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" I've always been acutely aware of how much society hates me because I'm disabled"
December 6, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

"The other day I was having a conversation with a Tory who accused me of using "strong language" when I pointed out that welfare reform is forcing disabled people to commit suicide. He felt there's no forcing going on. I had to explain that one needs money to live in this world, if you deny people money they have no way of carrying on."

One disabled woman tells of the despair the UK government's plans for "reform" of disability benefits as they will leave her and many others without income or support. Meanwhile, the lack of attention this issue has gotten from the main groups opposed to the overall agenda of spending cuts means there has been little organised protest against the reform, which is on the verge of passing into law. Even a petition to pause the reforms has gotten less than 7,000 signatures so far -- when it needs at least 100,000 to be treated in parliament.

The end result for her is that the reforms will turn her " little black toy dog" of depression into "a huge black wolf that's threatening to destroy" her when her disability benefits will end. "It's not emotional blackmail; it's the basic stuff kids learn in primary school about how one needs £1 to buy a loaf of bread." At least several people have already committed suicide because their benefits ran out, while the blog this was posted at had to put in a link to The Samaritans because so many people commented about committing suicide if/when their benefits run out.
posted by MartinWisse (120 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
This why I don't like all the calls for 'civility' in politics. I think honesty is important. But in a lot of cases in order to be 'civil' you actually have to lie or use a lot of euphemisms to describe the effects of the policies pushed by the other side. So civility and honesty can actually be in opposition to eachother.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2011 [65 favorites]


"Let them die, and decrease the surplus population." Before-Christmas Scrooge would be so pleased.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:58 AM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank you for collecting this together. I would add that this despair is being added to by the demonisation of disabled people as 'scroungers'. This rhetoric comes directly from government, fuelled by the right-wing press. This demonisation has been linked to the neglect of disability by progressive organisations.

And the effects on the ground are horrible - when you can't even go Christmas shopping without being subjected to verbal abuse.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think maybe there are people who believe in a "let them die" philosophy. And I think they are stupid and would be a drag on an enlightened, advanced civilization.
posted by polymodus at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think maybe there are people who believe in a "let them die" philosophy.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So civility and honesty can actually be in opposition to eachother.

I've been feeling this way for a while now. In some ways "civility" is simply a weapon of the powerful against the powerless.
posted by Justinian at 12:17 PM on December 6, 2011 [43 favorites]


It was amazing to me how quickly "political correctness" was a brush used to paint the left, when it got it's start in Bush I's "Kinder Gentler Nation".

Why should the UK be any different?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:20 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wanted to sign their petition, but the link makes it clear that only British Citizens and UK Residents may sign direct.gov.uk petitions, and it feels inappropriate to lie about that in an attempt to influence another country's policies, especially as I know little (though far more than I used to, thanks to this post!) of the current scheme and these proposed changes. I'd certainly encourage any Brits here to consider signing however.
posted by zachlipton at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, but that's hardly forcing them to commit suicide, is it? They could simply die slowly and painfully from starvation and exposure, as God intended, while providing a valuable object lesson to others who might be considering the same life choices they made.
posted by Naberius at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2011 [45 favorites]


Oh, it's the delightful tone argument.

"We must take action to remedy our culture of violence against women!"

"Now, now. Please don't shout. Please be quiet and then we can talk."

or...

"Saying racist things might mean you're racist!"

"Hey, calling me racist is offensive. To me."

and now we can enjoy

"The policies you're advocating will hurt vulnerable people, even kill them!"

"Whoa, whoa. I don't like some of those words. Maybe instead of 'hurt' you could say something that sounds good."
posted by clockzero at 12:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [34 favorites]


I had to explain that one needs money to live in this world

There are two important revelations that I hope will come out of our current global predicament. The first is that people who need this explained to them will come to realize that it's possible to have no money. The second is that everyone else will come to realize that people exist who need this explained to them.
posted by aaronetc at 12:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [19 favorites]


They could simply die slowly and painfully from starvation and exposure, as God intended, while providing a valuable object lesson to others who might be considering the same life choices they made

Word up.

I'm all for punishing the hell out of people who weren't smart enough to be born into a well off family. After all, your family's socio-economic status is the biggest predictor of your own socio-economic status, so you'd think more people would take this into account when choosing their parentage.

Same for people who choose to be born with physical conditions that make it immensely difficult for them to work in the salt mines and sweatshops: choose a better body before birth and/or avoid unforeseeable accidents, you morons.

/hamburger
posted by lord_wolf at 12:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


And the effects on the ground are horrible - when you can't even go Christmas shopping without being subjected to verbal abuse.

And that's precisely where it comes from. When someone who uses a wheelchair is the subject of outrage for daring to visit a public place (and in fact, the person in that link didn't even want to be there, but merely wanted to pass through) and gets comments like "How stupid to come here with a wheelchair! What were you thinking?" people with disabilities are already so dehumanized that cutting off social benefits is an easy leap. As if pseudo-living wanted to come in a wheelchair and attempt to push her way through the crowd for the hell of it. Just how much effort does it take to put yourself in her place and/or at least acknowledge that we're all doing the best we can in this world.

At least here in the states, the population is aging rapidly, so we're having to address these issues more and more whether we want to or not.
posted by zachlipton at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should put this idea out there more often.

Although, I don't know if the people who need it most can handle having yet another veil of ignorance draper over their perception.
posted by clockzero at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


*draped, or drapered over I guess
posted by clockzero at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2011


"I've always been acutely aware of how much society hates me because I'm disabled"

Oh, come now.

There is no society. There are only individual men and women.
posted by scody at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Just gotta love Thatcher's reasoning.

-there's no water, there's just H2O molecules that are often found in proximity to each other for reasons we will never understand.
-there's no such thing as a beach, just trillions of grains of sands. Just...together.
-there's no such thing as a corporation, just people who happen to work with each other.
-there's no such thing as a family, just people who are related and often find themselves living together.

And on and on.
posted by clockzero at 12:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've been feeling this way for a while now. In some ways "civility" is simply a weapon of the powerful against the powerless.

I would favorite this a hundred times if I could. The many, many things that it is impolite to mention - anything about racial bias, or how poor people actually have to live, or anything that suggests that maybe, just maybe being marginalized in this society isn't simply a character failing along the lines of pedophilia - oh, those are the things that nice people don't talk about. Middle class and upper middle class people don't talk about those things, because if we talked about them it would be very hard to maintain class illusions and class solidarity - those of us who have some grains of sympathy for marginalized people would have to put up for once instead of keeping quiet.
posted by Frowner at 12:49 PM on December 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


Also, after reading that "daring to go out shopping in a wheelchair and being called a 'scrounger' by actual adults" piece, I have to ask UK mefites: what the hell is happening in your country? No, really, you people are worse than us now, which is hard to believe and I completely fail to understand how it happened. Just please understand that what is happening - what has become acceptable in the last 5 years with the surveillance cameras and the ASBO stuff and this 'scrounger' line and the way immigrants get treated - it is so shocking that I can hardly take it in.

(Born into a horribly anglophile family, I was raised on British children's books and read a good deal of contemporary political UK stuff - obviously mine is an outsider's perspective, but back in the nineties the UK was the Great Good Place where I wanted to go, and I wouldn't take UK citizenship on a silver platter now.)
posted by Frowner at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I used to occasionally troll a right wing Canadian blog where the commenters generally shared the opinion that as long as dead bodies aren't lining the streets like stacks of cordwood, nobody should be complaining about anything but taxes or access to private healthcare.

