Three or four times over the last few months, I’ve had some trouble from some local school kids: two or three boys, who can’t be more than fifteen, see me coming along the road and think it’s funny to try to wind me up. They call me names and mock me, which inevitably gets me going. I know I should try to ignore it, and that responding in any way will only encourage them, but it pisses me off that these snot-nosed kids think they have a right to make fun of me after all I have achieved. As I once wrote here, I feel very proud of myself and my disabled friends, and don’t see why I should be the object of some child’s mockery. What frustrates me even more, though, is that when I start to turn on my communication aid to try to talk to the boys civilly, they refuse to listen.
As I said, this has happened a few times from the same set of kids; the last time was a couple of weeks ago. Today, however, I was just heading up to Eltham when I saw a set of boys coming the other way, and I noticed myself automatically tense up and prepare for trouble. I wasn’t sure they were the same boys I got the flack from, but it was as if some switch inside me had been flipped: I felt my adrenalin start to flow and I started to feel angry.
In the end, of course, the boys just passed me without a word – they obviously weren’t the ones who had given me trouble. Thinking about it afterwards, though, it struck me as odd: why should just the sight of these young men have caused such a reaction in me? Why do I let it get to me like that, or why should I have reached a point where the sight of three boys caused such a reaction? Why did I assume I’d have trouble from a set of lads who, in the end, proved harmless?
For the first time in quite a while, I have a ‘what I did last night’ entry to write. Yesterday evening saw the first physical Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival meeting in well over two years. During the pandemic, we had been meeting over zoom of course, but last night was the first time the organisation comittee had actually got together in ages. The festival was cancelled last year, of course, so it felt great to meet up with those guys again. We met in the Bugle Horn in Charlton at about half seven, so I caught the bus there after dinner. Until now, plans for this year’s festival had taken place over email or zoom, so last night was just about finalising the arrangements for the screenings in September. My contribution this year will be a showing of Crip Camp, and I’m pleased to report that preparations for it seem to be going nicely. I’m pleased to report too that, despite the meeting taking place in a pub, I managed to stay off the booze, and was able to have a nice stroll home in my chair, getting in just after ten, having had a much overdue taste of normality.
This morning I went for a walk. It was just one of my usual little trundles over to Charlton, where I was hoping to speak to a couple of people about organisations for the film festival. It was just a typical morning for me in this vast, vibrant city. Yet I can’t help wondering, what if I wasn’t in London but Kabul today? I presume that there are just as many disabled people in Afghanistan as there are anywhere else. Here I am, living independently in one of the world’s great cities, receiving all the support I need and free to trundle in my powerchair. But what would life be like for me in Afghanistan, under a regime as oppressive as the Taliban? Would I be getting the support I need to live? What about the equipment?
Since the Taliban were deposed, living standards in Afghanistan had started to be brought into line with other modern states, and I presume that included rights and support for those of us with disabilities. With the religious nutters back in power, I fear that any such progress now stands to be stripped away. We know that the Taliban persecute disabled people, viewing us as useless and using us for suicide bombings. Whatever the rights and wrongs were of going into Afghanistan in the first place, having spent twenty years helping it develop, hopefully into a modern, functioning democracy, surely we can’t now just abandon it.
I know that war must always be avoided, and that violence is nothing to be relished, but I really think the US and UK must now go back into Afghanistan. I’m no military analyst, of course, but looking at the pictures we’re receiving, and knowing what we know about the Taliban, surely we can’t abandon the country to that bunch of religious nutcases. We can debate whether America and it’s allies were right to pull out of Afghanistan in the first place all we want (and I note that Trump is now trying to pin the blame for the current situation on Biden, when it was he who initiated the withdrawal to begin with), but the fact remains, surely we can’t let the country be dragged back to how it was. Surely we can’t let these men re-impose their medieval views, robbing women and girls of their rights, beheading anybody who questions them. I’m not saying I know the answer – another full-scale invasion would obviously be absurd. Yet surely we bear some responsibility for what happens there, having invaded twenty years ago. Afghanistan has a right to flourish and prosper like every other country, not get dragged back into a religious dark age.
I’ve written on here before about how I view religion as a negative, oppressive force which ought to be done away with. In the case of christianity, pastors and preachers use a set of bronze age myths, combined with a promise of a pleasant afterlife, to endow theirselves with a form of unearned political and social authority: “Listen to me and you’ll go to heaven.” Last night we had news of the most horrific mass shooting in years. This morning, however, I saw various religious figures inviting people to find solace over the atrocity in religion: they were insisting that we “pray for the victims” and that we must all “have faith”. To be honest, I found reading that nothing less than sickening. They ask us to find comfort in a god which, if he existed, would presumably have the power to stop such horror. Leaving such irrefutable logic aside, however, these religious figures were effectively trying to use last night’s tragedy to reinforce their social authority. I must say I find that very perverse indeed. If nobody believed the fairy tales they tell us, these bishops etc would be of no higher status than anyone else, much less get invited onto breakfast news or sit in the House of Lords. They therefore have a vested interest in insisting that we all believe in a god which cannot possibly exist, and in using horrific events like yesterday’s as a means to reinforce our social indoctrination. Note how quickly these religious figures jumped at the opportunity to use this shooting to their own ends? Does anyone else find that disturbing?
I’m still a big fan of The Cat Empire. If you want to listen to one of their newest tracks, uploaded to Youtube just a few hours ago, check this out. I don’t know why, but something about their music always puts me in the mood for a party.
I have just come across something very interesting indeed, to me at least. I still have an odd interest in the Olympics, and the ceremonies in particular. It fascinates me how each city in turn uses such ceremonies to show itself off to the world. This probably stems, in part, from my love of travelling and exploring different places and cultures, as well as from my interest in Walter Benjamin from a cultural studies perspective. I like how in a way these ceremonies can be read as artistic texts, like plays, books or films, but on a far greater, international scale, with cities, countries and governments spending fortunes on finding their own way to present their selfs to the rest of the world.
This morning I began to wonder how Paris was doing in it’s preparations for it’s opening ceremony in three years’ time, so naturally I googled it, and came across this. Fascinatingly, our Parisian friends have decided to adopt a completely new format for the show, not just confined to one stadium as previous opening and closing ceremonies have been, but performed throughout the city. I think that’s a very interesting development indeed, and there is a lot you can read into it.
The french, being french, obviously take a lot of pride in their capital; they are bouncing at the opportunity to show it off to the world. It is indeed an extremely beautiful city. By taking the ceremony out of the stadium, they are making the city itself the focus of the event. Of course, London 2012’s opening ceremony had two or three films which cut away from the stadium, most notably my favourite; yet most of the action centred around the stadium up in Stratford. I get the impression that what paris is planning is on a far greater scale. The focus of the event will not just be one place, one stadium, but encompass the city so that Paris itself becomes the stage. I get the impression that what is being planned there is a complete departure from anything we have seen before, designed to put an entire city on display as far as possible. The event will take place across the city, so that the audience get a taste for it’s culture, architecture and history. I must say that the prospect of that, done over a city as aesthetically gorgeous as Paris, intrigues me, (although they’ll really have to pull the stops out to beat 007 meeting the Queen).
Today I would just like to reiterate what I wrote on this day last year here. It’s my brother Mark’s birthday again. He has asked me not to tell everyone how old he is, so today I’ll just wish him a great day, and say that I’m thinking of him, Kat, my nephew and niece. It has been far too long since I saw Mark and his family (or Luke and Yan, for that matter) in person, and I really hope that, once this covid nightmare is over, we can all get together for a great big family get together. Frankly, I think we could all do with one.