Monday, 29 November 2010

'Tis the silly season

I have made a great study of the Christmas period over the years and have come up with what I believe is the standard timetable for the silly season.  Placing the timetable on to this year I will give you the map to guide your Christmas festivities:

Phase One (29 November - 5 December):  Anxiety starts to build that you haven't bought any presents.  You search high and low for any money that has been lost down the back of the sofa to supplement what's left of your wages.  Thoughts turn to the coming Christmas party at work.

Phase Two (6 December - 12 December):  First round of Christmas parties.  You've completely forgotten to buy any presents but, as you're half drunk or hungover most of the time, you don't really care.  You start choosing the people you want to get off with at the party at work.  You complain that the roads around the shopping mall are gridlocked but can't think why.  Christmas cards start arriving through the post so you go out and buy the cheapest box of cards you can to reciprocate.

Phase Three (13 December - 19 December):  Anxiety turns to worry as you finally remember about not having got any presents.  Worry turns to anger as the shops are packed solid with other people desperately trying to buy their loved ones presents (they may even be buying some for their family!).  You see the petrol that you bought at a highly inflated price disappear as you're stuck in a gridlock for hours on end.  The work's Christmas party turns into a free for all as everyone grabs at the nearest available alcohol to make it easier to get off with their chosen colleague.  Some smart ass decides to photocopy their naked butt and pins up the copies all over the place.  People start to take bets on whose butt it is.  Alcohol levels are getting so high that you're endangering your life but that's OK because it's Christmas.

Phase Four (20 December - 23 December):  You suffer from alcohol related total amnesia and a sense that you may have really embarrassed yourself but can't think how.

Phase Five (24 December):  Full blown panic attack as you regain your memory and realise that it's Christmas Eve and you haven't finished the Christmas shopping.  You call work to tell them that you're sick so that you can spend what you can of the day (when you're not stuck in traffic) trying to rush around the shops.  Grocery shopping is more like a trolley dash as you grab things off the shelves and hope that it's something you and your family like.

Phase Six (25 December - 26 December):  Eat, drink and be merry until you open your presents and are extremely disappointed with yet another pair of novelty socks and things from the pound store.

Phase Seven (27 December - 30 December):  Over-indulgence makes it impossible to get to work so you sit watching crap on the TV and moaning about the crap you were given as presents.  Some adventurous people may make it out to the shops to return their gifts for store credit.

Phase Eight (31 December - 1 January):  Getting drunk with family and friends whilst making New Year's Resolutions that are almost immediately broken and forgotten.

Phase Nine (2 January - 9 January):  Slow detoxing from the Christmas period.

Hope this timetable is of help to you!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Oooooooooooo, isn't it cold?

I don't know about you but I'm loving the cold weather.  Thanks to the chill in the air, the shops have been almost empty of people and the roads have been surprisingly clear of traffic.  I'm not saying that I like the cold itself, only the advantages afforded to those of us brave enough to go out in it.

Christmas, on the other hand, I can well do without.  The relentless bloody happiness.  The stress.  The crowded shops.  The inevitable "X Factor" Christmas single.  Who needs it?  I'm going to treat this Christmas as just another day, no better or worse than the one before and the one before that.  I think that Scrooge had the right idea - let me keep Christmas in my way and you keep it in yours.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I think that in doing everything I have done in the past couple of years to raise awareness of mental health problems has kind of backfired on me.  It is true that I have had some modest success in my efforts but it has come at a terrible cost to myself.

As you may or may not be aware, there is a great deal of stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues that can affect both your chances of getting a partner or getting a job if they find out about your particular problem although there are supposed to be safeguards to help you with regards to employment (in the UK, at least).  The Disability Discrimination Act was widened to accommodate mental health problems so that people so afflicted would not be discriminated against when trying to find work among other things.  The DDA, however, does not really offer the protection it was meant to offer as a prospective employer just needs to find another reason not to employ you, such as "someone with a bit more experience came along" or "another applicant was better qualified for the post".

