I’m glad I’m not a student

I can’t help watching the news and thinking how glad my formal education is now over, and that I’m not going through what so many students are right  now. Going to university when I did was probably the optimum time for me. Chatting to my parents earlier, they pointed out due to Brexit, the pandemic and  the gigantic  recession, schools colleges and universities have far fewer resources than they did fifteen years ago, so students with disabilities are going to find it far harder to get the support they need. I was astoundingly lucky: I found a nice, small university campus not too far from home where  I could flourish; in Esther I had a damn good Learning Support assistant, and MMU had my ideal course combination. Due to  this combination of factors I was able to flourish, both academically and socially; and university gave me the confidence to eventually  move to London to  live with Lyn.

I’m now very concerned that students like the one I was are going to have to struggle much, much harder to get the support they need. Had I had to struggle so hard,  I  daresay I may well have given up and stayed at home with mum and dad. Had I been an A-Level student this year,  zark knows what I’d  have done. For starters, I would have been much too worried about the pandemic to leave home, assuming the universities are even going to reopen at all this year. The whole course of my life for the past sixteen years would probably not have happened, and I’d still be living up north with mum and dad. I now fear that, somewhere out there, there are young eighteen year olds with cerebral palsy opening their calculated A  level results today and deciding to end their educations  there, put off going further by the horrific combination of factors this year.

HBD Mark

It’s  far, far too hot to write much on here today, so I’ll just  wish my brother Mark a very happy  birthday. He, Kat and the kids are doing well. We talk quite frequently over the web, and I can see from these updates that the children are  growing up alarmingly quickly. Yet webchats can only go  so far: it has been way too long since I last saw my older brother and his family in person. I really hope it isn’t too long until we can be all together again, talking, laughing, and eating mum’s food.

Happy birthday bro – I miss you.

Butler and Bailey

I have something of a thorny issue on my mind this morning. As you’ll read here, ”A Labour MP has accused police of racially profiling her after she was stopped while travelling in a car in east London.” Dawn Butler says the MET stopped her car because she and the man driving it were black. They incorrectly inputted the car’s numberplate into their database and thought it came from Yorkshire.

Now, of course I don’t know all the ins and outs of the case, but you have to raise an eyebrow at the way Butler seems to automatically assume this issue was a racial one. There are many reasons why the police might stop a car, but for butler to make such an accusation seems a bit like she is politicising the incident; tapping into a current issue and reducing it down to a case of straightforward racial persecution, when things might not be that simple. I daresay doing so also gets her a bit of media attention, potentially helping to get her out of trouble.

On the other hand, that is exactly what Tory London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey accused her of. Now, here’s where things get a bit thorny: on Twitter, Bailey – himself a black man – said the police were not racist, and that they should be given the resources to carry out their duties effectively. ”Instead of political attacks, let’s improve relations between police and the communities they serve.” In essence, he was telling Butler to just pipe down, at the same time insinuating that this was all Labour’s fault for underfunding the MET. Had such a comment come from the usual straight, white male Tory Candidate, of course it would have been sickeningly patronising; but because Bailey is black he can get away with it.

That’s obviously why the Tories selected him as their candidate for Mayor: they know London is too cosmopolitain and tolerant – too much of a World City – to fall for their right-wing, short sighted bullshit. So in an effort to seem open and inclusive, they offer us a black guy as a prospective leader. Bailey doesn’t even seem to realise he is being used: as soon as he’s elected, the Tories would insist he implements their usual draconian, repressive policies. According to him, everyone should just accept what the cops say, even though they might be being racist.

This Tweet shows just that. Hell, it could even have been ghost written by someone like Gove or Rees-Mogg. It is dripping with the same patronising authoritarianism we get from the tories. Thus while Butler may have been too quick to assume she was stopped due to the colour of her skin, Bailey was too quick to assume she wasn’t. After all, there is no denying that racial profiling is indeed a problem: determining whether it happened in this case, whether Dawn Butler tried to capitalise upon it as a current topic for her own political gain, or whether Shaun Bailey had a right to accuse her of doing so, is where the issue gets thorny.

How can anyone be this arrogant?

A few weeks ago, when I saw the picture  of Trump posing at Mount  Rushmore, I assumed it was just a trick of the camera – not even he, I reasoned, could be so pompous. But no. According to this Yahoo story, last year Trump actually asked the South Dakota governor’s office whether it was possible to have his head added to the famous monument. I find that staggering: how can anyone be so arrogant, so self-important, to make such a  request? When you think about it, it’s quite stomach-churning that anyone could be so spoiled, over-privileged and immodest to think that they automatically rank alongside a nation’s greatest leaders.

