to make him appreciate the implications of his actions, but it won’t work.
Because no matter how it happens his experience would start from an advanced position – like a handicap in golf. He would always be ahead of the folk who actually have to try and live on £53 a week. And even if he was living in a housing estate in Sheffield (or elsewhere), it wouldn’t be the same. Because the problem isn’t with folk being suddenly thrown onto benefits, it’s with the complete inequality in the system. I should know. My partner is currently on JSA. We’re fine, and we will always be fine. For a number of reasons which aren’t important but which others don’t have at their disposal.
So yeah, go ahead, petition IDS to live on £53 a week. But the tens of thousands of people who have signed up, I ask you three additional things:
1. Let political parties know you would pay more tax to have the system work. (And yes, I know a bunch of wealthy folk should pay more tax, but so should most of us, and the thinking that most of us don’t want to is what has got us into this mess).
3. Start questioning the economic ‘understanding’. It is wrong.
The challenge isn’t to IDS, it’s to all of us. And it isn’t a challenge to sign an online petition. Or to march against austerity. It’s to use our voice, through the ballot box, but also by speaking out, by offering alternative interpretations than the neoliberal press offer, and by joining up arguments. Because it also isn’t about one benefit, or about the bedroom tax, or about pensions. It’s about an ideological dismantling of a social good. And if we don’t start fighting back, by actually stating out loud, continually that this is the case, we will lose the battle. And by fighting back, I mean fighting against ALL political parties. None of them are challenging the status quo. None are presenting a genuine alternative model. Even the pro-Indy parties in Scotland pretty much tout the same model, just in a smaller state.
And until that happens I won’t be signing any online petitions. Because I don’t want some tinkering at the edges change. I don’t want a TV programme about IDS living on benefits. I want a revolution.