The problem I now face is that, because I have done some relatively high profile events in Thurrock, all someone has to do is Google my name and they will be graced with video clips and blogs that shout out "I have a mental health problem".  How then am I supposed to get a job?  The same problem applies to trying to get a date so I am really beginning to regret having started all of this, especially as the funding for the Forum I chair is stopping at the end of March which doesn't really matter as the organisation that is supposed to be providing the support has withdrawn that support resulting in the Forum being completely paralysed and unable to function anyway.

As everything that I have tried to build up falls down around me I am left with nothing and no hope of finding a job or that special someone to spend my life with.  I am, therefore, really regretting starting all this.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Another untitled poem

Yes, I know I seem to be posting nothing but poems at the moment but I have to post what come to mind and, at the moment, that's poetry.  This is a poem I wrote last night by candlelight.  I hope you like it.

Flickering candlelight
The deathly silence of the night
I’m all alone and feeling hollow
As another pill I swallow
And hope it somehow achieves its goal
To banish the darkness from my soul.

I watch the flickering candle flame
From second to second never quite the same
Representing the light that my life lacks
And creating patterns in melting wax
Burning low to a waxy pool
Until there is no flame at all.

Silence deep, an almost tangible thing
Swooping down on night’s dark wing
I sit alone and dream and wonder
As my world is torn asunder
By forces that I can’t control
That wish to feed on my very soul.

As darkness takes me in its embracing arms
I relish all its morbid charms
A taste of future ultimate Oblivion
For I am an abyssal scion
My home will be eternal night
With fading dreams of candlelight.

© Myles Cook, 19/11/2010

Feel free to comment on any of my posts.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Mid-life blues

There comes a time in your life when you realise that you have no idea what you're doing, what you've achieved or even who you really are.  I have reached that point now.  I wonder what the point of life is if all it does is leave you with more questions than answers.  Am I the only person to feel like this?  Or am I just going mad?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Untitled Poem

Here's a poem I wrote last night.

A pain so raw
A cut so deep
An agony so boundless
As to negate the soft caress of Time.

The gates of Oblivion thrown open
The agents of Chaos loosed
The demons of Hell spew forth
To tear at the souls of the hopeless.

A darkness born of despair
A purgatory born of self-hatred
A fire born of malice
Searing the flesh of the dispossessed.

A longing left unsated
A dream left unrealised
A hope left unfulfilled
Leaving so many souls tortured by empty lives.

This is the world I live in
A place where darkness reigns
A timeless battleground
Where Light itself has died.

© Myles Cook, 15/11/2010

Friday, 12 November 2010

You can catch me at... or if you're a real glutton for punishment.

There's No 'Me' Left

Here's a poem I wrote last night.  It's probably not very good but here it is anyway.

There’s no me left
Just a procession of transitory roles
That I adopt to fit in
A friend to one
A counsellor to another
A wise man or a fool
Nothing but a human chameleon
There are many Is in my life but
There’s no me left.

There’s no me left
Me got lost in the shuffle
I traded me for disposable facades
To be a part of a normal life
That me could never be a part of
I can be fun to be with
A jester or a fool
But the corrosion of life worked away inside until
There’s no me left.

There’s no me left
I’m defined by the company I’m in
A hollow man without a soul
Superficially alive but merely existing
Awaiting each real soul
To define what I should be
Then just as quickly losing it
And I begin to realise that
There’s no me left.

© Myles Cook, 12/11/2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010


The entries below are a sampling of some of the entries I have on my personal website at  I will be adding new entries here from now on but I thought I'd give you who read this column an idea of what's coming.

Stay well.

Mid-life blues

Plato had the character of Socrates say that “the unexamined life is not worth living” in his dialogue entitled Apology. However, as I reach the age that is characterised by the mid-life crisis and I look back at my life to see what I may have achieved, I find that my achievements really amount to nothing despite engaging in a quest for spiritual enlightenment, knowledge and acceptance of the things I am unable to change. I have, over the last few years, engaged in a rigorous examination of my life and found that, contrary to Socrates’ assertion, my life, though examined, has not been worth living.

