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It’s easy to get cynical about celebrities and their charitable efforts, but this year’s race for the Christmas No. 1 actually seems meaningful, as The Justice Collective’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ looks well placed to win. [It did!]
The song – which has been released to draw attention to, and help fund, the long struggle of the Hillsborough families for justice in the face of intransigent politicians, press and court systems – expresses sentiments which are the complete antithesis of the values currently being promoted by government and much of the media. It is all about community, collective responsibility for each other, and compassion.
Take a look at some of the lyrics:
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
If I'm laden at all
Then I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
This couldn’t be more different from the way government Ministers like George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are trying to stir up resentment against anybody who is seen not to be pulling their economic weight. As more and more punitive measures are announced to make the lives of benefit claimants ever more miserable, this song speaks of a generosity of spirit, a solidarity and a caring humanity which a Scrooge-like government seems to want to banish from the land.
Every day seems to bring a new example of the poorest, weakest and least powerful members of society being scapegoated and blamed for all our ills, whilst tax dodging companies win government awards and guilty bankers go unpunished.
Take just a few events from recent days. A new Conservative party advertising campaign launched in marginal constituencies began blatantly inviting people to resent the unemployed.
It was suggested that benefit claimants could be given ‘smart cards’ which allow them to buy only government-approved essentials. One imagines that this idea would be expensive to implement, and is more about punishment and control than saving money.
A UKIP council candidate, meanwhile, raised the idea of compulsory abortion for disabled foetuses, to prevent them being born and becoming a burden on the state.
The candidate was subsequently dismissed, but many disabled people feel that this is only another manifestation of how they are currently regarded, as an unwanted burden on society.
Health professionals are beginning to see increasing numbers of disabled people who, dreading the brown envelope from the DWP, have made plans to take their own lives, stockpiling tablets to take an overdose.
The Hillsborough families meanwhile, predominantly from unprivileged working class backgrounds, are finally seeing their love and dedication get results, and the solidarity shown by the entire community of Merseyside, despite decades of being stigmatised and denigrated, is an example to us all.
So the compassionate lyrics sung by The Justice Collective, reasserting our common humanity and mutual dependence could not be more timely, or more appropriate for Christmas.
© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.Tweet