I wrote a blog article last night which was published in the wee smaa hours. Then this afternoon I published the weekly dugcast. So I had reckoned I’d done enough for one day to keep readers of this blog amused. But then I came across Giles Fraser’s apologia for Brexit and ending freedom of movement on the digital site Unherd, and now I’m fuming.
I’ve not been this angry since Magrit Curran was my MP. First off, a word of caution. Please don’t read on while eating. This blog deals with some unpleasant realities about the human body.
Essentially, Giles’ argument about why ending freedom of movement is a good thing boils down to this. When you’re old and incontinent, it means that your kids can wipe your arse for you instead of some social services worker from the EU, and that’s great for family cohesion. We can all bond as a family over soiled toilet paper.
It’s telling that Giles in his piece felt it was the role of a daughter to wipe her father’s arse. Not a son. Those antiquated gender roles are symptomatic of the regressive nostalgia that characterises the entire Brexit process. Asinine and insensitive doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t know if Giles has ever been put in the situation of having to wipe the arse of a loved one, other than a small infant. Judging from the tone of his facile article, I’m guessing not.
Well I have. My late partner suffered from dementia, and as his illness progressed he lost control of both his bladder and his bowels. It was a deeply distressing experience for both of us. It’s difficult to reassure your loved one, a once proud and self-sufficient man who is already upset because he has soiled himself, that you’re going to be there for him and are not judging him when you are in fact gagging and vomiting because of the smell. It’s difficult to maintain the dignity of a loved one who is in the advanced stages of a terminal illness when you have to strip off their underclothes and wipe their arse. It’s hard to calm down a crying relative and reassure them that they’re not being a bother when you’ve got their shit all over your hands. You’re not doing much bonding, except with the tears, and the disinfectant, bleach, and the lingering terrible smell. And then wash, rinse, repeat. You’re doing exactly the same the next day.
As someone who has stood crying as I scraped shit off the bedsheets, as someone who has woken up in the marital bed in a wet patch of someone else’s urine, as someone who has literally vomited as I realised that my clothes were stained and smeared with someone else’s shit, I can assure Giles that this was not a bonding experience. There was nothing positive about it. It distressed my late partner immensely. It distressed me. It is not an experience that anyone who has gone through it would ever for a second consider wishing on others. It is not something that anyone who has lived through would ever for an instant regard as a positive learning experience that others should undergo. To put this forward as an argument for Brexit is crass beyond belief. It’s scraping the bottom of an already shitty barrel.
Eventually my partner and I started getting social care services. Social care services which are free in Scotland thanks to a Scottish government which doesn’t prioritise profit over humanity. Those angels took over, at least partially, the tasks of undressing, cleaning, and re-dressing my late partner. That was a huge relief to him. He found it a lot easier, mentally and emotionally, to accept that sort of care from a person in a health worker’s uniform whose job it was than to accept it from me. It distressed him far less. It allowed him to maintain what dignity he could, what little dignity that his illness hadn’t stripped away from him. It helped him to come to terms with his declining health in a way that he wouldn’t had he relied solely upon me to do those intensely personal tasks for him. And if it was difficult enough for a spouse to accept that kind of assistance from their partner, it must be far more difficult for a parent to accept it from their adult child. Clearly, none of this has occurred to Giles, because he’s never walked in our shit stained shoes.
The broader point Giles was trying to make, the one I am struggling to get to through the crap, is that freedom of movement breaks down families because it makes it easier for people to move away. There was of course not the slightest recognition in his piece that ending freedom of movement breaks up families. Neither was there any awareness that the Brexit fetishisation of tackling immigration has led to thousands of children being separated from a parent, many thousands of spouses separated from their significant other, countless grandparents separated from their grandchildren.
But no, in Brexitland we can all be stuck in the towns and villages of our birth, trapped by a lack of opportunities and the newly valueless nature of a British passport. And then we’ll be able to wipe our parents’ backsides when they become frail and incontinent because the arse has been ripped out of social care services by the very same right wing politicians who are so keen to foist the hardest possible Brexit upon us.
Brexit supporters once promised us the sunlit uplands. They promised shedloads of cash for the NHS. Now they’re reduced to making the argument that suffering is good for us, that we should be nostalgic for antiquated gender roles, and telling us to restrict our horizons and not to dare to dream of spreading our wings and flying. Now they’re reduced to sophistry and telling us that Brexit is good for you because you too can get to wipe the arse of an infirm relative. Giles’ article is quite literally and in every sense of the word, the shittiest of arguments for the shitshow of Brexit.
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