On this episode of Ungagged, themed around “the luxury gap”, we’ll be giving you two separate interviews for your political fix: Sandra Webster and Neil Anderson interview Mhairi Black MP at her Paisley constituency office. Mhairi gives us insights to the House of Commons and some of its characters, why she entered politics, along with her views on Donald Trump and Jacob Rees Mogg, and we’ll also have a listen in on a chat with Neil Scott and Scottish Independence campaigner and artist,”Wee Skribbles” (Michael Larkin), who talks about his work and how he became an activist for independence.
As well as those, we’ll hear from Debra Torrance on Food Luxury, specifically about food production in the Netherlands, the second largest food producer in the world, Victoria Pearson ponders the psychological damage of poverty on children and why short breaks should be on the NHS, George Collins will be examining the conundrum of combating global economic injustice from an environmentalist standpoint, and the necessity of interdisciplinary thought among progressives, and Chuck Hamilton muses about the American white middle class and their view of the rest of humanity and Sandra Webster return to talk about how she was transported back in time by the title The Luxury Gap, reminiscing about Heaven 17 and The Clockwork Orange before discussing poverty and having enough food to eat.
Nelly Neal asks whether the evils of want and ignorance seen by Dickens and quoted in the 1942 Beverage report are still here now and if they’ve ever gone away, Laura Lundahl tells us we are ALL immigrants, and says we can help immigrants by changing the way we talk about them, and the possibilities of food shortages after Brexit is discussed by Red Raiph, who has been practising his bartering skills so he can trade for food.
Ungagged is a not for profit voluntary collective, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners to help fund our solidarity and grassroots charity campaigns, and meet hosting, equipment and advertising costs. If you love what we do and can spare some change, our collection tin is at PayPal.me/ungaggedleft
I am privileged to belong to a group of passionate writers who are called Ungagged. I love them because they share voices that deserve to be heard and often are not. At the end of Carers Week, am proud to be writing for them.
Once a year we carers get patted on the back and told what a fantastic job we do. I think there will come a time when we all realise the love and compassion carers have, make the world a better place. We do what we do at the expense of our own health, there are no health and safety measures put in place. In a past life I was a paid carer a career, fantastic colleagues. I worked in places with great practice. I had time off and paid holidays. My work then could not prepare me for the reality of being an unpaid carer. We care round the clock often 24/7 when our caring role is over many of us have PTSD and are expected to find work quickly. We have much to offer our skills include advocacy, form filling, managing our time effectively. Most employers will look at our “work history” and not regard this as real work. However we do what we do with love in our hearts.
This week has been a rollercoaster for me but is just a typical one. I have read so many stories on social media. Some of us have been tweeting #RealCarersWeek. We live in the shadows and keep the dark times to ourselves; posting pictures about happy times masks how difficult our lives actually are. The stories I have read this week have made me cry and smile and make me realise I am not alone. I rarely get out. I saw a dear friend who is also a carer this week and got to a gig!! I thought I would not get but I have not had a night out on my own for over a year and we made it. It refreshed my batteries but I felt so guilty going. I know many folk will get that.
Carers contribute more than the NHS budget in unpaid care. What would happen if we downed tools but w won’t of course. The Adam Smith foundation presented a paper this week which said women should expect to be unpaid carers. That is the crux of the matter it is mostly seen as “women’s work” though I know more and more men who are carers. Assumptions are made as well as cuts to essential services. I believe in people being seen and part of their community but this is used as an excuse to making cuts to essential services. Such services are crucial and I am all for volunteers and charities but they should not provide essential centres. Language about community care are used as an excuse to make cuts.
So another Carers Week is almost at the end for us though #RealCarersLives continue 52 weeks a year seven days a week. We have to battle and advocate for support for our loved ones forgetting ourselves. Am glad that so many people have shared their stories on #RealCarersWeek this year. It is up to a 1000. I live in hope things will get better this week but in reality doubt it. Am proud on behalf of Ungagged to wish all who care the best, always at your back. Come and share the microphone that is Ungagged and let others hear your story it is an important one. Love and strength to you all. xx
You can read more of Sandra’s Ungagged writing here or listen to her on our podcast
This story originally appeared in The University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing Showcase, issue 26
Gunter Hollinger had many regrets in his life. He had never married nor had children, he had seen little of the world apart from his corner of it.
Now nearing the end of his life he also regretted the time in the camp. Every night when he closed his eyes his dreams were full of the faces of those he had encountered on their arrival at the camp. These were the lucky few who lived to die another day still in shock, half
hoping that their mothers, wives and children had been taken to the Kinder camp.
That first day, after they had been shaved and deloused and stripped of their humanity, they would offer him their arm and he would record the number by which they would now be known. Gunter was proud he was one of the lowest numbers – 000047. The last one he
tattooed was 865879. Between these numbers only 200 survived to tell of the atrocities.