This group despises anything they perceive as weakness and the left needs to worry less about placating them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Not "you people"...the government, the far right....Not mefites. And believe me, I'm goddamn hypercritical of the US.)
posted by Frowner at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2011


This is exactly the sort of thing that makes me feel fortunate to live in a social-democratic society. The stated disabled peoples policy of the government is twofold: everyone has a right to live fully integrated into society at large, and everyone has the right to fully actualize the life they want to live. Of course, most democratic societies recognize these "rights", but this unfortunately often means "sure, you have the right to these things - just don't expect any help fulfilling them." Social democracy takes the point of view that these rights are meaningless if you have no means of making them a reality.

This idea though did not spring fully formed out of the ground. For centuries, the attitude towards the disabled was essentially asylums for those who could afford it, and SOL for those who couldn't. A sort of sea change occurred in the late 80s/early 90s, though, where you began to see residential homes in residential areas housing the severally physically and mentally disabled. Which is of course part of the integration and fulfillment policy.

But when it comes to those who can live alone, provided they have help, I think the state has a very specific obligation to provide assistance. And as much as I hate having to make this argument - altruism alone should suffice - what these conservatives don't understand is that it benefits society to provide such assistance, as the small help you provide people to become active members of society gives us returns many times over. But short-sightedness prevents them from seeing the larger rippling effects of assistance.

On the note regarding "civility" in political discourse: I find it particularly telling that civility only seems to matter to these people when it comes to vocabulary; policies can be as irresponsible, wasteful and sociopathic as you please, so long as you couch your position in the language of polite society. And people actually buy this - if you use pointed language to call people on their bullshit, the reaction is often that you must be speaking from a place irrational and therefore wrong. As long as we let polite sociopaths control the discourse, this is unlikely to change.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:57 PM on December 6, 2011 [29 favorites]


Reading the comments on the local paper's page covering a recent case of alleged welfare fraud here in Seattle leaves me sad for humanity. People are just dieing for any excuse to trot out their racist and classist rants.
posted by nomisxid at 12:59 PM on December 6, 2011


So civility and honesty can actually be in opposition to each other.

I think this is very rarely true. It's a common belief and I've seen it argued plenty often, especially on Internet forums, but I don't think it's true. More often it stems from some combination of limited vocabulary and failure to understand the other side's perspective.

And that's fine, depending what your goal is. Is your goal to "call out" someone, to condemn them and rouse cheers from people who already support you? That's one thing. Is your goal to converse—to try to gain better understanding of each other's points, to hone your own argument against a whetstone of disagreement, to possibly convince one or the other of some new fact or perspective? That's something else.
posted by red clover at 1:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


But what kind of bullshit? Lies, falsehoods, untruths, white lies, economies of truth, selective choices of facts, inaccuracies or error?

It's not civility, it's an inavoidable byproduct of clarity of purpose.
posted by cromagnon at 1:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite gambit is when they say something terribly offensive then give you the wide-eyed "Whoa, whoa, aren't you supposed to be tolerant and accepting?!" when you call them out on it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the note regarding "civility" in political discourse: I find it particularly telling that civility only seems to matter to these people when it comes to vocabulary; policies can be as irresponsible, wasteful and sociopathic as you please, so long as you couch your position in the language of polite society.

Okay, so how would you recommend that we convince activists to not call the powers-that-be "assholes" or similar? Because that ain't helping either. There's got to be SOME middle ground, no?

Is your goal to "call out" someone, to condemn them and rouse cheers from people who already support you? That's one thing. Is your goal to converse—to try to gain better understanding of each other's points, to hone your own argument against a whetstone of disagreement, to possibly convince one or the other of some new fact or perspective? That's something else.
posted by red clover


Yeah. This.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on December 6, 2011


I had to explain that one needs money to live in this world

This is the essence of what is troubling me (here in the US.) I often feel bewildered by the aims of the Republican party: they campaign against pensions and health insurance and minimum wage and safety nets of all kinds including welfare and medicaid. And I am left wondering what the hell they imagine will happen to the real people that will find themselves without money.

There was an op ed in our paper this past Sunday that was outraged because Carl Jr's will be paying more for medical insurance under Obama care (I think they will have to provide insurance for their part time help) which means fewer Carl Jr's will be built. Which means fewer jobs will be manufactured. And I have to ask. What good is a job if you cannot afford to eat AND see a physician when you need to? It is just like when Michelle Bachmann proclaimed that if only we ended the minimum wage, more jobs would materialize. Great. Work AND starve.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Won't someone think of the millionaires that will commit suicide if their taxes go up???
posted by DarkForest at 1:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oddly, just this week I was thinking about Kimberly Rogers. In the mid-nineties, Rogers was unable to work full-time due to ill-health and was receiving welfare when payments were reduced by 21% by the newly-elected Tory government (when the reduction took effect, after rent she had $70 a month for all other expenses, including groceries). She was continuing her post-secondary education and also receiving student assistance, a practice which had previously been allowed and encouraged as a way to help welfare recipients return to the workforce. The Tory government of the day banned the practice, but there is no evidence Rogers was ever informed that she was now in contravention of the law.

In late 1999, the provincial government learned of her student loans, and required her to repay some $13,000 in payments; the overpayment was deducted from her cheques, leaving her $18 per month for food and other expenses. In April 2001, Justice Greg Rodgers of the Ontario Court of Justice found her guilty of fraud, and sentenced the pregnant Rogers to six months of house arrest. With the fraud conviction, her benefits were suspended for three months, leaving her no money for food, rent or medication.

On August 9th, 2001, her body was discovered in her apartment by her boyfriend. She had been dead for several days in an apartment without air conditioning. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, which the inquest later heard was at her own hands.

The inquest made several recommendations to ensure this situation would not happen again. Community and Social Services Minister Brenda Elliott dismissed the recommendations as unnecessary tinkering with a system that "was working effectively". The Tories were defeated several months later and have not returned to power in Ontario since.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:22 PM on December 6, 2011 [54 favorites]


Won't someone think of the millionaires that will commit suicide if their taxes go up???

I think about them all the time. And slowly and surely draw my plans against them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:24 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The mobility component will no longer be assessed on your ability to "walk", it will be assessed on your ability to "mobilise". The difference being that they'll consider your ability to get around using a wheelchair. And if you can get around using a wheelchair your benefit will be denied.
What the fuck? How will this compare to the US? It's hard to imagine things in the UK could be worse then here, but as far as I know social security is actually pretty generous to disabled people. Am I wrong about that?

Anyway here's Krugman on how all this austerity stuff is totally unnecessary. The UK isn't even having much trouble borrowing, because they have their own currency and central bank. So they haven't been hit with the same problems as the Eurozone countries.

From what I've heard it sounds like Nick Clegg has basically destroyed the LibDem party. Who would vote for them after this? I think it's unlikely that the economy will be repaired by 2015, which is when the next election is supposed to be (from what I understand) And if the economy does recover and everyone loves the current government, won't they all just vote for the Tories?
posted by delmoi at 1:25 PM on December 6, 2011


Slate's analysis of the video: Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann seem to share some version of Ron Paul's libertarian position that death is a great instructor of personal responsibility.

Their "position" is barbaric.
posted by polymodus at 1:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I often feel bewildered by the aims of the Republican party: they campaign against pensions and health insurance and minimum wage and safety nets of all kinds including welfare and medicaid. And I am left wondering what the hell they imagine will happen to the real people that will find themselves without money.

