‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review)
Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t part of our AAA alumni. But then these aren’t usual times we’re living in and I beg your patience as to why you’re getting an ‘extra’ review this week. We are living in dangerous times, times that will in decades to come be condemned by the history books, times when we’ll look back and shake our heads over how so much good was undone in such a short space of time and how nobody except those already suffering knew anything about it. I refer of course, as I so often refer in these newsletters, to the Coalition Government and their repeated hacking away at the welfare bill. I do, of course, have self interest in what the Coalition do next, having suffered from chronic fatigue for several years and no doubt I’m passionate about the subject because I know how it’s affecting me as well as thousands of people I don’t know or half-know. But what worries me most isn’t so much what the Coalition Government are doing to take away the props that made our lives just about bearable – its the fact that the wider world either don’t know or aren’t doing anything about it. The Government’s cuts need to be talked about and need to be in the open and we need to fight against their outrageous decisions now before we add several thousand more casualties to that ever growing list of people found fit to work by ATOS ‘doctors’ who die within six months (its been getting longer and longer and longer – and longer. A quick search on a search engine will show you what I mean: http://calumslist.org/ is a good place to start). I know for a fact that the more social aware of our AAA bands would have covered this subject long ago had they been living in this era. Had The Beatles become big in this decade not the 60s they’d have hated the Coalition Government too (Ringo’s childhood attacks of peritonitis would have given him a particular insight into patient care), Crosby Stills Nash and Young would have turned it into a raging anthem the way they spoke against racial prejudice and intolerance and Watergate and Vietnam veterans and murders of protesting students and, well, just about every injustice under the sun throughout the 1970s; even the bands of more recent years like Oasis and Belle and Sebastian who don’t often ‘do’ politics might have been prepared to get their hands dirty too for a crime this big.
But alas there is no one. No big names have come forward to say ‘this is wrong’. No one (yet) has had the guts to say ‘this is unfair’. No one’s been able to influence their fanbase into taking action (one word from Paul McCartney or Neil Young and the Government would be out on its ear within a week). Which is not the fault of ‘our’ groups necessarily; they’ve fought their battles, they’ve left their home towns and often their countries long ago (frankly I’d have done the same given the chance) and any care they’ve needed for themselves or family has been treated privately so they don’t know what’s happening. Good on them – nobody could possibly ask them to put their careers on the line more than they have. But where are the younger people, the hungry young stars of today who’ve seen with their own eyes what the ‘truth’ is? To be fair, perhaps they simply don’t know what’s going on either: The media have done their damnedest to keep hidden these stories about NHS cuts, welfare work programmes and laughable ATOS diagnosis by a bunch of lawyers who have, at best, a few week’s training on every disease and ailment known to man (no wonder they get it wrong so often!) in order to talk about Olympics and royal weddings and sexy celebrities. If you didn’t know about it or knew someone who was suffering at first hand you would just nod your head, go along with the flow and assume that everyone on benefits is out to a) live off the system b) are lazy and c) aren’t trying to get better. Here’s the truth they don’t tell you on television: Welfare ‘cheaters’ are as low as 0.5% even in Government figures (and you can bet your life the figures have been fudged somewhere along the way to seem even bigger) and life is such a struggle for so many of us that asking us casually to ‘do a little something extra for the big society’ is like asking someone who works 50 hours a week to double their tally at the drop of a hat and go without their lunch break. We are suffering. We have proper, official doctors who know we’re suffering. We are too weak and tired and caught up with the art of survival to fight for too hard or for too long (though the anti-ATOS protestors are doing one heck of a job at keeping the Government scared). We don’t have the energy, the strength or the mega-resources that the Government have to fight back (yes, even in a recession – have you seen the bonuses ATOS made this year?!) But fight on we must, or worse is to come. To fight, however, we need ‘you’ lot, those of you without illness or on welfare on our side.
Which is why I implore all of you who read this not only to ‘open your eyes and ears’ like we tell you to every week. Do something constructive. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Have a look for some twitter tweets and facebook posts and youtube videos to find the ‘truth about ATOS’ and ‘Government welfare bills’ and the next time some uninformed idiot with the Daily Mail in his hand tells you that ‘all people on welfare are lazy cheats’ remind him of what you’ve read, what you’ve learnt, what you’ve seen. And tell him that only lazy cheats listen to a Government of rich millionaires from Eton who don’t understand the real world and then believe every single word they’re fed, without doing the research to back it up. He might laugh. He might sneer. He might walk away, un-listening. He might never change his mind. But when your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren ask in years to come what you did during the ‘modren dark ages’ when Fuhrer Cameron and thingy Clegg’s Coalition party tried to destroy the weak and vulnerable for the sake of a few pennies that was all the fault of some rich boy bankers then at least you can tell them that you tried. And you tried again. And at least you didn’t take what the Government told you at face value without questioning the validity of it. And if enough of us try to keep searching for the ‘truth’ then the message will, somehow, get through. We can’t win over everybody. But we can get the truth out there, somewhere, and make people think telling our vulnerable and poorly to get well by working, by pushing their bodies through more strain, by increasing the pressure on their minds and hearts and backs, by taking away their benefits if they dare to disagree and that trying to crush the life and spirit out of them is not the way a society should be behaving in the 21st century, however much money it needs to make (Think there’s no choice? Think again! We can cancel wars, weapons, projects planned but not ready to be built, MP expenses – why we could make a profit this year alone and we would put it all back into creating jobs so that less of our unemployed brethren had to suffer sanctions for not getting a job when there aren’t any. And if there was a choice, why are so many ill people bearing the brunt of what really isn’t their fault?!)
