Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hardest Hit protests Today.

Today, up and down the country, sick and disabled people will be taking to the streets to raise awareness of the issues facing them in a series of "Hardest Hit" events.

After the brilliant success of the previous march in May, do please try to get along to your nearest rally. It was the largest protest of sick and disabled people in UK history.

Details of your local protest can be foundhere

And if you can't actually attend physically, there are lots of tips and suggestions here

Do please try to get along. Whether you are unwell, disabled or simply an able-bodied supporter, horrified by cuts that are leaving people terrified and desperate, please show your support.

For anyone who might be interested, I will be on Radio 5 Live tonight at 11pm discussing the events and the wider issues that make them necessary. It's a call-in show, so if you want to join the debate, I'd love to hear from you.

(Posted by Sue Marsh)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What's In A Word?

Cunt. Nigger. Dyke. Retard. Paki. Jew. Mong. All powerful examples of what can be in a word; power, oppression, prejudice, hatred, bullying, extermination, alienation. But, ultimately all just words. So what's the fuss about?

Context is everything, languages are fluid, constantly developing and the meaning of words can be subtle and nuanced. Sometimes humourous, sometimes insulting, it's the background and intention of use which matters not the word itself. Jokes can go wrong and humour fall flat, but that doesn't mean anyone should stop making jokes just because one isn't funny...although it might be time to add a Gervais exemption clause to that.

Ricky Gervais has recently joined twitter and typically for twitter it's the latest storm in a teacup. In short, Gervais made a joke that was frankly quite a lot shit and not at all funny. That's ok, we still (just about) have something approaching free speech and if a middle aged, overweight, acne scarred loser wants to make jokes that's perfectly acceptable. See, I just attempted a funny and it was almost, but not quite as crap and unfunny as Gervais. Next stop the Oscars for me.

So, what's all the fuss about? Gervais was making jokes about 'mongs'. Had he had the class to shrug his shoulders, admit that the joke wasn't funny in the way he intended it to be and accept that for many 'mong' is a word associated with hate and fear that would have been the end of it. But he didn't. Gervais moved on to whip up his twitter followers to 'prove' that the word mong totally, doesn't like mean anything to do with disability and is just, y'know all about monging around. Well yeah, sometimes it can mean that, but Gervais then went on to post photos on twitter pulling contorted 'mong' faces to prove his point that it absolutely definitely did not have any connection to learning disability and couldn't possibly be offensive.

Other comedians stepped up support those disabled people already pointing out that for many people mong was a hateful term, still used commonly in an abusive fashion. And that's when it got really nasty. Gervais was inciting his followers to 'prove' that mong was fine and his followers were dutifully following suit. One tweet I saw directed at Richard Herring made comments about how stupid it was to think that mong had any connection with anything...and ended by calling him a 'fucking mongoloid' for being stupid enough to think it did. Gervais insisted in a whiny way that 'it was all about jealousy of his success' and continued to insist he was funny.

In what must obviously be the same kind of coincidence as Gervais's forthcoming series, last night's episode of Shameless featured people with learning disabilities in a drama group as the community service 'punishment' for the character Mickey. Unlike Gervais's jokes, this episode of Shameless was beautifully written. The words may have been the same, but the intention and effect was entirely different. I howled with laughter when Mickey expressed dismay at being sent to a learning disability drama group and was firmly told that was what he got for calling the magistrate a fucking mong. I loved the way Mickey tried to hide his spliff until one of the young people offered him his, the confident and aggressive sexuality of one of the young women and the beautiful moment when, while still on her knees she looks at Mickey blustering as to why he doesn't want her to suck him off, shrugs and says...oh, you're gay. A scene which for me set up the biggest laugh of the episode, when they open the toilet door, the rest of the drama group are huddled outside eavesdropping and Mickey asks them not to tell anyone he's gay. A young woman in total deadpan fashion assures him that of course they won't...just as long as Mickey promises not to tell anyone she's got down's syndrome.

I could ramble on for a long time about how bloody brilliantly Shameless addressed the humour of disability, using the same words as Gervais, but unlike Gervais managing to make it hilariously funny all the way through. It boils down to just one crucial point though - at no point in last night's episode of Shameless were disabled people seen as weak, powerless, unintelligent or the butt of jokes. The language used went much further than Gervais as did the concepts, young women with learning disabilities in control of their own sexuality, or young autistic men using cannabis to assist their condition is not an image of disability seen in the mainstream media and it was frankly fucking fantastic to behold.

Banning individual words makes the liberal in me shudder in the same way burning books might, but reworking language is definitely to be encouraged. So, I'd urge you all to start using the latest insult for when someone's being an arrogant, unfunny, bullying prick ..... and start calling them a 'Gervais'

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Hardest Hit Protests - Saturday October 22nd 2011

Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are being hit hard by cuts to the benefits and services they need to live their lives. The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the UK Disabled People’s Council, brings together individuals and organisations to send a clear message to the Government: stop these cuts. You can find our key messages in this document.  Key messages on the Hardest Hit

Take action this October

Following our protest in May, when an estimated 8,000 people marched on Parliament, further events are taking place across the UK this month. These events are designed to raise awareness amongst the general public, the media and politicians of our key messages.  Click here to find your nearest event. 
Regardless of whether or not you are able to attend one of the events taking place on October 22, 2011, there are still lots of ways you can get involved to support this campaign. We need your help to really make an impact. It won’t take much time out of your day, but it will make a massive difference to the success of our campaign.
You can:
1. Write to your MP and invite them to attend their local event. We want as many MPs to know what’s about the campaign as possible.
2. Lobby your MP in the week leading up to the event by attending a constituency surgery or writing to your MP, you can help make sure that they are aware of our campaign and the arguments against welfare reform.
3. Write to the editor of your local newspaper. By doing this, you are helping us advertise the events and making sure that as many people as possible know they are happening.
4. Send a Press Release to your local paper, not only will you be sharing your concerns about Government cuts but making sure that as many people as possible know the event is happening.
5. Be a case study. Your story is the most important. Tell decision makers and the media why you support this campaign and help us show the human face of welfare reform.

Disability News Round Up - Week Beginning 17/10/2011

Provided by John Pring

  • Three of the country’s leading disability organisations – the National Centre for Independent Living, RADAR and Disability Alliance – have agreed to merge within months.

  • Disabled people have expressed outrage after learning that benefits claim forms containing confidential and highly personal information are being opened by Royal Mail staff in a south London sorting office.

  •  Labour’s new shadow minister for disabled people looks set to spearhead a stronger line from the opposition over offensive government rhetoric on the “abuse” of disability benefits.

  • Disabled people and disability charities have complained to the press watchdog after a national newspaper suggested there was widespread abuse of the Motability car scheme.

  • Some of the UK’s most talented young disabled athletes are to take part in Paralympic-style events in key London 2012 venues, just weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

  • The possible closure of hundreds of ticket offices would make it “nigh on impossible” for many disabled people to travel by train, MPs have heard.

  • The mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change has secured £20 million in funding over the next four years.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service