Nothing more than a fig-leaf for isolationism and xenophobia

Earlier I watched nigel Farage giving his speech to the UKIP conference. If there is anyone in british politics I detest more than CaMoron, it is the slimey bigot farrage. And he is indeed a bigot, despite his protests and self-delusions to the contrary: to turn our back on the EU would make the UK irrelevant; America would just trade with our European neighbours, as would the growing eastern economies. Why would they continue to trade with us after we cut ourselves off, both economically and politically, from our closest neighbours? Farage says we would trade more with the commonwealth powers, as if he wants to revive the old British empire, but that’s a fig-leaf for isolationism and xenophobia: he wants a pure white british isles, isolated from the larger world, the complexities of which he and his moronic UKIP followers cannot get their tiny little mind around.

Believe it or not, I have actually met the git. Some of you may recall my account of my trip to crewe during the famous bi-election. As well as bumping into

CaMoron, that day I also met farage. I put it to him that his policies were based purely on xenophobia. The arrogant arse did not even have the respect or humanity to challenge my presumption, but just snorted and walked away. To me, that says all you need to know about he man and the type of people who vote for him: we spastics are inferior to them, not worth wasting one’s breath on. The type of people who think their needs come first, who think the planet is theirs to pollute as they wish; who object to windfarms because they are eyesores; who through their bigotry refuse to see the economic and social necessity of immigration. To me such people deserve to be either ignored totally or informed of the repercussions and true nature of their views. People like Farage want us to step backwards to a world akin to that of the latter half of the nineteenth century, a world of division, oppression, empire and distrust. We cannot let such stupidity prevail.

two very different cultural reactions to two similar stimuli.

Everyone will have noticed that there is a lot going on right now in the middle-east concerning amateur films said to insult the prophet mohammed. I haven’t seen them in full, and I haven’t looked them up, but I think I inadvertently saw an ad for one on YouTube a couple of days ago. They look very amateur and very crude: the work of some guys pratting about with cameras and computers. Had they been on any other subject they would have been ignored like all the other crap you find online.

I was thinking about that last night. It struck me that, had they been about jesus, a few people may have called for their banning but there wouldn’t have been riots or the kind of severe disturbances we are currently seeing in the middle east. Look at what happened when Monty Python’s Life of Brian came out. That film was much more mainstream, but as far as I can see lampooned jesus no less than this current film lampoon Mohammed. But whereas it appears that our western culture can accept films like Brian, even to the extent that we play its main musical number at the closing ceremony of our Olympics, the lampooning of Mohammed is not acceptable to muslims. Of course the cultural differences are vast, and I’m not trying to gloss over them, but I do think it is interesting to compare the two instances. Two very different cultures giving rise to two very different cultural reactions to two similar stimuli.

In a way, a similar thing can be seen when comparing the reactions to salman Rushdie in the east and Richard Dawkins in the west: dawkins may be hated by the religious right in America, but no leaders have called for his assassination. You can of course argue that the difference is Dawkins is writing from within whereas Rushdie was writing from a position outside the religion he was criticising, but when you look at the cases objectively, they are similar, so comparing the reactions is very interesting. It also occurs to me that, if we ‘liberals’ are going to defend people like dawkins and rushdie for writing as they do, we have no right to attack videos like those lampooning Mohammed, and should we not be aghast at the violence of the protests against them in the middle east?

stop michael gove ruining the education of millions

How can assholes like Michael Gove be allowed to call themselves members of parliament? How dare such pieces of scum undo a quarter of a century of progress in education, turning the clock back to a manifestly unfair system biased towards elitism? I am appalled at what this unelected prick is doing: in effectively bringing back the old O-Level, he is effectively restoring class division, turning his back on every shred of evidence on the subject and reinstating a system favouring only the few. Words cannot describe my disgust at this piece of shit’s arrogance.

I sat GCSEs. I began my GCSE English in 97 and finished two years later. That seems a lifetime ago; I don’t think I’ve fully described my school education on here before, and it is probably worth doing so. I am what some call a ‘survivor’ of the special school system, an expression referring to the fact that I managed to leave school with a few half decent qualifications, but now imbued with a savage irony given the rate at which my old classmates seem to be dropping. The special school I went to stands next door to a comprehensive, so a few of the most able students could take classes there. That’s where I took my GCSE English, and where I first discovered that I could excel in something.

