Saturday, 1 September 2012

Will Paralympians remain content to be part of the Cameron-Atos Show?


I was privileged to attend the Paralympic opening ceremony. A triumph of wonder and illusion. Wheelchairs flew with grace through the air, twirling, unfettered by earthly restraint.

It was a defiant call to a nation, a call for true acceptance. As the song reminded us, "I am what I am" no more, no less. Just as we all are. Spasticus Autisticus, banned just a few decades ago, showed how much more comfortable we have all become in our own skins. How much less we are prepared to tolerate.

But will the Paralympics remain an illusion, a magical few days where theatre and spectacle hide the many desperate realities facing sick and disabled people in the UK today?

Will our politicians take the stage, basking in a glory they have no right to claim? Will the public realise that every last athlete is human and fallible, just like them? Not superheroes or scroungers at all, but flesh and blood?

For all the smoke and mirrors, I'm sure this glorious spectacular was not free. It took cold, hard cash to light the lights and set the stage. Acrobatic paraplegics and soaring amputees were suspended by wires and harnesses, not thin air after all.

And to be all that they can be, every sick or disabled person needs support.

Just like illusion, you may not see it, you need not even really understand it, but it is our social security system that enables equality, participation and inclusion.

Politicians may claim our welfare state can be run on thin air and illusion, but it can't. Cut the wires and the show falls apart.

I hope, more than anything else, that the athletes, so privileged to represent our country before the world, will dare to stage a theatre of their own. Whether on podiums or in television studios, surely they will remember that they are part of a wider disabled community? The soldier who lost a limb in Afghanistan and received months if not years of intensive physio and support to win gold, will be only too aware that others who lose limbs will not have the same access to facilities and care.

The athlete with a broken spine, who relied on DLA to get to training sessions or to pay for the wheelchair they needed to compete, must surely want paraplegic children, today to have the same opportunities?

No-one exists in a bubble, however great the fantasy of the opening ceremony, it was not magic, it was illusion. The great feats we will see over the next week or so are not superhuman, they are born of blood and sweat, tears and opportunity. Opportunity, say it again. The luck to be in the right place at the right time. To be born to the right parents, with the right attitude. To have steely will and defiant fortitude. To be selected to compete at all. To have the cold hard cash to get to training or buy the right food you need to compete.

Athletes painfully aware of the selection process and categorisation of Paralympians, must surely see the irony of a "selection process" more arbitrary, more cruel, run by Atos but designed by government? Fit for work, classified to compete, both cause pain and disappointment, but one affects thousands, the other millions. We are all part of the same show, whether star or extra.

And with baited breath, today, millions of sick and disabled people in the UK wait to see if the stars will stand with the unknown, the unseen. The frightened and the forgotten.

Will they turn to the limelight or look beyond the set, designed so carefully to seem like reality? Will they raise their fists in salutes of protest? Will they tell the media our stories? Will they stand with us, as a community, aware as no-one else can be what it takes to achieve equality and inclusion?

We are only part of the way through the first Act. There is plenty of time.

No-one knows how the show will end but the athletes.

Will they dare to change the script?

I hope they do. The world is watching.


















38 comments:

  1. On this particular post I agree totally Sue

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    1. Hear Hear!
      We heard Tara Flood(?)former paralympian, swimmer I think, with a coherent sound bite on the appropriateness of an organisation like ATOS being an Olympic sponsor.
      PLEASE let more of them be aware of the issues and be able to make a clear and impassioned stand.
      The world is indeed watching. We live in hope!!
      Thanks Sue, great piece as ever.

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  2. The athletes will take gold or silver, enjoy the moment and then go home and be denied DLA, simples

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  3. has anybody seen the 'Last leg' - a channel4 programme at 10.30pm after the paralympics?

    it's compered by an Aussie comedian Adam Hils who is disabled. he has various able bodied celebs on Flintoff for one. he started last nights programme by agreeing with Frankie Boyle's recent tweets. Ho only wants to talk abot the paralympics.

