Haunted by a dream

A dream I had some time ago seems set to haunt me.  I am slumped over, leaning against a small piece of tarmac, a pedestrian island in the middle of five lanes of cars all moving extremely fast, zooming fluidly and confidently along the motorway of their lives.  I am crouching down, just barely seated on a concrete refuge in the middle of all that zooming, and there is no-where for me to go.  My face is bashed and bruised, and my spectacles are crooked, broken.  I must have fallen, which would  explain the bruises.

Beside me there are two older men, dressed in torn rags; drinkers, I suspect, from the look of their faces.  They would have been loved once, when they were younger, fitter and less broken by the ravages of their street lives.  Now, they are hardened street bums.  And over us all stands a policeman in a smart blue uniform, eyeing us warily with a frown.

The cop thinks I am like them.  He thinks I am a waster, a loser.  Because I cannot get up and walk, because I would stagger and fall into the traffic with fatal consequences.  Meantime, another one of me is in a cool, quiet hotel lobby, explaining to a reporter….

“I just got a life, and now they have taken it away from me.  While everyone else seems to be going places, here I am stuck on the roundabout, because now, I cannot leave the house.  Before I had my car, I had such a small life, and now, what little freedom I managed to carve out has been taken away, as if I am unworthy to be part of the stream of life that others carelessly accept as their due.  I have never felt that carefree.”

Instead of asking people if they can walk, those who dole out financial assistance and monitor its value in the lives of disabled users, should be looking at the difference it makes.  Most of us who currently have the use of a car will, if it taken away from us as a result of grinding welfare reforms, find ourselves cornered.  I have no wish to get run over, or to bankrupt my family.  Without the use of a car, I stare out of the windows at home and watch other people walking by.  Without the freedom to drive a small way each day to the swimming pool or to the shops – that, it seems is the height of my current ambitions – venturing outdoors becomes either exhausting or ruinously expensive.

While the government talks about austerity cuts, they forget that most people who currently benefit from leased vehicles depend on them utterly, to participate in life and make life in any way meaningful and active, despite disability.  Without a car, my life choices shrivel and I become morose, depressed and exhausted.

Austerity may be necessary, but taking away vital tools from those who depend on them, is like cutting off a limb or two.  No-one, in the fashionable frenzy that is cost cutting, is forcing the able-bodied to surrender their freedom or their limbs.  Yet without a car, there is precious little choice left to the rest of us between having a life and a living death.


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