GoFundMe is a nascent symptom of the degrading individualist unsociety birthed by rampant neoliberalism.
Dollie-Nestor Unsudimi needs £10,000 to fund an appeal of her deportation from the UK, the country her son was born in, and her home for over 6 years. Gary Brewster and his wife Rachel from the West Midlands are struggling to keep their heads above water financially after inevitably spending a long time off working following the death of their 21-year-old daughter in a car accident.
These are just within the UK, a country with at least some semblance of a welfare state, albeit one that is diminishing rapidly. Across the Atlantic GoFundMe effectively operates as the country’s most reliable medical patron.
David M Carson is studying to be a neurologist or a neuropsychiatrist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and is requesting $60,000 to help him with the twin debts of his student loan and the high insurance deductibles on two operations to remove 80% of the astrocytoma tumour on his brain. Cynthia Tisdale started a second job as a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School to pay for her dying husband’s stem cell treatment, where she was killed in one of America’s fortnightly school shootings. In an even more cruel twist, it was her detective son who identified her body as he responded to police calls.
The donations and messages of support are enough to reduce Vinnie Jones to a blubbering wreck: people from all around the world describe their shared moments of universal human grief and willingly offer whatever savings they have. However, ultimately these people’s acts of extraordinary humanity mask the underlying pathology that forces residents of the richest societies in the history of human civilisation into ignominious pleas for help.
Wheelchairs, lung operations and temporary accommodation for people who lost everything they own in a house fire are basic services that the state should provide. Stating this shouldn’t paint you as a childish utopian or a tankie. A country which can afford to bail out Lloyd’s and RBS to the tune of $500 billion for their own sins can ensure that the parents of quadriplegic children don’t have to remortgage their homes for chairlifts.
Pride and a British stiff upper lip obfuscate an underbelly of immeasurable suffering throughout the world’s fifth largest economy. Out of sight and out of mind, we can easily block out the glaring evidence of a social backbone fractured by austerity, privatisation and disaster capitalism.
But browse GoFundMe and the evidence is there. You can argue that these cases are exceptional and represent the few people who fell through the cracks, but the cracks are everywhere and chasmic in size.
GoFundMe, whilst popular in the UK, isn’t the largest outlet for people seeking charity to desperately keep their heads above water. According to one study by BMC Public Health in 2014, the year with the highest food bank use, 1.01 per cent of adults and 2.29 per cent of children living in West Cheshire received emergency food aid. Scaled up over the entire country, this would represent 850,000 people relying on emergency food aid – terrifying when you add to this equation that Cheshire is one of the country’s richest counties.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg responded to a caller citing the huge increase in food bank usage on an LBC talk show last year by claiming it was ‘rather uplifting’, reasoning that ‘I don’t think the state can do everything that it tries’.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the government aren’t taking this crisis sufficiently seriously.