This is supposed to spur them to get jobs, you see. And as for the people who need help, that's where church charities come in.

I wish I were kidding, but that's exactly the thinking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:28 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, after reading that "daring to go out shopping in a wheelchair and being called a 'scrounger' by actual adults" piece, I have to ask UK mefites: what the hell is happening in your country?

Frowner: this Blood & Treasure post and comment thread sort of explain what's going on: a deliberate campaign by the (rightwing) media and the government to demonise all benefit seekers and especially disabled ones. This is combined with a determined campaign to discourage people seeking benefits, through illegal and certainly immoral means if necessary, which in turn is driven by the "need" to cut spending on these programmes.

What doesn't help here is having the bloody BBC broadcasting sensationalist programmes about "welfare scroungers" and "fake disability claimaints".

In the Netherlands this all happened ten-fifteen years ago, as during the eighties and nineties a lot of people were "dumped" into disability as this was much cheaper and easier for employers to get rid of unwanted people than to actually have to go through the trouble of making them redundant. Which led to quite a lot of people on disability benefits (iirc something like close to a million in a country of 16 million) and the inevitable backlash against scroungers. So we got though with those lazy layabouts and cut their benefits partially or completely as there's always work no matter your disability: if need be, you'll just need to get a job folding eggroll skins.

What this led to in reality was a lot of money for people running dodgy re-integration int he workforce schemes, lots of hidden poverty and hardship and of course no noticable savings on the benefits bills for the government.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, so how would you recommend that we convince activists to not call the powers-that-be "assholes" or similar? Because that ain't helping either. There's got to be SOME middle ground, no?

This is an honest question: is there any evidence you can point to that the one approach works better than the other? I'll even take anecdotal evidence, because so far I've only seen this argued from an intuitive position that holds that people will listen to you if you address them nicely, which I think may be a fallacious generalization from the dynamics of interpersonal rhetoric to the dynamics of public rhetoric.

Now, granting for the moment that civility is a necessary component of getting what you want politically, the problem I think lies in the fact that constructing your rhetoric in such a way as to please the "powers-that-be" necessarily involves channeling elements of the sociopathic code of conduct that got them there. This is naturally a difficult task for non-sociopaths.
posted by invitapriore at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's hard to imagine things in the UK could be worse then here, but as far as I know social security is actually pretty generous to disabled people. Am I wrong about that?

Yes. The average disaiblity insurance benefit for someone with a decent work history is around $1000 a month. For the SSI program, the average benefit is more like 500-600 a month, and attempts to supplement that amount run the risk of exceeding the stringent resources requirements and terminating benefits.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Work AND starve.

A billionaire can dream, can't he?
posted by scody at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2011


I think this is very rarely true. It's a common belief and I've seen it argued plenty often, especially on Internet forums, but I don't think it's true. More often it stems from some combination of limited vocabulary and failure to understand the other side's perspective.

I consider it highly uncivil when the other side lies about me and my life, but *I* get called rude when I point out they're lying. Apparently it's rude to ask politicians why they're lying - we can only ask them about why they "misspoke" or "used bad data" or whatever. It's bullshit.
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [27 favorites]


We have come to a place where artificial balance in news reporting is so important it is considered a lie to actually say what a policy is doing if it makes one side look bad. Forget uncivil, even pointing it out is a lie.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


If your goal is to convince your tory friend that welfare reform is bad, you should soften your language and say something like its linked with an increase in suicides by disabled people. If you want to be self-righteous and you don't really care to persuade anyone, accuse them of killing disabled people.
posted by Gregamell at 1:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy Hell, ricochet biscuit, that is one fucked-up story.

what the hell they imagine will happen to the real people that will find themselves without money.

This is supposed to spur them to get jobs, you see. And as for the people who need help, that's where church charities come in.


Oh I know that's the party line-- private charities. After all, how better to spread the word of of (a Christian) God than by making sure people pray to Jesus before getting their bowl of soup? But as we have discovering recently, charity food larders are not bottomless. They are, in fact, straining to meet the needs of today's unemployed. I should not like to see what happens if all governmental safety nets were removed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have come to a place where artificial balance in news reporting is so important it is considered a lie to actually say what a policy is doing if it makes one side look bad. Forget uncivil, even pointing it out is a lie.

Heres another example
posted by Gregamell at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, so how would you recommend that we convince activists to not call the powers-that-be "assholes" or similar? Because that ain't helping either. There's got to be SOME middle ground, no?

But the civility question isn't about assholes, it's about it being uncivil for people to point out things like, "Hey, you killed 100,000 people in Iraq" or "Hey, people will die if you don't give them access to health care".
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The "strong language" is to use an extreme and unlikely example of people committing suicide as an argument against budget cuts. One does not engage in a constructive debate over public policy by accusing the other of side of murder. This is uncivil and unhelpful, but if you just want to show how morally superior you argument is despite any demerits, it's a sure bet.
posted by three blind mice at 1:48 PM on December 6, 2011


Luntz says you should call them "negative life outcomes".
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm reminded of the late, great Jack Layton, who got in trouble more than once for using strong language to talk about the impacts cuts to social programs had on the homeless:

During his first federal campaign as leader in 2004, he said homeless people died as a result of spending cuts imposed when then-Liberal leader Paul Martin was a deficit-fighting finance minister. That harsh charge put Layton on the defensive for several crucial days of campaigning. During this year’s campaign, he told the CBC he deeply regretted the remark. Yet he’d made it more than once. Launching his NDP leadership bid in 2002, he remarked that then-prime minister Jean Chrétien had admitted in a conversation that he’d “lost interest” in affordable housing. “Well, because he ‘lost interest,’ ” Layton said, “a homeless man named Eugene Upper froze to death in a bus shelter, one block from my home.”
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


One does not engage in a constructive debate over public policy by accusing the other of side of murder. This is uncivil and unhelpful, but if you just want to show how morally superior you argument is despite any demerits, it's a sure bet.

You're making the assumption that the other side is interested in a constructive debate over public policy. I don't believe that's the case for a lot of these issues. They may be interested in the appearance of debate but that isn't the same thing.

In the extreme case calling for a civil and reasoned debate is simply a way to normalize the abhorrent. Like torture policy. It is sickening that we can even say the words "torture policy" as though it is no different than whether the marginal tax rate is 32 or 35%. Of course the pro-torture side wants a civil and reasoned debate. Because the truth is that people arguing for torture are sick assholes and people arguing for torture deserve a good punch in the nose, so making out like it is a subject for debate is a big step up for them.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


Civility and politeness are bedrock principals that I personally find extremely important, and I'm ashamed of myself whenever I violate them. Which I do, sometimes. I'm only human.

It is not impolite to tell the truth. Someone who says it is impolite is either mistaken or is making some sort of rhetorical gambit.

Ill doctrine is a popular video blog here, and it is a good example of how one can talk about charged topics with clarity, character, and respect for one's audience, supporters, and opponents without mincing words, compromising the truth, or avoiding discussions of ethics and morality.

It can feel good to lash out verbally at the people you disagree with, but it is seldom productive.
posted by jsturgill at 1:59 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Civility in political discourse?

"If you don't continue to give us free money, we'll kill ourselves."

Real civil.
posted by overthrow at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2011


They should accept their negative life outcomes with quiet dignity and grace.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is not impolite to tell the truth. Someone who says it is impolite is either mistaken or is making some sort of rhetorical gambit.
Wow, that totally unsupported statement really seals the deal! If jsturgill says it it must be true!
posted by delmoi at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, so how would you recommend that we convince activists to not call the powers-that-be "assholes" or similar? Because that ain't helping either. There's got to be SOME middle ground, no?

