Campaign Trail – Days 5 and 6
I’m a day behind with this narrative, so I’m merging two days into one, which is what life really seems to be like at the moment anyway. They say time goes more quickly the older you get, and this seems to be the case with me, too, despite my goal of living until I’m 125, hence the smoking and drinking and running and fencing and cricket and whatever else seems to keep me alive. Oh yes, standing for election to the august Stradbroke Parish Council.
We often struggle to put our lives in context because we get so caught up with our everyday ailments and struggles, financial, mental or otherwise. I often think that people most obsessed with themselves and too comfortable in their lives (and, to be honest, bored with them) are those who fail to find this context at all, which is why they focus on something outside themselves that they decide to destroy so they can claim to have power not just over their own shabby lives but over the lives of others, too. Which only goes to reinforce to me how important it is to look at the bigger picture for a context, and to campaign positively, not just in parish council elections, but in life in general.
My context, these last two days, has been to visit charities that my employer supports. Yesterday evening I went to an annual presentation by a charity which supports people in the UK with facial and bodily disfigurements. There are one and a half million people who suffer these disfigurements, and the NHS currently gives them precious little support because of a lack of funding (note my manifesto pledges on NHS spending in my last blog post), and because, for one reason or another, the system regards disfigurement as something purely cosmetic rather than life-limiting. ‘It’s only worth doing something if it saves lives,’ seems to be the mantra nowadays in health sector management, and, to be truthful, in the glory hunter sections of the Third Sector, too.
The interesting thing is that the real issue is how ‘normal’ people react to disfigurement, not how those suffering the disfigurements perceive themselves. That’s because constant staring and bullying breaks down someone’s resistance, after a while, and the effects of that actually do become life-threatening (and mental health, again, is something people seem to see as a state of mind rather than an illness, but a discussion of that is for another day). The charity in question, which shall remain nameless because I cannot single out charities in my line of work, does a huge amount of work to raise public awareness of the damage such bullying and staring can do, as well as holding Skin Camouflage clinics to at least allow their service users to improve their self-perception.
Last night, a young woman spoke for four minutes about how, as she came up to having her tenth operation on her disfigurement, as a teenage girl, she had looked in the mirror and asked herself if it was even worth enduring all those operations, all the loneliness, all the bullying, name-calling, stereotyping, her studies once again interrupted as she came up to her A levels, and her recalling of her desperation visibly moved all those listening. It was then, at her darkest moment, that she saw a poster advertising the charity I’m talking about, and decided it was time she sought help, help provided by the unselfish grants and donations made to this charity, and by the unselfish time given to the charity by its volunteers.
And this is the context I’m talking about. We, as supposedly normal people, need to see the bigger picture, make sure the attitude we show on a personal level, on a local political level, is one that is supportive of those less fortunate than us, is one which empowers other people, and isn’t a land-grab for power that we preceive is ours. That woman, by the way, is now a writer on a very successful BBC One show, lives in London, and has a very happy life.
Of course, you say, what has this to do with being on the campaign trail? Everything, I say, because I hope it demonstrates to you that I’m a candidate who cares about the community he lives in, who will give a voice to those who live in this village and who find that their voice is not being heard or being heard and ignored, a man who will stop and listen, and who will do his best to make sure that local needs and wishes are fulfilled. And that’s positive campaigning.
Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.