Writing is my first love – it always has been. It is the reason why my office is so full of books, and the reason why I keep typing blog entries. I had always written, but it wasn’t until gcse English that I realised that I could be any good at it, for it was then that I started to receive my first proper feedback. Before that stage, when I wrote a piece of work it was either put on the wall or filed away: it may have got the odd tick, but that was it. At GCSE, Mr. Dale took the time to go through my coursework, explaining where I was going wrong and suggesting improvements.

That is the advantage of coursework. It allows candidates to demonstrate their true abilities in much more relaxed, realistic circumstances. Exams are artificial, taken in artificial environments thus producing artificial unrealistic results. We all know that some people are better at taking results than others; for people like myself hey can be tortuous ordeals. My three GCSE English exams lasted six hours each because I had extra time, and left me a physical wreck. I did, however, get an A in them, but the fact is that was only because of the marks I was getting in my coursework. Coursework both boosted my overall mark and gave me the confidence to sit exams.

Looking back, I suppose you could argue that the A I got at GCSE English set in motion a chain of events, beginning something which hasn’t yet quite stopped. I once wrote that my path to university and beyond started with a simple google search, but it occurs to me that I would never have had the confidence to even perform that search had it not been for my A in English. That was my first taste of success, the first time I realised that I was not a failure, and it was only due to the way in which GCSEs were structured that I received the result I did. In short, had I not done GCSE English, I might not be sitting here in south London wondering when my future wife would be ready to go to the pub, but still sitting in the same bedroom I had as a child feeling utterly valueless, wondering how best to end his worthless life.

I could never have passed a course based solely on exam results. What gove is doing, then, is consigning millions of young people, both disabled and not, to a scrapheap. He is saying that if you do not fit his narrow, elitist, essentially baseless criteria, then you are worthless. How can we let such bigots run the country? Why is this unelected fool allowed to ruin so many lives, dashing the hopes of so may children even before their lives have started? Standards might have been falling, and some reform was clearly necessary, but what gove has done in reverting to baseless Tory doctrine is turn the educational clock back a century. I am utterly revolted by the actions of this unelected little git, but I am more concerned about the children whose futures he has ruined. If he had any honour – and what Tory does? – his resignation will be covered in tonight’s news.

Crippen cartoon: crips are a ‘punishment from god’

It’s lazy blogging I know, but today I think I’ll just direct you here, to Crippen’s latest, very astute, cartoon. It concerns a pastor in america who somehow links disability to women having abortions, an attitude wrong on so many levels, but one with some parallels with circumstances here. As Crippen says, ‘It’s not a far step from what our own government are doing to the disabled people of this country – demonising us by persuading people that we Crips are all benefits scroungers, and soley responsible for the current financial crisis!” A valid point, I think, and very worrying: as the financial situation becomes worse, minorities always get more and more demonized. It is not unthinkable that we will soon start to see such intolerance in britain too.

Paraorchestra documentarry

Lyn and I just watched the Paraorchestra documentary in full for the first time. Of course, we were out when it first aired, and although the production company sent us a copy, it was not until this afternoon that we both had a chance to sit down and watch it together. I just want to record how pleased I am with it: I never thought I would be in a Channel Four documentary, unless it was in something like ‘The UK’s strangest People’. More to the point, I found it to be a great piece of television well rounded, telling a good story, but not too sentimental. Some have accused it of being too medical model, and although I can see what they mean, I don’t think it overly suffers for it. However, I must say that the main effect the program had on me personally was to make me feel even more proud of the members of the Paraorchestra. Through Lyn I have got to know them over the last few months: to a man they are all wonderful people whom I am truly honoured to know. Again, seeing them up on stage with Coldplay last Sunday was just about the proudest moment of my life, and seeing the woman I love among them must make me the proudest, luckiest man that ever lived.

(The full version can now be seen here

watching bond themes played on the radio

I just watched an absolutely brilliant bit of radio. It has been ages since I listened to radio five’s film review show on Friday afternoon, but today they were doing a special program which involved the bbc philharmonic playing various pieces of James bond music. Although I feel guilty about exiling Lyn to the garden, albeit not intentionally, I decided to watch the entire thing on our TV via the red button. I really did fid it wonderful: as both a Bond fan and a student of film, I realise that one of the defining features of the 007 franchise is it’s music.

Of course, they couldn’t play all the themes, although I thought they could have fitted more in. they kept cutting away to stuff like travel and weather, which irritated me, but then it is five live and that is their remit. I was glad to hear the inclusion of ”Nobody Does it Better”, my favourite bond theme, which apparently came second in their poll. Live and Let Die, another awesome track, came first. Mark Kermode insisted that they play the theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, despite nobody having voted for it. That’s something of a coincidence: a week o two ago, I set myself he task of watching all the bond films in order before Skyfall comes out, and OHMSS is next on my list. What Kermode said bout it was quite interesting, so I think I’ll pop it on soon. Now, however, enough geeking out: time to go make up for exiling Lyn to the garden.