Like I said, we don't let polite sociopaths control the discourse. It's very easy to paint "civility" as "dishonesty, dodging the question, flip-flopping" and so forth. Being made to seem as a slippery, lying eel is a great way to lose a discussion on an issue. In other words, I think the middle ground is putting these weasels on the spot and demanding they speak plainly. This can certainly be done "civilly".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


As so many in this thread are making a point about civility and how it relates to political discourse, I will attempt to remain civil myself.

I am struggling with it though, as I think that the description of welfare benefits paid to the most vulnerable members of our society as 'free money' is evidence of a remarkably sordid attitude. I pay my taxes proudly, and would pay more were I asked, because I want to live in a nation where we do not let the vulnerable fall under the wheels.
posted by calico at 2:11 PM on December 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


One the one hand, we're building the two biggest aircraft carriers the country's ever had. One of will never see active service, while the other won't have any planes on it for the first 5 years of its service. Brilliant.

All while we're slashing benefits that will leave a good portion of Britain's disabled destitute. But let's not stop there -- let's price kids out of higher education. And when they grow up to become unemployed and lacking skills (can't think why!), they're forced to work for free to claim their jobless allowance.

There's a very tragic humour about Britain today.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 2:11 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Okay, so how would you recommend that we convince activists to not call the powers-that-be "assholes" or similar? Because that ain't helping either. There's got to be SOME middle ground, no?

I don't know if it's helping or not, but at some point, people will call things as they see them. If you truly believe the disabled should starve to death instead of having everyone chip in to provide a social safety net or that someone who has committed the appalling sin of propelling herself in a wheelchair through a public square is deserving of abuse and contempt, you are, in fact, acting like an asshole. If you're a public official opposed to any serious effort to provide quality health care to all Americans, in some form or another, you're acting like an asshole. If you think elementary schools should fire their janitors and hire the poor kids to clean the school for 20 hours a week, you're acting like an asshole. If you think, even as a joke, that the US-Mexico border should be protected by a 20-foot electric fence with lethal force, that's positively assholic behavior. If you cannot tolerate people of a different religion or sexual orientation than you living and working in your community, you are, in fact, an asshole.

There's plenty of serious debate to be had on the challenges we face as a society and plenty of room for legitimate discussion on how best to address those challenges. But at some level, why do we have to tolerate greed and discrimination and bigotry in the name of some imagined standard of civil political discourse? Everyone who disagrees with me is absolutely not deserving of disrespect, but is there not some point where we can and should refuse to engage with utter jerks and call them for what they are? It's very much not something to through around wildly, but there comes a point where if the shoe fits...
posted by zachlipton at 2:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am struggling with it though, as I think that the description of welfare benefits paid to the most vulnerable members of our society as 'free money' is evidence of a remarkably sordid attitude.

It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it. It's an unearned benefit the very definition of "free"? That's not in dispute.

I pay my taxes proudly, and would pay more were I asked

No one is stopping you. Next time you fill out your tax forms, double the contribution and include a note explaining you feel you're undertaxed - I'm sure they'd gladly accept it.
posted by overthrow at 2:20 PM on December 6, 2011


"I pay my taxes proudly, and would pay more were I asked"

No one is stopping you. Next time you fill out your tax forms, double the contribution and include a note explaining you feel you're undertaxed - I'm sure they'd gladly accept it.


I think you missed the "were I asked"...
posted by Dysk at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people don't think the disabled need to earn the right to live.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think you missed the "were I asked"...



I didn't miss it. That's always the way some people are - "I'd gladly do more to help the poor disabled people, but, well, since no one has asked..."
posted by overthrow at 2:28 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, is there some particular topic or concept that you think cannot be spoken of civily in a political or public policy discussion context? If there is, post that thing to this thread. If you have a bunch in mind, pick your best one.

I will then find someone speaking on that topic civily. Guarenteed.

Act now! This offer expires the moment this thread drops off recent activity.
posted by jsturgill at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011


If you truly believe the disabled should starve to death instead of having everyone chip in to provide a social safety net or that someone who has committed the appalling sin of propelling herself in a wheelchair through a public square is deserving of abuse and contempt, you are, in fact, acting like an asshole.

Or perhaps your attitude is cold, and inconsiderate or insensitive. Perhaps your perspective lacks compassion. Maybe you are mistakenly ascribing fault where none lies. Maybe—here's a MetaFilter favorite—you are viewing circumstances through a lens of privilege, and maybe if you had more exposure to people in certain circumstances then you'd realize new facts about those circumstances or your attitudes about the people would change. Maybe you're harboring anger about something not pertinent, and unconsciously channeling it here. I could go on, and on, and on, and there are people far more eloquent than I.

My point? I don't believe anybody should starve, and I don't believe anyone deserves abuse or contempt. (Not even weasels or eels.) When I meet someone who does hold those views, I'd love to be able to change them because I think that will make the world a better place. I don't think calling that person an "asshole" will accomplish that. I am thankful that I have other options.
posted by red clover at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


red clover, you can be pretty certain you will be accused of being uncivil or using strong language if you call someone cold, inconsiderate, and lacking in compassion. Going on to then cast them as so ignorant that they are not merely ignorant, but ignorant of this fact, too, probably doesn't help.

I don't disagree with anything you said. But if someone wants to be offended by it (perhaps as a tactic to shut down discussion, perhaps not) they can easily find something in it.
posted by Dysk at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it.

How should a severely disabled person earn it? What are the drawbacks or benefits to putting people who are very ill in jobs that they may not be able to do properly? If there are no jobs that someone can do because of physical and mental disabilities, is "no free money" a workable policy?

Show your work.
posted by rtha at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


No one is stopping you. Next time you fill out your tax forms, double the contribution and include a note explaining you feel you're undertaxed - I'm sure they'd gladly accept it.

It's a team sport.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it.

They most certainly did earn it, by virtue of the fact that decent, civilized societies look out for the least fortunate among us. The disabled, struggling to live to the best of their ability along with the rest of us despite circumstances beyond their control, are deserving of our support not simply because it's the ethical thing to do, but also because to abandon them damages our society.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [34 favorites]


Yes, except that the definition of free is not the same as the definition of unearned, overthrow, so I think there may be more dispute here than you've catered for. The money is not free either to the recipient - who may or not have paid taxes throughout their life - or to the state. It makes as much sense to say that we are provided with free motorways, or free aircraft carriers or free schools - all those children with their unearned education!

I don't think the Inland Revenue would accept unsolicited tax donations from me, as it happens - just spent 10 minutes I won't get back trying to find out.
posted by calico at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


In theory, if the IRS audit your taxes and find you've overpaid, they automatically give you a rebate, don't they? How often this happens in practice may well be another matter, of course...
posted by Dysk at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2011


I am struggling with it though, as I think that the description of welfare benefits paid to the most vulnerable members of our society as 'free money' is evidence of a remarkably sordid attitude.

It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it. It's an unearned benefit the very definition of "free"? That's not in dispute.


Is the corollary also true? That if people are given free (unearned) money we can call that welfare? Because let me tell you about this little place called Wall St.
posted by telstar at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it. It's an unearned benefit the very definition of "free"? That's not in dispute.