    ITS RUBBISH - A WASTED OPPORTUNITY

    Thanks for nothing

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    1. You should watch "The Revolution will be Televised" on BBC3 (yes, the BBC - amazing)

      It is hilarious, makes me laugh out loud, which TV comedy rarely does. It takes political satire to a "I can't believe they did that" level. How they haven't been arrested, I don't know. OK, its not about the disabled or paralympics,so a bit off topic, but the corruption, hypocrisy and greed of politicians on all sides, which is definitely on topic.

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  4. There appears to be a D-notice on the matter of protests against Atos and the DWP. The government are so cowardly they hide behind a French company and a media blackout in order to get ‘their evil way’. Cameron, Grayling, Duncan Smith and Miller are the disengenious names that are continuing the oppression of disabled people from where Labour left off. It is a campaign with a bigger agenda – to remove the welfare state from existence. In much the same way the NHS is being dismantled the government are using the economic situation for their own ends. It translates that disabled people, the unemployed, the poor, council house tenants etc have caused the crisis and therefore need to be punished. Meanwhile the rich get tax breaks and the banks still get bonuses. After all the rich need incentives to work – the poor need a kicking!!

    I loathe these people with a vengence. They are despicable people with selfish agendas. They are the ones with a sense of entitlement – the believe they were born to inherit OUR WEALTH. f it means they have to muder disabled people under the guise of offering help – they will. This is WAR

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    1. I had never heard of a 'D notice' is it possible to prove it via a FOI request?
      Tls

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    2. I'm sure I saw something about the Atos protests on television.

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    3. Channel 4 did a broadcast but only filmed the end of the conflict with the police, calling it a "minor scuffle". They clearly omitted the begining when the area was awash with police rushing in.

      http://www.channel4.com/news/disability-rights-protestors-lobby-paralympic-sponsors-hq

      Channel 5 carried this broadcast:

      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151197625724493

      But the main BBC news mentioned it as part of a general view of complaints about sponsors including Visa, as well as atos. I have heard that the BBC was under a D notice, but can't see how they could issue a D notice to one channel and not others. But who knows? The government does seem to control the main BBC News and throws a tantrum if it doesn't like what it hears (as with IDS criticising Stephanie Flanders for daring to question how unemployment figures could possibly be going down, given all the other economic indicators such as output being bad, as economists have also said)

      It is also widely covered in the press like the Huffington post:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/31/atos-paralympics-protest-uk-uncut-disability-_n_1846633.html

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  5. And after the closing ceremony, the medals, gold, silver and bronze, sold, because no matter the pledge of human rights, those same rights will be denied after the last firework has gone off at the closing ceremony and they'll have to learn to fight the same as you or I for just a meagre existence.

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  6. Terrific piece of writing, solid message, thank you so much for that :-)

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  7. Until it affects them, then silence is all you will have. Maybe the occasional grunt Shame really.

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  8. Wonderful piece of writing - inspirational. You have such a wonderful way with words.

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  9. It's nice to see Sue asking these sorts of questions because as I'm sure many of you will know I have had my differences with Sue over some of her views, I think this piece has hit the mark.

    As another commenter has stated, I think once the games are over and all the metal has been hung around the knecks of the paralympians they will go home and forget about the rest of the wider disabled community,when they're called by Atos for their assessment and they have their DLA removed then we shall hear the cries the indignation, will we remind them of their failure to support their fellow human beings, I sure will I can tell you.

    As yesterdays demonstrations showed, we have an almighty fight on our hands, the political elite of all political parties will not stand up for us, we will have to take the fight to their doorsteps, maybe organise demo's on IDS doorstep, chris graylings cosy house, camerons oxford bolthole, just a few ideas...

