I do love me a good read of the latest Manbooker Prize winner.
Author Anna Burns has taken out this year’s prize with her novel “Milkman“. I’m yet to get into the novel but I’m excited to!
Prior to receiving the £50,000 prize money for her efforts, Anna was on welfare. She suffers chronic pain and has moved emotional mountains to get the book done. She has received criticism for not having a job, instead being “reliant” on the system. The ignorance of this is outstanding.
If anyone has experienced long and sustained pain due to injury or illness they will know how debilitating it is. More so, Anna is a woman in her 50’s. It is complicated enough navigating the world of employment when you are fit and able in that age bracket (or at all as it is). Couple it with “complications” or an “inconvenience” for the company and you can forget it.
Hospitality is out – how is she meant to stand for hours on a back injury? Office work is possible, but may require special arrangements that are not optional or “preferred” when looking at a candidate.
So she wrote a book. Where many others fall into deep depression or fall into the grips of medication dependency, Anna was about to make a literary piece that has taken the world by storm.
I’ve read a fantastic piece this week from The Guardian talking about the way we often assume creativity to belong to those with wealth – “cleverness is somehow the property only of those with good incomes.” I think this is so very valid, and it really comes out when you see a colleague return to work from a South East Asian country covered in handmade jewellery spouting how “surprised” they were at the “talent” “these people” have shown in being creative despite lack of resources. As if we haven’t expressed ourselves using art in a multitude of ways since we developed the ability to communicate with each other.
I’m a big fan of books. You all know I’m a big fat nerd by now, surely? So go out and buy Anna’s book. Support her and make it so she never needs to return to a pension / state benefit again. At the end of the day encouraging awareness and support to individual efforts can make a huge difference in combatting entrenched poverty or disadvantage. It’s the easiest form of advocacy you can participate in.
Rather than criticising people for being reliant on welfare, let’s help them get out of it by supporting them in their endeavours. Let’s be supportive of people who are playing to their strengths. If we can’t assist them to get out of a situation they wish to exit then let’s offer understanding to what is always a more complicated situation than we can see from the outside. Let’s approach people with kindness and a measured understanding that allows them to feel supported and try to keep fighting.
And also just remember, not everyone is creative like Anna is. So this article is not saying that everyone on welfare unable to work should write a book. If they want to / can – great! But it is not a person’s “responsibility” to exit the welfare system if they have been deemed suitable to receive assistance. They are entitled to that and we should remember that we may well need it ourselves in future years to come pending circumstance change or misfortune.
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