I’ve been reading about neural pathways. My understanding of neuroscience is pretty limited, but from what I can gather, our brains like to take the easiest route.
If it’s a thought we’ve thought a thousand times before, we’ll think it again. The road is already there. It happens before we even know we’re doing it.
Today I woke up with pain in every part of my body. Blazing away under my ribs like a lovely little hearthfire, screaming in my knee and hip joints and lower back, pulling my shoulders so tight I could barely roll over. Luckily, I stayed still for a while and it became bearable enough to get up.
I remember a few months back, when I was still stubbornly living by myself. I was standing by – no, leaning against – the kitchen sink. I couldn’t stand up by myself. I was looking out at the washing line. I’d managed, that morning, to hang a few things out. I realised as I stood there that I would not be able to get that washing in.
I did not have the energy left to pick up the hamper, walk around the house to the back yard, reach above my head to take the clothes down, and carry them back in.
I had two options. Call someone and ask them to do it for me. Or just leave it out over night.
I abhorred both these options. I did not want to ask for help for something so fucking menial I should be able to do it myself. And I didn’t want to leave it out, because it was winter and my clothes would get dew on them and freeze.
I’ve always been extremely fastidious about tidiness. Even when I was at my sickest, I refused to stop doing ironing. I would do one piece, and then sit down for 20 minutes, and then get up and do another. I’ll wash clothes three times over. I can’t stand leaving dishes undone. I’m obsessive.
So having to admit that I couldn’t do my own chores, that I couldn’t run a house by myself – was a kick in the guts. (A guts that really couldn’t take any more kicking).
Let’s go back to the neuroscience. Thinking what we have always thought is easy. So if you have always thought that beneficiaries are lazy bludgers who want to live off the government – then changing that thought is going to be pretty bloody difficult – especially because you have to want to change, and so many people don’t.
I know that I can write until my fingers are twisted with the pain and tears are running down my face and my guts is in shreds from my anger and frustration, and I’m still preaching to the converted. If you’re reading this, you probably support me. So sometimes I think, why am I even fucking bothering?
Especially when I wake up to a blog like David Farrar’s, who has appropriated my words for his own political discussion. (Not the first time, several others have done this to me as well). Yes, I’m political, and yes, my fight is political. But that particular column was actually about what had happened to me personally.
David has said he was using me as an example of where the system isn’t working. What it feels like to me is being strung up to make a point. He’s opened me up to his commenters. People who read Kiwiblog are, for the most part, not sympathetic to beneficiaries.
The comments are unsurprising. At least most of them are not attacking me personally (so far) but the problem is – they’re missing the point. They’re saying “Oh, this one’s different. She’s actually sick. Not like all those other ones who are rorting the system.”
They think I represent a minority. They congratulate me on my honesty and my attempts to work. It sickens me to the core. I don’t need them to thank me for telling the truth. For trying to get on with my life and do what little I can to get by and get well.
And the truth is, I’m not a minority. People who are on benefits who shouldn’t be are the minority. The neural pathway to “dole bludger” is burned deep and they just can’t see past it. It doesn’t help that every which way you turn the government are doing their best to reinforce it.
How can I possibly battle against this deepseated belief? Why am I even bothering? What am I going to achieve?
I saw this a couple days ago:
And you know what I thought? I thought actually no, fuck you.
I’m not an ‘investment.’ I don’t actually owe the government for having supported me while I’m unwell. I paid tax before, I pay tax now, and I’ll pay it again in the future. I’ve always worked hard, I’m not going to work any harder because I feel like I should ‘give something back.’ I don’t feel indebted for having called upon the welfare I help contribute to.
What about the people who have never been able to work, the people who never will again? Are we going to say ‘Oh no, sorry, you can’t have welfare, you can’t pay it back?’
That’s not how a welfare system works. We chose to be a country that has a system. Now we belittle and harass and drive away everyone who dares to ask for it.
Welfare doesn’t only make economic sense. It’s about human rights, and compassion. It’s about helping our most vulnerable when they need it.
I’m not your political scapegoat. I’m not a minority. I’m not some “good beneficiary” who is an exception because I am honestly sick and I am doing my best to get well and go back to work.
I’m just a girl who is lucky enough to have a voice.