Post-truth tripe

Simon Stevens is still at it, I see. I came across his latest articlle in the Huffington Post last night, followed by the usual mixture of appalled, bemused and puzzled comments, flagged up by a friend of mine on facebook. I took a look, and it was the usual nonsensical mess of misunderstood concepts purporting to be analysis. I know, given how much he has worked me up in the past, that perhaps I should just ignore the guy; yet there are a few things about Stevens’ latest article which reveal quite a bit about him, and which I want to point out.

Stevens’ latest article is about ‘Post-Truth politics’, and how it may apply to disability politics. As I understand it, post-truth politics is where politicians, writers or speakers appeal to emotions rather than hard, demonstrable facts. As Wikipedia has it, ” Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” Thus, unable to back up their arguments, we are seeing jokes like Trump and farage appeal to emotions and feelings such as nostalgia more and more they invoke romanticised notions of a past which never existed.

After giving this definition, though, Stevens attempts to apply it to disability. He says that accounts of damage done by welfare cuts to disabled people now fall under ‘post-truth’: ”In terms of people with impairments, the anti-cuts movement has been an expert in using post-truth to win hearts over minds. Sadly these post-truths have now been repeated in so many articles and even accepted by the United Nations, it is going to be almost impossible to undo the damage to people with impairments’ place in society caused by the mythological environment people now accept.” This is, of course, utter nonsense; it’s complete non-sequitur. It is as if Stevens is trying to take a buzz-word much in use at the moment, but which he does not really understand, and shoe-horn it into his grievances with the disability community. To stray into post-truth is not to lie or to state something someone else disagrees with; it is to stray into the subjective. It is a rhetorical concept describing quite a worrying phenomenon in modern political debate, but Stevens uses it as an accusation with which to lambast those he disagrees with. In short he does not understand the concept he is trying to discuss.

We know this guy has grievances with the disability community. He seems to begrudge the fact that he is an outsider, and not as central or important as he would like to be. Thus he sneers ” As someone motivated by real facts and evidence, I find post-truth hard to swallow as I can see how it enables so many individual voices to be lost, especially the voices of many people with impairments.” For ”lost voices”, read his own – this man does not care about anyone but himself. He then goes on to try to claim that the use of precise, statistical evidence somehow also now qualifies as post-truth, writing ” what we have ended up with is a generation of activists on all sides who can only work within the realm of soundbites and popularised headlines. ‘x% of people with label a are not getting solution k’ attempts to justify posttruth because it simplifies and reduces the argument to cause an emotional reaction.” Again that is non-sequitur: producing such definite statistics, as disability rights activists often do, manifestly does not reduce argument to emotion; precisely the opposite, in fact. Yet for some reason Stevens tries to claim statistics are postfactual.

The way he brands the use of such statistical information as regurgitating soundbites, moreover, suggests he has cottoned on to the current fashion among social commentators to use that term and tried to apply it here, where it clearly does not fit – a statistic is not a soundbite. He obviously thinks this makes him sound knowledgable when in fact, it betrays Stevens’ severe lack of understanding. He seems to be trying to attack activists standing up to government cuts, adopting the tone of an expert and employing buzz words and catchphrases he does not understand. He seems to want to carve out a niche for himself as a disability consultant and commentator by expressing views which run counter to those of most activists, claiming that he alone relies on evidence where everyone else resorts to emotion. This quite baseless claim is clearly an attempt to award himself credibility and authority, inviting people to listen to him rather than others. He seems to crave attention, blurting any old nonsense out, trying to sound like the consultant he thinks he is. Yet he clearly does not understand what he is trying to talk about, or the consequences of what he says.

This nonsense goes on. His article reads like a set of poorly understood phrases and concepts tacked together in order to try to sound like an intelligent disability commentator demanding to be taken seriously. Yet any analysis would demonstrate this man’s writing to be the self-serving tripe it is. He seems to want to attack mainstream disability rights advocates, as if he wants to be seen as more important than others. He seems to think his voice should matter more than it does, when in fact it is rightly shunned by most. We can read his attacks on other activists as quite a childish reaction to that very shunning. His misuse of language and concepts seems to me to imply he thinks he belongs in a league he clearly does not. This wouldn’t matter, save for the fact that this man is writing in a major online newspaper, and he appears to champion right-wing views. In attacking people who cry foul, he basically seeks to attack those of us currently standing up to the tories. In the huffington post, this might not be seen by others as the tripe it is.

