letter to Nisa

My glasses broke earlier, occasioning a trip to the opticians. I go to a small, local, family-run opticians; they know me quite well in there. My specs took ages to fix, and the young lady really had to perciveer. So, given too how many times I’ve had to rely o them, I thought that I’d buy them some wine just to say thanks. I therefore popped two door along to a nearby off license. That, however, eventually resulting in me writing the following:

[quote=”my messege to nisa”]I am a 29 year old with cerebral palsy. I use an electric wheelchair and a lightwriter communication aid. I was at your nisa drinks store in charlton earlier, buying some wine. I wish to complain about the staff there: firstly, when I tried to use my credit card to pay, they insisted I paid in cash. Later, after I had acquired the cash necessary, They still refused to serve me, Insisting that the law somehow states that I needed a ‘carer’ with me to buy alcohol. Needless to say, I know of no such preposterous law, and, given that I have bought alcohol from other shops before, suspect that they refused to serve me simply because I’m disabled. I felt patronized and insulted, and would like to know what action, if any, you are going to take. Yours

Matt Goodsell[/quote]

Tomorrow!

Sorry this is such short notice, but just a quick note to say that the British paraorchestra will be playing at Orchestra in a field, glastonburry abbey, tomorrow afternoon. I had the good fortune to go to their rehearsal yesterday, and they sound brilliant! please come if you can.

the handshake

I was thinking about noting this yesterday, of course, other things were on my mind. Did it not strike anyone else as slightly ironic that the queen this week shook the hands of Martin McGuinness, an ex IRA commander? While I think it was an excellent sight and was to be welcomed, I had to raise an eyebrow. After all, this man was the leader of a terrorist paramilitary responsible for killing hundreds. Does this not jar with the UK’s participation with the war on terror? How can we support the americans in their crusade against terror when our experience in Ireland teaches us that today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s respected politician? Im not saying the IRA are or were like al qa’ida, but that this surely shows that the american belief that you can only deal with terrorists by blowing the living daylights out of them is bollocks.

Forfeiting the right to free speech

I am not against freedom of speech; it is, after all, one of the most important democratic values. But I am starting to think, albeit not without reservations, that some people should just be made to shut the fuck up. Some people spew such hatred, such bile, that they should be denied the right to air their views.

Part of me can’t believe I just wrote those words, but that is now what I think. Yesterday I came across a picture on facebook of a small child with Down’s Syndrome with the words ”Here’s the thing: I have a really awesome life…There is no prenatal test to predict that”. It struck me as cool, so I simply pressed share; it was a simple but sot on message about disability. I thought no more of it till some time later, when I noticed that it had been seen and reshared by an online associate of mine. Through him, it had come to the attention of a certain, well-known disablist bigot who I won’t even dignify by naming. She had predictably replied with her usual unthinking, moronic bile about how infanticide should be legalised for parents of disabled children and about how ” Mothers of disabled children [sic] ought to be ashamed of themselves. They really should have the decency to shut the fuck up than to encourage the rest of the world to glorify disability and degeneracy.” I know I should ignore this crap, and that the person in question is no more than a lonely, ill-informed old woman craving attention deluded enough to think people listen to the piffle she spouts. But I cannot let the fact that she insulted the mothers of kids with disabilities stand.

My mother is a noble, loving woman; I think back too to the mums of my school friends, deeply loving an supportive of their kids. To see this online nobody call them degenerates and to seek to dispute, as she did, the right to life of the child with Downs, to me goes beyond the pale. Such people must be brought to account for their arrogance and hatred. She seems to dispute the fact that people with disabilities are valuable members of society, and accuses anyone who argues against her of being emotional, feminine and wimpish. Well, perhaps my argument is indeed invested with strong emotion – after all, she is questioning my own right to life just because I don’t fit her narrow-minded idea of ‘normal’ – but it is also based on cold, hard facts. Any life can be productive, any life can bring joy. I know many people with disabilities who contribute far more to society than some ill-informed old woman spewing bile over the internet all day. Thus her arguments are not based on evidence, morality, economics or any other thing she tries to pretend they are, but sheer, pure, unthinking intolerance. If they had been, I would have less of an argument: how could I possibly argue that someone has no right to say what they say if it was grounded in some degree of truth? But there is no logic behind what she says, only a bigoted dislike of difference.

On such grounds, I think I am within my rights to call for her to be silenced. She has, in effect, called for my death after all, so I am not being unreasonable. A lunatic shouting in the high street that the Jews or black people should be gassed would surely be arrested and possibly sectioned; in a way, this is no difference. She is being a public nuisance, actively upsetting people, trying to question their very right to exist. Why should anyone have such a right? in spewing such intolerant, murderous bile, has she not forfeited her right to free speech? Of course, this is only my blog, and writing it will achieve nothing, but I will not let such hatred go without calling it what it is: the ranting of an ill-informed, bigoted woman whose unfounded ravings symbolise absolutely nothing. Just shut up, bitch, nobody who matters cares what you think.

The real Middle-earth

I think it would be lax of me not to flag this fascinating documentary on Tolkien up. It concerns the possible inspirations for his created world, as well as drawing out and looking at some of the themes of his work. It’s quite long, but well worth a watch, as it examines how the mind that created middle-earth could possibly have come about.

