It is with great pleasure, I welcome fellow author and activist Paul Howsley to my blog to talk about his brilliant novel, The Year of the Badgers.
SYNOPSIS: THE YEAR OF THE BADGERS
When the government issues pre-paid benefit cards to all on welfare, it doesn’t take long before the name-calling and rationing begins. ‘Badgers’ are becoming their own class. An unmovable, unenviable and unpaid class.
The never-ending cycle of low-paid work and high=cost living has one particular badger on the edge. With WorkPlace now the only means of employment, and offering no hope for improvement, he encounters friends in the same position.
The country is abandoning the poor and stigmatizing those on welfare, but no more will they stand aside.
Voices need to be heard,people need to help, and if not them, then who?
Life isn’t going to be easy, but no battle worth fighting ever is.
1) WHY DID YOU WRITE THE YEAR OF THE BADGERS?
I am from the north east of England, closer to middle age than I ever imagined I would be, and trying, as we all do, to make sense of this tiny blue dot on which we find ourselves. The Year of the Badgers is my reaction to the vilification and demeaning of the poor, by politicians, media and some parts of society, It’s set in the near-future, a way of emphasizing and sometimes exaggerating possible outcomes of where I believe our society is heading. In this world, WorkPlace (workfare, where people work for their benefit allowance) is the only employment available to the working class and their ‘benefits’ are credited via a pre-paid welfare badge, hence the term ‘badgers.’
I was looking at how our society is becoming increasingly divided and how the rhetoric that poverty is a direct result of laziness and lack of aspiration is permeating every part of of our lives; TV shows, newspapers and politicians, they all speak with the same voice and the people it affects, they have no voice whatsoever. I wrote the story to try to offer those people a voice, to show how damaging being vilified for something beyond your control can be, how destructive it is to the mind, and that what you read isn’t always reality. I also wanted to show hope, to show that no matter how bleak it becomes there is always a crack for the light to get in, and one of the cracks I try to highlights is how much compassion is out there from so many people, helping and doing all they can to turn the tide of insatiable greed and self interested politics.
2)WE BOTH WRITE ON VERY SIMILAR THEMES, PAUL. WHAT WOULD BE THE ONE THING YOU WOULD LIKE READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?
One thing that has fascinated me after releasing the book is how each person takes away from it something completely different. I think, the most important aspect for me is that everybody, no matter how small it may seem, can make a difference, I think we should lift people up, not put people down and I hope the book shows that too.
3) DO YOU HAVE SOME SNIPPETS FROM YOUR BOOK TO ENTICE A READER?
This is at the beginning of the book; its how Badger sees himself and how with help from WorkPlace, things are about to change:
“Here stands Badger, a feckless, lazy, uninterested waste of human matter. The universe may have been evolving, collapsing into tiny pieces, creating, destroying, recreating for billions of years but yet here he is: the most useless person that has ever been. A complete and utter waste of atoms, even dark matter cannot pass through Badger. Today though that will change. All will change with the will of The People”
This piece is an example of newspapers reporting on the poor:
“He picked up the paper and read the article; it was just one of the many awful things he had read lately that portrayed the poor in an awful light. The badge had now become the symbol of the unemployed, the sick, the disabled, and the most vulnerable. Badger had noticed the media, just like any newspaper, swirled around anybody who they deemed too lazy or too stupid to work and it seemed , people believed what they read.”
Joanna is contemplating another forced WorkPlace assignment:
“Too fucking right they could do better, that’s my whole point. My going to work for the badge will bot change that, will it?” Joanna said, “And Pride? There is absolutely no pride in being used and cast aside every twelve weeks for someone equally replaceable. Do you see pride on the faces of people on the WorkPlace? I don’t. I see worry. I see weariness, I see downcast men and women, shuffling to and from work, ridiculed at the shops when their badge has ran out, shouted down in the streets with insults like ‘badger’ and ‘scum’ for simply doing all they can to survive. Pride, I don’t see that, and you know what else I never see? Any fucking hope.”
We all need a little hope, and sometimes a voice comes out from nowhere to offer it. This politician is going against the tide, but will people listen?
“The job of the politician is to speak for all people; not just for parties with vested interests, or organizations with the biggest wallets. The first people a politician should protect are those that cannot protect themselves: those weakest and most vulnerable among us. This is, to most of us, something that seems an obvious statement of fact, and that may be so, but it’s also a forgotten fact. Now today, the opposite is true. It should shame us all. It shames me. The very fact that the most poor and the most vulnerable in society are those that are victimized and stamped upon, whereas the most wealthy and the most influential are making more profits and acquiring more assets and wealth than ever before in history, is a damning indictment of what society has become.”
4) AWAY FROM YOUR WRITING, WHAT IS OF MAJOR CONCERN TO YOU RIGHT NOW?
I have a few; corporate greed, TTIP, environment, welfare, refugees, but one that is close to my heart and not as widely reported are the policies of the current government regarding the disabled and mentally ill. So many policies, done in the name of austerity have heavily affected those people. But who am I to say so, instead read about what the DWP and the government are doing. Find out for yourself, there are many people helping right now, DPAC and WOW are two that immediately spring to mind.
5) WHAT GOOD THINGS DO YOU SEE NOW?
You know, before writing The Year of the Badgers, I focused far too much on the bad in the world, I could list some but there are far too many and that’s exactly why it can be so easy to get lost in the fog and your own apparent insignificance. After, I began to learn about so many people doing incredible work, locally, nationally, and globally. I’m not talking about charities either, I’m talking about individuals, each making their voice heard or helping those that require it most. I’ve spoken to food bank owners, shop owners who help the homeless, writers speaking out for the first time, and professionals such as lawyers and business owners fighting their own particular battle. Each time, their individual strength is awe-inspiring. Never selfish, never preaching, simply doing their bit to help others. It might be small, it might be fractured but it is hopeful and infectious and until we have a leadership willing to look out for the most vulnerable, their difference to people’s lives is incalculable.
6) ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON ANYTHING ELSE?
I’m working on a new novel right now, I don’t want to give anything away yet as it’s in the relative early stages but it’s going well. I’m also working on my blog, which focuses on many of the topics discussed in this interview; some politics, mental health and the affects of austerity and those fighting back. I started the blog in an attempt for me to learn more about the positive things in society, always asking them what positive things they see in the world right now. It’s been really interesting so far, so I hope it continues to grow.
7) ARE THERE ANY OTHER INDIE BOOKS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
I have read some excellent works by indie writers the latest , and possibly my favorite, is The Rebel’s Sketchbook by Rupert Dreyfus, which is a collection of short stories, all equally relevant, excellently written and utterly unforgettable, New Beat Newbie by Harry Whitewolf, is a poetry collection focused on an array of topical subjects, told expertly with wit, anger and humor, and then there was Bipolar: A breakdown by Max J. Freeman. This was a very short true account of a man’s stay in a mental institution. It was raw, frightening, and at times hilarious, which given the situation, took some skill.
8) ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Do not judge so harshly those that you do not know
THANKS SO MUCH PAUL AND GOOD LUCK WITH THIS BOOK AND BOOK TWO.
To find out more go to Paul’s blog at http://www.paulhowsley.worpress.com
To buy The Year of the Badgers: