|Posted by Mark Cantrell on May 25, 2014 at 7:25 PM|
Zero status for benefits claimants effectively denied citizenship
So, with that headline above, and the associated news item listed below, we encapsulate one of the major themes of my dystopian science fiction thriller, Citizen Zero.
In the novel, British society has become dangerously divided between rich and poor, with the creation of an excluded underclass numbering millions. The divide is policed by the mechanisms of a surveillance state, of which the welfare state (as we currently call it) has become an essential component of the social panopticon.
Of course, the ultimate purpose of this surveillance-welfare state is not to corral and contain the unemployed and destitute (the zeroes as this underclass is known), although that is an important part, but to control the wider population. This is a state of paranoia, where fear of the underclass – and of becoming part of that underclass – provides a primary driver of social discipline.
On the surface, the society depicted in Citizen Zero is an affluent and stable consumer society, but it's skin deep, and the affluence has been bought at the cost of a brittle social and economic divisions. The rich are feted and given a passive and cowed workforce, a society kept sufficiently ordered for the conduct of their business; it's a world where the rich have it all their own way behind the façade of constitutionality, and the poor are hammered.
Caught in between are the nominal citizens; those who surrendered their civil rights and liberties in return for a false perception of security and the bitter-sweet pill of consumerism. But they are far from secure; the ranks of the zeroes are ever-present, waiting to absorb any citizen that falls foul of the surveillance regime, or loses their job, or falls ill and cannot afford their healthcare.
This is world where those of moderate means maintain only a tenuous grip on society, and they know it in their heart, but with a civil society threadbare and fraught with paranoia and suspicion, it's not an easy place for political unrest to crystallise into concerted action.
Until that is, a political conspiracy born in the heart of the regime instigates a devastating plot to shatter the regime and tear this fragile society apart. And caught in the middle is our beleaguered hero, the zero David Mills, who suddenly finds himself the fulcrum on which the future of Britain will tilt.
Every science fiction novel says more about the time it was written, than about the future it depicts, the same can be said of dystopias, and so it is with Citizen Zero. Since the advent of austerity, and the Coalition Government's attempts to transform welfare provision, we've been living through something of the backstory to my novel. Sometime, it feels as if ministers are steering us towards the world I created for the novel; certainly, the prequel is being written for me.
This is probably the last excursion into the real life backstory for my novel Citizen Zero. I don't know about you, but harvesting this stuff is taking its toll, and it's time to take a step back. Things are getting grim out there…
But for now, here's one last batch of the prequel, as we're living it now.
Computer World UK, 22 May 2014
DWP: Payments industry collaboration can help improve Universal Credit accuracy
The Herald Scotland, 16 May 2014
'Claimants don't have equal human rights or citizenship'
The Mirror, 13 May 2014
Stitching-up claimants is all part of the job, says Jobcentre insider
Former Jobcentre Plus adviser tells of a “brutal and bullying” culture of “setting claimants up to fail”
The Guardian, 6 May 2014
Jobseekers being forced into zero-hours roles
Letter from Conservative minister reveals plans to sanction unemployed people if they fail to agree to controversial contracts
The Guardian, 3 May 2014
Everyone is under surveillance now, says whistleblower Edward Snowden
People's privacy is violated without any suspicion of wrongdoing, former National Security Agency contractor claims
The Guardian, 1 May 2014
Zero-hours contracts, and the sharp whip of insecurity that controls us all
This type of work used to be marginal, but working class life is changing and instability is spreading
The Guardian, 30 April 2014
The facial recognition databases are coming. Why aren't the privacy laws?
Now that the US supreme court is finally considering cellphones, let's get ahead of Moore's Law and defend our new metadata
The NEF Blog, 29 April 2014
Help to Work? Britain’s jobless are being forced into workfare
The Prisma, 13 April 2014
Unemployed in UK: haunted and driven into poverty
The insensitive policies of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have left millions of unemployed people without help (the official statistics show only 600,000) Some denounce the injustice of these decisions, which push the most vulnerable to the edge of poverty.
Boycott Workfare, 15 April 2014
Workfare and housing
[Might be considered a part of how they made the underclass known as zeroes]
As we struggle to access our subsistence benefits – trying to navigate around workfare, benefit sanctions, and disrespect encountered in the job centre – often, simultaneously, we are struggling to keep a roof over our heads. Welfare and housing are closely connected, the poor state of both of them is causing poverty and suffering.
New Start Mag, 15 April 2014
‘Tough love’ for jobseekers played down after Miller’s ‘mistake’
The Guardian, 8 April 2014
Benefits sanctions show this government at its Kafkaesque worst
Ideological convictions about why people are unemployed have created a bureaucratic nightmare that manufactures injustice and mistakes
The Independent, 7 April 2014
Sign up to Government jobs website and make an effort or lose benefit, claimants told
Categories: CITIZEN ZERO