Has it occurred to anyone else that facebook is becoming the internet? I was thinking about this the other day: how can one website have become so huge that it now seems to be a significant part of our culture? I mean, so many people now use it that it is assumed that people are on it, and often say things like ”I’ll look you up on facebook” without actually establishing they’re on it. Its status can also be seen in films, I think: not only have we had quite a large film about Facebook’s creation, but characters now openly refer to facebook on screen. For instance I just heard that, in the forthcoming American Pie sequel, the characters meet up ten years after the previous film after organising a reunion on facebook. In the past, I think they would have just referred to the internet generally, rather than one specific website. How can one site hold such an enormous position in society? Where people used to say ”email me” or ”phone me” (ie use general terms) it is becoming to say ”message me on facebook”. It just seems odd to me, and I thought it worth drawing your attention to. I don’t any website has held such a position – not even myspace. Mind you, as a disabled person, I must say that having such a huge social network which I can access very easily is extremely useful indeed.
I must say that the GAD meeting today has made me very excited indeed. Blind luck, fate, or whatever has found me on the committee of a local disability action group. We had a fairly long meeting today: I was introduced to the other members, and we discussed what to focus on. As in the rest of the country, the government are planning massive cuts to many services used by disabled people. We are planning to bring the effect of these cuts to the attention of others in a variety of ways. For instance, I and another guy are going to work together to make a film, which we will post on Youtube.
There is something I must make explicit now though. What I post on this blog is unrelated to the views of GAD. That is to say, I tend to be quite vitriolic on my blog about disability issues, but these views may or may not be shared by the organisation I am now a member of and campaign for. The two things must be seen as separate. I just needed to make that clear.
Anyway, exciting times indeed! I can’t wait till our next meeting.
Something very interesting has happened, but this time it didn’t involve any television news crews. A few days ago, my social worker came to call. (yeah, yeah, I have a social worker. I know the risks, but social workers can be very handy people sometimes). We were doing a little review: I told her that I am generally very pleased with how things are going, but sometimes I got a little restless. Sometimes I feel I need something to take me out of the house – I volunteer at school, but that’s only two half-days a week. I need to be occupied a bit more, so my social worker suggested getting in touch with GAD, the Greenwich Association of Disabled People. I looked up their website but didn’t go much further. However, yesterday I got an email from then, inviting me to a meeting tomorrow. Apparently, they wanted me to get involved in some kind of sub-committee.
I was, of course, very interested, but I was not familiar with the address they gave: a place called the forum, in Greenwich. Last night I looked it up on google maps, and it didn’t seem too far away, so today I decided to do some reconnaissance to avoid being late tomorrow. Chopper was with me, so we found the place easily. We went in, and asked for GAD. A guy with a white beard was called for, and they explained, to my great surprise and joy, that they had invited me to a meeting about the forthcoming anti cuts protest for disabled people – ‘the Hardest Hit’.
I’m now really looking forward to tomorrow. I finally get to be a real activist. How much I’ll be able to help them, of course, remains to be seen. Some of what happens in tomorrows meeting might be classified, but if I can I’ll let you know how it goes. Finally, I might get to participate in some real activism!
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Uri Gagarin’s historic first space flight, and I just wanted to note this historic event on my blog. It has nothing to do with disability politics or anything, and anyone reading this will probably have known already, but there’s something about space travel which really captures my imagination. I think we forget today how truly monumental that event was: for the first time in human history, someone had broken free of the earth’s gravity. It probably felt like the start of a new era fir mankind, but right now it seems that the adventure has stalled. People just don’t seem so enthused about the prospect of space travel any more. I, however, continue to hope and dream: space travel, I believe, is our destiny, and it is in that spirit and the spirit of this day fifty years ago that I direct you here.
I write this, of course, as both an atheist and a Rossbiff, but I must say that the news that France has banned Muslim women from wearing the full buhrka strikes me as pretty damn stupid. As a liberal, I naturally hold two opposing points of view on this: on the one hand, I think women have the right to dress as they whish, and the state has no right who can wear what. But, by the same token, I don’t think religion should dictate dress-code either.
