Social outsidership is in fashion

It seems to me  that having an obvious physical disability is a bit of a weird cultural position to occupied: you’re simultaneously pitied and revered, coddled and shunned. You’re part of society, but separated from it; you’re the same as everyone else but different. People think you’re brave for just being who you are and trying to live your life like everyone  else.

What I’ve been puzzling over for a while is whether others have started to become  jealous of that cultural position. Motivated, perhaps, by a type of liberal guilt at being straight, white and able-bodied, as well as attracted by the romance of being a member of an oppressed minority  fighting for one’s rights, I get the sense that the disability community is now filling up with people who never used to  see theirselves  as disabled. They probably  don’t even realise it and would react badly when questioned, but they seem  to want to see theirselves as oppressed outsiders, even though they have only been through a fraction of what guys like me put up with.

This, however, is only a hunch; something I’ve been mulling over for a while. The problem is, I have no way of testing whether it’s true or  not: I don’t want to accuse anyone of lying or exaggerating their disability. Yet from what I see, online and off, people now seem increasingly eager to be seen as abnormal and different: look,  for instance,  at the plethora  of vlogs on youtube about people who have diagnosed theirselves with autism. It’s as if social outsidership is in fashion, so people are clamouring to be seen as a member of a minority, not just in terms of disability but other minorities too. I don’t know why this might be happening, but perhaps being seen as straight, white  and able-bodied is perceived as being too privileged these days, so people have started to foreground aspects of their personalities they previously left hidden.

Scooters

I’m not sure I like scooters at all. I’m not talking about the increasingly popular three or four wheeled alternative to powerchairs, mostly used by old people (although they are certainly annoying); or the chavvy, underpowered, alternatives to motorbikes. I mean the skateboards with handlebars which children used to play with, but have now had electric motors put in them and are being used by adults to  fly along pavements. They are zarking dangerous – have you  seen how fast they go? When I’m out in my chair, I constantly have to be on the look out for them: they often  fly past me at at least two or three times my speed. The guys driving them usually have no idea what they are doing or  where they are going. Whereas cyclists usually have at least a rough idea of the highway code and stick to cycle lanes, these new powered scooter users need no training and just go where they want at breakneck speed. If my chair could go as fast as they do (and I must admit, part of me wishes it could) it would be lethal. If you ask me, people should at least need to do a test before they can use a scooter.

Nearly time for the Tories to get sensible about Brexit

It might only be a slightly random Youtube vlog, but I think this piece on Brexit is worth listening to. It suggests that, as the reality of Brexit becomes clearer and clearer, and the possibility of the UK crashing out without a deal becomes more and more likely, Johnson will do what he always does and throw Brexit under a bus to save his own skin. While it might be wishful thinking, I have to agree: given a choice between a no-deal Brexit and remaining as  Prime Minister, Johnson will always put his own self interest first. With no trade deals signed with anyone, it’s  now blatantly obvious how catastrophic Brexit will be: the Tories have gone along with the  wretched farce as far as they could, but we’re now reaching the point where they have to do the sensible thing and put a stop to it.

Why I find Romesh Ranganathan strange

Since he won a Bafta last night, now might be a good time to note how strange I find Romesh Ranganathan’s programs. I’m quite a fan of travelogues, and I’ve been thinking about writing something about Ranganathan for a while. I find his style very puzzling indeed. Ordinarily, presenters of such television shows are framed as if they are part of the film   crew: they talk directly into the  camera, telling the viewer what is going on, where they are etc, which is then complemented by their off camera narration.

Ranganathan, by contrast, talks to the supposed crew  rather than the camera, asking questions etc. It’s as if he wants to give the impression of a kind of naiveté, like he’s just  some ordinary guy who just happens  to have a film crew following him around. He positions himself as separate from the guys making the film, as if he  doesn’t want to be seen as part of them. He seems to want to set himself apart from the presenters of other such shows, perhaps in order to give himself the appearance of a regular, naive bloke in contrast to the more conventional,  authoritative tone of presenters like Michael Palin. This strikes me as very disingenuous, especially given we hear Ranganathan’s voice on the voiceover, breaking the illusion. I don’t know why, but  this kind of trickery irritates me, as it feels like Ranganathan is trying to manipulate the audience by trying to appear more naive than he is. The way in which he tries to portray himself as a sort of wisecracking everyman distanced from the media apparatus yet still obviously being part of it, feels too insincere to me, and frankly I find it irritating. I  wonder whether anyone else has noted this strange contradictory relationship to the camera Ranganathan has.