Once upon a time I believed that I had within me a greatness just waiting to be unleashed but, unfortunately, I have not found the key to the prison in which it is trapped and it seems to me at this very moment that I never will. There has been nothing in my life that has given me a feeling of fulfilment, nothing that has truly made my life worth living. What then is the point of such a life? Where am I to find meaning in an increasingly meaningless existence? I am lost in a twisted and desolate landscape, alone and without a map or compass to guide me. I may have people around me but I am desperately and totally alone in the darkness.

Variations on a theme

Today's Variations on a Theme are based on the saying "If at first you don't succeed..."

...lower your expectations.

...redefine success. probably wasn't worth bothering with anyway.

...cheat.'s quite possible that you are way too evolved to be debasing yourself with such matters.

...perhaps you should have applied yourself more.  I mean, how hard can it be to make a woman achieve orgasm? should really have a look at the instruction manual.

...try it again but this time with your eyes open.

...ask for help.  I mean, that's why you pretend to be good at working in a team in your job - to give yourself a bunch of people who may actually know what they're doing to take the pressure off of you.

Feel free to add your own!

Stupid TV game shows

Well, we finally have proof that we are sliding down the evolutionary tree faster than ever with the new game show Heads or Tails on Channel 5.  Could there be a more pathetic waste of air time?  What next, I wonder?  Guess which hand it's in?

The TV game show is the perfect indicator for how the public has become so obsessed with getting their fifteen minutes of fame and grabbing easy money.  Big Brother started out as a psychological/socialogical experiment and ended up as a breeding ground for a huge number of wannabes who paraded their ignorance and outrageous behaviour in order to win over the gullible public so they could grasp the large cash prize and their chance of a career in the media.  Deal or No Deal represented yet another low point with its collection of contestants treating a game of chance as a test of skill (as if skill really has anything to do with it) and all the fake camaraderie.  The Colour of Money is another game show that is a simple game of chance dressed up to look like a test of skill although it is a good test of how money-grabbing you happen to be.  Golden Balls, another game of chance, also shows how duplicitous the public can really be when there's the possibility of easy money going begging.

Well, to just throw some ideas out there, here are a couple of suggestions for game shows.  They are only meant as a joke but watch out for them on the TV soon.

The Answer is Two:  A game show that has questions that all have two as an answer (such as "Fill in the missing number in the following sequence: 1, _, 3, 4, 5, 6" or "How many apples in a pair?".  There can be a number of possible answers to choose from and a long drawn-out pause between the contestant giving the answer and the host revealing whether they are correct or not.  Of course, there can be an intellectual version with harder questions such as "What is the answer if you take the number of manifestations of God from the New Testament and take away one?"

I'm Thinking of a Number:  The host thinks of a number between 1 and 10.  If the contestant guesses correctly they can go on to higher and higher prizes.  Of course, to keep it within the intellectual ability of most game show contestants, choice will have to be really easy such as "I'm thinking of a number between 5 and 7". 

Of course, if either of these shows makes it onto our TV screens I will have to blow up the offending TV station(s).

Little victories

I was asked a few days ago if there was some way that a depressive can help themselves cope with depression so here's my answer to that.  Of course there is a way, I call it 'little victories against the darkness'.  What do I mean by that?  Well, you need to find some way of building up your self-esteem and the way to do that is to set yourself small achievable goals, things that your depression makes it hard to achieve so that when you are successful in that goal you can feel proud of yourself.  For someone who is so bogged down in depression that they feel that they don't want to get out of bed, a little victory could simply be managing to beat down the feeling of wanting to hibernate enough to actually have the strength to get out of bed.

Little victories don't even have to be goals that you set yourself.  Sometimes just grabbing hold of something that you've been offered that seems achievable for you and running with it can also provide those little victories as long as you don't take it to excess and overloading yourself.  For me little victories have come in the shape of a couple of public poetry readings and the chance to write a blog column for Your Thurrock's blog page.  I also pushed myself a little harder by organising a depression awareness event at the local adult college where I am a Community Co-option governor although I do admit that it was probably pushing myself a bit harder that I should have.

