Tuesday 8 November 2011

38 Degrees – Negotiating the Avalanche

I’ve just had a very positive chat with David Babbs of 38 Degrees on the problems with how disabled people have perceived what has been happening with their voting mechanism.

David addressed the issues really openly and I’m happy to agree with him that the problems are cock-up, not conspiracy*; meanwhile he has had the opportunity to take on-board our message that, after years of demonization in the media, disabled people just won’t win popularity contests, and that therefore 38 Degrees’ vote-driven campaigning mechanism is a real problem for us.

That’s a problem 38 Degrees will have to wrestle with, everything they stand for says they should be standing up for the most marginalized and discriminated against in society, but the democratic model at the heart of everything they stand for also means that the demonized can’t access that support, because the population has been brainwashed by the media over how we should be regarded. 38 Degrees depends on its membership telling it what to vote for, the membership depend on the media to identify issues, and the media portray us as frauds and scroungers living a life of luxury.

There’s a real tension in how 38 Degrees deal with that, I understand the difficulty of working with two ideas that don’t play nicely together. Cognitive dissonance barely starts to cover it. And I think that David has offered us a way ahead on that which should hopefully hell leach away some of the anger people in the disability community are feeling towards them. But it is also a discussion 38 Degrees needs to have with itself. If they remain wedded so tightly to their democratic mechanism, then how do they ensure they don’t ignore those in the most desperate need? They also need to look at their own behaviour and decide if it is truly consistent. David admitted that opposing DLA changes should have been on their latest poll and was left off accidentally, but he doesn’t feel they need to do anything about that. I’m not so convinced and I suspect that others will feel the same.

So we’ve made progress and I hope we see more, but things aren’t entirely resolved and as disabled people we’ll be watching to see that 38 Degrees does take a hard look at how it makes sure disenfranchised minorities aren’t beyond its help. After all, no vote told Wilberforce to support the abolition of slavery, no vote told the Pankhursts to lead the Suffragette movement, and no vote should stop 38 Degrees from doing what is right.

* You can see that DLA issues have been on the past votes by scrolling done on the Future Campaigns page , but they aren’t on the current one and you can also see that our votes are falling – people simply don’t understand the depths of the attack on us, and if they don’t understand that, how can they vote for us? It really is a textbook example of disenfranchisement in action.

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