Turbo tom

I just found something most amusing. I was in town doing a passable impression of Walter Benjamin when I overheard a group of the local youth talking. Although it’s very likely, I can’t be absolutely sure they were referring to me, but I think I heard one lad say ‘we call him Turbo Tom’ as they passed. This amuses me greatly.

I suppose it’s only natural: I zoom around town, rarely stopping to talk, so I’m probably something of a mystery to these kids. I suppose, too, that I should be thankful that they don’t call me anything crueller. But it’s kind of weird to realise that I’m one of those town characters who gets nicknamed, like the town drunk or local old crone.

where even I draw the line

As you guys know I try to be as liberal, open minded and as tolerant as I can be. I generally feel that people should be free to do as they whish, provided that it does not hurt anyone else. But this morning I came across a group of people which I’m having problems getting my head around: people who actually seek to cut off their own limbs. Watch this.

My first reaction is to ask why? Why would anyone seek to impair themselves? I know first hand what a bugger having to use a wheelchair can often be. I have known people without the use of their legs. So my first reaction is that they should be prevented from doing this.

If you start to think about it, it gets more interesting though. Why shouldn’t some people actively seek to join the disability community? What is the difference between this and a man going through surgery to become a woman? The people seem to desire it as much as a transgendered person desires to transition. If we crips are truly equal to everyone else, why shouldn’t some people join our ranks as a lifestyle choice?

The answer is as obvious as it is problematic. Disabled people face serious disadvantages, so much so that you question the sanity off anyone who wants to chop off their legs. Yet to admit this means admitting that being disabled is somehow inferior to being able-bodied. Mind you, one could argue that, due to sexism, a man would have to be nuts to seek to become a woman; but the counterargument would be that A) sexism is not innate but a social construct, and is diminishing, and B) all you’re doing is swapping one social and sexual role for another, with no innate loss of status or ability. In other words, unlike sexism, there is a physical dimension to prejudice against disabled people – it places you at a physical disadvantage. A disadvantage so big that I do not think that this phenomenon can be seen in the same light as any other ‘lifestyle choice’. Thus, this is where even I might have to draw the line. The problem is, this forces one into saying that having a disability is iinferior to not having one, which I cannot do.

Baldwin for UKIP leader

Late yesterday afternoon, my friend james brought something very interesting to my attention. UKIP has started the process of electing a new leader, and a guy called Daniel Baldwin has thrown his hat in. what is interesting, though, is that Baldwin has Cerebral Palsy.

Ordinarily, I try to ignore UKIP in the hopes that they might just go away. Anyone with any intelligence can see they are just BNP-lite, appealing to the fascists who don’t like to admit to being fascist, even to themselves. Their isolationist, anti-Europe policies would make the UK a pariah, but noooo, they’re not fascists. That’s just what the BNP says too.

Anyway, what, then, is this dude with CP doing in this far-right party, let alone running for it’s leadership? Of course, a person with CP can hold any views he or she likes, but in my experience having a congenital disability tends to make you open minded and tolerant. You yourself want to be tolerated, so you become more tolerant yourself. it baffles me, then, why this dude is even a contender.

Even more intriguing, though, is the prospect of him winning. I doubt this would happen, of course. The party is just too bigoted. As one UKIP supporter on a message board stated: ”Sorry to be negative but this strikes me as gesture politics. While Daniel maybe able to do a lot of good for the cause I simply do not believe that anyone with cerebral palsy is capable of leading a serious political party.” He clearly has underestimated people with cp and has confused UKIP with a ‘serious political party.”

That aside, what if Baldwin does indeed win? Firstly, I think it would just be seen as a stunt. People would dismiss it as a bit of cynical PR – as UKIP trying to appear nice and tolerant. Yet this might, in turn, split the party between those who crave validation as a modern progressive party and those who want it to reject tolerance and cling firmly to the far right. Moreover, if I’m right about people with CP generally being more tolerant, Baldwin (who, I should add, used to be in new Labour) will probably try to steer the party back towards the centre. The combined effects of this, I think, will be catastrophic for the party, causing all sorts of in-fighting and fracturing along ideological lines, which might just send the bunch of morons over the brink into political oblivion.

Let’s all look forward to the election of the first party leader with cerebral palsy.

I know I’ve written about this before, but…

I do not know why the Americans are so scared of healthcare systems line the NHS. Apparently, they seem to think it would involve panels of doctors deciding who lives and who dies, and other such absurdities. There have been rallies in protest. Indeed, one writer apparently pointed out that, had Stephen hawking been born under a system like the NHS, he would have been killed. Professor H wrote to the journalist in question and pointed out that, as a brit it was the NHS that saved his life.

Yet you can see the hysteria and muddled thinking involved here. The right-wing Americans seem to think Obama is trying to introduce communism into their country, not being able to differentiate between communism and fascism, or communism and a state-cantered model of healthcare free for all. Moreover, without the NHS I and many of my disabled friends – especially those I know from school – wouldn’t be around today. I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m still gobsmacked by how the yanks can think their draconian system can be better and fairer than a system like the NHS.

home again

I got a mixed reaction to my last entry: two of my disabled friends told me they thought it was a very good entry, while dad said he thought it too introspective and self-analytical. Sorry dad, but I like introspection, and think it important I keep trying to define my place in the world. I reckon it helps to let others know that we crips can be as self-consciously neurotic as anyone else.

Anyway, my week with Lyn went well. I could not bring my electric wheelchair this time, so we were limited in what we could get up to. Nevertheless, I saw a bit more of the capital, and had two or three truly great meals, including a Mexican. I borrowed Lyn’s manual chair while Lyn used her electric, and we had a great time doing what two lovers would generally do in central London: shopping, eating, kissing. Mind you, we had to take taxis everywhere rather than busses, which turned out to be considerably more expensive. All being well, I should be back at hers soon, just before we go to Amsterdam with charlotte; I can’t wait.