Once you start to think about it, this is a very complex issue. How does one balance the right to religious freedom with the right of women to be seen as equals? Women are equal to men, which is partly why France banned them from wearing something which made them appear unequal to men; but, if they are equal to men, should they not have just as much right to wear whatever they wish as anyone else? When put this way, this law is self-contradictory: in trying to defend the rights of women, France has, in fact, oppressed them more. Before this ban, all French women could wear whatever they wanted – if they chose to wear the veil, they had that right.
I know it’s not quite that simple. The fear is that women are forced into wearing the veil by their husbands, so this ban would free them from that religious oppression. For starters, that assumes women in Muslim households are utterly subservient and have no choice in what they wear or do, which I doubt is often the case. Secondly, what about a woman’s right to express themselves, including their religion. Did it not cross the minds of the French parliament that the veil is worn out of choice? Do French Muslim women not have a right to express their selves?
This is therefore a highly simplistic act. Yes, it seeks to free women from oppression, but simply to ban it is even more oppressive and intolerant. It’s counterproductive too, as French Muslims will now feel even more oppressed and thus more likely to take hardline stances. French society will become more segregated – it seems it is becoming less and less tolerant. Moreover, it seems to me that this ban has wider implications: if they ban buhrkas, have the French also banned headscarfs, balaclavas and zentai suits? Although I have major objections to organised religion, I object far more to what the French government has done. This is an extremely stupid thing to do, and will cause more problems than it solves.
I could go into this much more deeply, and I’m sure others have. I’ve just incoherently scratched the surface here. But I’m very worried about this: whatever question we might have about religion, the status of women in Muslim households, or whatever, simply to enforce this carpet ban will only lead to trouble.
I know it is two days late, but I’d just like to wish my parents a happy anniversary. If memory serves, they have been married for thirty-one years, which, in the times in which we live, is pretty good going. I’ve written on here before what amazing parents they are; even now I’m living 200 miles away from them, I’m still finding their support and advice invaluable. I can’t really say how much they mean to me without getting smulchy – if indeed I haven’t already – so I’ll just say that I hope they had a great anniversary.
I really cannot get over just how nice the weather has been for the last few days, especially given the time of year. Yesterday, when I got up, I looked out and saw one of the clearest blue skies I have ever seen. It is warm too – I was able to quite comfortably go about in just a tee-shirt for most of the day. I’m not usually able to do that until at least June or July. It is lovely – the type of weather that makes you feel happy, and the prospect of a barbeque at Chopper’s later makes it even better. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, and there’s a voice in the back of my head forecasting torrential rain come Monday and screaming ”this is all due to climate change!”, but all I need now is a Test Match on the radio and I’d be in heaven.
It would probably be rather lax of me if I didn’t direct you here, to a well-written, well-argued article by Ouch’s disability Bitch. It is about Jeremy Irons’ recent comments that smokers, as a minority, should qualify for ‘protection’ just as disabled people or children do. Ms. Bitch simply follows Irons’ argument to it’s logical conclusion. While I’m not as anti-smoking as I once was, this has to be one of the most stupid, fatuous and arrogant comments I have ever heard. I could go through everything that is wrong about this statement, but I’d probably be typing all day; besides, anyone with half a brain can see that these are nothing more than the ravings of a fool trying to defend his self-centred right to pollute the air for the rest of us. I just wanted to flag up the commotion, and add my voice to the wave of condemnation rising against irons.
I am, as you all probably know, a huge fan of Michael Palin. There seems to be something of a traveler in me, just dying to get out and go exploring. At the moment, I’m mostly just content to potter around south London in my chair; but when I find myself needing something more, I go to Michael Palin’s website. I adore his books there: they seem the stuff of high adventure, full of details of far-flung places. I logged on to it this morning, and, to my surprise and delight, I found this. I thought he had retired, but it seems my favourite surrogate adventurer is on the road again. Yippee!
Today I think I will just post a link to Simon’s new-look, revamped site. Long time readers of my blog will know that Simon and I have something of a fraught history, but he now has my respect as one of the leading lights of the disability community. Simon is utterly unique, even in a community where uniqueness is the norm, and I think his new-look site reflects this. I especially like the talking head animation which greets readers. I think it is fair to say that the website is still a work in progress, but it shows a lot of potential, and I look forward to see more of Simon’s unique perspective on disability, society and the world.