Leni Farrer – warrior for the disabled and the poor; extreme pacifist; extreme pessimist; extreme hyperbolist. part 2

Setting of the Sun, St Anthony Head, on the Roseland Peninsula - South Cornwall, December 2012

Setting of the Sun, St Anthony Head, on the Roseland Peninsula – South Cornwall, December 2012

Leni Farrer – warrior for the disabled and the poor; extreme pacifist; extreme pessimist; extreme hyperbolist.

In part one I looked at Leni’s commitment to the struggle against poverty, which in terms of her commenting history was one of her greatest concerns. In this part I’ll deal with other issues that she frequently wrote about.

Disability

Given the health problems she suffered all of her life, it is small wonder that disabled people and disability were Leni Farrer’s main concern, and in her posts she mentions them over 1100 times. Having made that observation, it is worth recording that she also “worked with abused children all of her life”. (Ideas for 1-2 June.02 Jun 2012 8:09pm)

But her posts are almost exclusively pessimistic. I struggled to discover one positive or optimistic quote about disability or disabled people, this one being the closest I could find:

“The arguments around disabled people working are rather muddied by the fact that there are too few jobs in our economy. Being able to work does not guarantee a job. This has to be admitted. Steven Hawkins (sic) is not a typical example – though he is often used as one.”

from: Making the disabled wait for support is cruel.20 Jul 2011 3:27pm

Yet even here it isn’t the amazing achievements of Hawkin and the scientists who have made his working life possible that is being celebrated, along with the millions of other disabled people who are part of the UK’s workforce. Rather they are used as a stick with which to beat the Government, any government, because, as she goes on to say as an alibi for her pessimism, some able bodied science graduates are unemployed. Even in the year of the London Olympics which she variously described as a farce, a fiasco and a waste of money, the only thing she could say about the UK’s highly successful para-olympians was that after so many years dedicated training, they should boycott the games to protest about ATOS.

“I have long since lost any interest in huge international sporting events. Corporate money , greed and in some cases corruption seem to be inextricably interlinked with all sports – with posturing athletes adding to my irritation.”

from: Compared with a lootfest like London or Beijing, Delhi is just an also-ran.24 Sep 2010 3:27am

All sports?

“I would like to see disabled athletes showing some solidarity with ATOS victims. They may in fact become victims themselves once the show is over.”  

“How many years have the athletes trained for this ? How differnt are they from able-bodied athletes ? Not at all.”

“I would have liked to see the full Olympic team refusing to participate in supportof the disabled people and against ATOS – and in protest against a high prestige project being paid for from public funds while people here go hungry.

It won’t happen though.”

from: Paralympians deserve our support despite Atos sponsorship of the Games.22 May 2012 6:34pm

Eugenics

And if pessimism loomed large where Leni was concerned, it was her use of hyperbole where she became least credible. She wrote on the thread to “Our children go hungry for want of Tory compassion.09 Sep 2012 3:25am”

“Yes it is eugenics – we have to start making this clear.”

and

“Couching their defence of these policies in terms of deficit reduction or national debt does not disguise the fact that they are supporting and promoting notions which are drawn from Malthus and the preachers of eugenics.”

From:  Why not pay welfare in cash?.25 Jul 2010 2:03pm

and

“cameron’s speech seems odd and out of context in a way – ‘cept that it looks like the start of a three year election propaganda campaign . Smacks heavily of building eugenics type hatred.”

From:  Ideas for 29 June – 2 July.30 Jun 2012 12:09am

and

There is no doubt at all that this gvt has instituted a policy of social eugenics – backed up by propaganda and lies. Punitive policies towards sick/disabled people are nothing new – we have seen them in the past and know where they can lead.

From:  The coalition’s reforms will make the benefits system work better.21 Jun 2012 6:10pm

Such was her obsession with eugenics that she wrote about it in this way 36 times. Not once did her comparisons match the reality of the eugenics policies and programmes of past governments and sadly they were a denial of the celebration of disability that events like the Para-Olympics represent.

Living Wage and Minimum Wage

The introduction of the Minimum Wage was probably one of the greatest achievements of the Blair -Brown governments especially as its main beneficiaries were working women and low paid workers in general. Leni mentions it 42 times but almost always from a negative perspective.

The minimum wage is a subsidy – through the benefits system – to employers. The minimum wage should be raised to a level which supports the worker and their family in dignity and security.

From:  The welfare state, RIP.17 Oct 2010 4:33pm

This admirable sentiment and that in the following quote is the closest I could find to something positive or optimistic:

“Carers and children both are entitled to feel secure. Parents who are full time carers need a break – in exactly the same way as any body else who works full time. Caring should be regarded as employment -it should be paid at least the minimum wage and the carer should be entitled to holidays and other employment safeguards.”

From: Carers need a break, too.10 Jan 2012 4:25pm

According to the 2011 census, across England and Wales there are now a staggering 2.1 million people providing over 20 hours of care a week. This alone would mean a wage bill approaching £260 million. Whether or not Leni was aware of the enormity of this unpaid contribution to those in need of care, she made no suggestion of what such a payment might cost and how it might be financed.

