Friday, July 25, 2008

So. Who is Disabled?

dis·a·bled [dis-ey-buhld]
1. crippled; injured; incapacitated.
2. (used with a plural verb) persons who are crippled, injured, or incapacitated (usually prec. by the): Ramps have been installed at the entrances to accommodate the disabled.

We need words for everything. We're not comfortable if we don't have words to describe everything we see and do.
But the thing is, that sometimes, the words we use are, well, they're uncomfortable themselves.
Like 'disabled.'
What's disabled?
Leaving aside, for the moment, my reservations about the Olympics being held in China which continues to repress its own people, particularly as the Games approach, this summer will see not just the Olympic Games, but the Paralmpics.

Read about the Paralympics on the official website, or anywhere else for that matter, and you will frequently come across the word 'disabled.'
I thought about it. I thought about it quite a lot.
And then I looked up the sports in which the paralympic athletes will compete.
They are; Archery; Athletics; Boccia; Cycling; Equestrian; Football 5-a-side; Football 7-a-side; Goalball; Judo; Powerlifting; Rowing; Sailing; Shooting; Swimming; Table tennis; Volleyball; Wheelchair basetketball; Wheelchair Fencing; Wheelchair Rugby;; Wheelchair Tennis.
With the notable exception of rugby, I was never any good at any of the above sports. And there are those who would argue that rugby should actually included in the list of sports at which I am not now and never was any good.
I certainly was never much good at athletics. I tried archery, but was a total failure. Judo and me parted company early. Rowing was too difficult. Sailing made me ill. I swam like a brick.
It goes on and on.
So the question is this.
When compared to those taking part in the paralympics, am i the one who is disabled? Are they not the ones who are able?
Just because one or two parts of the body don't work or don't work well, does that make someone disabled?
Because, in my experience, those classified as 'disabled' invariably are possessed of a great deal more talent, in general, than what is called the 'able bodies' community.
Is Stevie Wonder disabled because he is blind? Or is he one of the most talented musicians in history?
Words. They are used to described things and classify things.
Sometimes i wonder, if there are words we could do without.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

It All Depends on Which Minority

It is only right that the State, our Government, takes on board the concerns and worries of minorities.
It's what happens in a responsible democracy.
Indeed, the soon-to-be-law Civil Partnership Bill, has been introduced because of a long campaign by Gay and Lesbian organisations and, indeed, by the Irish Human Rights Commission.
We have long since passed laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, colour or creed or physical ability or disability. It is right, for example, that young Muslim girls be permitted to wear a hijab to school in much the same way as a young Christian girl may wear a crucifix.
We have made tremendous progress as a society.
But you can’t help feeling, that it is only those minorities which are well organised and well financed, which have slick public relations machines or which are popular band-wagons for politicians, which have their cases heard and action taken.

We still, for example, do little or nothing for the mentally handicapped in our midst, or rather, not in our midst. As long as they are kept out of sight, most people - politicians included or even in particular - seen to be content.
We do little or nothing for the old. Yes, that old rogue Charlie Haughey thankfully introduced free travel and other benefits. But our pensioners are expected to live for a week on a sum equivalent to what a TD receives in (unvouched, untaxed) expenses, for two days.
We certainly don’t do enough for the homeless. If we did, there wouldn’t be homless.
And we don’t do enough for unfortunate drug addicts. We have about one per cent of the beds we need to encourage them to seek treatment.
The point of all this is that maybe we’re spending a little bit too much time arguing about whether gays and lesbians can have civil partnerships or whether they can get married. You probably know my personal view is that they can have partnerships and it’s only right. But marriage is and always has been between men and women.
We spend too much time wondering if travellers are a distinct ethnic group. They are not. And even if it was to be decided they were - after endless blathering and waffling - what difference would it make? It certainly hasn’t helped our Roma visitors.
Personally, I would rather we talked about the mentally handicapped, the old, the poor, the homeless and the addicted and, yes, the traveller and the Roma.
They are issues involving people who have nothing and less than nothing. They are not well financed. They have no slick PR machines. They have little or no influence.
Of course, nothing will change.
The mentally handicapped, the homeless, the addicted and, to a degree, travellers aren’t great for turning up at polling stations.
And as long as that’s the case, they will be allowed to rot.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Weather and a Good Idea to Solve EVERYTHING

Here is the weather forecast for Ireland.
It will be cloudy, there will be rain. It won't be that warm. And it might be windy.
Yes, I know we get lovely days when the sun shines and it's nice and calm and warm.
But if you want a forecast that's right 90 per cent of the time, stick to the above.
Last Friday, the RTE weather forecast predicted that Saturday would be fine, warm and sunny.
It wasn't. It rained. And it wasn't what you'd call 'warm,' well, not if you're used to holidaying in places which are genuinely warm.

