Leni Farrer – warrior for the disabled and the poor; extreme pacifist; extreme pessimist; extreme hyperbolist. part 1
It came as some surpirse to me, given all that her friends have said about her in the past few weeks, to discover that Leni Farrer had been seriousy ill for most of her life. She had from a young age, both diabetes and coeliac disease, conditions she shared with other members of her family.
Coeliac disease is common and affects 1 in 100 people, however only 10-15% are diagnosed. Diabetes is very common. In the UK and around 2.9 million people are affected. Around 850,000 people are also thought to have undiagnosed diabetes.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease. Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye triggers an immune reaction. This means that eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. Other parts of the body may be affected.
Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes. It is also sometimes known as juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes because it often develops before the age of 40, usually during the teenage years. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas (a small gland behind the stomach) does not produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. If the amount of glucose in the blood is too high, it can seriously damage the body’s organs.
In all the tributes and comments I have read about Leni Farrer, not one has mentioned these aspects of her life.
In her CiF posts between December 2009 and her final post on 17 March 2013, she mentions diabetes 20 times and coeliac disease 52 times. It is a measure of how they dominated her life and determined to a large extent how she viewed the world. And it is no surprise that it should have been so.
So what was that view of the world?
I exchanged views with Leni a few times on CiF and the Untrusted site, of which she was a founder, albeit reluctant member, given the foul language, abuse, threats of violence and racism from some of its posters. But she was, as others have pointed out, amazingly tolerant of all kinds. And actually that is all many of them have pointed out, as if her entire purpose in life was to be tolerant to people. It wasn’t and Leni like the rest of us, had her moments.
Leni also posted a few times on my own site. but generally our paths didn’t cross. She posted a message on my site on 23 March to say that she was in hospital and to ask after one of the few people who posts on it. Then, shortly after, when she disclosed that she was in fact in a hospice, the seriousness of her situation became clear and I emailed her:
“I hope you are one of the considerable number of people who recover sufficiently to come out of your hospice and that you continue to use my site as a conduit, if that is what you need and want. I haven’t joined the online discussion about your situation, as doubtless you’ve noticed, for very good reasons. At times like this it seems to me that silence is the only option and hence this personal email.
Wishing you well, “
When a few days later she let it be known that she was leaving the hospice and returning home, it was also quite clear to me that she would not be with us for much longer, whatever optimism others might have expressed.
According to the Guardian’s records, Leni Farrer began contributing to CiF as afancdogge on 20 October 2007. Her posting record is impressive. Until the recent changes in the way user profiles are displayed, something about which Leni complained, it would have been relatively easy to have examined her entire posting history. However the changes mean that this article is limited to those posts she made since 24 December 2009. Before that she posted largely on Israel and Palestine. For these years I have selected some of the topics about which she most frequently posted in an attempt to demonstrate to those who thought they knew her, and clearly didn’t, what she was really like. If this shatters illusions, so be it.
Poverty is mentioned 428 times in Leni’s posts and poor a further 447 times. There is no doubt that she was a passionate campaigner in support of the poor and against those she held responsible, both Labour and Coalition governments, for this state of affairs in the UK and internationally. Here she writes in 2010, 2011 and 2012
We have a massive job shortage, increasing poverty and disadvantage and a society which targets the weak and vulnerable. The income gap is at its widest for 40 years and the economy has collapsed.
from: Disability tests in need of overhaul.09 Feb 2010 2:23pm
Food poverty is increasing here as elsewhere. This is a global problem and needs a global answer. The first step is the closing of the tax havens. This crisis was not created by the poor – it was created by Osbourne’s mates and cronies. Make them pay.
from: The UK could be leading with a new economic approach, instead we follow.05 Jun 2011 12:09am
The day is not far off when we will have hundreds and then thousands of families on the streets. Already some are forced into 1 room in B+B with no cooking facilities beyond a kettle. Children are insecure – the protection any half way decent state gives to its children having been withdrawn. Is this not ‘News’? Current estimates are for 10 million to be living in poverty by 2013 – next year!
from: Social fund: shredding the ultimate safety net.23 Jan 2012 1:11am
Take any more from the poor and we will have in excess of 15 million dispossessed within 5 years. Cue social problems on a huge scale.
from: Labour has been hiding behind child poverty for far too long.05 Jan 2012 2:39am
Once again Leni has resorted to hyperbole as the reality is somewhat different.
According to the charity End Child Poverty:
Nearly 4 million children are living in poverty in the UK (after housing costs) The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 in 1979 to 1 in 3 in 1998. Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
So what to do? And as always Leni says very little to address the question, other than “closing the tax havens”. Yet while this has the potential to collect vast amounts of currently avoided taxation, implementing the required measures are fraught with difficulties, as this from Bloomberg testifies. As such any short term measure to address the issue of child poverty must be through current direct and indirect taxation.
It was very easy to come up with the following fact which would resolve the problem of child poverty overnight:
In total a 1p increase in income tax rates would yield £5.32 billion per annum.
However, I very much doubt whether using Leni Farrer’s tactics, the electorate could be convinced to support such a policy.
In part 2 I shall look at among other issues Leni’s views on Disability, Living Wage and Minimum Wage and Investment.