Gunter, as one of the survivors, had been a witness at many trials where the guards and Kapos had been brought to justice for their crimes. There was never any doubt that Gunter was a victim too but he always felt responsible. He could have been more gentle, been kinder, not cooperated.
It only seemed fitting that after the war he would continue to tattoo. He opened a parlour in a local town. Some of his first client were the ex camp inhabitants. They fell into two groups. Some, like Gunter, did not flinch from letting others seeing their tattoo as it
served as an external mark of the collective guilt of a society. Others wanted to forget the past and for them Gunter gently covered the numbers with faces of loved ones, or flowers. He looked at each person and gently reflected their soul into the tattoo, trying his best to cover over his own guilt and that of the other tattooists.
Some people who did what he did called themselves ‘tattoo artists’ but to his clients and himself he was always ‘the tattooist’.
Although Gunter never regarded himself as an artist, his reputation grew. Now in his fifties he was the owner of a very successful business. People came from all round the country for one of his special designs. He had a gift for looking into their minds and removing from it the
perfect image that would suit only them. No matter how successful he became though, he could never forget the little room in Treblinka where he had first honed his craft.
One day a man came into his shop. A decade older than himself perhaps. He looked at the drawing books while Gunter finished the tattoo of his last customer. Gunter thought he didn’t look like one of the clients from the camps but he had the look of a survivor about him. He didn’t seem to be comfortable in his own skin, as if like them he carried an invisible load on his shoulders. When Gunter was finished he asked the man to sit down.
‘Please Sir, take a seat, can I get you a coffee?’
The man looked at Gunter and shook his head.
‘No thank you, I have had so many cups of coffee today. I have been so nervous you know?’
Gunter smiled. ‘Don’t worry Sir. I have tattooed so many people.’ He pointed to his head. ‘And each of them is stored right in here. I have not had one complaint yet.’
‘I like your work,’ the man replied. ‘But I have a special project for you.’
‘All my work is special Sir. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, and in thirty years I have never had to make a refund.’
The man shuffled uncomfortably in the chair.
‘I have a secret,’ he said. ‘Something I regret in my youth. It was youthful high spirits – you know how the young are – but I want it covered over before I go to meet my Maker,
which will be very soon.’
He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed Gunter a very old Waffen SS blood group tattoo in Gothic script just above his right elbow. B to show his blood group, in case he required a transfusion. Gunter sucked in his breath and tried not to react. Such Gothic blood tattoos were very rare and among the oldest of the Nazi tattoos he knew of. This meant the man was not just a recruit but a volunteer to the Waffen SS as early as 1937. Well before the
rest of the country had jumped onto the Hitler bandwagon.
Gunter was aware of his less rare tattoo and was glad it was cold and he wore a long shirt and coat today.
‘I have never seen one before Sir, how unusual. What would you like me to do?’
‘I want it covered over,’ the man replied. ‘I do not want to go to my grave with this. Can you help me?’
Gunter worried if this was some sort of trap. Did others know about him, was he being threatened? He refused to be frightened of such an old man and took control of the situation.
‘Of course Sir, but it will hurt, being where it is, and will take some time. Do you have a design in mind?’
‘I’ll leave that to you. Just do it quickly so I can leave it behind. I know you are the best so please do this for me.’
Gunter prepared the needles, trying not to tremble. He had waited years for this opportunity to put right the past. This old man was his ticket to karma.
‘My gift is to cover up Sir, never fear. That mark will be obliterated and covered with my art.’
The man was flustered. ‘Yes, yes, I am in a hurry, just get on with it.’
In that instant Gunter knew exactly what he was going to do.
He sprayed the alcohol onto the man’s arm. Felt him shiver with its cool touch. Then he poised with the needles above him. This was going to be his masterpiece.
Being directly on the bone, the needles caused the man severe pain. He held it in, as Gunter knew he would.
Gunter enjoyed feeling his pain, causing it. He had not been gentle with his first tattooed ones and now he could inflict a little on the man. Usually he talked and
chatted while he worked, but an almost supernatural force took over him and he had no desire to make small talk with a man such as this. Nothing in common but a brand on their skin they had both had to accept.
At last he was finished. He looked at his work and was proud of it. The man looked nervously down.
‘You have finished at last, may I have a look?’
‘Of course Sir, let me get a mirror.’
The man looked in the mirror at the image Gunter had created of his soul. A man in a Nazi uniform, wearing a pair of jackboots, stood on top of a pyramid of small crushed, bleeding bodies.
‘I have covered over your brand to your satisfaction?’
The man looked at Gunter and smiled.
‘I have at most a week to live. I hope when I go to meet my Maker he will be satisfied with your work. How much do I owe you?’
‘For this there is no charge Sir, for now we are equals.’ Gunter smiled. ‘Good Day to you Sir.’
Gunter turned his back, and when he looked round the man had left the shop.
