”Letter to my old master”

This letter, from a former slave to his old master, must be, if authentic, one of the most remarkable documents I’ve ever come across. It’s well worth a read, and was simply too fascinating for me not to flag up. I especiaally like the line ”Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.” To be honest, though, I’m in two minds about what I think of him asking for his back-paid wages: on the one hand, I think he had every right to do so, but on the other, it does seem a tad cheeky, but perhaps that’s just me being a bit British.

what dan is

in part reply to my blog entry yesterday, Claire/Dennis has written this this on her own blog. It would seem there was much I misunderstood about DAN and its relationship with the greater disability rights movement. I obviously have much to learn, but the truth is, as the Tories start cutting harder and deeper, and start making crips suffer for no clear reason other than sheer malice, this stuff matters more than ever. Disabled people must fight back!

I’m a member of DAN, but I’m not sure I know what DAN is.

This may sound kind of stupid, but I realized earlier that, despite now calling myself member, I know next to nothing of DAN. What it stands for is clear enough: on it’s Facebook page, it states ” The UK disabled people’s Direct Action Network, DAN, is a grassroots network of proud, angry & strong disabled people from all backgrounds and of all ages, who use non-violent civil disobedience as a means to fight for freedom and equality. DAN has taken action AGAINST: patronising charities who profit from and perpetrate disabled people’s dependence, the warehousing of disabled people in institutions, welfare cuts, care charges, assisted suicide and euthanasia. DAN takes action FOR: equality and freedom, such as independent living, inclusion, accessible transport, fair access to work and welfare.” That is clear enough, and those aims are broadly my aims too. Yet I find myself asking – purely out of curiosity- what is dan, and how is it organised? Is it a pressure group? Does it have a leadership or hierarchy?

Of course, I also completely agree with the use of nonviolent civil disobedience as a means of fighting injustice. Now more than ever, the tactics of Gandhi and Dr. King must be utilised in order to fight what seems to be becoming the overt oppression of disabled people by the Tories. Yet unlike the campaign for Indian independence or the American civil rights movement, the British disability rights movement appears not to have a single leader. What it does appear to have, however, is DAN. DAN appears to be the central body of our movement, our figurehead; a group within a group through which we all have a voice. That’s why I am so curious about it: I’ve read that, contrary to what I wrote in my entry yesterday, Saturday’s action was not a DAN action but what DAN itself calls a ”cripple’s picnic.” If that wasn’t a dan action, what the hell is? And who is in a position to use such language, and how did he or she get there, wherever there is? This confuses me greatly, as I don’t understand the structures involved. As I say, I fully support dan’s aims and modus operandae, I also think , in a way, DAN now takes the place of a central figure in terms of crip liberation; I just wish someone would clarify what it is for me so I can be a better activist.

DAN protest

While I am still not sure about whether I can call myself a proper DAN (disabled People’s Direct Action Network) activist now, I think yesterday was a good day. Well, let’s put it this way: it wasn’t a total failure. You may have heard on the news that some disabled people were protesting against the cuts in oxford street. That was the protest we intended to attend, only we got there after the protest was over. Getting in to central London from Charlton is not as easy as you might think, especially on a Saturday. We got there as quickly as possible, but the protest had been broken up by the police by the time we arrived: as we were going down oxford street to the scene, we saw two or three cop cars whizzing past.

I was quite pissed off about that. I waned to add my voice, and feel guilty about not being able to. Writing about things is a very good way to get your view across, which is why keep my blog, but there comes a time when words become insufficient: a time when you have to take to the streets and show others that you object to something. That’s why DAN was on oxford street yesterday, and why I, at least tried, to join them. Many, like my friends Dennis and Becca, had come from as far as Manchester to join in*; you must ask yourself what would make these people, for many of whom getting around the country is not straightforward, come and protest?

The answer to that is that we are deeply concerned about what the government is doing. Their reforms will hit people with disabilities the hardest, so much so that many will be barely able to survive. It is a deep concern for themselves and their fellow disabled people that forced DANners onto Oxford Street yesterday. They, like me, are very worried about what the government is doing, so much so that they are prepared to risk arrest to show it. These are well informed, politically astute people; that in itself must force you to ask questions about what the government is proposing.

After finding oxford circus deserted, I was eventually able to track Becca and the guys down to a pub not too far away. It was great to see them, and I was especially thrilled to be able to introduce Lyn to Becca. I managed to do a bit of networking, so the day wasn’t a complete loss for me personally. For DAN and disability rights activism, on the other hand, the day was a complete triumph, with ITN, sky and the Guardian, among others, covering the protest. I think that they/we now need to keep it up, and I really hope there will be many more such protests – maybe I will actually be able to get to some.

*Another reason why I felt like such a shambles: if they came from Manchester but still got there on time, how committed does that make me seem?