Which rather longwinded introduction leads me neatly into this week’s ‘bonus’ review. Martin Kitcher isn’t a name many of you know (unless you’ve read our last couple of issues anyway). If the Coalition get what they want, you’ll never hear from people like him again because what ‘he’ is saying isn’t the ‘right’ thing. But his ‘ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ is the song I’ve been waiting this long for, a composition that at long last tells the truth. I love it because it fulfils the most important function of music as I see it, which is to educate, to make people think and to say something important and honest that hasn’t been said before. Anyone whose ever had to apply for employment and support allowance, whose had to fill in a complicated 20 page form that still isn’t long enough to talk about our illnesses and doesn’t allow you to count ‘pain’ or ‘tiredness’ or ‘mental exhaustion’ as a difficulty, to be told they have to attend work programmes to get money to survive, that they’ll be sanctioned if they refuse or are too ill to appear, that are seen by a doctor who doesn’t care about you or your illness and simply sees you as a statistic, you will love this song. ‘We know we’ve paid for your schemes – but we’re your motherland now’ is a great opening line, bringing memories of every other unfair society that crept up on the world so slowly it took them by surprise. ‘You’ve had your chance for dreams – but they’ve all gone now’ is, sadly, a true enough sentence too. For now on for those unlucky enough to need a helping hand (of a pittance a week I might add) its all about survival; ‘dreams’ don’t come into it. Regular readers will know how badly the jobcentre want to take this site off of me and make me do some ‘real’ work that’s likely to destroy my body – I’m only grateful that I got the chance to do so much writing before it was too late.
‘And you’re not fit to live...’ Dramatic as it sounds, I’ve heard reports where ATOS medical practitioners (I’m going to give up calling them doctors!) have said this to their patients, asking suicide patients ‘why didn’t you succeed?’ and asking the parents of a downs syndrome teenager ‘when do you think he’ll grow out of it?!’ In their eyes we’re not human beings, we’re boxes ticked on a computer and if we don’t fit in the ‘holes’ they give us then, well, we’re not fit to live in their eyes. ‘Get out of our sight’ they snarl as we walk out of the door, unable to complain (or they’ll sanction us), never knowing what lottery of results they’ll award us or what we’ll do in the long term if they take our precious money away from us. Work? Who’d employ somebody with our ailments? Add to the dole queue and fit their requirements? Those lucky enough to find work in time will make their symptoms worse. Those unlucky enough will be sanctioned and have no money coming in whatsoever (a staggering 43% of people claiming esa but found ‘fit to work’ a year ago are in that very boat, unable to apply for jsa or find work, living off the charity of family, friends and, well, charities).
‘Ask all your friends. What’s that you say? They’ve gone away. Well who can blame them – who’d want a crippled friend like you?!’ Martin’s fury rises up to a crescendo in this verse. It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed that when you get ill, especially with an untrendy ‘mystery’ illness like mine, that people you’ve known for decades start believing the papers not you or your doctor. ‘It’s been on the news that the welfare bill is too high and everyone is faking it – therefore it must be true’ or ‘I’ve just read a column in the Daily Fail by somebody whose never had a day’s illness in his life how there’s no such thing as a disability- and he must know, he has such experience to back that up’. The great lines keep on coming, the friends ‘laughing at you’ as you fall down the stairs, ‘photo-shopping’ you to make you look better than you are, unable to understand what you cope with every day. And that last line about how the Government are cutting down on everyone now because they’ve run out of wars, of ‘big war bonds’ to fund their stupidity (would we all rather see money spent on helping our sick and vulnerable or spending it on nuclear missiles, trident and wars over imaginary weapons of mass destruction?) But then what else could we expect when we ‘elect’ a Government so out of touch with the real world? ‘Get a job – that’s what the Eton boys said’. If only it was that easy. If only there were jobs that didn’t make us poorly. If only there were If only there were employers willing to take employees who can’t think, can’t walk, can’t breathe, can’t can’t can’t because life is too painful, too hard, too much of a struggle to cope with. Life is all about survival when you suffer from a major illness, its finding ‘little victories’ that mean you’re getting better or finding some other means of contributing to society. Take that away and what have you got? More deaths, longer lasting illness and a rise in disability hate crime. It’s pathetic for a so-called civilised society in the 21st century. We don’t ask for much. For the most part we don’t take much. And just because the Government has magically started saying we can do things, that doesn’t mean that we can.
But still, the world doesn’t seem to be listening to me (after all, what do I know? I’m ‘not fit to live’ in their eyes as it says in the song), which is why I’ve taken this song so much to heart. You don’t have to buy it (though it would be nice if you did – its only 79p folks, profits earmarked for a charity!), but I urge you all to give it a listen as an antidote to what the Government will tell you at their next speech, what the news will tell you about the welfare state on the 10 o’clock news and, no doubt, what the jobcentre will be telling me when I do to visit them again next week. We are fit to live, whatever the Government says, we’re simply not fit to work. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Martin’s soundcloud link (for free): http://soundcloud.com/martinkitcher
Martin’s Itunes page (to buy): http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/not-fit-to-live-aka-atos-song/id562910152
We’ll join you next Monday when we’ll be reviewing the Byrds LP ‘The Ballad Of Easy Rider’ and looking at some other film soundtrack songs. Till then, goodbye!