Boccia

I love it how things work out sometimes. It has been quite a cool afternoon: Lyn and I just got back from Greenwich, where we were introduced to the sport of

Boccia. Last week I bumped into Susan, the woman who runs the wheelchair football, at the cafe in the park. In passing, she mentioned she also runs a boccia group. That sent alarm bells ringing because, not long ago, Lyn said she would rather like to have a go at the sport. Once home I emailed Susan, who invited us both to the next session at The Forum in Greenwich.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, Boccia is like bowls or patonc, played indoors with soft balls. Players take it in turns to roll either a blue or red ball, trying to get theirs closest to a white jack. (Click here to see a video explanation). Lyn used a ramp whereas I found it easier to get out of my chair and roll the ball. We had great fun, playing several games with the players already there. By the end, I had got quite into it, and I think L was too. I think we will be going back next week. That’s just as well, as, Judging by some of my shots today, I think I could do with the practice.

Between this and powerchair football, I seem to be suddenly becoming rather sporty.

We must resist Farage’s bait

I saw yesterday that a couple of papers were reporting that Farage ‘fears for his life’ after the brexit vote, and that he’s getting so much abuse these days that he is now scared to leave the house. My initial reaction was ‘Good! That scumbag deserves every gobful of saliva hurled at him.’ But then I realised that that was exactly how he wanted people like me to react: He wants to cast himself in the victim role, up against all these intolerant, abusive ‘Remoaners’. As the persecution of ethnic minorities skyrockets, largely thanks to him and his moronic supporters, he is trying to make out that it goes both ways, that the outists are facing intolerance too.

This is a sneaky move. If we react how he expects us to react, by saying that he deserves it for all the trouble he has caused and the hatred he has stirred up, we prove his point. He wants us to stoop to his level; he’s bating us, drawing us in in order that he can cast us as the aggressors. He knows we won’t be able to resist challenging such a hypocritical, self-pitying statement, coming from a man who has made the lives of so many a misery. But if we say anything, we fall into his trap and allow him to take the moral high ground. If on the other hand we condemn these attacks, we automatically invalidate any criticism of him, giving Farage the legitimacy he craves: we help him cast his attackers, justifiably angry at the problems this man has caused and the xenophobia he stands for, as being in the wrong. It’s staggeringly manipulative. The only solution for us is to point out what he is trying to do; rather than get angry and start hurling the insults he expects and wants, we must show we can see through it.

I will never subscribe to racial theories

I just want to make one thing clear, and get it down in black and white: I will never, ever subscribe to the notion of race or racial difference in biological terms. As far as I am concerned, humanity is a single race, a single species. I know that will seem obvious to most people reading this, at least at present; but the way things are going, I fear this self-evident idea will soon be questioned more and more. Certain people will start trying to shift the consensus; we are already starting to see it happen in the states. With the so-called alt-right on the rise, theories of race which should have been consigned to history are returning. I fear they will soon be seen as an acceptable part of social discourse – the idiots championing such ideas will counter demands they shut up with hypocritical pleas for tolerance, and slowly racism will become accepted more and more. It will become acceptable to judge people and to make assumptions about things like intelligence based purely on the colour of their skin; where such abhorrent ideas were once shunned, they will start becoming accepted as valid opinion, and then I fear as fact. I refuse to let that happen. I will never accept or tolerate such a rancid idea: humanity, for all it’s wonderful diversity, is one race, and all it’s members are of equal worth.

The closure of MMU Cheshire

I suppose I better note this, miserable news though it is. Yesterday I got wind that MMU’s Cheshire campus is being considered for complete closure. That means that, now they’ve sold the campus at Alsager, they might sell the one at crewe too. If so, that would mean the end of MMU Cheshire.

In a way I find this heartbreaking. At uni I spent most of my time at Alsager campus. I didn’t really like crewe campus, probably because it was a bus ride away and meant getting up early. Yet it is where I did my Masters; I remember going there for my meetings with Alan. The closure of the entire Cheshire campus would, though, mean that the place I owe so much to, the place where I made so many good friends, the place which essentially made me who I am, is no more. It may now be three hundred kilometres away, and I might never have gone there again, but to hear that place is now being tossed aside like it didn’t matter, when it once mattered so much to me and my friends, is very sad news indeed.

A moment of peace

Lyn and I were just making our way home after an afternoon out and about. We were coming through maryon-wilson park again, when I suddenly felt a moment of peace. The sky was blue, the air clear and calm: suddenly it was twenty or twenty-five years ago, and I was being driven home from school through the fields of cheshire. It was a timeless moment: all frets and worries faded as I rolled through that small piece of woodland, the woman I love beside me. All at once I was here, bound for home after a day at school, or here, heading towards Swettenham in my powerchair. Happy memories flooded into my brain: comforting thoughts of family and friendship; youth, and peace.

I felt the past, and pondered the future. That moment made me think about the homeward journeys of twenty years ago; but in turn that made me ponder the future:

what will life be like twenty years hence? What secrets and surprises does time hold? Who knows. What time do we have, but all the time in the world?

What can I do?

