Jade Bryant, 24, from Devon, in the UK is part of the ASLI team as our Arts and Mental Health Campaigner and Feature Writer.
With each campaign we ask our team members if they would like to take part and share their thoughts in their own creative way. As a visual artist Jade is very engaged with important issues such as mental health and depicts her own struggles and life through her art. This time Jade has put her political views into her work addressing capitalism, poverty and war – with the focus on money & elitism.
‘Ruled by Wolves’ is a visual interpretation of the popular quote,
“Nation of sheep, ruled by wolves, owned by pigs”
The essential idea behind the piece was to visualise the idea that capitalism is a system fuelled by elitism, class divides and greed. Hard working people, people who suffer the greatest, are left with the least amount of choice in satisfying what would be a comfortable life, we are told what we can and cannot do, despite what we may think is in our best interest, we are fed misleading information, sold unnecessary products and coerced into awful situations at the hands of a capitalist run government.
‘The Puppeteer’ is a symbolic representation of how I personally feel Capitalism benefits from the natural resources and basic, fundamental (what should be) human rights. The painting shows how a large figure, (the puppeteer) smiles maniacally while dangling the puppet over the conveyor belt. The puppeteers eyes are a static, empty, silver colour – this was purposely to represent the empty, cold nature of the capitalist system and those in power which satisfy and further its agenda. The colours of his clothing, red, white and blue also subtly represent the major countries and capitalist companies which uphold capitalist ideologies. The puppet strings are gold, symbolising how important the disadvantage of those less fortunate is to those in power, as well as representing the idea that those in a disadvantaged position are worthy to those in power because they provide a way of ensuring their chain of income succeeds.
The conveyor belt shows a stack of books and a fire before approaching a tunnel which states ‘Capitalism’ down the side; the books and fire behind the tunnel show how basic necessities, natural discoveries and natural resources are all hijacked by capitalism in order for companies to turn a profit.
Past the conveyor belt we see examples of this, with Tampax being the first example: an essential item for a lot of women still taxed and classed as a luxury item.
We then see a container of propane gas which shows how originally natural items have been influenced in such a way that companies have been able to bottle it and make a profit, the same goes for the bottle of water; a natural substance produced by the Earth which someone decided we should be charged for. Followed by a diploma, the very idea that in order for us to become ‘valuable’ members of society we have to have a piece of paper which says we have attended years’ worth of education at the expense of our own welfare with crippling lifetime debts.
The essential point in this painting was to show the harsh, cold realism of how Capitalism is a perpetual system which ensures profit above welfare at any and all costs. Using the majority as pawns in their wake and only seeing one objective, no matter the consequence: money.
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject for this campaign “Capitalism, poverty and war”?
My motivations stem from my socio-economic beliefs in addition to my personal political alignment. Having come from a working class family I have witnessed first-hand how the extent of greed and capitalist ideologies can hinder the quality of life for so many hard working people. Not only that, but having to navigate various systems which have so often only proven to be led by profit and gain rather than a cause with a true beneficial purpose to the people as a collective, rather than beneficial to a few.
What are your present and future projects with your artistic discipline?
I am currently working on a series of mental health wellness cards with my colleague and friend Charlotte Farhan, as well as devising a campaign which challenges why severe mental health conditions are left untreated under the NHS.
I am also working on various watercolour pieces and mental health pieces.
In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Why (not)?
Capitalism is far too focused on the benefit of the few, regardless of the affect is has on the majority. Capitalism is in no way the best system for us because it does not speak for us. It speaks for a few, the few who essentially feed it anyway, creating a never ending cycle of elitism, privatisation, homelessness, poverty, and so much more. Capitalism is a system wherein everything is seen as a possibility for gain, especially people. We do not control the system as much as it controls us (education fees, inflating prices, pricing necessities like water, ability for employment, even the benefits system)
Capitalism needs inequality in order to thrive; class divides, stigma and so much more between the people about various subjects all add to the feeding of a system that thrives on suffering.
What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?
Capitalism creates the illusion that anyone can achieve the life that of a wealthy and successful person if they work hard enough and keep climbing the ladder; but the reality for those of us who are not already born into wealth of some kind – means that there is no ladder.
Take today’s government for example; recent news has shown that Prime Minister David Cameron has cut the maintenance grant for the poorest students attending university, with no debate or vote being held about the issue in the house of commons. This type of behaviour that is constantly being flaunted by the government is one of the most fitting examples of how capitalism does not serve those of us who are born without wealth and opportunities. Our current government seems to be run by a bunch of over inflated, selfish, greed driven monsters who feed off making the poorest people worse off.