Rod liddle talks crap

The entry I posted yesterday took me ages to write, and I’m quite pleased with how it tuned out, but after I put al the links in and put it online, I found something else I need to draw your attention to. It seems the journalist Rod Liddle has been talking crap about disabled people in the Sun. according to him, it’s rather nice being a crip, as we get lots of cool stuff. It is becoming ‘increasingly fashionable’, as it brings government cash, you don’t need to work – and you can even get a car parking badge. He also seems to think that conditions like ME are somehow made up.What an asinine, half-witted comment: liddle obviously knows nothing abut what life is like for disabled people, nor anything of the discrimination we face. He’s obviously trying to curry favour with The Sun’s idiotic readership by picking on one of the current political scapegoats. Twat!

My desert island disks

I heard today that Desert Island Disks is about to celebrate its seventieth birthday; the anniversary episode will be with David Attenborough, presumably as a tribute to his equally awesome sixty years at the BBC. I find that pretty incredible: I suppose the programme is so successful because music itself is so potent. It is everpresent, supplying a sound track to our lives. There is something about music that is hard wired directly to the soul: more than any other art form, it taps directly into emotion, raising you up to the heights of bliss or crashing you down to the depths of despair. That’s why it’s such powerful medium for allowing people to talk about themselves.

Thinking about this earlier, I began to think, as I’m sure most other people do, about the pieces of music I would choose were I ever famous enough to be asked on to desert island disks. It’s an intriguing question to ask yourself. As with my list of my favourite meals, you can only decide such things in retrospect. And, as with Cinephiliac Moments, the pieces one chooses are all deeply personal, so your choices say a lot about yourself.

Which disks, then, would I take on to my dessert island? As soon as I started to think about it, I realised that my list would probably longer than the usual eight. I suppose I better start at the beginning, with my first ever favourite song: I must only have been two or three when my parents first sat me down and put a tape of the Frog Song into the video player. They probably regretted it, as I instantly fell in love with it and cried my head off when the video finished. My crying would only stop when they had rewound the tape and pressed play again, a situation which repeated itself for hours. I don’t know why, but there was something I found in that song which I found as comforting as a cuddle from my parents; even today there’s something in it which tugs at my heart every time I hear it. It’s a similar story with the snowman, another of those song-based childhood cartoons which still holds sway over me.

If I am going to mention those two, embarrassing though it is I must say that I would take A whole new World from Aladdin onto my island. It is a song I once adored: My brother mark played the piano, and I remember forcing the poor boy to play it again and again as a child. The last few times I’ve heard it, it has seemed rather cheesy, but even as a teenager there would be nothing I would rather hear.

The times I spent listening to mark play the piano, in the dining room of my old family home, now seem a lifetime ago. It seems like so much has happened since then, so many other pieces of music have acquired so much personal resonance for me. Maybe the next track I should mention is He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by the Hollies. That piece means a lot to me too, but for not such happy reasons. It was the first song played at Andrew Fox’s funeral, eleven years ago. Andy was one of my school friends; he had muscular dystrophy, and passed away when we were eighteen. I vividly remember his coffin being carried in as the first notes of that song struck up, so much so that even today every time I hear them my mind flies back and my heart fills with the rage I still feel at the injustice of his death. After the funeral it was a long time until I could bear to hear that song again, for it was a piece of music which captured Andy’s fortitude perfectly.

Andy, like me, was a trekkie. Star trek has been a big part of my life, and I find the theme songs to Star trek inspiring. Of them, I love none more than the theme to First Contact. It is a film that inspires me, allowing me to hope hat one day humankind will overcome it’s petty differences and work together to build a better future. Mind you, it’s a film which also predicts that before that happens we will go through a third world war, in which six hundred million people die, so perhaps it isn’t such an optimistic film after all. Nevertheless, the theme from first contact is still a piece of music which fills me with hope.

I suppose you could say that I find the James Bond series just as inspirational. Through him, one can live one’s fantasies: to me, he is a figure in full control of his world. I’m not sure why, but something in this misogynistic, anachronistic character appeals to me, even though in many respects he is my antithesis. I remember, lying in bed one night in my late teens, watching TV. The Alan Partridge show was on. I didn’t usually watch it, but I caught the episode where Alan decides to reenact The spy Who Loved Me. Something that night caught my attention, and ever since then I’ve been into bond, and especially the theme to that film. Charlie used to sing it to me when she was Pushing me home after a night out, so I have fond memories of bellowing out the words ”Nobody does it /quite the way you do / baby you’re the best.” into the dark of a Cheshire evening.

But I have many such memories concerning charlotte. She is quite a musical person, and I remember her singing constantly. Another song I associate with her is ”When the Night Feels my song’‘ by Bedouin Soundclash, which she taught to the University Gospel Choir; it was also charlotte who introduced me to the Cat Empire, so she would be the reason why I would take Days Like These to my desert island. Most of all, the song I will forever associate with my friendship with Charlie is You’ve Got A Friend in me by Randy Newman. As I describe here and here, it was a song that I heard being played at Disneyland; it is thus a song I associate with kindness, friendship and warmth.