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    1. Agree completely. The first medal winning Paralymian to lose their DLA in the switch to PIP(which they undoubtedly will having proved they can propel a wheelchair 50 metres) will go straight to the media and expect sympathy and support.

      Right now they need to show that they actually care what is happening to ordinary disabled people, most far sicker or disabled than them. Or who will be left to support them or care when their times comes.

      Unless of course the government's plan is, instead of giving them Honours, they give them exemption from testing, like Cameron has ordered for the military - so they can be left to "fester" and "languish" on benefits with no hope of any of G4s' "help" into meaningful free labour.

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    2. There's a time for every question Paul, a time when it will be heard. I just try to go for maximum impact. Look at it as spoon reservation ;)

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  10. Here is another film from bambuser of the TSG rushing into the crowd at the DWP protest, who were protesting peacefully as they had been before. He films the riot vans in the street and then sees the police lining up on the street.

    The cameraman shouts a warning "Heads up, heads up. Police coming in" Then you can hear the screaming start and see the police rushing into the crowd with people in wheelchairs right at the front of the building. There was absolutely no provocation or need for it.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/331929#ixzz25EGTpbEL

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    1. Just love the slightly biased report by Politics Home website. In an effort to convince it was anonymous and trade unions and show the UK Uncut banner about tax evasion,instead of the Atos you know what banners, its main picture shows a G4S security guard hiding behind a pillar!

      What's the point of paying these private companies, when if they actually want security,they call in the police?

      http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/60321/anti_atos_protesters_blockade_dwp_building.html

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  11. most of them wont get tested for pip and will be legally silenced and carry on as normal that is the only option the government can take
    they would all fail a pip test that's for sure and by a good margin i think the government will silence them with a back hander

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    1. I think you are right Nick :(

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    2. indeed Angela there is not much else the government could do to high profile people who have got where thet are in the majority of cases on the back of DLA

      where sick people like myself get told off from the DWP for just leaving the house
      I HAVE MORE IN COMMON WITH NELSON MANDELA then any Paralympians

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  12. If they are going to make a protest, or if just one of them is brave enough to rip off an Atos lanyard, or give a solidarity salute on a winning podium for all the disabled people of all class and creed, then they only have this very small window of time to do it in.

    They'll be human again like the rest of us when it comes to PIP assessments. There'll not be much point if they start whining about wrong decisions when it happens then, they know the score, carpe diem and all that.



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  13. I have to say that you are being hypocritical here, Sue. For someone who has called coverage of the Paralympics ''misery porn'' and patronised and criticised people who unlike you, have been unable to get tickets to watch it live and have no choice but to watch it on television. To then accuse them of prejudice because they enjoy watching these games as much as you do except they haven't been priviliged as you to get to see it live - is shortsighted and hypocritical.

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  14. i had a courtesy ticket for the opening and turned it down flat as sue is the main contributor and voice of the sick and disabled she would have needed to attend to be able to get a balanced picture

    Had she just been like one of us then I'm sure she would not have attended

    It is very wrong for anyone to attend a meeting/conference/gig/Paralympic OR ANY EVENT in which the sponsors are involved of have been involved in the death of other people (ATOS) or in the enslavement of other people (NORMALLY CHINESE BUSINESSES) based in china

    As i say sue had to attend i wouldn't have and if I'd been the prime minister ATOS wouldn't even exist in this country it's called integrity you will not normally find it in the uk but it is around in a very small number of people

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    1. So no one should attend or watch the Paralympics unless they have a 'valid' reason. So you are saying that I as a disabled person, don't have a valid reason - my daughter as a disabled person doesn't have a valid reason. My husband as a carer to both of us, doesn't have a valid reason. Nor do any of my family who are made up of disabled and non-disabled individuals do not have a valid reason. Only someone 'in the know' has a valid reason to attend/watch the Paralympics. Are you sure you aren't David Cameron in disguise?

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    2. Sorry but using emotional blackmail to get disabled athletes to do what you want, is not integrity.