Education cuts being just one thing, the current government plans to freeze working tax credit and job-seekers allowance for people living in low income families, this is set to increase poverty significantly, with some examples stating that;
“Children’s Society calculates that a 23-year-old primary school teacher and single mother-of-two renting the family home could be worse off by £239 a month or £2,868 a year. A nurse and her partner with three children, renting in London, could be worse off by £425 a month – £5,100 a year. And a home-owning army corporal and his partner with three children, including one who is disabled, could be worse off by £771 a month or £9,252 a year.”
( http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/23/plans-to-freeze-benefits-for-four-years-will-hit-7-million-children )
If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete? For example, to people with physical or mental disabilities?
For those of us who suffer with long term physical and/or mental disabilities capitalism is one of the most oppressive, un-supportive and un-compassionate systems there is. We are seeing a barrage of cuts to the NHS across all sectors, specifically mental health services. For those of us who suffer these problems we also face a lot of stigma from services when it comes to accessing education, work and even benefits when incapable of working. When capitalism is only a system built on greed and profit, those of us who have physical and mental disabilities are often made to feel like a hindrance on society, thus exacerbating stigma and creating more inequality amongst the public.
Very often society demonises those of us with mental or physical illnesses, capitalist corporations are geared toward making the majority fear such people because it satisfies its own agenda: “If we can get people on our side we can manipulate the situation to minimise the idea of Capitalism being a failing system.” And instead reaffirms that every person who does pay tax is somehow being cheated by those people less fortunate, rather than looking to the oppressive system which has been pulling the wool over their eyes for so long.
There needs to be a vast change in attitudes of equality when it comes to this issue. Capitalism is designed to segregate people, mainly for wealth purposes. When it continues to succeed in doing this, equality issues are ramped up.
What are your views or suggestions on an alternative economic system?
In an ideal world, an alternative economic system that would benefit ALL people, regardless of class or wealth; a system which is fair and treats people equally.
We shouldn’t have to pay for essential items, especially those which were here long before us. We shouldn’t need borders, and the right to travel should not be as restrictive as it is. These are all things that we should at least be granted the choice of, but in the current state we are not even given a choice.
Has capitalism affected you in any way in your life?
I think capitalism has affected pretty much every person in some way or another. In my case, it has hindered my opportunity for education, having left twice because of personal issues, the second time being that of mental health issues, instead of being given any support to be able to continue with my studies I was instead told to withdraw from university altogether. Now with the cuts to the grants and university fees being as high as they are I am not able to re-enter that education system because I will not be able to afford it, alongside the fact that a degree in this day and age does not guarantee you a career or even a steady job, in my area specifically I have heard numerous stories from people completing degrees only to have to move back in with their parents because they cannot even find work in supermarkets for being told they are over qualified, but struggle to be able to enter a field in which they have studied because they have been told they do not have the necessary experience for the role.
The oppressive, stigmatised nature throughout school was something I did my best to challenge. Priorities of staff seemed to lie within following a guideline – of making an outward impression of ‘good teaching’ but of what should have been available and taught to us in those lessons was non-existent.
Staff were more interested in keeping every student’s uniform in compliance with school protocol instead of the quality of teaching. Saying this, I went to a public school; I remember my parents having to spend over £100 just on my school uniform, from a working class family who have struggled a fair amount, this type of thing was not easy.
I suffer with a severe dual personality disorder and have been in the mental health system for over a year now with no inclination of effective help despite many attempts to reach out. I have been met with personally insulting and hindering behaviours on behalf of my local CMHT, one particular issue being incrimination. Due to the nature of my diagnosis, they treat me as a criminal, my name sits on a database for the police to watch, I have been threatened with police action for simply having emotional reactions and breakdowns. All because society has been taught to fear what it refuses to understand. That isn’t always at fault of the people; these examples often can be traced back to capitalist ideologies. As it is these ideologies which divide people, generate fear mongering behaviours and segregate people for its own gain. Capitalism uses techniques to get inside an individual’s head and fills them with false hope, the façade that the system is on their side, and the way it manages this is by turning us against each other via political and social ideologies, wealth and materialism. We are fed a conscious stream of capitalist ideology through television, advertising, radio, just about anything these days. This conscious stream of misinformation leads us to crave material objects we do not need. It creates culture divides between people with different nationalities or backgrounds by feeding us bias westernised news, it fools us into thinking we need to buy into things such as plastic surgery and age defying products, despite the idea that people are supposed to age, it’s natural, but we are taught from such a young age to anticipate this as fear, that ageing means fear and therefore looking young makes you more attractive not just in an aesthetic case but in any case. If capitalism can make us fear the natural order of things, it can create the need for products that are completely unnecessary to further its one agenda again: profit.