Given that there are songs I associate with my friend charlotte, the question is raised about what songs I associate with Lyn. After all, she is dearer to me than anyone has been before. I was thinking about this before, and was worried to realise that, despite the fact she is a musician, there is no single song I associate with Lyn. But then it occurred to me that such things can only be discovered in retrospect: songs can only resonate with times when such times are over, and since my time with Lyn will not come to an end for a long, long time, I cannot pinpoint any one song I associate with Lyn. Mind you, this one might be a candidate; Our house by crosby, Stills and nash holds within its lyrics the feelings of warmth and tenderness I feel when with lyn.

That is the list of songs I’d take to my island. I may have missed something – I probably couldn’t go without some Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, and how could I leave Sweet Home Alabama behind? But it’s getting late, and were I to try to list all the songs that had ever touched me, I’d be typing till dawn.

A cinephiliac evening

Last night was really rather cool, as I got to indulge in a bit of real cinephilia. Dom had brought small projector with him, so we drape an old window blind over our

TV, dimmed the lights and set up a small cinema. The great Andre Bazin would have been proud, especially as the first film we saw was ‘The Man with A Movie Camera’.

I was initially ere excited about it – the film is a classic of early pioneering cinema. I remember watching it at university, so I relished the chance to watch it again. The thing was, I quickly realised that it wasn’t the original version: someone had re-cut Vertov’s 1929 original and set it to a modern score. At first I was totally appalled by this act of sacrilege – part of me still is. I usually have nothing against modern adaptations of originals, or postmodern fusions of old and new, but the original score for this film was beautiful, and the new one hey had replaced it with seemed out of place. I quickly got into the type of huff I revel in getting into when I see something I take umbrage with, and began to thin of ways I could express my opinion on this piece of cinematic blasphemy. Yet Lyn and Dom, who are more into music than film, were obviously quite enjoying it, so I told myself to stop being a puritanical, pretentious nonce and chill out.

The second film we saw was called Another Earth, which I didn’t really have a problem with and therefore can’t write much about it. It was typical, modern Hollywood fare. All in all, then, last night was really cool. It was an evening I spent on the sofa, trying to remember the names of writers and theoreticians from cultural studies, immersed in an art form I love.

the ‘joke’

Took my dog to the dole office to see what he was entitled to. The bloke behind the counter said: ”You idiot! We dont give benefits to dogs!” So I argued: ”Why not?

He’s brown, he stinks, he’s never worked a fucking day in his life and he can’t speak a word of English!” The man replied: ”His first payment will be next Monday.”

I came across the above joke on Facebook earlier. Needless to say I didn’t find it at all funny; I told the person who made it as much, and that he as being puerile and childish. He told me that I should get a sense of humour, and that all jokes are ” all derogatory about us in some way or another-that’s why they’re jokes! If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re going to have a hard-up life, mate. Get over it.” He went on to explain that racism is an ideological belief that one race (whatever the hell that is) can be innately superior to another, and thus jokes could not by definition be racist.

I replied that he was talking crap, and that he could not hide behind so-called humour to uphold arbitrary distinctions between groups of people; it was like saying ”all men from Birmingham fuck their sisters” and then crying ”ahh but I was joking so I’m allowed to say such things”.

However, before the conversation got much further, he deleted the entire comment thread, which is a shame because I was about to explain to him why his joke was so unfunny. Many jokes have at their core some degree of truth, or expose a truth by framing it in a new, novel way. Take, for example, the old, old joke about the horse walking into a bar and the barman asking him ”why the long face?’ we laugh – at least the first few times – because barmen do ask such questions, and horses o have elongated faces, but we are surprised to hear these two truths come together. That’s why we laugh.

The problem with the joke above is that it seeks to expose truths which some presume to exist but don’t. it panders to an ideology with no basis in reality. The reason some may laugh at such things is that it reinforces ad legitimises their belief that immigrants are dirty lazy, don’t speak English and are allowed through the benefit system with great ease. Or that the benefit system panders to dirty lazy people who don’t speak English. That is, of course, total crap: there is no truth in it, and therefore it is not funny. Some want to laugh at it, though: they want to impress upon others that it is funny because they want to believe this joke has some truth at it’s basis. Like children in a room full of adults, making farting sounds and giggling hysterically, the people who make such jokes are laughing at things most other people find utterly immature.

I feel I have a fairly good sense of humour, but, as with sexist or disabledist jokes, there’s nothing funny about trying to reinforce stereotypes and social boundaries. In fact, we should all be laughing at the idiots who still adhere to such flawed notions in the first place.

apt image, brilliant article

I found the following image at the head of this blog entry from Johnny Void, eloquently and brilliantly explaining how much damage the Tories’ benefit reforms will do to the poorest members of our society, and found both the image and the article just too brilliant not to flag up. It might be too christian in tone for my liking, but what Void essentially says rings very true. How IDS has the gall to even utter the word ‘fairness’ when what he is doing is innately unfair staggers me. [img description=”undefined image” align=”centre”]/images/ids satan.jpg[/img]