"The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it."
These are the words that start the movie Lord of the Rings, spoken by Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, and they have been tugging at my consciousness.
Of course the world has changed, it always has, always will. for those of us fortunate to have been born in the West that change has, for the most part, been beneficial. can anybody over 60, born into the poorer communities ever forget what it was like to live without heating?... waking up to ice on the INSIDE of the bedroom walls, pee in the pot with a frozen crust on top... oh yes, let's not forget potties and outdoor loos folks... climate change does have some advantages, warmer winters. We had no washing machine, no fridge, no freezer, no carpet, no TV, no supermarkets, no car, very little food, worn out clothing... no, they weren't "the good old days", poverty wore a different face back then, a much darker face.
Our attitudes towards health have altered beyond recognition since the 1950's. those with learning disabilities were stashed away out of sight, parent's told to "forget about it and try for a normal baby", or hidden with shame at home... bars on windows, locks on doors... taunted and tormented by fearful local children who knew no better and had no contact apart from glimpses of these "monsters" through the few fitful twitches of curtains. there was no government finance for families brave enough to hope for a future for their "defective, mentally sub-normal infant", no social service support, no respite. funding came through pennies dropped into the "spastic girl" collection boxes... not many pennies as there were few to spare, charity HAD to begin at home as it was rare to find it elsewhere. "Potential" was a word seldom spoken, never heard
The sick and disabled received little or no help from government or local authorities. quality aids and prosthetics could only be acquired privately, those without the means relied on friends and family, those alone suffered silently and died young. in 1951 800 limbless servicemen marched on Downing Street in what was called The Silent Reproach March, yet it wasn't until 1970 that minimal cash benefits were introduced for the disabled and their carers but it was insufficient to lift them out of abject poverty. this was improved when Labour returned to power in 1975 and again in 1997 when life for the disabled became comfortable for the first time and the spectre of dying cold and alone became less of a normality.
When these memories bubble to the surface the tale i tell my friends under the age of 40 is received in disbelief, they are unable to conceive that life was so different within my life span. it's as alien as crinolines, horse drawn carriages and The Workhouse are to me. they seem to think a life made comfortable for the less fortunate has been available to all for generations, that the safety net isn't a modern luxury but a fundamental right, that pensions and sickness benefits are mandatory for governments, that these symbols of an enlightened and civilised society fell from the sky unsought rather than fought for through politics and protest and the pain of the dispossessed. "Much that was is lost; for none now live who remember it"... and that's the danger.
We are on the cusp of losing much that exhibits our humanity. Mahatma Ghandi said "a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats it's weakest members". here are just a few of the benefits our most vulnerable have lost since 2010, EMA for the poorest students, Child Tax Credits restricted, Working Tax Credits frozen, WTC 50+ abolished, Health In Pregnancy Grant, Housing Benefit capped, Bedroom Tax implemented including extra room charge for disability equipment, an estimated 180,000 lose Motorbility cars, Disability Living Allowance criteria changed to exclude hundreds of thousands, Independent Living Fund closed not ring fenced, and now Attendance Allowance for the poorliest over 65's is being considered for closure. (read link below)
I fear the closing words of Galadriel's soliloquy will come to pass before too long and
yesterdays forgotten austerity will become tomorrows reality.
"And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth."