5 October 2012
Feared By The Rich, Loved By The Poor
As disabled people face unprecedented levels of hate crime and denigration in the press John O’Donoghue – with the help of The Robin Hood Book by Alan Morrison, to which he was a contributor – reckons there is an alternative.
We seem to live in an age where accountability is worked out on a sliding scale. If you’re Bob Diamond, in charge of Barclays Bank when the LIBOR scandal broke, accountability means walking away with a handsome package. You might recall he didn’t want to go: a quiet word – or perhaps noisy exchanges – from the Bank of England sealed his fate.
At the other end of the scale if you posted joking encouragement about last summer’s riots on facebook you got a four year custodial sentence in a Young Offenders’ Institution. This is what happened to Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan. Needless to say no one turned up to riot following their posts.
Jack Straw recently spoke about a ‘culture of impunity’ that allowed the South Yorkshire Police to fit up the dead. For 23 years Liverpool fans were blamed for Hillsborough. The truth is now clear: they were not to blame and the South Yorkshire Police mounted a cover-up to conceal their own failings in the terrible disaster.
That same ‘culture of impunity’ now seems to have been extended to bankers like Diamond and the network of financiers who have got off scot free over our present regime of bankruptcy, deficit, austerity, and cuts.
The publication of The Robin Hood Book therefore comes at a crucial time. Alan Morrison, the editor of the book, is a passionate advocate of the ‘Robin Hood Tax’, levied on transactions between financial institutions at an average rate of 0.05% or
five pence for every thousand pounds traded.
A small price to pay, you might think, when so many people are facing hardship not of their own making. As Morrison shows in the book, an anthology of poetry from over 130 poets with accompanying essays from Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, Jody Porter, Poetry Editor of The Morning Star, and Morrison himself, amongst others, ‘The Robin Hood Tax’ is not some pipedream cooked up in the tents of the Occupy Movement. The tax has the backing of the French President, M. Hollande, Gordon Brown, and a range of over 50 charities and organizations, including Christian Aid, Comic Relief and UNICEF.
The aim is to distribute the proceeds of the tax to frontline services currently being cut – to the NHS, to councils, the police, the armed services, higher education; and to international aid. And of course to preserve the support disabled people, currently facing the trials of ATOS and increased villification in the media, need in order to get by. You may be dreading your Work Capability Assessment. You may have experienced random abuse and hate crime. You may be wondering where your next meal is coming from right now.
But imagine what it would be like if the people who were actually responsible for the financial crisis were held accountable: bankers, politicians, regulators.
That’s why I believe The Robin Hood Book is so vital.
As well as poems by the likes of Michael Horovitz, Jeremy Reed, Heathcote Williams, Judith Kazantzis, Mario Petrucci, Ken Worpole, and Fiona Pitt-Kethley, there are also contributions by Niall McDevitt, Andy Croft, David Kessel, Paul McGrane, and Naomi Folye.
It’s a diverse and inclusive anthology, as you’d expect from Morrison, himself a poet and disability activist. Yes, some of the verse might be a little uneven, but a lot of the work here is thoughtful and quietly powerful:
Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Back in the Eighties
Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the Eighties
and I should be getting ready for school,
not work. There’s royal couple mania,
yet the word on everybody’s lips is
cuts, as everything’s halved, then quartered,
and still it’s not enough. In the Eighties
I didn’t play toy soldiers, I played
riots. Left-over figures from a farmyard
clashed with Nazi infantry, who stood in for
police. Now all the battles fought and won
are there to win or lose again. I’m stranded
in a kink of time. It’s like half my life
didn’t happen; I’m back in the Eighties.
Or, as my wife says, ‘You never left, love.’
But some of the most powerful writing comes from Morrison himself. His blistering, meticulously researched essay Ripe Time For A British Spring issues a call to arms to all who are wondering what is to be done. Morrison judiciously dissects the government’s present policies of cuts, privatisation of the NHS, ‘rationalisation’ of the benefits system.
As the juggernaut of Osbornomics lurches ahead crushing all in its path, there is a much simpler, more just, more sensible way to deal with the crisis – the Robin Hood Tax.
Here is a handbook for everyone who wants to make the case against the Coalition.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.