Telegraph article on the paraorchestra

Just a quick entry today to direct you here, to quite a wonderful article in the Telegraph about the Paraorchestra. It seems things really have taken off, and I suddenly find myself the boyfriend of a megastar who is being quoted extensively in national newspapers. Lyn takes it all in her stride – in fact she is working on her newest track as I type – but part of me still can’t get over the enormity of what happened on sunday.

Happy belated birthday charlie

Sunday was one of the coolest days of my life, but I should record that Saturday was rather cool too. Charlotte was in town for the closing ceremony, and, since yesterday was her birthday, she and her family were having a party over in blackheath. Lyn and I were invited, but rather sensibly Lyn decided to stay home and prepare for the next day. This meant that I went with Dominic, meeting up with the Jones family in a pub by the river. I had planed to just have a couple of beers with Charlie and then be sensible and come home, but I must admit once I have a beer or two inside me, sense gets rather lost somewhere. Besides, it had been over a year since I had seen my best friend from university.

In the end we had dinner with them in a lovely restaurant with it’s own miro-brewery*. I’m pleased to report that the joneses are all as I remember them: intelligent, energetic, but ever so slightly eccentric (in the best possible sense). I must say too that I had what must be the best pizza I have ever tasted, in a meal which easily ranks alongside these. I also had the opportunity to chat to Hugh.

Hugh jones makes his own instruments; in a way he’s rather like Rolf Gellher of the Paraorchestra. They both specialize in creating innovative ways of creating music, and I would love to introduce those two to each other somehow. Lyn had asked me to ask Hugh if he could make her something: at the moment Lyn uses her Ipad to create music, as shown here, but I think she wants a way of performing live more effectively. Hugh said he’d be happy to help, so now I think I need to chat with Lyn and bash out an outline of what she needs. Plus it would be a great excuse to get hugh here in order to catch up with him.

Anyway, it was not very late before we headed home. It had been a great evening, and, after a rendition of When The Night Feels My Song for old times sake, Dom pushed me back, my mind unusually not on what had just happened, but on the day to come.

*No prizes for guessing where I’ll be taking Lyn at the earliest opportunity.

time to capitalise

I noticed looking at the bbc news website this morning that there was, for the first time in ages, almost no mention of the Olympics on the front page. I suppose it is a sign that the party is indeed now over, and that ordinary life has resumed. But we in the disabled community cannot afford to let things return to the way they were. The Paralympics went a long way to opening peoples eyes and minds to ‘our world’. The world has been shown what we are capable of, from extraordinary feats of incredible speed in the wheelchair racing to playing alongside one of the biggest bands of our era. To paraphrase Charles Hazelwood, there cannot be an intelligent person alive who thinks that people with disabilities cannot rank alongside their able-bodied peers in any discipline. We cannot let the opportunity that presents to us slip. We must now capitalise on our new found recognition; we must make the world see what is now at stake for disabled people in the UK. As my friend James put it, ” after the truly inspirational Parraolympics [sic] Cameron MUST now reverse every single cut to disabled benefit”. Indeed, without such benefits none of what just occurred would have been possible. As Ade Adepitan, the Paralympic wheelchair medallist who presented for Channel 4 during the Games, said: “Without DLA I would not have been able to do what I did or be a top athlete.”

Thus we as a community find ourselves in an odd position. On one level, this has been a glorious summer after which people can finally see us as people, many of whom have extraordinary abilities. The old stereotypes about disabled people being useless has been smashed. Yet at the same time I fear we are about to enter a winter of great discontent and hardship. The cuts are barely starting to bite yet and already people are suffering: hundreds have been turfed off benefits and told to find jobs when it is obviously impossible for them to do so. The barbarity and callousness of Ian Duncan-Smith’s proposal to change the benefits system to ‘universal credit’ makes me shudder. The repercussions of the changes will see a huge drop in income for many disabled people. Thus we must capitalise on the current heightened awareness and profile of disability and make sure the legacy of the Olympics is a happy one.

The circus, as they say, has now left town. Things will return to normal: no more events to watch, no more queens jumping out of helicopters. The danger is now that we crips will be forgotten again – the stereotypes will creep back, and we will once more be seen as a burden. How can we let that happen? We must maintain our profile; we must show ourselves as active, productive members of society. And, above all, we must let the world know what is being done to people with disabilities.