Protestor with a sign found outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices yesterday.
I couldn’t let this go without a comment. Mike on his post about yesterday’s nationwide protests against Atos, ‘Delights-and Disgraces – of the Atos Day of Protest’ over at Vox Political reports how the scrawled message shown above greeted demonstrators outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices. He says of it and the nasty mentality behind it
Clearly this office contains some very hard-line supporters of government policy, whose attitude demonstrates the blinkered, small-minded, fantasy-world attitude that allows policies like the Atos assessment regime to exist in a supposedly advanced country like ours.
Ian Duncan Smith: Has all the leadership ability and petty tyranny of Red Dwarf’s Arnold Judas Rimmer.
It also points to the kind of officious and pettily vindictive mentality now all too prevalent in the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith. I have already blogged before on the similarity, in my opinion, between Ian Duncan Smith in his delusions of political and military grandeur and his bully and contempt for those below him with Arnold Rimmer in the SF comedy Red Dwarf. It’s something of a truism that regimes take on the psychology of their leaders. The Soviet Union was a brutal tyranny, because its founders, Lenin and most particularly Stalin, were autocrats with a strong desire to seize and hold on to power and a fear of those below them. This psychology became a functional part of the system they created, with the officials at every level of the hierarchy bullying those below them, while at the same time plotting to take over their superiors’ positions when they in turn would be denounced and arrested.
Although politics in the USSR became much less lethal after Stalin’s death and the attacks on his ‘cult of personality’ in Khruschev’s Secret Speech of 1953, an attitude of petty officiousness and contempt for the Soviet public still remained among the system’s minor functionaries. Several Western writers on the Soviet Union noted how, wherever you went, there would always be a woman behind a desk, scowling at you and responding, ‘Nyelza!’ (‘It’s forbidden’) when you asked a question. One of the travel writers I read told how he was stuck in a stiflingly hot railway carriage during a journey through Russia in the 1980s. Despite the heat and the increasingly stuffy atmosphere, the carriage’s windows remained tightly closed. When he attempted to open them, the female supervisor rose up to snap them shut again with a snort of ‘Nyelza!’. The writer says at one point that the whole country appeared to be run by these ferocious women behind their desks.
The writer did, however, record a minor victory of the Soviet public over these petty officials. He was stuck in a long queue waiting to use the ‘Up’ escalator at the Moscow metro, if I recall correctly. There was no-one coming down the ‘Down’ escalator, which had a sign saying it was strictly forbidden to try to go up it. Standing in front of the escalators, making sure no-one did any such thing, was one of these ladies behind a desk. A young man then came running through the crowd, and before the female official could stop him, vaulted over the barrier and ran up the ‘Down’ escalator. The writer said he and the rest of the crowd silently rejoiced at this act of defiance. I don’t suggest anyone try this stunt, however, as I have a feeling someone was either killed or seriously injured a little while ago when doing something similar.
Ian Duncan Smith has similarly left his psychological mark on the Department for Work and Pensions. As I’ve blogged about before, this seems to be full of backbiting and treachery by the civil servants employed there, as they frantically compete for each other’s jobs. At the same time, all too many of them have complete contempt for the people below them. The Void especially has blogged about the outrage caused by some of these, who have boasted about the number of people they’ve sanctioned. He and many other Left-wing bloggers have also described the various secret instructions from the DWP to Jobcentre staff setting quotas for the number of claimants to be thrown off benefits. Some Jobcentres have even awarded prizes for those, who have sanctioned the most claimants, and there have been bonuses paid to those, who have done so.
Clearly, despite Atos claims that they are not responsible for government policy, they fully share the contempt for the disabled and the unemployed shown by IDS and his staff in the DWP and Jobcentres. This attitude is blatantly clear in the above sign. In my experience, and those of many of the disabled people and their carers, who have commented on this blog, Atos and their officials are mendacious in the extreme. They have and will lie in the assessments and will falsify claimants’ answers in the assessment forms in order to have them thrown off their benefit. Their conduct and the assessment itself is based on the presumption that most people claiming benefit are actually capable of some work, even when it is clear that they cannot. In their view, they are, like the great mass of the unemployed, just scroungers, and so should be treated as such. Hence this nasty little sign.
I don’t know if this would actually help anyone, but if anyone in Weston-Super-Mare is in dispute with Atos over the results of their assessment, it might be worth pointing to this sign as an example of the prejudice and contempt Atos has towards their claimants.
I am also of the opinion that whatever Atos and the DWP try to say to the contrary, this sign should be given all the publicity it truly deserves to show just how Atos and its staff are motivated by contempt and spite towards the most vulnerable members of society. At a time when even the nastiest companies are concerned to give themselves the best, media-friendly image possible, this might cause them some degree of embarrassment. It probably won’t embarrass their boss, Thierry Breton, or Ian Duncan Smith and the disabilities’ minister, Esther McVey, as their too far gone for any kind of shame or even basic humanity by now. But it might – just might – add another little piece to pull their marketing managers up short, and make others question the wisdom of doing business with a company with such a bad reputation.
Okay, it probably won’t. For all the bad publicity, Serco, Atos and G4S are still in business. But as ASDA keeps reminding us, ‘Every little bit helps’. Or is that Sainsbury’s?
If you’re planning another protest against Atos in Weston-Super-Mare, their address is Regent House, Oxford Place, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, BS23 1JH. They also have a website here http://www.atoshealthcare.com/claimants/locations_home/Locations_Details_Weston%20.