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TOPIC: A civilised society supports people in need, but our brutal system shatters lives

A civilised society supports people in need, but our brutal system shatters lives 06 Dec 2017 14:28 #5239

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Aditya Chakrabortty
Simon’s story is a tale of 21st-century Britain. He worked, he cared for his mother, he played by the rules. But when he fell, there was no safety net

Wednesday 6 December 2017 05.59 GMT

Simon’s death certificate tidies away his life in a few terse official phrases. Date of death: 12 November 2017. Causes: “a) Fatty liver” and “b) Alcohol misuse”. No bureaucratic curiosity about how a 51-year-old’s life came to be cut so short.

Which leaves his only brother, Dave, dealing with the grief and asking all the whys. Why did Simon die so young? Why did no one else try to help?

No obituaries will be written for Simon, no plaques mounted, no tributes passed by politicians. But if you want to understand how Britain fails so many people in so many places, it’s stories like his you need to study.

Some people’s lives are like arrows, flying straight to their destinations. Not Simon’s. The Rhymney Valley, in south Wales, is where he was born and died, but it wasn’t where he spent most of his adult years, and it was never where he meant to land up. Bright boys, he and Dave had one notion drummed into them: get an education, and get out. On TV, Dave remembers, “We’d see the yuppie revolution going on in London – the Porsches and the red braces. It may as well have been another country.” For them, Thatcher meant mines closing, factories shutting, men being laid off in their thousands, and families going under.

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