So if you suffer from depression, why not try to set yourself a little goal and start to win some of those little victories today?

Pondering the mysteries of the Universe

If it takes one man four hours to dig a hole, shouldn't he ask for help?

If stars are so hot, why is space so cold?

If it only takes a good man to do nothing to let evil prosper, what happens if an evil man does nothing?

If time is a constant, why does it always drag when you're bored?

Did the Universe start with a Big Bang or was it a quiet dinner party?

If the space between the nucleus of an atom and it's electrons is so large, does that mean that the Universe is made of nothing?

If we know the world exists only through our own perceptions, when I'm not around does everything in the Universe apart from my immediate location cease to exist?

If Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness, why do we feel so stressed and miserable until it's all over?

All answers gratefully received.

Painful memories

Have you ever had one of those moments when a long-lost memory seems to jump out at you like a mugger in an alley at midnight?  Well, that's what happened to me last night.  The memory seemed to slip silently through the cracks in the defences of my subconscious and momentarily overpower my conscious mind before it was aware of what was happening.  I've been trying to write a short story called "The Door" over the past couple of days but this memory has pushed out all thoughts of the story so I relate the memory here in the hope that I will be able to recommence my writing.

I suppose that, if you believe that certain events can be said to define who you are as a person, this is one such moment.  It was a Friday evening in 1986 or 1987 and my parents, brother and I had gone to Rush Green Hospital to visit my Grandma.  She'd had a stroke on the Wednesday morning and was rushed to hospital that day; however, being an NHS hospital, they did nothing to help her and by the Friday evening we were told that her chances of surviving the weekend were very slim.  Mum was understandably upset, it was her mother after all, and Dad was upset too, although it hardly showed.

As the four of us returned to my brother's car, my brother kept on saying that Grandma would recover despite the doctor's prognosis.  I, on the other hand, tried to remain as realistic as possible and, whilst remaining as hopeful and as emotionless as possible under the circumstances, tried to prepare my family for the worst.  My brother didn't see the wisdom in my attitude and drove us home like a maniac, narrowly missing the opportunity of wrapping around a lamppost or two.

After we arrived home, my parents and brother went to their flat whilst I went alone to Grandma's flat across the road where I had been living since exam time at school because Grandma felt better knowing someone else was in the flat with her at night-time.  I went into the living room and sat on the floor after taking the phone off the hook before bursting into tears.  I was alone and inconsolable for over an hour.  No one even bothered to see if I was all right or how I was coping with the news but in front of my family I put on an act, a mask of strength so they had someone strong to turn to.  I, on the other hand, had no one to turn to.

All of this came flooding into my mind last night and it was like reliving the whole thing again.  What happened that night defined what I was to become - a man who puts on a front in public to protect those around me while, in private, falling to pieces and so totally alone that I can barely cope with everyday life.

All I can hope is that my failing memory erases that night from my mind so I can't be hurt by the memory again.  Unfortunately, I know only too well that the psychic mugger will always be out there in the dark, waiting to pounce.

The failure of the great human experiment

Where did this great human experiment called ‘civilisation’ go wrong? We live in a society that is perversely obsessed with trivialities; a society based upon disposable products. Our world is slowly being poisoned and choked with all the harmful waste and emissions that our industrial machine churns out and, in order to keep that machine going, we rape the planet for its resources, wiping out species after species as if they are as disposable as our products.

Centuries of philosophical debate, artistic and literary achievement and political development have resulted in a society that seems to idolise ignorance, greed and selfishness. The leaps in our scientific achievements far exceed the growth in mankind’s rationality and morality creating a world full of horrifying weapons that we’re all too willing to use on each other; a world that is filled with hatred and fear. And we call this progress?

For everything mankind has achieved, are we really any better than our primitive ancestors? They at least lived in harmony with nature.

Our sense of wonder and insatiable curiosity brought us to this point but now we have begun to stagnate in a world filled with tabloid headlines and reality TV and the talent-less ‘celebrities’ they spawn whilst we ignore the things that really matter. We search the heavens for some sign of extraterrestrial intelligence when I am not entirely sure that we have found intelligent life on Earth. Perhaps we have been looking so hard to find our place in the Universe that we have lost sight of ourselves and turned a blind eye to the mess that we are making of things.