What can I do? Every time I read the headlines or watch the news these days, I fly into a rage. I fill with feelings of absolute hate and anger, comparable only to Ahab. Every time I see Farage’s smug little face, I want to put a brick through it: for a moment I fancy I begrudge him every breath he draws – he steals oxygen which might be better used somewhere else. The same goes for Trump. And then the moment passes; I browse on, or the news moves on to another story, and I calm down. Yet, frankly, what I feel in those few moments scares me: I honestly want to kill someone.

I’ve always been hot tempered. Unihock sessions back at school often saw me get worked up into uncontrollable, adrenaline-fuelled rages. I knew it was just a game, butI couldn’t stand to lose. I knew it was just a game, but I often got violent. These days, it’s the same with politics: the team I wanted to win lost, and I suddenly feel absolute hatred for the winners. I know it’s immature; I know I should respect democracy and the will of the people etc, but part of me cannot. Part of me rails that neither Brexit nor the election of trump should be allowed to stand.

But what can I do. Part of that rage stems from the fact I know I am powerless. For a moment I feel the urge to go find farage and rip his worthless head off, but I know that’s impossible. Even if I could what would it achieve? one should debate with the voices you disagree with, not silence them completely. And isn’t such absolute intolerance to opposition one of the hallmarks of the very ideology I am so furious with? Yet, for a few moments, a feeling of absolute fury courses through my veins, and all I want to do is rip this mans beating heart from his chest for all the suffering he has caused.

The world is going entirely the wrong way, and I’m powerless to stop it. All I can do is sit here, have my rages, wait for them to pass, and then get on with life.

An app to mapp accessibility in Greenwich

I have just got in from a very cool meeting over at the Forum in Greenwich. A couple of weeks ago, the guys there invited me to attend a presentation by people from

Digital Greenwich who are developing an app ”that will map the accessible features in the borough such as where dropped kerbs are, pelican crossings etc.” Although I use my Ipad pretty much daily, I’m still not much of an app person, but I went anyway just out of curiosity. I’m now very glad I did, as I think those guys have hit upon an excellent idea. What they propose will map out all the steps and obstacles we wheelchair users face when trying to get around, including stairs and things like where cafe tables spread across pavements. They were also talking about marking where benches are, so older people can see where they can have a rest. Such an app would be very, very helpful, not just for guys like me but many others. This meeting was about starting thee process of establishing exactly what features the app would need. They plan to start here in South-east London, then roll it out further afield. I am so happy to have been asked to help in it’s development – this really is a good idea.

That 1930s feeling

What must people in this country have felt in the thirties when, looking south across the channel, they saw Germany descending into fascism? Can we now feel something similar when we look to the west across the Atlantic? Hyperbole aside, I’m beginning to fear we can. Then as now, we are watching a neighbour descend into intolerance and reactionism, headed by a charismatic but very dangerous leader. The difference is, whereas Germany was then still recovering from the great depression, America is the most powerful nation on earth. A complete racist nutter, surrounded genuine by neo-nazis, has control of the world’s biggest army and it’s most important economy. I know I can write silly things on here; I know I can get melodramatic and exaggerate; but this danger is real, and I am now very, very scared.

Longing for a pad of paper

I keep yearning for sheets of paper these days. If only I had a pack of A4, I’d give a sheet to Phillip hammond to draft his resignation on. He somehow thinks it’s more important to cut tax for high earners than to give poor and vulnerable people the means to live. He says the uk must be ‘competitive’, but we all know that’s a smarmy little justification for the greed-based views of the right – the rich grow ever richer while others are left to starve.

I’d also give a sheet to Nigel Farage for him to write his apology on. The dirtbag owes the nation an apology: because of him, we had the referendum; because of him, the country is screwed. The pound is weak, unemployment up; xenophobia and bigotry are rocketing. This all started when farage and dirtbags like him sought to impose their antiquated views on us. He owes us a grovelling apology for the damage he has done and the trouble he has caused.

A sheet would also be handed to Donald trump. Assuming he can even write, I’d force him to draft his resignation. Enough is enough, a joke’s a joke; it’s time for him to stand aside and let someone more qualified and suited for the job take over. The guy is a reality tv show host – for all his bravado, it’s patently obvious Trump does not belong in the white house. He has no idea what he is doing, and the way he has appointed all these fascist shit-heads to prominent positions should have us all very, very worried.

And how about a sheet for Mrs May. Perhaps then she could write down some sort of coherent strategy for Brexit negotiations. It’s quite clear that neither she nor anyone in the government know what they are doing. They say they are going to make all these demands of europe, but the eu doesn’t want us to go – it’s in their best interest to make this process as hard as possible. Better yet, May could use the piece of paper to nullify the referendum: she could point out it was only advisory, put the breaks on the whole damn nightmare and reset the whole issue.

Every time I turn on the news I yearn for this pad of paper. In my mind, it has come a metaphor: I long to present these people with a4 sheets. There are probably more. Who would you give a piece of paper to, and what would you have them write?