      JT

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    3. You know full well what i mean and I'll say it again it is wrong to get involved or to be involved with any person or business in which that person or business has an agenda to destroy the life others i cant make it any clearer

      you yourself as a disabled person will have to make your own mind up if you so wish to watch the Paralympic no one is holding a gun to your head

      all I'm stating is that anything to do with ATOS is plainly wrong so there is no possible way that i retired from the bank of england would be in their presence under any circumstances and i trust my position on this matter is very clear

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    4. the Paralympians worldwide should have chosen a different sponsor whoever was responsible for going with ATOS made a very bad judgement call of a magnitude that i have not seen in my lifetime

      If i had been a world class Paralympian i still would not have attended and it's a pity that those who should know better like Tanni Grey-Thompson and refrain form attending she like me from the establishment should have known better

      you are born with integrity regretfully most people dont have it hence you have always a bad government

      as i say sue had to attend as did the queen for 30 minutes it does not mean to say they were both by being their showing their approval they were their as i say in sues case to be part of a much wider picture and to keep her in the loop as to what is going on and for the queen having been at the opening of the Olympics she had no choice but to be at the Paralympic opening ceremony

      i should also add the Paralympians deserved the very best in sponsorship instead they got the very worst possible and that's very tragic at the end of the day

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  15. Anonymous - I have no idea what you mean? I haven't called it misery porn anywhere. Nope, it's no good, I've read it several times, but I have no idea what your comment refers to.

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  16. You have called it misery porn on the Independent newspaper website.

    JT

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  17. I have to say that I find the comment process on this blog is discriminatory for those of us who have difficulty with our sight.

    JT

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  18. and for what it's worth my father like so many others across Europe fought darn hard with many thousands dying in the last war to keep the likes of Cameron and ATOS from being any part of a civilized society and am sure that those that did die will be turning in their graves at this time as none of them went to war with Hitler only to find that 60 plus years on nothing had changed and that the sick and disableds life was worth nothing and that they were still being persecuted by the government of the day

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    1. War doesn't change anything. Never has. We should never expect it to either. People fight in wars to defend themselves and their loved ones - they do what they think is best for them at the time - the behaviour of future generations is not at the topmost of their minds when they face a mad dictator who wants to control Europe.

      Using war as emotional blackmail and as a stick to beat the rest of us with, is what governments do and is not a sensible or realistic way to change people's attitudes.

      JT


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  19. JT - Are you mistaking me for Lisa Egan? I think the Paralympics are wonderful - I sometimes think presenters descend into misery porn when they go too much into back stories of the athletes that aren't relevant, but you are mis-quoting me.

    As for using emotional blackmail to get Paralympians to do what I want, I suppose to a degree that's fair, but I don't believe it is a sign of no integrity. I think I am fighting for their support as much as my own and asking them to recognise that is valid - important even.

    They will all almost certainly lose their DLA after the games.

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    1. If you are not the same Sue Marsh who like Lisa Egan, took offense to the coverage of the Paralympics, calling it 'misery porn' and attacked people who disagreed calling them ignorant, a 'patronising arse'and then proceeded to lecture posters on how they should behave and what they should 'think differently', then I apologise.



      JT

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  20. you have good integrity sue as i said you had a valid reason more then anyone to be their it's just a pity those responsible for these games chose ATOS THE WORLDS WORST COMPANY

    people will think when all is done and dusted do the Paralympics committee have any brains in going with ATOS in the first place
    the answer to that is definitely not as i said above I've never seen in my life such a bad judgement call and it's know wonder the EU is in such a bad way with calls like that being made

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    1. ''you had a valid reason more than anyone to be their''

      Really? Why? Are you saying that every single person [and there are thousands of them] who are currently watching the Paralympics live, do NOT have valid reasons? If not, why not? I am genuinely puzzled about this, can you please explain.

      JT

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  21. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =)

    Regards,
    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

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