You know, the economy is pretty dependent on a certain number of people being un- or under-employed in order to prevent inflation. As a result, the least we as a society can do is take some care of these people who are thrown under the bus so that the rest of us can get along. They are serving the economy, and are very much earning the pittance that we offer them.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:49 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Dysk: this is a bit of a daft derail but I might as well get my worth out of those 10 minutes. I am taxed directly as part of a pay-as-you-earn scheme so if there's a mistake in the calculation of my tax, it is one made by the Revenue not by me. I am not currently asked at any point in the year to assess my own tax liability. I'd have to send a cheque to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, I suppose, if I were to decide to throw money at the state.)

So anyway, the wider point is not that I actively want to give more of the money I currently have to the Government, but rather that if any Government were to come to me with the suggestion that they take more of my money, and in return they would work towards a more equal and fairer society I would be happy with that. This is a reasonable position, I think.
posted by calico at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most unparliamentary language (warning, strong language).
posted by nickyskye at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2011


One thing that has always stuck with me from the Principia Discordia is this bit:

One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said YES?

"O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!"

WHAT BOTHERS YOU, MAL? YOU DON'T SOUND WELL.

"I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe."

WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?

"But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it."

OH. WELL, THEN STOP.

At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.


That resonates very strongly with me.

I am a secular humanist who believes it's pretty clear that relying on divine intervention is a poor plan, especially when human beings have all the resources necessary to stamp out most diseases, violence, starvation, etc. I mean, we are freaking masters of our environments and have been since the first stone ax was invented, much less the combustion engine. There's no excuse for this shit.

So I tend not to respond well to arguments over who deserves what, or whether or not certain groups of people have earned or deserve services or tax breaks, or whatever, when we're talking about providing healthcare, food, shelter, education, physical safety, and meaningful autonomy. Those should not be optional or conditional items.

If you take a step back and look at the technology we have right now and the amount of physical and intellectual power available to us, it seems clear that there are huge classes of suffering that exist only because we collectively create it, or refuse to do anything about it.
posted by jsturgill at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Delmoi, is there some particular topic or concept that you think cannot be spoken of civily in a political or public policy discussion context? If there is, post that thing to this thread. If you have a bunch in mind, pick your best one.
Sure, Nazis. Murders. Pedophiles. I don't see many calls for people to be civil when discussing these things, why should they? I'm sure you can find people who are civil on those issues but so what?
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is sickening that we can even say the words "torture policy" as though it is no different than whether the marginal tax rate is 32 or 35%.

The thing I like to do, when people have a built up rationalization system around abhorrent practices, is replace it with "Cannibalism", which thus far, seems to be about as far as civilization has progressed without a sizable group to defend the practice:

"It's your fault if a cannibal kills and devours you, you were out too late and wearing the wrong clothes!"

"Of course the police can kill and eat you, you looked like a criminal!"

"I couldn't help myself, I had drank too much that night! It's not like I'm a cannibal or anything!"

"We can't keep paying to keep the disabled protected from cannibals! They're just leeches, let them fend for themselves! It's not like WE'RE the ones killing them, we're just locking them out the walls until they can pay the cannibal-protection-tax!"
posted by yeloson at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it.

Quite so. Children don't earn the food they eat, the roofs over their heads, or the schools they attend either, the little moochers.
posted by scody at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


The US Treasury will gladly accept your donations. In fact, Arizona added a donation box to their state tax forms this year as a stunt and raised $13K. I know there was talk of Congress doing this on the federal tax forms at one point too.

But none of that is the point. We all can, and many of us do, donate to charities, volunteer out time, and otherwise help with causes we believe in. That's great, but it is absolutely not the same as the government collecting and distributing resources as part of our shared social obligation to care for one another. If we're going to provide minimal standards of living and dignity as a basic human right in our society, we need to decide how much that will cost and institute a budget that will pay for them, which includes taxing the population accordingly.

Voluntary contributions to charity are certainly to be applauded, but that's not what a social safety net is about. The welfare system is a commitment that members of our community should not be able to starve or freeze to death while, say, Judge Judy makes $45 million/year. That's not voluntary charity; it is the obligation we share with one another as members of one of the wealthiest and most advanced nations in the world.
posted by zachlipton at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Delmoi, you've never seen people disagree civily over the death penalty without compromising their perspective?

You've never heard anyone talk civily about the complexity surrounding consensual sex between minors, or a minor and an adult (i.e., a 16 year old and 18 year old couple etc.)? You've never heard anyone talk civily about the myriad of complexities and potential for harm from requiring sex offenders to register vs. not register?

And if you want civil yet powerful discussions of Nazis, look at any one of a dozens of excellent movies dramatizing neo nazis that are truthful and powerful, yet treat even characters they are highly critical of with humanity and care.

None of these issues require one to be a dick, or impolite, in order to honestly discuss or convey your point of view.

The items you listed are charged issues, to be sure, but that seems like just the place to be more certain, more careful, and more correct when chosing your words. Which I hope I have managed to do!

I think you may perceive certain kinds of truths to be so distasteful as to be inherently confrontational and therefore impolite whenever and however they are expressed. My definition of what is civil and polite allows for those things to be expressed, particularly in a context where people are discussing, debating, or creating public policy or laws. (As compared to, say, dinner with the extended family.)

In other words, we may be quibbling over irrelevant definitions rather than the substance of what should be allowed in political discource.
posted by jsturgill at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've mostly accepted the fact that someday, I'll probably need to figure out how to get barbituates from Mexico. If I can't figure out how to get there and get what I need, I'll rent a helium tank and use a bag and some tape. I don't want it to hurt. But I don't want to die either. I'm fighting every day for my survival, and I'm hoping, desperately one day to get out of the US. Not the UK. Not Canada. They're too much like here.

Last year I was approved for disability. I live on less than $1000 a month from social security. Every year I have to give my apartment complex six months of bank statements for rent that costs $725 a month (the real low income housing doesn't expect to even open their waiting lists for years, and that's just the waiting list). My medical copays this year with Medicare just hit $1500, finally qualifying me for Medicaid also, less than one month before the end of the year. By the time the paperwork is done the copay cycle starts all over. Every six months I crawl into some charity or the other and show documents and beg for help with my electric bill. The water isn't billed through the city so no one will help with it, and I'm being threatened with eviction if I don't come up with several years of past due water. Every six months or so I have to turn in bank statements and recertify for food stamps.

I'm trying to finish my degree so that I can (hopefully, cynically probably not) get a great stable job with great health insurance that would be ok with me taking the max sick days and vacation as sick days every year. Even if I graduate and get a job making 100,000 a year, my medical care costs over $30,000 a year. If I live very frugally and I live past 65, and retire, I can't save enough for medical care for retirement, and that's assuming I don't develop any other conditions. So in 20 years I'm going to be right back where I started, so far in the hole that every day I wake up wondering if this month I'll end up on the street. If I don't have to kill myself this year, I certainly will someday, unless I manage to make it out of the US.

The problem is that other countries don't want our trash either. No one is going to let me immigrate unless I suddenly become brilliant or famous.

From the article: "When you constantly have to cancel social engagements because you're so frequently ill your friends drift away from you very quickly. My only social interaction these days is online: Facebook and Twitter are more valuable to me than most non-disabled people can comprehend; it's the only chance I get to engage with others. With even less money I will have to sacrifice my broadband connection and with it my entire social life will be lost. I will be completely isolated from everyone."