Our civilisation seems to be producing pain, misery and despair in undreamed of quantities whilst producing more problems than it solves in the process and perhaps now is the time to take stock of where we are and reassess what it is we really need before we reach an unavoidable crisis point (if we have not already done so).

Until we can answer my original question, we have no right to continue along the path we are on as a civilisation. Until we reassess our priorities as a species, we have no right to proclaim ourselves more important than the rest of the biosphere of which we are a part.

Global catastrophes

Warning:  The following entry has two expletives within the text.

Over the past couple of days I have been reading Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction by Bill McGuire.  It really cheered me up no end.  It's a book about all the natural disasters that could end the world as we know it or reduce the human race to a handful of survivors or wipe it out entirely.  The first sections include information on global warming and even if only some of the predictions are correct, it seems as though the human race, in the course of a couple of hundred years of industrial progress, has fucked up the planet for the next few hundred years even if we can reduce global carbon emissions or at least keep them at present levels.  Now why would that cheer me up?  Well, apart from the length of my lifetime, I have absolutely no personal investment in the future of the human race as I have no children and probably never will so while everyone else on the planet is looking to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, I can have one the size of a blue whale and not have to worry.  What a fantastic gift!

I can look at the whole subject of global warming and the future of the human race from the point of a mere observer which is the default setting of my life anyway and I can laugh at the irony that, despite the technological expertise at our disposal, the technology that is moving most rapidly can do nothing except provide scientists with ever more accurate ways of measuring how fast we're fucking up the planet.

The greatest irony is that the human race has sown the seeds of its own destruction in its efforts to prove itself to be above Nature.  Mankind's arrogance in the face of Nature is astounding.  In the name of speed, greed and profit, the human race has raped the planet for its resources and wiped out entire species with absolutely no thought for the consequences.  Of course, it may not be the natural disasters caused by global warming that finish the human race off because, as our technological sophistication outstrips our wisdom, we'll probably wipe ourselves out long before Nature can do it for us.

The human race is Nature's greatest enigma - so intelligent yet so unutterably stupid.

Talking politics

I have been asked on a number of occasions whether I am interested in politics and, to a certain extent, that is absolutely true. I have no interest in ‘party politics’, the partisan type of politics that defines political life in the UK. My interest lies in the study of political ideologies, the beliefs that lie at the heart of all things political and something that some political parties have turned their backs on or pay only lip service to in their dealings.

So what ideology do I subscribe to? Well, after reading a book on the subject, I found that I was most interested and had more in common with three ideologies – socialism, liberalism and anarchism. To say that I was surprised is to understate the matter for socialism and anarchism both have the underlying belief in the social, caring nature of the human race which is the complete opposite of my own personal beliefs and inclinations. I was also surprised at being drawn to liberalism for that ideology believes that the more you put into personal development, the greater your chances of ‘going up in the world’, so to speak. This is something that I do believe in but I am also a realist who knows that the world does not act in that fashion because we have created a dog eat dog world and people are now driven by the need to get ahead, stepping on or taking the credit for the work done by other people. That said, I still believe that these three ideologies have the best aspects for society and, if a workable synthesis could be derived from them, we could create a truly wonderful society.

Party politics does nothing for society as all it truly produces is a forum for arguments and back-biting between politicians of the different persuasions, leaving society unrepresented and largely ignored in the constant battles. Working together regardless of party affiliations is the way forward, concentrating on the good of society rather than the good of the party.

I am not particularly a fan of the Coalition Government now in power in the UK but the member parties are putting aside their mutual disdain for each other in what they hope is the best interests of the country although in my opinion, for what it is worth, I believe they are using the wrong methods to do so. They are, however, doing exactly what they said the coalition would do and that is usher in a new type of politics, one that ignores party politics and tries to do the best for the country as a whole. It is a bold experiment and one that deserves, nay must, succeed in order to light the way to a better future.