In your opinion – who benefits from poverty, and how?
Nobody necessarily benefits from poverty as poverty is reactionary to that of a failing system/s. That system predominantly being capitalism; this being a system which will put a price to anything, meaning people from poverty line backgrounds suffer twice as much.
Poverty stands as a by-product of the system, there is no one entity benefiting from it. If it had to benefit anyone, it would only benefit an ideology, that being capitalism. Some would argue it benefits the wealthy by ensuring the poor are kept at a level of limited wealth, and because of this limited wealth, they are limited with all other aspects too, meaning the wealthy have less to worry about. It could also be argued that business models such as that of Cash Converters and Brighthouse to name a few.
As well as companies like Wonga who offer short term loans with extensive interest rates, these companies create an illusion of quick effective help (which the poor will feel the best idea for help because the government has stunted their ability to seek help e.g. freezing benefits).
Essentially companies such as this will make the public assume that they are getting a good deal, that entering into a contract that requires weekly payments of £5-10 will be financially beneficial to them because it’s not being paid in one lump sum and they have more leniency and control over it. But the truth of that is that anyone earning a healthy amount to live from would never need to enter into a contract that lasts two years in order to just pay for a fridge to keep their family fed. The reality is these companies ensure you are trapped within a scale of debt, with horrible interest rates meaning in the end of it all you end up paying twice as much for an item that someone who is given the fair amount to live from would be able to afford easily and in one lump sum, while defaulting on this credit agreement results in repossession by a debt collection agency, which the credit agreement holder is financially responsible for. For the poorest people these companies are creating the illusion that they are there to help, but it is in fact the complete opposite, they enlist a capitalist ideology in ensuring the poorest people in search of the most help, for basic essentials are kept at a level of low wealth because of the circle of debt involved in the contract.
To what extent does stigma contribute to the experience of living in poverty in your country, and in your opinion what could be done to address this?
A lot of people aren’t aware that poverty is defined more than the extreme versions we may see on the television from the developing world. That poverty in our own country may be very easily overlooked. Poverty is measured in two ways in the UK, one being ‘Relative Poverty’, lightly meaning a person who cannot afford an ‘ordinary living pattern’ and that they are somewhat excluded from the usual things a person may enjoy. Then there is ‘Absolute Poverty’ where a person cannot afford the necessities to live on. That goes to say that at least 1 in 5 people in the UK are living in what constitutes as poverty in this country. Though, it is because of people’s understanding of the word that leads to much ignorance around the problem. Many people in the UK refuse to believe that millions of people are unable to live easily and struggle to even get a basic meal a day, this is still poverty; but the media has fed us a very particular view of what poverty actually is, throughout the news there are rarely any headline stories, they portray the government as being an active force in the rise of poverty, but forget that they often seem to be one of the many causes for it in the UK. The media is bias at showing us the truth on this matter and television shows do not do much help to this either.
With dramas such as ‘Shameless’ and ‘Eastenders’ we are shown depictions of families that may be struggling under less than minimum wage, yet these facts about the characters are never brought into much depth – audiences therefore disregard asking questions about how they seem to be able to afford necessities. The same goes for shows such as ‘Jeremy Kyle’, stigma towards those in poverty is increased by turning often debilitating family crisis’ and living problems into a voyeuristic display, for means of entertainment for people above that line of wealth. On the other hand, programmes such as ‘The Secret Millionaire’ can be said to change this dynamic by showing working class people who may be struggling and having their millionaire boss go undercover (basically if you talk about how good the company is, they’ll eventually help you out) but this programme still screams elitism. It still advertises the idea that the wealthy are the only people who will ever have control over those of us who are below that wealth line in order of changing our fate, and that still isn’t a fair representation to those of us living in the poverty line. Are we expected to sit back and wait for the undercover boss to show up and just hope he or she does us a favour? For those of us who cannot work a 9-5 job for any reason, that is a complete inability. And it should never be that we aren’t given the same opportunities as these people anyway.
Stigma often stems from people’s misled information, in the case of poverty, it is rather more complicated. When it comes to how and where we get our information about poverty, we often look to the news. But in the case of poverty the news works on an incredibly capitalist basis, news value rather than social value determines the coverage of subjects. Though under our current government they have boycotted the image of the poor, meaning we are seeing more negative reporting’s of people in poverty because it is deemed more newsworthy than addressing the root causes.