A cricketing afternoon

It was great to see my friend  James/Tesco and his fellow mighty Eights playing cricket once again this afternoon. I checked a couple of days ago, and  he told my that they would be playing today at the historic Woolwich Academy. That isn’t far away, and as I rolled up to the pavilion there earlier this afternoon, being recognised and greeted by the guys I first  saw play many summers ago in Charlton Park, it felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  At once I felt at peace, and spent the rest of the afternoon sipping beers in the shade watching a  cricket match unfold. And so, although my friends lost by quite a considerable margin, I think this might be an appropriate song to direct everyone to.

Writing about someone I don’t want to name

How do you write about someone without actually naming them? There is someone in the public sphere who thinks they’re a politician, although they were never elected to  the UK parliament. Most think they are a right wing nut-job; I personally think they should be in jail. They were the primary driving  force behind the  2016  referendum. The thing is, since then, this person’s popularity has waned and they aren’t getting as much media  attention as they once did, so they have taken to spewing outrageous, unfounded nonsense about immigrants on Twitter in the hope of regaining the public eye. They seem desperate to get into the papers and on TV again.

The problem is, how do people like me comment on this without actually naming this scumbag? If we use their name, we are just playing their game and giving them the attention they crave: by writing about them, they automatically become more than the complete nothings  they deserve to be seen as. Yet it is impossible to note that fact without writing  about them using their name. So  we’re kind of trapped in a weird, R.  D. Laing-esque situation, trying to write about something we don’t want to write   about.

Regeneration questions

As I’ve said on here before, I like to go out for a stroll in my powerchair at least once a day. I love to explore the city, and recently my walks have been growing longer and longer. The other day I made it all the way to Lewisham before getting the bus home.  What I’ve been noticing while out on my strolls is the amount of building work  currently going on in London: there are cranes and scaffolding everywhere. Plush new buildings  are being constructed in areas like Woolwich, which not long  ago was pretty run-down and neglected, so  this part of South London has started to feel  decidedly  more  cosmopolitan and plush. I wonder,  though, what’s the situation like outside the metropolis?  So much money is obviously going into London, but are other parts of the uk being similarly regenerated, or are they being left behind?

Social outsidership is in fashion

It seems to me  that having an obvious physical disability is a bit of a weird cultural position to occupied: you’re simultaneously pitied and revered, coddled and shunned. You’re part of society, but separated from it; you’re the same as everyone else but different. People think you’re brave for just being who you are and trying to live your life like everyone  else.

What I’ve been puzzling over for a while is whether others have started to become  jealous of that cultural position. Motivated, perhaps, by a type of liberal guilt at being straight, white and able-bodied, as well as attracted by the romance of being a member of an oppressed minority  fighting for one’s rights, I get the sense that the disability community is now filling up with people who never used to  see theirselves  as disabled. They probably  don’t even realise it and would react badly when questioned, but they seem  to want to see theirselves as oppressed outsiders, even though they have only been through a fraction of what guys like me put up with.

This, however, is only a hunch; something I’ve been mulling over for a while. The problem is, I have no way of testing whether it’s true or  not: I don’t want to accuse anyone of lying or exaggerating their disability. Yet from what I see, online and off, people now seem increasingly eager to be seen as abnormal and different: look,  for instance,  at the plethora  of vlogs on youtube about people who have diagnosed theirselves with autism. It’s as if social outsidership is in fashion, so people are clamouring to be seen as a member of a minority, not just in terms of disability but other minorities too. I don’t know why this might be happening, but perhaps being seen as straight, white  and able-bodied is perceived as being too privileged these days, so people have started to foreground aspects of their personalities they previously left hidden.

Scooters

I’m not sure I like scooters at all. I’m not talking about the increasingly popular three or four wheeled alternative to powerchairs, mostly used by old people (although they are certainly annoying); or the chavvy, underpowered, alternatives to motorbikes. I mean the skateboards with handlebars which children used to play with, but have now had electric motors put in them and are being used by adults to  fly along pavements. They are zarking dangerous – have you  seen how fast they go? When I’m out in my chair, I constantly have to be on the look out for them: they often  fly past me at at least two or three times my speed. The guys driving them usually have no idea what they are doing or  where they are going. Whereas cyclists usually have at least a rough idea of the highway code and stick to cycle lanes, these new powered scooter users need no training and just go where they want at breakneck speed. If my chair could go as fast as they do (and I must admit, part of me wishes it could) it would be lethal. If you ask me, people should at least need to do a test before they can use a scooter.