The axeman cometh...part 3

For the final part of this three day rant about the public spending cuts I will highlight the effect on someone on Incapacity Benefit and how they will suffer at the hands of the cuts to the benefits system.

Someone claiming Incapacity Benefit gets around £106 per week at the moment, which equates to £5512 per year; the proposed changes to the system will mean that the individual involved will after a year on Employment and Support Allowance will be shunted onto Jobseekers Allowance that brings in between £60-70 per week, which equates to £3640 per year. This amounts to an annual £1872 reduction in benefit and that’s assuming that the individual is getting £70 per week. Is this considered fair? Is this really placing the burden of paying off the deficit on the broadest shoulders? The Coalition Government certainly thinks so. I believe the Coalition Government should start living in the real world instead of living in their ivory towers where the air is sweet and financial problems are few and far between.

Now, you have probably guessed that I am the person I’m basing these calculations on and, despite comments mentioned on Question Time (BBC1, 21/10/2010) that most, if not all, households in the UK are also spending more than they have actually got, I can certainly tell you that I have absolutely no debts whatsoever and live within the limits of my reduced budget. My current situation is also not exactly helping my mental health either - living with my estranged wife because neither of us can afford to move from the flat we currently live in and Thurrock Council are not helping us as quickly as necessary, sleeping on the sofa for the past eight months which isn’t helping my bad back and not being able to heat our rooms because the radiators are, quite frankly, faulty or just plain low quality equipment. My estranged wife and I live within our means but only just. If we want something nice, we save for it and hope the price doesn’t go up before we have the money to buy it but we can only live on our income at the present rate and because we live together. What is going to happen when I lose £1872 per year or I have to start to pay all my own bills especially with housing benefit being reduced and council rents going up to around 80% of the private market rate?

The Coalition Government says that the reforms to the benefits system are part of their plans to get people off benefits and into work, which is all well and good but have any of them tried to get a job after a long period of unemployment due to ill health? My guess is – NO. Try getting a job when at the interview you have to disclose the reason that you have been off work for a number of years is due to a mental health problem and watch the shutters come down behind their eyes or have them return a glassy stare. Well, the Disability Discrimination Act is there to help you they may say. Wrong. The DDA only helps you if they can’t make up some other reason for not employing you or if you actually get the job and require a reasonable adjustment in working conditions (and, sometimes, not even then).

They say that you should move to where the jobs are but where is the money for the move coming from? They say that you can commute but how can you if the only job you can get is a low-paying job and you have to travel by public transport that is now going to become ever more expensive because of the cuts in public spending? What if you suffer, as I do, from anxiety using public transport making travel almost impossible without several days to prepare oneself? And, more fundamentally, what jobs? The cuts to the public sector are going to reduce the amount of jobs available and the resilience data from Experian in the local areas surrounding Thurrock are not encouraging and showing that in Thurrock itself “there is a high level of business insolvency” and “a small proportion of people are employed in resilient sectors”.

It may also be interesting to note that, due to my voluntary work, I have many transferable skills that would benefit employers and all that voluntary work looks really good on my CV but does any of that really help me get a job? The answer is a resounding no. If you can actually find a job you are qualified for but have a mental health issue, the chances of getting that job are minimal at best, especially as there are hundreds of other applicants for the same job who may not have the same problem.

The Coalition Government has stealthily hit the most vulnerable at a time when they need the most help whilst maintaining the deception of being fair and I weep for the future of this country as I see nothing but the dark days of riots, protests and strikes coming with the horror of homelessness and premature death looming for those most at need.

Hang your head in shame, “Call me Dave” Cameron; you are about to harm more people than you can possibly imagine to maintain the illusion of fairness with respect to the cuts to public spending.

The axeman cometh...part 2

One has to ask oneself, in the midst of all this talk of everyone in the UK being “in this together” with regards to the cuts to public spending, how is this going to affect our beloved MPs, specifically, those who are part of the Coalition Government? I believe that the people concerned should be open and honest about how the cuts will affect them and their families personally. It has already been mentioned in the media that some MPs have used a legal grey area to transfer assets into their partner’s name thus avoiding tax. Surely, if we are “all in this together”, such legal grey areas should be dismissed and the full tax paid on those assets. This would undoubtedly bring in some much needed revenue and, perhaps, off-set some of the cuts the Coalition Government believe are necessary.