Another factor in how stigma has added to poverty is due to the apathetic nature of the human race, a state of mind that modern capitalism has indoctrinated into us. Our society would rather play passive consumer to major information than actually seek it for themselves and find the truth, choosing to remain in a state of blissful ignorance and turning a blind eye to the problems in society assured that something or someone else will fix it.
Politicians, government and other officials are all used by journalists when collating information to broadcast about poverty, specifically statistics and figures. The public also find broadcast media to be the most reliable source of information for such things. However, people’s attitudes to poverty still remain hugely stigmatised. Studies have shown that when various participants were asked to recall information about UK poverty they gave a mostly negative and derogatory response, coining people on the poverty line as just ‘benefits scroungers’ and drawing attention to asylum seekers, refugees and young single mothers.
Also, the population’s general feelings towards learning that 3.4 million-children in the UK are in poverty were rather disinterested.
Reasons for this were reported as:
“It’s too boring and it’s not personalised, it’s the sort of thing that people would just turn over because it’s just text, text, text, figures, figures, figures, and it’s boring. It’s the sort of thing that should be subjective; there should be comments from people who are in some of these categories.” (White female, low income, rural Scotland).
The only way to change this cycle of stigma is by starting at the root. The public relies on the media for information about poverty, and the media do this not by using tactics like propaganda or indoctrination but by marginalising accounts which challenge these beliefs. With efforts from the government recently to persuade us so vehemently against the refugee crisis, yet still plummet our own countries poverty statistics up further, seems to be a root cause to me. This stems from them. The media collate their information which the public relies on as the truth, meaning that whatever suits the government’s hidden agenda at the time is likely what we will be shown. Efforts to change stigma towards poverty need to start within parliament, by exposing class wars and elitism for what it truly is there; an over inflated playground. People are not commodities, especially those of us who are struggling. We are not pawns to be shifted around for the benefit of keeping the ignorant and passive.
What in your opinion works in reducing the negative impact of growing up in poverty on a child’s life chances?
Ideally poverty would not be an issue. To take various steps to improving the living wage, employment opportunities and even the benefits system could all make useful steps in aiding with reducing the negative impact on growing up in poverty. But moreover, the attitudes and understanding of the word poverty and what that means is something that needs to change in order to achieve a more compassionate and empathetic response to these things. If we can change public attitudes and increase awareness of the issue within personal frameworks then people may start to see this as a bigger issue. If the problem affects 1 in 5 households then it should be a matter of high importance anyway. Children need to be given more opportunities for education, take myself as an example; when I was doing my A Levels I did not want to go to university, I wanted to do something more hands on and practical (like maybe an apprenticeship or course of some kind) but my school never gave any other options to me other than university (which was always going to be something I knew would be financially difficult – especially with the current government doing what they are doing to grants and loans) no other options at all meant that I felt very disheartened and often disorientated when I was doing my studies, because I did not know what I was doing them for anymore. If my A Levels only meant something if I was going to University, then it felt like nothing else was good enough and I was left to my own devices, which has since hindered my education choices and employment opportunities. I think a lot of attention needs to be put into various avenues of education, health and other necessary services that should be in place to aid a child’s upbringing especially in poverty.
Do you think war is ever necessary and why?
The issue with this question is that is very broad, it would not in any way be simple to put a generalised answer. In my personal opinion, no, I do not think war should be necessary. There should be an equal harmony between the human race that should ensure we are intelligent enough to not have to resort to violence on such a horrendous scale.
While my personal opinion will always fall in line to that of war never needing to be resorted to because it creates more devastation than it solves. It is more a case of what should be, and what is.
Overall the politics of war are misleading, we the people are led to believe that these choices are implemented in order to secure our own safety or to aid in the safety of other allied countries; however, with more attention to this point it becomes a matter of ‘defence’ versus ‘offence’
Countries bomb other countries to ‘send a message’ or ‘punish’ an act and so on, these are not defensive actions, they are offensive actions. An example of this being our own country in the last year issuing air strikes over Syria in light of the Paris bombings via ISIS, which in the light of happenings seems to have affected more innocent civilians than it has helped the initial problem.
Simply, violence begets violence. It is a never ending cycle if our race only depends on violence, mass murder and total devastation of civilised areas in order to stop a group of people with an out of balance ideology.
War should never be necessary, not in today’s age. Ideally, people should strive for peace, and those people who believe in war may even still hold that opinion, the difference is, you can’t bomb for peace as much as you can sleep around to get back your virginity.