The roll-out of the Tory government’s flagship policy is woefully behind schedule. However by this time next year all of Scotland and the UK will be covered, with individuals and their families in work age benefits having to apply. It is the responsibility of the left to not only support all who are affected by this cruel regime, but offer an alternative and help organise a campaign against it.
It was Frank Fields and New Labour who first mooted the concept of Universal Credit. A single payment instead of having to claim for different benefits. This was over six years ago. After the tories came to power Ian Duncan Smith announced this as their flagship policy “To make work pay”. Individuals and families would receive a single monthly payment, one per household as working families did. Even at this early stage the third sector and charities warned of the dangers of paying housing benefit directly, instead of to landlords, and concerns for the children and frequently partner who would no longer receive any payment, not even child benefit. It has long been accepted that child benefit should be paid to the main family carer of children and provides a very basic safety net of regular income. Like the remainder and premise of a decent welfare state this is likely to be demolished as we move towards the Americanization of state benefits.
“Work must pay” according to the Tories and if this means single parents having to travel long distances and be unable to care for school age children, so be it. In the areas where Universal Credit has been trialled there have been reports of individuals and their families facing extreme poverty. This is an online system and without access to a computer people face a harsh sanction system. Although a free of charge phone line will be up and running in January after a public outcry, many report trying to stand in a free Wi-Fi area to speak to a human on the helpline which can take hours.
It is the most vulnerable in our society who face cuts in local services as well as these at a national level. Duncan-Smith at the beginning said families with a disabled person would not be affected but this has been conveniently forgotten and never announced. People with disabilities and unpaid carers will face the firing squad that is Universal Credit. So will people who receive housing benefit, both in and not in work. This will include social landlords. Councils and Housing Associations have made public their dismay that in the many areas piloting Universal credit, many tenants have gone into arrears so their income from rent is being reduced. Private Landlords who prop up a system with insufficient social housing have threatened to not take on or evict tenants on Universal Credit.
Like many of the binary policies of the Tories, Universal Credit is more than just a payment; it is propaganda promoting the concept of the “feckless poor”. If an emergency happens and no other help is available, people may use their Universal Credit payment and face arrears in housing. What will happen to during the assessment process when a new claim is made or during the sanction regime. Those on Universal Credit may find themselves facing the fear of losing their home. A roof over our heads is a very basic need.
We on the Left have known about the impact of Universal Credit for years. Nowadays the murmurs of “down with this” are increasing even Tory MPs and Frank Fields seeing what are happening to real people, not just statistics on a piece of paper, alarming. We all know by now that anyone currently moving to Universal Credit will not receive a payment until after Christmas. Some people have waited much longer and face having to apply again if there is a change in income.
Many of us work in our local communities helping fill out forms, applications as statutory services are overwhelmed. It is time to form a resistance not little Dutch boy style try and plug gaps. Like the poll tax this should lead to a campaign by all on the left. We need to provide education in order to be effective in supporting those affected. This is not an intellectual argument, but will be a devastating blow in local communities and to our neighbours and friends. A Citizen’s Income and a decent minimum wage are essential to our message but what about those who do not have the benefit of a union at their backs? Big questions we have to think about with compassion.
This is also a battle of rhetoric and we have to hold both Holyrood and Westminster governments accountable, not just blame each other. Fine speeches are good but action is essential now. By this time next year Universal Credit will be rolled out over all of Scotland and the UK. It is now time for action and time to do what we do best stand with those affected and that means the majority of us.
Sara sat in the clinic. She looked at the pretend smiling faces and their intake of Breathe as they realised her class. She had grown up with this, it had became law when she was a baby. The smell depended on your designated class.
This had affected her all her life. Her teachers, her classmates looked down on her. She had a visible smell that betrayed who she was. That scent did not represent who she was though. She had lived and ignored others disgust. She was proud to be Sara. Which was why it was strangely ironic that she wasat a noseblind clinic. “Miss Sara,” a face in a mask. “Please come through” Sara got up and smiled. She followed the doctor who did not smell. The room was white and clinical as Sara expected. The doctor said; “Hello, I am Doctor Sami. I can smell you of course, the 2020 act, but we can help. You are successful and one, only one, injection will set you free. Can we help?” ‘Freedom,’ Sara thought, from a life she had been a prisoner in. How many could not afford this treatment though? She had to make a decision.
On this Pre-Election special, we’ll have Derek Stewart Macpherson with the first part of his Spin Cycle series, John McHarg talking about voter choice, Richie Venton on the choices socialists are facing in this election, and we’ll be hearing from Nick Durie about how this election proves the YES parties have failed to integrate movementism into their political practice.
We’ll have a magical poem called Invocation from Steve McAuliffe,Debra Torrance will be talking politics and football, Fuad Alakbarov will be talking about the election and ex Derry British Army Commander Eric Joyce will be talking about Corbyn, the IRA, Martin Mcguiness, Trident and Iraq.