And what about the bankers who got us into this mess? Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee suggested a Transaction Tax of less than 0.01% on all large international transactions on Question Time (BBC1, 21/10/2010), a move she claims could net £20bn but the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond used the same old Government argument that this would make the banks conduct their transactions in other countries which would be disastrous for the UK’s economy. Wait a minute though – the bankers got us into this mess in the first place so shouldn’t they accept that responsibility and do what is necessary to try to dig us out of the hole they have put us in?

There is also the fact that the bankers are paying themselves out £7bn in bonuses for their ‘good’ work. Surely the Coalition Government should come down on the banks to prevent these bonuses being paid out, having the money pumped into the UK economy instead especially as some of the banks have been bailed out by the taxpayers?

The axeman cometh...

So the axe has finally fallen and, as usual, it falls hardest on those who have the least. The new Coalition Government constantly blames the cuts on Labour, who undoubtedly played a large part in creating the problems we now face with their unrestrained public spending and were responsible for deregulating the banks, but they have other choices they could make and seem to use Labour as a convenient scapegoat to distance themselves from responsibility. They seem to use the word “fairness” to describe the cuts in a way that I have never heard before and the Spending Review will achieve nothing more than the further stratification of society in the UK.

At the moment, despite our claims to be a classless society, there are four economic classes based on income and wealth – upper, middle, working and underclass. The top two classes can be further sub-divided but for the purposes of this blog I shall leave it at the main four classes. For the people of the underclass whose only means of income and support is state benefits, the cuts to welfare funding will push them further towards poverty and closer to extinction, which is, perhaps, the point of the exercise.

Some people may say that those living on state benefits do so as a matter of personal choice and, while some do, the majority of people on benefits do so because they have no other choice, either through illness, incapacity of some description or not being able to find work for one reason or another. I am a member of the underclass due to reasons of my mental health that limits the kind of work I can do and my ability to deal with other people but I am not idle. I am, in fact, one of the people who this government supposedly loves and wishes to see more of in their attempts to create the “Big Society”. I volunteer in various roles – as a befriender for Thurrock Mind, as the Chair of the Thurrock Mental Health Service Users and Carers Forum, as the Mental Health Lead for Thurrock LINk, as a member of the Steering Committee of Making Involvement Matter in Essex (MIME) and as a Community Co-option Governor for Thurrock Adult Community College. I have also organised two mental health awareness events in my local area, been part of a number of consultations and write a blog column for Your Thurrock, a local news website.

You may ask how I can do all of these things if I am claiming Incapacity Benefit for reasons of mental ill health and I would answer that I do these things 1) because very few others are willing or able to do them, 2) because they help me to remain occupied rather than sitting at home complaining all day and 3) because I am comfortable in my local area and the events I organise are in locations that reduce my anxiety around people. I suppose I could add a fourth reason which would be that I do them because if I don’t I doubt anyone would bother.

Other people will be in the same boat as myself – willing to work but unable to, for one reason or another, but giving back to society by doing voluntary work. I have to wonder if the Coalition Government has taken any of this into account when conducting their Spending Review because, if our benefits are cut, we will be unable to continue doing the necessary work we do which contributes to the “Big Society” and we will become a drain on the already stretched National Health Service. We may be part of the underclass in society but some of us are also the foundation on which the “Big Society” will be built and, without us, it will fail.

The Coalition Government should take a long, hard look at what they wish their legacy to be and then, perhaps, re-think their methods. The Liberal Democrats actually hold more power in their hands than they believe they have. They should stick to their principles and not make life so easy for the Conservatives. They may be in coalition but that should not mean that they do not have a voice that should be heard.

If the Coalition Government does not take great care, there will be riots, demonstrations and strikes such as we have not seen in recent memory and they will not be able to blame the Labour party.