The Living Wage she mentions 37 times, although nowhere does she define what it is. She says in one post that those who are working “should be paid a living wage and not rely on top ups”, by which she meant benefits like tax credits, housing benefits, free school meals and so on.

From:  Benefits should allow disabled people to live, not just survive.28 Sep 2011 3:28pm

In 2012 the trade union Unison defined the London Living Wage as £8.30 an hour or £17,264pa. This would certainly attract what Leni called “top ups” and as such her “living wage” would be higher. This approach to economics and finance, while emotionally attractive was so typical of her un-costed demand for social reform and doubtless was one of the things that made her so popular with her following of CiF readers. At times she came up with the right questions, but then failed to provide her readers with any answers.

“I have been looking at some reports from the 1920s – average earnings and cost of basics. got me to wondering – assuming the minimum wage as the base line – how long do people in various sectors have to work to earn the price of a loaf of bread, a family sized chicken or the cost of heating their house for an hour ?”

From:  Ideas for 3-6 August.03 Aug 2012 6:09pm

She didn’t provide any figures, but to suggest that the poverty experienced by millions in the 1920s is comparable to Britain in 2012, or that life within Britain’s Welfare State is in anyway similar to the one before it existed, is hardly the stuff of serious debate.

Investment

Thoughout her time on CiF Leni supported increased investment in education, training, support for disabled people, for job creation, regional development, a living wage, facilities for young people, a vastly improved health service and so on. She mentions investment 137 times. Yet not once does she suggest how this investment might be financed. Probably the closest she came was with:

“a fairer distribution of wealth and some realistic job creation along with a guaranteed living wage if you really want improvements all round.”

and

“Investment is essential – this can come only from increasing taxes on the rich and on the big banks and companies.

From:  “ The universal credit programme is on course for disaster.11 Sep 2012 1:12am

There is nothing inherently wrong with such idealism and a lot to recommend it, but to be taken seriously, it needs to be accompanied by something on how such a multi-billion pound investment programme would be financed. Before I finish on a lighter note, let me visit some other areas where Leni expressed her concerns and opinions.

Peace

Can we have something on why negative, hateful and alienating rhetoric seems to be more effective than pro peace and pro inclusion – so often dismissed as ‘bleeding heart looney leftism’ ?

From:  What do you want to talk about?.02 Sep 2011 12:21pm

Blame

We can list a string of names responsible for cruelty and terror – and sometimes indifference to the fate of others – but simply playing the blame game solves nothing .

From:  Ideas for 1-4 March.01 Mar 2013 11:16pm

Slave / slavery / enslavement

take away all self reliance, dictate exactly which items of food they may or may not eat, stigmatise them (may as well brand them on the forehead) and completely tke away choice around such basics as food and you force them into dependency, obedience and servility. To be able to eat – or not – at the whim of a system, be it economic or political – is enslavement.

From:  Why not pay welfare in cash?.25 Jul 2010 2:03pm

Labour Party and the Trade Unions

Neither Labour nor the Unions are worth anything to us anymore .

From:  Disabled people listened to on welfare plans? It’s a government sham.09 Jan 2012 3:52am

The internet – which gives us CiF and 38 Degrees

the biggest disappointment of the internet is that despite all its power – all the contributions, the posting and opinion pieces it has failed to change anything for the better – all , as you say, rising into the atmosphere as so much hot air .

From:  Ideas for 21-22 September.23 Sep 2012 5:22pm

Hermione Gingold

In recent months Leni became increasingly critical of the way the one line thoughtless comment was destroying CiF, yet she managed to respond 49 times to it’s most vacuous poster Hermione Gingold.

Leni must have had the patience of a saint.

Finally I said here and in part 1 that Leni was tolerant to the extreme, but at times even she was provoked into breaching the CiF community standards:

Do the decent thing – Jump.

From:  Steve Bell on Iain Duncan Smith – cartoon.20 Jun 2012 12:32am

You are a very silly Posh

From:  George Osborne: why I am committed to global tax reform.17 Feb 2013 1:52pm

sanctimonious claptrap

From:  Children of the poor will suffer most under Osborne’s benefits squeeze.20 Jan 2013 2:14pm

I sneaked a quick look at the Mackenator’s link – he looks like a child

From:  Ideas for 5-6 March.05 Mar 2013 12:27pm

Grow up will you.

From:  I left the Conservative party over its attacks on disabled people.19 Jan 2012 1:34am

Am I addressing the man or the parrot ?

From:  Welfare reform has us terrified’ – families facing the worst speak out.16 Jan 2012 11:55pm

Large creepy things masquerading as thinking , fully functional emotionally literate adult humans – I make an exception for . They may be removed – if fact the web of life would benefit from their extinction as a class.

From:  Ideas for 31 August – 3 September.01 Sep 2012 2:57pm

Of course I could have written much more on Leni Farrer’s prolific posting on Comment is Free but these are my personal views. Others will doubtless disagree with my choice but then they’ve always got the invitation from CiF’s editor should they wish to choose their own.

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