The adventures of Captain Switch

I came across something yesterday which I think could well be worth looking into. I hope he doesn’t mind me  mentioning it here, but on my friend Matt/Switch’s Facebook page, he had written a type of blog/diary entry about what he and his young family had been up to recently. What interested me was that it was written in the style of a Star Trek captain’s  log, so his wife Nicky was referred to as Commander Best-wife, and their young children became ensigns. What struck me  was how well done the writing was: trips were away  missions and  places became planets, so that at  the same time,  it felt like you were reading a piece of science fiction  while still being able to detect the  underlying reality behind it. Not only did this help ensure the necessary animosity Switch, as a young dad, would want, but it also reflected the surreal quality of the times we are going through. Thus as a piece of prose I found it stylistically very interesting indeed. Reality  was written about as fiction to produce something both playful and quite powerful.

Two types of imperialism

I don’t know much  about Hong Kong. I know it’s a former British colony, of course, handed back to China in an international agreement in 1997, but apart from that I’m not familiar with the politics of the city. In writing what I’m about to, I am afraid I’ll sound like a  British imperialist, desperate for the revival of a long dead empire. Yet  I  must say how disturbing I’m finding China’s attitude towards the city; they seem to be acting with a type of  arrogance I find infuriating.

As I understand it, after ’97, the UK signed a treaty with china which guaranteed Hong Kong a certain degree of independence and it’s citizens certain democratic rights. Yet  now, according to the UK news at least, China has ripped up that treaty and seems to be acting as if it can do what it likes  with Hong Kong, overtly trying to interfere with it’s elections in order that it can make it’s government entirely pro-Beijing. China obviously wants to take Hong Kong for it’s own, probably because it knows what an international economic powerhouse it is. And when the UK tries to object to what China is trying to do, China tells us to butt out of it’s internal affairs and accuses us of imperialism.

That leaves commentators like me in a delicate, although rather interesting, position:  it boils down to a question of which type of imperialism you object to more. Do we, as the former colonial ruler, still have the right to interfere in the affairs of a now independent colony? On the other hand, it’s blatantly obvious that China  is acting aggressively and arrogantly, and thinks it has a right to tear up  a treaty and dominate a city and it’s people. Thus we have two manifestations of imperialism vying against  one another.

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that part of me thinks  that the UK should reclaim Hong Kong: if china refuses to respect the treaty, why shouldn’t we reassert British rule? But then I realise how daft and right wing that sounds, and remember that the UK couldn’t possibly compete militarily with China. Yet letting Beijing just do what it wants seems equally wrong: Hong Kong is not Chinese just as it isn’t  British.

The situation is therefore at a stalemate, but what concerns me is that that stalemate will cause greater and greater tensions between the UK and China, and we’re in enough trouble as it is. A severe  economic recession, Brexit, Trump and the pandemic have converged to the point  where international  tensions are higher than they have been for decades; this dispute over Hong Kong will only add to them. With Trumps reelection and the realities of Brexit coming up, we are fast approaching an impasse. I do not know how it will all resolve itself, but I’m now very worried that it will not end well at all.

Any relation to Sir Roger?

I wonder how many other  people, upon reading this news  that the new head of MI6 is a chap called Richard Moore, automatically thought ”I wonder if he’s related to sir Roger?” To be honest I’d be willing to bet that it’s quite a few.

England beat the West Indies

All I can say today is how great it feels that Test Cricket is  once again being played, and not only that, to get home from my daily stroll to the news that England have won their first  test series of the summer, and by a good margin too. Amid all the doom and gloom this year, at least we have these little pleasures to cheer us up. I’ve always loved the long, slow, contemplative sport of Cricket, and news like this brings back happy memories of sitting in the sun on long, hot afternoons.  Hopefully it won’t be too long until such afternoons are back.

Person, woman, man, camera, TV

You probably saw, a  few days ago, Trump trying to demonstrate how intelligent he is by reciting five words he picked supposedly at random. (Leaving aside the fact that he mistakes memory for intelligence, which in itself demonstrates how little he understands of psychology). He obviously picked five things in front of him, and tried to claim that remembering the same list of words a few minutes later demonstrated how intelligent he was. Well, according to this, he is now being epically trolled  by people on the web getting five year old children to recite the same list of five words. That is an owning if ever there was  one.