The cutty sark

You might be surprised to read that I have yet to go and explore the Cutty Sark. I have a great affinity with ships, especially old ones, but for some reason I must have missed the fact of her rebirth at Greenwich this year. It wasn’t until I passed her on Saturday that I saw her and thought ”I need to go and have a look at that soon”. It cannot be denied that she looks magnificent now she has been rebuilt, but something about the sight of a ship held firmly on land by iron and glass. Part of me thinks that they should have rebuilt her as a working, sailing vessel, as they did with Endeavour. The replica of Cook’s ship, as I wrote here, looks magnificent in Darling Harbor, Sydney, but she can actually still do the job of her namesake and explore the oceans. You can smell the salt on her bows. In contrast, I can’t help but feel just a little sad at the sight of a ship that goes nowhere. Who knows, maybe once I take a closer look I’ll be just as impressed as I was with Endeavour. After all, to make her seaworthy again they would have had to have started from scratch, so they probably did the right thing under the circumstances. Even so, it is rather interesting to compare these two cases of historic ship maintenance.

david

How odd is it that in life people sometimes come and go like the tide? They come in to it then go out of it just as suddenly. This weekend, as I wrote yesterday, I was doing some volunteer work at Greenwich market. I was manning a stall in the corner of the ancient place, working with a man called David. He was, I’d guess, in his late fifties or early sixties, and we quickly struck up a conversation, mostly about history. We thus got to know a bit about each other, and I really enjoyed talking to him: he has a daughter in Melbourne and had travelled Australia extensively, although I don’t think he had ever heard of the Cat Empire. He helped me with my lunch and even bought cookies. I liked the guy, and at the end of the weekend, when the stall was being dismantled, we shook hands and parted. It’s rather odd to reflect on the fact that I will probably never see this man again, and what that says about life in the modern maelstrom, and human relationships in general.

Umshini wam

Our PA Mitchel just showed me this short film, involving two wheelchair users. He said it was a comedy, and on one level it is indeed rather funny, but on another, given the two protagonists are homeless and clearly have psychological issues, it is very, very dark indeed, and frankly quite unsettling.

Greenwich festival

This is just a quick note to say that today I’ll be down in greenwich helping out at the festival. I was there yesterday, mostly handing out leaflets in the market, but I did get to learn some history: the original festival, of which this is a revival, was banned in the 1840s for being too rowdy. Who knew that the people of greenwich could be so debauched? I’m kind of hoping they recreate the riot which apparently ended the thing. Anyway, I better press on, but if your in the area come have a look.

to be liberal is to think

Today I think I will write something which I’ve been thinking about penning for quite some time, but have been weary of committing to my blog. It is my firm belief that conservatives and those on the right in general are less intelligent than liberals and left-wingers. I know that sounds awfully arrogant, especially coming from someone who calls himself a liberal, but nevertheless it is my firm conviction. Let me explain why.

As I see it right-wing politics places the individual over the group, but left-wing politics conceives individuals as belonging to a greater whole. That greater whole is the state. Given that, to the leftist, we are all equal, we can all contribute to the state and, in return, the state should do what it can to ensure equality. That’s why liberalism goes hand in glove with the left: the assumption that liberalism means people should be left alone to do what they want is to confuse liberalism with neoliberalism. To be a liberal is to hold that all views and ways of life are equally valid; that concepts such as class, morality and religion are arbitrary and divisive, and should thus be broken with. That requires people to come together as a community to ensure that everyone has equal access to resources. If all lifestyles are of equal value, then all people should have equal opportunities to express theirselves and attain happiness, which means equal support. Hence liberalism is of the left. It is also my conviction that the only way for us to solve problems like global warming and the energy crisis is for people to work together as one organism, rather than as individuals. they could only do this through a state system which prizes individuals equally.

The problem is people mistake liberalism with neoliberalism, which advocates the complete withdrawal of the state, leaving people to their own devices. This conservative, individualist idea leads only to the perpetuation of an unequal status quo: without the intervention of the state, unfair structures like the class system are allowed to continue, so only a minority are allowed happiness and freedom. That isn’t liberalism but its opposite: conservatism.

To return to my opening statement, to see the world only in terms of yourself, to question taxation because you don’t see why others should take your money, to try to cast doubt on well-established theories like global warming, to seek to perpetuate things like class and tradition simply because you benefit from them while others suffer, is a sign of a self-centred worldview. To me, to hold such a view boils down to stupidity, by which I mean an inability to see things from other perspectives, to think that only your needs and desires matter. To see things individualistically or in terms of your own immediate group (be that family, tribe or ‘race’) is to ignore the many other perspectives, mechanisms, histories and so on which combine to explain why the world is how it is. To refuse to accept new ideas, to try to hold back change, to object to immigration, betrays an inability to understand or to cope with difference. Such views impoverish society, which is why we, as liberals, must speak out against them. In a way that seems pretty illiberal, but if we want a multicultural, tolerant society, we must speak out against those who speak against multiculturalism and tolerance.

Liberalism is about equality and tolerance. Not pure, unthinking tolerance, but a kind of tolerance which realises that equality cannot be gained unless certain barriers are broken down. Thus true liberalism means one must be aware of oppressive forces in society: to be liberal is to think, to understand the mechanisms which explain why the world is how it is, which in turn means seeing the world in terms of the whole and not the individual. That’s why liberalism is left wing, as only a large, wellfunded social sector means that everyone can have equal opportunities. To refuse to accept the complex nature of the world, which conservatives seem unable to do in favour of the certainties of individualism, betrays an inability to understand which, I’m beginning to think, boils down essentially to a kind of stupidity. The way in which they seek to maintain the advantages of the few over the many – a few which most conservatives belong to – reminds me of children who haven’t learned to share.