This. This, this, this. You are completely isolated, and as friends from better times move away you don't have money or energy or enough time pain-free to make new connections. New people don't want to think about your depressing chronic conditions (both medical and financial). For a year I had intermittent internet access by stealing it from neighbors, but the connection was intermittent and shaky and you could only get one or two bars of wireless for ten minute chunks. Finally I accepted that I was never going to catch up on my water bill, or the traffic tickets from when my car had been towed, and I got internet. My mother, who is on social security, scraped together $600 to help me pay for books and classes this quarter. Because that check was deposited in my bank account, I've gotten the third degree from three different social services agencies. WITH that extra $600 my income was around $1000 a month over the last year.

Every time I go to social services they ask me why I'm spending so much on rent. I pay several hundred less a month than student housing, and I can barely shuffle between home and classes without falling apart as it is. Sometimes I cry openly on the bus.

Online interaction usually brings no relief. I posted a question here a little over a year ago (before I had social security) about part-time under the table work, so I could pay some medical bills and still keep benefits for ongoing medical expenses. And the sheer amount of hatred and vitriol was astounding. Someone started a MetaTalk thread about me and how I was sleazy for looking for ways to "dodge taxes." I ended up getting a job through my social worker. One of her friends got a tax break for hiring me part time. I worked from home and made less than $100 a month, and was so stressed and tired while trying to do that and take some classes that I did it for less than six months. And also the money vs. time investment...well, let's just say it wasn't enough to make a difference to me. It sure helped out the person who got the tax break by hiring me though. The hatred expressed here sent me into crying fits for two days. If I'd had barbituates then I would have taken them then.

I grind home in the afternoon, stop taking pain pills, and crawl in bed. And think about ways to die, in a world that has made it very clear that I'm very much worthless and unwanted. I think about other things too. I fantasize about stealing bodies. Leaping into someone else's body and forcing them out. I think about how confused and scared they'd be, and I think about how my body has been stolen from me, and my dignity, and self-respect. I think about other things I can't and won't talk about, ways I could maybe survive. And then I wonder why I want to, what it is that makes me want to hold on. Why do we fight it so hard? Right now one of the things that keeps me going is my cats, who I've had forever. I haven't got any hope anymore.
posted by thelastcamel at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2011 [66 favorites]


I've found that liberal folks like to be "caring" in the abstract, but no one cares in the concrete.
posted by thelastcamel at 3:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


All these people talking about suicide should simply commit themselves. How many people's benefits could be covered by handling one suicide case? Anyone dead set on suicide should consider another venue.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:37 PM on December 6, 2011


Delmoi, you've never seen people disagree civily over the death penalty without compromising their perspective?
I said murder, not the death penalty. I realize people may consider the death penalty to be murder, but that's not what I meant.
And if you want civil yet powerful discussions of Nazis, look at any one of a dozens of excellent movies dramatizing neo nazis that are truthful and powerful, yet treat even characters they are highly critical of with humanity and care.
Those movies weren't made to be 'civil' to Nazis, but rather to be good movies.

The thing is, you're being a little disingenuous. Talking about where the age of consent should be or sex offender registries isn't the same thing as actually being civil about unambiguous child molestation. The death penalty isn't murder what we typically mean when we say 'murder'.

Of course lots of people were civil to the Nazis, just look at Neville Chamberlain.

The point isn't it is theoretically impossible to be polite to people who are broadly considered horrible, but just that society doesn't value being civil to them and might even question you if you are.
posted by delmoi at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2011


I am trying to construct a civil response to this comment by overthrow, in which it is implicitly suggested not only that those disabled people who cannot work and have no resources or support network should simply be left to die but also that any other view is somehow itself uncivil.

I am having enormous difficulty doing so.

That is an extremely unpleasant comment.

However, it is useful to be reminded that there are people around who really think that kind of despicable thing. There are many such people in the British Conservative party, for example. Hence the OP.

Such a comment, nasty, brutal and utterly amoral though it is, may therefore have the positive result of acting as a recruiting ground for political activity among those who hover on the brink of activism but allow their natural tendency to think that people are basically on the whole ok to lead them elsewhere.

Actually, some people are just fucking arseholes, and occasionally - perhaps more often than not - those people get into power. Arguably anyone who gets into power is a fucking arsehole, by definition - it's hard to think of anyone in British politics in any party who doesn't deserve that epithet - but there are fucking arseholes and fucking arseholes who will openly support a policy that will clearly lead to the deaths of vulnerable people.

So thank you, overthrow, for your comment. It's the best reason to rejoin the Labour party I've heard in years. And I can't stand the Labour party.
posted by motty at 3:41 PM on December 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


Meanwhile, back on ESA assessment in the UK, the Guardian is reporting that people receiving intravenous chemotherapy will be required to present themselves for assessment before being being allowed to claim ESA.
posted by calico at 3:49 PM on December 6, 2011


Delmoi, I was trying to come up with realistic scenarios related to the hugely broad categories you mentioned.

I don't believe there is any sort of real contention presently in politics when it comes to Nazis, murder, or pedophilia. Those are areas of broad consensus. I can't recall the last time someone was decried as rude for decrying them, or for saying, "pedophilia is bad and bad people do it."

Actual discourse and disagreement and ranting and raving and rudeness and incivility occurs regularly on the fringe of those areas of broad agreement as people attempt to define where black ends and white (or heck, even gray) begins. My comment was an attempt to model reality as I understand it, not be disingenuous.

If you had some other sort of position or policy statement or belief in mind for me to comment on, those three words alone failed to convey that to me.

In any case, I think perhaps I should not have engaged in this way and simply pointed back to ill doctrine. I had intended it to be the primary support for my assertion, as I feel it does an excellent job of being civil about race, which is a very heated, contentious, and problematic issue in America. There is my proof, and if it is not persuasive to you, then so be it. Perhaps it will be persuasive to others.
posted by jsturgill at 4:02 PM on December 6, 2011


thelastcamel, thanks for sharing your story. I hope that by doing so, you feel a little better. People care and there is hope to be found in confiding in others and continuing to ask for help. Don't give up.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:09 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ergh. Forgot to include Medicare is looking to cut payments to doctors by 27% this year. I already had to give up my GP because he won't take Medicare. My specialists still take Medicare, but that may not last. Half the drugstores in town won't take Medicaid for prescriptions ($950 bucks a month is too much "income" to be on Medicaid, so I'm not "lucky" enough to have it, just Medicare).

Oh yes, we're being forced to die. The wonder is that anyone has the balls to label it suicide, not murder.
posted by thelastcamel at 4:10 PM on December 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


But the civility question isn't about assholes, it's about it being uncivil for people to point out things like, "Hey, you killed 100,000 people in Iraq" or "Hey, people will die if you don't give them access to health care".

....says....who? I've always only seen the "civility" question raised when it comes to taunts and insults, not facts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:29 PM on December 6, 2011


I do think we're not being fair to the Conservatives. After all, they're first in line to call out Jeremy Clarkson for his public outbursts, and across the pond conservative media is a model of even tempered discourse. There was one obscure ranter... had a short lived career as an AM radio host, Rush someone? Anyway, it was heartening to see how the conservative values of civil discourse and politeness caused his show to bleed listeners more or less continuously until it was taken off the air.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:45 PM on December 6, 2011


I had to explain that one needs money to live in this world

Only as long as we all buy into that shared belief that papers and electron bit are somehow valuable. What people need is food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

These needs are taken care of first, before anything else is considered.