A lesson in being totally wrong

I am off to London tomorrow to see my girlfriend for a few days. I cannot wait, to be honest. Going down to Lyn’s makes me feel so alive.

We’ve been together for over a year now. I think we have an extremely stable, pleasurable relationship, and we both get a lot from it. Looking back, though, it’s funny to remember that I once thought that my life would be one of solitude. I once presumed, back at school, that because I had cerebral palsy, making fiends would be impossible, let alone finding partners. Now I wonder how I could ever think that. I look up at my bedroom walls and see the framed photographs Charlie gave me; or the montage I made of all my friends, hanging just above my right shoulder. How wrong I was.

I find myself wondering, though, how many other disabled people think like I did? At Hebden, I was shut away from the mainstream community all my life; I had no friends outside school. As a kid mum sent us to cubs, then scouts, where I was bullied. Thus I formed the opinion that I was and would always be something of an outcast, a feeling which I did not fully shake until South Cheshire College. Funnily enough, it was another group of outcasts – Goths – who befriended ,me at the student union. They accepted me, inviting me to their scary little performances: it was then that my attitude began to change. The trip to berlin also helped.

It was just before that trip that I made a particularly pessimistic blog entry, one which infuriated a certain Ms Young and Miss Caryer so much that they replied. I think that reply changed my life for the better. Those two crazies taught me that I wasn’t an outcast and that I could have relationships – I was just like anyone else.

They were right, of course. University drove that lesson home even further. In fact, if any of my friends knew I’d ever thought this way, they would be rather puzzled. Either that or they would tell me not to be so ridiculous. It was those days, then, that my life changed: I became myself.

going back there

Dad took me back to alsager today. I had to go to return some books, but it is weird. We just went to thee library, then to the wes for a coffee before coming home. Yet it felt very odd – at one point I almost felt like crying. I have so many memories of that campus, built up over five years: memories of my friends and of the great times. It felt sort of haunted. I cannot believe that place is now largely in my past and is soon to be demolished. Going back there today was necessary, but I do not think I will ever go there again.

we need equality, not order

Although it is fair to say that I have questioned the methods of those who fight for disability rights, I have rarely questioned the motives. It has always been quite clear to me that we, as a minority, are discriminated against, not explicitly, like black people once were, but implicitly. I see it all the time: steps up to shops, being made fun of by kids, being treated like a child by people in shops. While no more or no less evil, the form of discrimination we crips face is, in a way, much more incidious than the discrimination other people face in that it is harder to get rid of.

I say all this because I was talking the other night to a person who denied all this. to him, there is no point to DAN or the disability rights commission. We had equality, according to him. People who claim such things make me very angry: it seems to me that they live in some sort of fantasy land. The guy in question has been fed all kinds of Tory bullshit by his parents; he says he likes ‘order’, whatever the fuck that is. The guy has CP, yet has no idea of how hard disabled people had to fight for the rights he now enjoys, or of the need to continue fighting for true equality.

an exercise in freedom, power, and diversity

I have been watching the comments made about the video me and Lyn made with interest. It is a video of us dressed in ballet outfits and dancing to Tchaikovsky. The text responses to it on youtube have almost universally been negative, but both me and Lyn are fascinated by them, not to mention highly amused. Some just call us fags, fairies or queers, of course, but what interests me is that some people think that the video was not of mine and Lyn’s instigation, and that some people have dressed two learning disabled men up and forced them to dance. People have made comments like ” if this wasnt for humor then what would it be for? im sure that the people who helped them get into their costumes were cracking the fuck up.” Or ” Making fun of the handicapped. You people fucking sicken me.”. I don’t think people realise that making this film was entirely mine and Lyn’s idea, and that the person who helped us dress – karolyna – was acting on our instructions. They assume we were forced to do it, not realising we knew precisely what we were letting ourselves in for

This, in a way, alters the dynamic. We knew we were going to get flack for making this video; in a way, we love to see such nasty comments – the nastier the better. The joke is on the commentors, for they are the ones who have been manipulated, not us. In this sense, the video is about power: the power of having a secret joke between me and Lyn. The people who comment don’t realise that the video was made, in part, precisely to solicit such comments, and so the jokes on them. It’s fascinating to see the misconceptions people have about people like us. The video is thus about control and manipulation; about how erratic we can make the commentors. It is an exercise in freedom, power, and diversity. It’s also just for fun Wait til they see what we’re planning to make next.

link

riding to freedom

My parents and I are trying to make the most of this Indian summer we’re having, so today we went to Wales. Unfortunately we didn’t know where Lyn was so we couldn’t meet her, but instead we headed for rhyl. Mum and dad thought going there would be a good idea, so off we went. Rhyl, let’s just say, was disappointing, and after a walk along the promenade and a bite to eat, we left. We headed south, into Wales.

As we went, we were amazed at how many motorcyclists there were out. On a nice day like today, a few are to be expected, but not the hundreds we were passing. When we stopped next at a roadside eatery, we got talking to a couple of bikers. They were nice chaps, wearing typical biker’s leathers, one sporting the type of beard most harley-riders wear. It turns out it was a type of protest: a disproportionate number of bikers have been pulled over by police – there is some kind of crackdown. Police claim it saves lives, but this is obviously an infringement of biker’s freedom. link.

I naturally support the protest. People’s voices must be heard. It got me thinking about how I belong, as a disabled person, t a minority where virtually every one of my rights has to have been fought for – the right to decent education, the right to vote, even in some cases the right to communicate. Thus I feel that people’s views must be heard; protest must always be welcome. Heading back from Wales, then, seeing so many bikes made me smile.