People often say that we put up with too much in Ireland.
And we do.
We've been ripped off by chain stores for years, charging up to 50 per cent more in the Republic of Ireland than in the North. They trot out the usual excuses about 'long distances' and 'transport costs.'
If that was the case, the people in Inverness would be paying £5 for a pint of milk. And they're not.
We put up with lousy service in restaurants. We put up with dirty streets, we put up with extortionate toll charges on our roads. Note OUR roads.
And we put up with lousy weather.
For example, when I was in Australia a few years ago - it was during their Autumn - I was brought, by friends, to a beach not far from Sydney. 'Fantastic' I said as I changed and jumped into the sea for a swim.
They thought I should be certified. It was 18 degrees and, to them, the depths of winter.
Such little things like rain, cold, wind and cloud don't bother us.
Come the middle of May, there are those who, regardless of the weather, celebrate the arrival of "Summer' by changing into shorts, sandals and t-shirts, be they male or female.
We shouldn't put up with the lousy weather.
We shouldn't accept the Met Office telling us, like they did last Summer, that the weather is 'unsettled' when there is rain for 64 consecutive days. You don't get more settled than that.
Instead of wasting money on building roads, schools, hospitals and such like, what we should have done when we had the money, was resettle the entire population in the South of France or Spain. We'd have money left over.
And we could have left behind a United Ireland, albeit one with nobody in it bar American tourists, people from Holland and Germany playing bodhrans in Doolin and a few fishermen and hill walkers.
No more complaints about the weather. No more whinging about traffic jams, no more crowded Accident and Emergency rooms, no more inept government - just the best decentralisation plan ever undertaken.
Decentralising the entire population to sunny climes.
I wonder if it's too late...

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Friday, July 11, 2008

I Have to Admit It's Getting Better

Well, I’m sorry I’ve been missing for a little while.
I could tell you that I feel so low, now that Ireland has become a poor country again, that I didn’t have the will to write a blog.
But that wouldn’t be the truth.
I could tell you that we are now so poor that I was out collecting sticks to make a fire to heat us all.
But that wouldn’t be the truth. Even though it could be.
I could tell you that I was hunting rabbits for us to eat.
But that wouldn’t be true. Though it’s likely to be in the not too distant future.

Fact is, that after all the medical treatment I’ve been having, I was plum knackered.
That’s the problem with things like Bone Marrow Transplants. No matter how often they tell you, beforehand, that you’ll be knackered afterwards, you don’t really get the idea HOW knackered until, well, afterwards.
It’s a strange business. Like many, if not most, medical procedures, it’s actually worse than the disease it’s setting out to cure.
I went into my transplant with fear and dread. Even saw the shrink before I went in, such was the mess in my head.
And I was aware that, last time I was in hospital, I did all but tunnel out.
So it was odd, that once I walked in the door of St James’s Hospital in Dublin, my mind was at ease. Completely. I checked into my room, made sure I had pictures of my loved ones beside the bed, checked that the telly was working, my laptop could access the internet (thank God for dongles, the hospital is still in the last century when it comes to providing broadband for patients) and my iPod was functioning.
What they do for the BMT is blast you with chemo to kill of your marrow and then, in a kind of transfusion, give you someone else’s.
And it’s a bit unpleasant.
Although I think our health service is an inequitable shambles, although I believe it is run by people I wouldn’t let run a children’s party, although I believe it is over administered beyond belief, and although I believe nobody in the upper echelons of the Health Service Executive gives a toss for those currently in need of the service - they have their eyes focussed firmly on ten years hence - the people who work the front line are unbelievable.
Doctors, nurses, catering, cleaners - chaplains in particular. They are fantastic people utterly undervalued by their employers.
They make hospital bearable. Even if the food is dire, the people giving it too you make it almost edible.
They are to a man and woman, fantastic.
And let me say this now. I will never know who donated bone marrow for me. Never. Dem’s the rules.
But it is one of the most altruistic things a human being can do. There is no money it. You don’t even get to find out if it worked. You never get to see the results of your sacrifice. Which makes it a sacrifice in the true sense.
Anyway, I was sick for a while. And now I’m tired.
But things appear to be going reasonably well. The doctors are happy.
If there are little blips, doctors say “don’t worry.” Even they must know that whenever someone with a nasty disease - mine is lymphoma by the way - is told not to worry, that is precisely what they do.
So I’m trying not to worry. Trying to do bits and bobs. I find the bobs more tiring than the bits.
But I must be in better form. I’m complaining as much as I ever did. I’m complaining about the weather, politicians, the wanton destruction of our heritage in Tara, motorists, pedestrians, cyclists - I think that just about covers everybody.
I’m in the sad situation of knowing more about Coronation Street than any other 54 year old male on the planet.
I sleep like a log and wake up jaded.
I have no feckin’ appetite even when I’m hungry.
Complaining again.
It must have worked.

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