Otherwise, I would like to stop playing the game and try a game of social capital. Many of us have already started.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2011


NPR: One of Grayson's most talked-about moments came in a floor speech he gave in the midst of the health care debate in September 2009. He presented what he called the "Republican Health Care Plan." That plan, he said, was "Don't get sick ... if you do get sick, die quickly."

Grayson says he was just telling the truth — something he feels doesn't happen enough in Congress.

"What I was exposing is something that is sort of a deep truth," he says. "The Republicans a.) don't have a way to help people and b.) aren't interested in doing it. And that's true whether you're talking about health care or virtually any important issue."

Some have called Grayson uncivil. He sees it as being blunt.

"I simply tell the truth, I'm not trying to be uncivil. What I do is I tell the truth and sometimes it's a hard truth. Sometimes the truth hurts," he says.


Moderate lawmakers' pleas for civility in Iraq debate unlikely to be heeded: Neither party has much incentive to pull its punches, with Republicans eager to paint Democratic critics of Bush's Iraq policies as soft on defense and Democrats looking to exploit his woes as polls show declining support for the war.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


overthrow I think you're making a couple of points here...

Threats of suicide are uncivil

Many (most?) threats of suicide are helpless attention-seeking at best, emotional blackmail at worst. Their dishonesty and selfishness is what makes them uncivil.

But not this one. "If you lock us in an empty bedsit with no food, no way out, and a belt, we'll kill ourselves". It's neither dishonest or selfish as far as I can tell. Maybe they're even offering to perform the Tories a public service.

And "being given free / unearned money" is technically accurate but unfortunately loaded; it usually carries the connotation that they've decided not to work, and expect others to work for them. Putting disability fraud aside, the connotation isn't accurate here.

folks like to be "caring" in the abstract, but no one cares in the concrete.

And people want better roads, but I don't know anybody that goes out with a jackhammer and bucket of asphalt on sunday mornings to fix their own street.

Like buick said, it's a team sport. Wanting policies that guarantee support for these people is not incompatible with declining to try & support them oneself.

And of course voluntarily paying extra tax money is not going to do anything for the social safety net, but you knew that and were probably joking.
posted by magic curl at 4:55 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a great thread - proof of concept that we can be civil and honest both. Thank you everyone.
posted by magic curl at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2011


Washington Post: A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself, officials said Tuesday.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:53 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile...
Suicide is on the increase in rural America--nowhere so much as in western mountain states like Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico. Mental health professionals attribute it in part to cutbacks in Medicaid funding, to the recession and to the culture of the rural West.

It's not that people are saying "give us money, or we'll kill ourselves." It's that people are killing themselves, because they are not longer able to live by any reasonable standard.
posted by markkraft at 7:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


I've found that liberal folks like to be "caring" in the abstract, but no one cares in the concrete.

I personally have zero interest in being an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff - I want my taxes to fund proper fences at the top of the cliffs, and if they must be raised for that (rather than just reducing the corruption), so be it.

Abstract caring via taxes put to proper use just works so much better for everyone than "cares in the concrete".

Or to re-purpose a right-wing talking point, caring in the concrete hurts more people in the long run by prolonging and enabling the gruesome status quo of not bothering with fences.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:42 PM on December 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


(I've lived in countries with solid social safety nets, and places like the USA that don't, and to me it looks like night and day. There is no comparison.)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:45 PM on December 6, 2011


ok delmoi im looking at neville chamberlain

hi neville

(he is waving)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:00 PM on December 6, 2011


Sure, Nazis. Murders. Pedophiles. I don't see many calls for people to be civil when discussing these things, why should they? I'm sure you can find people who are civil on those issues but so what?

So everyone charged with a crime has the right to an attorney, for a start.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:39 PM on December 6, 2011


Only as long as we all buy into that shared belief that papers and electron bit are somehow valuable. What people need is food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

Which most of the time, cannot be gotten without money. Unless you beg and plead with charities for help, which you may or may not get. Please read thelastcamel's post again for just how fucking easy that is. Or the one where that mother shot herself and her kids.

This thread makes me sick. When my dad was handicapped/dying, we were so lucky, comparatively speaking. I wish I could complain or sign petitions or something in the UK, this is horrifying.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2011


I live now on SSI, I tried my damnedest to work a job, I went to school after losing the best job out of a series of crap jobs. Not one job I held had insurance. I could not afford medical treatment, and repeated attempts to get on SSI were only crowned with success two years ago. It took close to two years to get on.
I was fortunate enough to get into HUD housing. This complex us home to a very vulnerable group of people, elderly, sick and disabled. My own disabilities include osteoarthritis, IBS, (flaring as we speak...) bi-polar disorder, long term depression. I count myself as one of the LUCKY ones here. I am recovering from a really nasty bout of  pneumonia in the summer. I am on oxygen, now mostly at night. I have poor eyesight in one eye. Before cataract surgery, it was both eyes.
I never could drive because of my eyes. This limited my job prospects greatly but I did work. The jobs I could get were mostly terrible. I had only one job that paid decently. Once I was working, I had no medical care. It was pretty awful. 
I could go on and on about how bad charity, especially faith based is at tackling real social problems. It really is smarter to help people the right way and leave religion out of it. 
That frankly means government.
If churches were any good at long-term poverty reduction, I would be all for it, but they aren't.
Anyone can wind up living on the street, absolutely anyone.
It does not take being an addict, it takes an illness, long term job loss, loss of transportation.
I would in fact prefer the government helped BEFORE an intact family broke up, instead of waiting for that to happen.
@thelastcamel, I feel what you are saying. I have been through just a small bit of the same Hell.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:24 PM on December 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


No, really, you people are worse than us now, which is hard to believe and I completely fail to understand how it happened

Vicious. Tory. Government.
posted by Summer at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


So civility and honesty can actually be in opposition to each other.

I'll go further than that. Dishonesty is inherently uncivil. If a politician tells blatant lies about his or her opponents or their policies -- and worse, keeps telling them -- I don't care how polite a tone they're using, but they're being ten times more uncivil than someone who responds with "that's a bunch of fucking bullshit." Frankly, we should have more of the latter and less of the former.
posted by Gelatin at 8:53 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vicious. Tory. Government.

I don't think New Labour should be let off the hook, though: they had a bad record for civil liberties and not allowing the surveillance state to grow.

Of course, a lot of what they did was to abandon justice and fairness in favour of free market nonsense and sucking up to the vicious criminals and bullies in the Murdoch press.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:54 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think maybe there are people who believe in a "let them die" philosophy. And I think they are stupid and would be a drag on an enlightened, advanced civilization.

I would go so far as to say that they are genuinely wicked, which is not a word I would throw around lightly.

More and more, I am beginning to think that the followers of Ayn Rand and Reagan and Thatcher are not an equally legitimate alternative moral tradition: rather, a great many of them are not properly speaking moral at all, but rather people using a set of excuses to justify their own small-mindedness, cowardice, meanness and greed. Their vision of politics has nothing to do with the common good - again, it all just seems to be a mass of intellectually and morally incoherent excuses - bad, if not positively infantile arguments - that always seem to boil down to preserving an unfair situation that benefits them or taking from those who actually work to serve those who merely sit on money.

I really wish that this was not the case; I don't particularly like living in the world that it suggests. But perhaps everyone has to draw the line somewhere.
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:05 AM on December 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


And of course voluntarily paying extra tax money is not going to do anything for the social safety net, but you knew that and were probably joking.
posted by magic curl at 6:55 PM on December 6 [3 favorites +] [!]


