The refusal by Coalition states to put money on the table for the NDIS trials early this week makes no sense. If it was a purely political act, then one has to wonder what they imagined it would achieve. Every way you look at it the decision reflects badly on them. Premier O’Farrell (NSW) and Premier Baillieu’s (Victoria) back down two days later looks like a win for PM Julia Gillard, while their initial refusal looks decidedly lacking in understanding and compassion for people living with a disability, and the carers the scheme is designed to assist.
Campbell Newman, aka the Butcher of Brisbane, continues to withhold financial support from the scheme, and as a bonus has withdrawn a $6.50 payment to taxi drivers who transport disabled people, for whom accessing a taxi requires a good deal more time and assistance than Mr Newman needs to hop into his car.
What is it with conservatives and vulnerable people?
It’s hard to believe the conservatives involved in this particular decision to boycott assistance for the vulnerable actually thought “Well it doesn’t matter, they are disabled, they aren’t like us, so what do we care because they are weaker so they don’t deserve showers every day and a life.”
Anymore than Adolf Eichmann thought about the lives of the Jews his organisational talents and ideological commitment combined to ensure were efficiently despatched to their deaths. What Eichmann, O’Farrell, Baillieu and Newman have in common is that they failed (and in Newman’s case, continue to fail) to acknowledge that they were and are dealing with human beings. Human beings with particularly difficult challenges, in the contemporary situation, and I include those who care for disabled people.
Yes, I know there’s a big difference between Eichmann and the Coalition, but they are on the same continuum, a continuum that denies the humanity of others unlike themselves. What is so chilling about the politicising of NDIS is that someone made the choice to politicise it, and to entirely disregard the human beings affected by that choice.
It’s really a case of blaming the victim. If you are unfortunate enough to be born with or incur a disability that affects your life, conservatives are not going to make it easy for you because there must be something wrong with you to be disabled in the first place. Like the poor, it’s your own fault. Social structures are not responsible, it’s the behaviours and cultural patterns of the poor that put them where they are.
In short, many conservatives seem to share an attitude that causes them to blame the poor for their poverty and the vulnerable for their vulnerability. There are some who claim this contempt for the “weak” is a feature of the fascist character.
Then there’s the psychological theory of projection, in which the subconscious denies his or her own fears and emotions, and ascribes them to others. Accepting the inevitable vulnerability of being human can be quite a challenge. Nobody wants to feel powerless, or at the mercy of others. Seeing those who are powerless and vulnerable can provoke anger and repulsion, because they are living reminders of what we could be at any moment. Disabled. Poor. Seeking asylum. Responsible for another human being who cannot live without our assistance. At the mercy of others. Not in control.
People who are unable to come to terms with their own vulnerability can react with great antagonism towards those who are in some way injured, and in need of care. One way of dealing with these extremely uncomfortable feelings is to frame the vulnerable as entirely different and lesser than oneself, thus creating a distance, an illusion of safety and an illusion of invulnerability. Bad things happen to them, not us, because they aren’t as good as us. The ego can pretend to retain control over the uncontrollable.
However we frame the conservatives’ contempt for people living with a disability and their carers, the bottom line is, it is very unsettling. In my opinion, the two premiers would not have backed down had there not been an angry public reaction to their decision. What does this say about the men and women of the Coalition? Nothing good, I fear and it should cause us to think hard and long about an Australia governed by men and women incapable of seeing others as human as themselves, because they are overtly vulnerable in some way.
I give the last word to George Harrison:
Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all those little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in.
Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
And they always have clean shirts to play around in.
And in their styes with all their backing
They don’t care what goes on around
And in their eyes there’s something lacking
What they needs a damm good whacking.
Yeah, everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
And you can see them on their trotters
Down at the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To thee pig brother
– everybody: –
Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.