I, Daniel Blake

I watched Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake last night with Rami.

It was a difficult movie – it exists in a hinterland between entertainment, documentary and eye-opener.

I was probably won-over from the start given the film’s Newcastle location; I have a special soft spot for Geordies, possibly because I see them as token Scots, and, likely, because my grandfather, Ben, grew-up in Byker.

Mellifluous – that is, from the Greek, flowing with honey, is the word I most associate with the Newcastle accent; so, yes, I am biased. Yet, that aside, the story of Daniel Blake’s battle with bureaucracy is also close to my heart. In the NHS, we call that ‘medicalisation’ – when the person ceases to exist and they are replaced by a number, a disease or a symptom.

It feels like my life’s mission – unravelling medical objectivism from the people our patients are;

I don’t intend to return to person-centred care, today, at least; instead, for me, the focus of the film, was the reality that we are all equally vulnerable and, the change from person to object, is not something any of us ever expect or anticipate.

As I described recently, we mostly, tend to exist in a state of denial in relation to our own mortality, yet, the slip, from useful member of society, to hanger-on, can occur rapidly, particularly when this is a central tenet of the presiding government’s philosophy of, ‘we help those who help themselves’

Like sheep, most of us readily fall into line, when the system expects us to behave in a certain way.

Take the ticket and wait, tick the box, complete the assessment, the parking charge, stipend, go-around; we follow, we assume that the system has considered our needs, which in its wisdom always knows better. The system knows. The planners, machinators, organisers and coordinators have the power. When the traffic light is red we stop, green, we go. Society works well when we all keep to the path.

As does healthcare. Follow the instructions, take the medicines when prescribed, arrive for your appointment, scan or treatment and you’ll be ok.

‘As you failed to attend the clinic today, and, in line with hospital policy we have not arranged another appointment.’

This is something I see written in the medical notes all the time.

Sure, some people never wanted to see a doctor or visit the clinic in the first place; others are too afraid to attend – perhaps, their waiting-room anxiety, is too great, others are lost somewhere in the health and social care system and not at home when their appointment card arrives; they are sent back to the beginning, returned to GO without necessarily picking-up any cash-prizes.

Others, the depressed, the forgetful, the overly busy, plan to attend the appointment, but within the chaos of their disordered lives mis-schedule.

The system sometimes doesn’t have time for people; humans who behave in unexpected ways, and, are slower than processes, the ideal, the model; hurry along, don’t admire the scenery, there is too much to do for us to engage with your preferences, just take the medicine and shut up and I can move-on to treating someone else. And on, and on.

I remember Esther Rantzen in the 80’s awarding Jobsworth prizes to people who held the belief that is was more than their jobs were worth to allow humanity to enter into the equation, into the transaction; for some reason this has stuck with me.

In the movie, we see the security guard stopping Katie, and his boss, sympathetic, letting her leave; this made the guard’s manipulation of her vulnerability even more powerful.

Society is made-up of the good and bad, those with self-interest at the core, others, who see the bigger picture, whose lives are filled with proportionately more with love & happiness.

Magnanimity.

Going out of your way to prevent someone else from having to go out of theirs.

Selflessness. Empathy, compassion – experiencing the suffering of others. This was the message that resonated throughout the film. Whether the scene at the Job Centre, the Foodbank or during the final monologue.

There are always more of us than there will ever be of them.

For, this is what it is to be human.

This is what it is to be frail and vulnerable; mortal.

None of us are immune, none of us live lives beyond the grasp of disease or homelessness, loneliness, pain or grief.

I understand the film was rejected by the Tories, lauded by Jeremy.

The times we are living-in say much about who we are. We will be judged by our compassion, by the extent to which we see people as more than numbers.

And,

I can’t see it.

I just don’t get it or understand how it can be any different.

To me, and those I love, it just is, it is a given.

We are all equal, all part of the complex system of life on earth.

Everything under the sun exists within a cycle of homeostasis, give and take, talk and listen.

Nothing else is feasible.

nietz

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