Who profits and gains in general from war, in your opinion?
Firstly, people who build and supply arms and military hardware. Additionally, those that decided that the war was necessary as the decision to go to war isn’t as much about damage limitation than it is about potential for economic growth and strengthening the position of the acting government from a global point of view, as well as from the point of view of their own public. These factors make it as much about public relations and publicity as it is about alleged keeping of the peace.
In the long run however, in my opinion nobody can or should benefit from war. To benefit from a concept that can only ever breed devastation, suffering and entropy is inherently immoral.
In your opinion what motivates war? Is it capitalism, patriarchy, the standing of a country or revenge etc?
I think regardless of all else, of religion, colour and creed and what not, it comes down to resources. It is about what a country has or does not have versus one that does and so on. And in terms of that it comes down to capitalism in my opinion. In today’s age we are fuelled by greed and the capacity to secure more and more, just because. Capitalism teaches us, above all else, the fear of not having enough while failing to establish what would be enough.
Do you think enough is done by the global community to help the people affected by the ongoing occupations and wars globally? As well as the aftermath; leaving people with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, homeless, and often completely destabilised in general.
In a word: No. If enough were being done to address these issues, they wouldn’t be issues. This issue is furthered by nations’ reluctance to open their minds to people fleeing their own countries due to such devastation, only to be denied access because of various inhuman reasons, reasons rooted in stigma, reasons that clearly show that we are ruled by capitalism, that people will still ignorantly buy into fear mongering techniques spouted by a few mislead opinions, meaning an entire body of people are stuck in a perpetual cycle of dismay.
It is one thing for our country to use military force and pass it off to us as ‘protection’ while simultaneously denying help to the innocent people of that area who were directly affected. One has to look directly to those in power and past the veil of smoke and mirrors that they front us with to be able to see the hypocrisy of the problem, then start to question the true motives behind such acts.
When crises such as war are an on-going battle for people, the least they want, the least any person would want is safety, just one place to be safe. Denying that after devastating so much of a life initially is not only morally wrong but simply barbaric.
I stand by the point that not enough is being done, if in any way they were, these issues would not exist. These reactions to war only further how war should not be necessary and how not enough is being done.
How do you feel about the media’s use of propaganda when discussing war and the rhetoric of the “good guys and bad guys” being fed to the masses?
It’s a well-established fact that the media is an administrative tool used by the government to influence the thoughts and opinions of its public. The reasons vary, depending on the circumstances and individuals involved. This could be politicians seeking to be re-elected, departments of defence wishing to justify conflict or a government vying to silence a protest by discrediting its views. Wars are fought on a public relations level just as much as they are in the traditional sense, and have been for decades. A notable example of this is the incident in Waco, Texas in 1993. The Branch Davidian complex was under siege by the ATF, who reported that leader David Koresh was guilty of multiple crimes including child abuse and manufacture of a controlled substance. The ATF and subsequently the major news networks reported the use of non-violent and non-fatal pacification measures to subdue and arrest the inhabitants. The siege was ended when, allegedly, the occupants torched the compound. However, amateur footage taken from the compound shows the ATF opening fire on the Branch Davidians, as well as setting the fire that destroyed the compound.
Second to this example, during the conflict in the Persian Gulf the intervention of the United States and Europe was justified by the media who reported that the Iraqi militants had modified machine tools and farming equipment into military hardware. This was later disproved by a report released by an independent source citing that the US government had sold its obsolete fighter jets and tanks to Iraq and Kuwait under the pretence that it was farming equipment.
There is an underlying theme regarding all modern conflicts. The government will use the media to assert its role as the “good guy”, assuring its public that it is acting in the best interests of everyone involved.
Overall the media will ultimately benefit the agenda of the political force at hand. Being in the UK information is often used to convince the public to shift blame for economic problems on those on the poverty line or generally less fortunate, thereby succeeding that they minimise attention to themselves as the ones making these issues as they are. When it comes to today’s media in reference to these issues, we as a public have to start reading between the lines, asking more questions and so on, because I refuse to believe everything the media relays to me for the very reasons I have given as example as well as the thousands that still exist. When the media serves as a tool for distorting the truth rather than bringing it to light, people should start to question why.
If you would like to read more from Jade here are a selection of her previous articles, interviews and submissions.
Artist Jade Bryant is fiercely tackling her mental illness with art and in the process is changing the world’s awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Welcome Jade Bryant as ASLI’s Newest Team Member
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