No, he was probably serious. In right-wing/social Darwinist/neo-Paleolithicist circles, this is considered a valid argument which successfully rebuts (e.g.) Buffet's point that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary: the rebuttal is that if the rich want to pay more taxes, they can just write a check. A child could see that the argument is a non sequitor, but there you have the state of contemporary conservative political thought.
posted by goethean at 9:15 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


More and more, I am beginning to think that the followers of Ayn Rand and Reagan and Thatcher are not an equally legitimate alternative moral tradition: rather, a great many of them are not properly speaking moral at all, but rather people using a set of excuses to justify their own small-mindedness, cowardice, meanness and greed.

Personal ethical egoism.
posted by goethean at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2011


It is money that is given to people who didn't earn it. It's an unearned benefit the very definition of "free"? That's not in dispute.

Sure, fine. The disabled -- some of them, anyhow, the ones who were disabled from before they started working -- get money that is unearned: that is, they don't do anything to get the money, and it's not a benefit that they, personally, have paid into. So we can call disability unearned (like education is at the primary and secondary levels, like everything is for people who don't pay taxes) in a way that unemployment isn't. Though of course those people who haven't earned income have still paid taxes, just not income taxes.

There are problems with the term, because it has implications that aren't always agreed upon, but I'll accept it for the sake of the argument.

My question is: so what if it is unearned? Do you want to be in a society that doesn't take care of the neediest, where being able to pay food and power and rent and -- yes -- some things that make life worth living, be it internet or a movie now and then or junk food or whatever it is we think that people on benefits should not have is only allowed if you earn it? If you end up disabled, then you deserve to have to beg daily for what you need to live?

So it's unearned. So what?
posted by jeather at 9:27 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


More and more, I am beginning to think that the followers of Ayn Rand and Reagan and Thatcher are not an equally legitimate alternative moral tradition: rather, a great many of them are not properly speaking moral at all, but rather people using a set of excuses to justify their own small-mindedness, cowardice, meanness and greed.
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
--John Kenneth Galbraith
posted by Gelatin at 9:28 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would go so far as to say that they are genuinely wicked

I think the Cameron govt and the swathe of Sun/Daily Mail readers who lap up its anti-benefit rhetoric would argue that they don't mind genuinely sick/unemployed people getting benefits, just not the 'frauds and scroungers'.

The fact that the government has employed an agency with a record of fixing assessments to fulfil quotas rather than genuinely assess disability gives the lie to this.
posted by Summer at 9:29 AM on December 7, 2011


The creation of the UK welfare state (and I would include the NHS and free further and higher education in that too) and its safety net of benefit payouts was always a source of great pride to many people, as well as an equitable means of ensuring those that were in need received. The Thatcher years, which saw the Tory party shift radically from their traditional centre-right, one-nation, paternalistic approach to a hard right, market-driven form of government set the scene for the current Conservative Party.

However, Thatcher and her minions could at least lay claim to some form of ideology, hateful and flawed though it may have been. This current lot don't even have a mandate to govern, let alone a clue about what happens in the real world beyond the dreaming spires and the trust funds. The changes that they are pursuing, in benefits, education, the public sector and the rest are the result of a lot of involuntary knee-jerking and a general incompetence - they had years in opposition to come up with a coherent approach to managing public sector finances, if that was truly where they saw the problem to lie, and they clearly didn't.

And now a lot of us are suffering because despite the rhetoric, we really aren't all in this together - some of us are much further out and drowning, not waving.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:45 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


We're all one bad accident or illness away from becoming disabled. My sister-in-law is permanently disabled at 30 due to a back injury stemming from an accident. There is no reason that can't happen to anyone here, and it's worth thinking about before we deny anyone benefits.
posted by desjardins at 9:48 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when you teach Dickens in school. Some students think it is utopian lit.
posted by srboisvert at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The reason I like Tories is that they're so fucking maliciously stupid about the realities of life for people less fortunate than themselves.

Did I say "like"? I'm sorry, I meant, "Loathe and want to mutilate and destroy".
posted by Decani at 12:41 PM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking purely as a scientist, you should be humble and civil by default because you can rarely know for sure that your position is the correct one.

Even in a case like this where it seems so obvious who the bad guys are, there is room for doubt. Indeed if you follow the other half of this debate from the anti-welfarist side, you will find many accusing the liberals here of propping up a racist status quo. How do you feel about being considered a racist? Maybe be careful bringing out terms like "wicked" and "vicious".
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2011


Indeed if you follow the other half of this debate from the anti-welfarist side, you will find many accusing the liberals here of propping up a racist status quo.

[citation needed]

(No, seriously, I'm interested.)

How do you feel about being considered a racist?

That depends. Am I doing racist things? If I am, I'd like to know about it. Because my hurt white lady feelings at being called a racist are waaaaaay less horrible than than the feelings of people actually being hurt by racism.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:34 AM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Indeed if you follow the other half of this debate from the anti-welfarist side, you will find many accusing the liberals here of propping up a racist status quo.

[citation needed]

"What socialists proclaim as a duty to the fellow members of existing states, they are not prepared to grant to a foreigner." - Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, 1944; ISBN 0226320618.

Though I retract my comment if you are an internationalist communist who genuinely would open borders and assign benefits to the needy on a truly egalitarian basis, irrespective of "nationality".
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:58 AM on December 9, 2011


That's quite the pile of non-sequiturs, hoverboards don't work on water.

In the context of this discussion, the 'anti-welfarist side' - being those people who agree that it's perfectly ok to allow disabled people who cannot work to simply starve or freeze to death instead of looking after them - strikes me as approximately about as legitimate a grouping as the 'pro-murder' side. As such, terms like 'wicked' and 'vicious' seem entirely appropriate.

Are you really arguing that it is neither wicked nor vicious to argue that disabled people who cannot work should be left to starve or freeze? From the *scientific perspective* of course.
posted by motty at 4:56 PM on December 9, 2011


those people who agree that it's perfectly ok to allow disabled people who cannot work to simply starve or freeze to death instead of looking after them

Devils indeed, but who is agreeing this? I would argue almost the complete opposite - it's perfectly not OK, but welfare in rich western countries is about supporting only nationals of that particular country, i.e. the vulnerable and the needy in the rest of the world are left to freeze and starve. If you argue along the lines of "British Welfare for British People, let those other countries look after themselves", that's declaring one nationality to be inherently more deserving of your aid than another. Frankly, I don't see the difference between nationalism and racism, and so I find most welfare as implemented today to be implicitly, but deeply, racist - and its supporters implicitly racist in turn.

Now I'm sure you're a good guy and don't consider yourself racist, and probably aren't trying to be racist... but the welfare reformists blasted in this thread are probably good guys too and don't consider themselves to be wicked and vicious. Whether the inevitable consequence of their policy is wickedness, or whether the inevitable consequence of your policy is racism, is a big debate - a debate a lot of people here are apparently unaware of, leading to lots of unproductive outrage against imagined devils.

So I'm just saying be cool, stay civil, have that debate as partners in discovering knowledge, and you'll have a chance of understanding your "opponents".
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:49 AM on December 10, 2011


... welfare in rich western countries is about supporting only nationals of that particular country

You don't need to be a British citizen to qualify for welfare benefits in the UK.

... the vulnerable and the needy in the rest of the world are left to freeze and starve

The British government has been functionally and institutionally committed to a program of foreign aid since at least 1961. The current incarnation of this is the Department for International Development.
posted by motty at 4:43 AM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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