Monday, 21 January 2013

The Paralympics - and why the 'Legacy' Means Nothing

Recently the Oscar Pistorius murder in South Africa was told that attacks on disabled people, had increased since the London Paralympics, in 2012. For me. this isn't a surprise, and only goes to to reinforce everything I'm about to say.

I get angry every time I think about it. 

For me, this country hosting the Paralympics was bad enough, and now we’re faced with the relentless ‘Paralympic legacy’ rhetoric too.

In my opinion (and that of many other disabled and ill people I’ve spoken to) we should never have hosted the Paralympics in the first place. The very idea was hard to swallow.
How could we celebrate these seemingly ‘superhuman’ athletes and bask in their glory while away from the spotlight, ‘everyday’ disabled and ill people are being stripped of vital benefits, independence, dignity and rights at the hands of this government? Not to mention the seventy three deaths per week as a result of this government’s policies.

I chose to boycott the Paralympics for these reasons. When you add to that the fact (and it’s still hard to believe, I know) that the Paralympics was sponsored by ATOS – the very company our government is paying to strip disabled and ill people of these vital benefits (after putting us through a so –called ‘Work Compatability Assessment’ which we have been seemingly set up to fail), it became a sick joke!  My stomach turns over at the injustice of it.

So now, all these months later, Mr Cameron and his government are determined to keep peddling the idea of a ‘Paralympic legacy’. The idea that Britain is proud of its disabled people, the idea that the Paralympics has somehow furthered our cause and improved the way society views us.
It is at this point that I feel the anger rise in me once again. No! It’s a lie! It’s a huge (albeit well constructed) lie!

The ‘Paralympic legacy’ has been invented, better to say dreamt up purely to suit the government’s cruel agenda. It has used a vision of these ‘superhuman’ athletes who ‘overcome’ and ‘achieve’ against all the odds, in order to give the public the idea that all disabled and ill people could (and should) be doing the same – and those that don’t are lazy, exaggerating our disabilities. If we have the misfortune to have to live on benefits too, then we are ‘Scrounging off the state’.

After all, these ‘inspiring’, ‘achieving,’ ‘amazing’ athletes can do it, so why can’t the rest of us?! Why can’t we all just put in a little more effort?!  

As a quick side note, how are the rest of us supposed to feel about that - worthless, because we can’t ‘achieve’ like they do? Yes, that’s the idea!

This is where, to me, I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but judging by the rise in disability hate crime nationally and the suspicion with which disabled and ill people are now being viewed  by society, I need to say it anyway. We are not all like that!

In reality, the majority of disabled people can struggle to do basic things. For example, I cannot walk unaided, carry my cups of tea across the room, get in and out of the bath by myself, and I am often exhausted. Some days the pain is so bad that I can barely get out of bed – and I’m lucky compared to some.

Do these ‘superhuman’ athletes represent me? Do they represent the ‘everyday’ disabled person in this country?  No – they do not! The idea that it does, or that it should is deceitful, not to mention hurtful, when we know (despite how badly we may want to) that we can’t ‘measure up’ to a government imposed ideal of we should be.

Disability sport (and able sport) at the highest level, is elite, and obsessive. The athletes are conditioned. They work for hours and hours, day in and day out to get where they are – and they have a whole team of people to help, support, and encourage them. Granted, they have determination. They need it to do what they do.

In reality, every disabled person needs that to survive – especially in a society where we are being lied about, victimised, persecuted and stripped of our rights.

We need that determination to simply get through the day sometimes! Is there a gold medal waiting for the ‘everyday’ disabled person? Are we a source of (what will be temporary) national pride? No, we are not!
We are busy having to fight for basics, and justify our very existence. On top of everything else we already have to endure, we are now facing fear and panic for our future.

Since the Paralympics, many of the athletes that this country (and its government ) claim to be so proud of, and were hailing as national heroes last August and September, have also had their benefits cut for ‘not being disabled enough. 

That very fact alone can be used to prove that the so-called ‘Paralympic legacy’ idea is nothing but a fraud. It is a sick way of using the temporary glory of a few, to distract public attention away from the truth.

Disabled people of this country have nothing to celebrate. In fact many of us are dying, starving, losing vital services and being left housebound, while this government tries to tell our society (and the rest of the world) an entirely different story.

If there could be a real Paralympic legacy, it would and should be that ‘everyday’ disabled and ill people get our lives back – our rights, our dignity, our self-respect, and our benefits.

The real legacy should be a pushing forward of disability rights instead of taking it many, many steps back.

We should all be given the chance to live our lives in the best way we can. Until then the Paralympics and the ‘Paralympic legacy’ remains (to me and many others) nothing but a propaganda exercise.

It is only when all these wrongs are put right, and we have our lives back that ‘everyday’ disabled people  may feel a sense of ‘national pride’. Until then, the ‘Paralymic legacy’ will remain meaningless. 


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