Currently running on Facebook is a campaign lambasting the Comic Relief 'Red Nose' day because, they say: "(We) are annoyed and distressed at Comic Relief's decision to include David Cameron in the video to this year's charity single by One Direction. They then go on to list all of the atrocities committed by Cameron, aimed at sick and disabled people, and those on benefits or on a low income.
Firstly, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with this group's stance against Cameron and the present government. What the ConDems are doing to certain sections of our society beggars belief. I have, along with other disabled activists, been in the thick of the fight against them and will continue to take my place alongside those who challenge the government.
However, to boycott an organisation that is the very antithesis of Tory policy, just because of Cameron's appearance in the video is, in my humble opinion, not exactly constructive.
Many years ago, when Comic Relief, Children in Need et al first appeared on the scene, disabled activists throughout the country were appalled at the patronising crap which oozed from our TV screens. Not only did we boycott these appeals but we also tried to make sure that everyone knew why. We chained ourselves to the railings outside TV stations, we leafleted and a few intrepid souls even managed to gate-crash televised events to publicise our cause. "Piss on pity", "Rights not charity", "Nothing about us without us" were bold new statements way back then.
We all know what Mr Wogan and his cronies did. They ignored us and have pretty much continued as if nothing had happened. Lenny Henry and the other, original Comic Relief organisers, however, started up a dialogue with us and asked what they were doing wrong. They listened when we explained and took our criticisms on the chin.
From this small step many of us began working with Comic Relief (arguably the ONLY such charity to have agreed to work with disabled people on our own terms). Some of the results have been the increased involvement of disabled people in the organisation, funding being directed towards organisations "of" rather than "for" disabled people and changing the "tragic but brave" stereotype that so damages our struggle for equality and full citizenship. (And it became an approach they've used with other groups they support, too.)
Those of us who are really long in the tooth will remember that landmark training resource "Altogether Better" which was so vital to disability equality/disability action training throughout the 1990s and beyond. Perhaps for the first time, it enabled Deaf and disabled people of all ages to tell our own story through the video clips and materials it brought together and it tackled some highly controversial issues head on. Who funded it? Well, Comic Relief actually.
So please guys, hammer Cameron and his cowboys as much as you can. I'm with you on that. But don't risk sabotaging probably the only organisation of this type which, in my opinion, has worked hard to take our issues on board and provided a level playing field for us all to operate together on.
Thanks for listening. Rant over (for now!).
Why we need a NEW 'Disabled People's Resistance Movement' by Bob Williams-Findley.
"We have campaign groups like Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle (BT), and I'm aware of the effort that is going into what disabled people are doing right now, but I believe we need to have a visible "resistance movement" which brings all the strands together in a 'Rock Against Racism' style approach.
"This doesn't need to be organised in the traditional Disabled People's Organisations style; our central drive has to be to gather support for disabled people in face of the savage attacks that are falling upon us.
"This 'movement' needs to be militant, visible, and extremely challenging - I agree with linking with UK Uncut and employing direct action methods to get our message across - we also need to use other media and alternative forms of protest too. Working with non-disabled people will be essential.
"Duncan Smith has demonstrated that the Government has a 'kill or exploit' policy which is creeping nearer and nearer to the Nazis' T4 programme. Our lives ARE at risk; it's no longer about being excluded or marginalised and offered inadequate services - the fact IDS used the word "fester" transforms the landscape - people with impairments are now viewed as "a sickness" - the same type of landscape the Nazis created for the Jews and other 'unacceptable groups'.
"No doubt he'll claim he used "fester" to mean 'left without support', but we know that this is bollocks because the Government like all of those before them maintain our social oppression. The mask has slipped, finally the ruling elite reveal their resentment and contempt for the "ABNORMAL, CRIPPLES and FREAKS" who have been burdensome due to the Welfare State. The knives are out; they ARE out to get us!
"We MUST mount a resistance, fighting cuts and oppressive policies, is not enough in relation to this ideological onslaught - it is a State run 'hate campaign' and more and more disabled people will die.
"I'm not going over the top or being alarmist, this is a measured political analysis of our current situation. Me simply putting out a "call to arms" will achieve nothing in itself; what is required is for disabled people, especially activists, to come together to shape our destiny - unless there is a genuine effort made to build a resistance movement, many of us will not have a future."
Bob Williams-Findley is well known within the disabled people's movement both as an academic and an activist. Please leave your responses to Bob's article within the comments section of this blog. Thankyou.
The present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
Having been out of things for most of the last 12 months I was saddened to hear that the political activist and god-father of the disabled people's movement Vic Finkelstein had recently died aged 73.
Originally deported from South Africa in the 60's for his support of the anti-apartheid movement, Vic was the main architect of 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability', published in 1975, which argued that the problems faced by disabled people were caused by society's failure to take account of their needs, not by their impairments.
In 1972 when Paul Hunt wrote his now famous letter to the Guardian, calling for a radical new disability organisation to be formed, Vic eagerly got involved along with other politically active disabled people in the UK.
It was the resulting organisation, called the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, that published 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability'. Not only was Vic a key participant in the discussions that produced this document, but he was the main drafter of it.
He was also prominent in setting up the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People in 1981 and became its first chair. In the same year he represented Britain at the first world congress, established by Disabled Peoples' International.
'To deny or not to deny disability' by Vic Finkelsteinhas been hugely influential to countless numbers of both disabled and non disabled people new to the Social Model. Both simple and profound, it shows how that it is society that creates the barriers, and not our ‘defective’ minds and bodies, as the Medical Model would have us believe.
Vic was also instrumental in setting up the first Open University Disability Study courses, working with Colin Barnes and others at Leeds University.
My own memories of Vic are based around the comments he used to send me whenever one of my cartoons had caught his attention. Not one to mince words was our Vic and I learned a lot from him in this way. He'll be sadly missed.
The Guardian's obituary of Vic, by Mike Oliver, can be found by clicking on this link.
UK citizens who were detained illegally at the US run Guantanamo prison in Cuba are to be paid millions of pounds compensation by the British Government.
And quite right to. Innocent people being locked away in an inhospitable place, away from their families and friends and all because they appear different to the rest of society should be compensated.
For someone to be denied their place in society and to be incarcerated in a place not of their own choosing must be a terrible experience to undergo. Imagine being treated as though you were not safe enough to be let out into mainstream society. Imagine having your right to a decent education, to travel where you want and socialise where you want taken away from you. Being kept segregated from family and friends and having your Civil Rights abused in more ways than we could imagine.
Thousands of Disabled people are being detained in this country under these very conditions. With no accessible alternative housing being made available to them, other than the care homes they currently reside in. Run and controlled by charities, many of these places are no further forward in their thinking than the work houses of the last century.
Unless we fight for the rights of our Disabled brothers and sisters who are being detained in this way, we are as bad as those who lock people up and throw away the key.
'Free Our People' (and a bit of compensation for them wouldn't go amiss either!)
For more information you can contact the Direct Action Network (DAN) by clicking on this link.
Opposition MP’s are using the term ‘slash and burn’ to describe the knee jerk reaction of the Coalition to the financial deficit that they claim to have inherited from Labour.
Rampaging through the country in a similar way to the Viking’s when they were first attracted to our shores; the ConDem’s have spared no one in their attack upon our society. Seemingly with no real plan or any indication that rational thought has gone into this process, they appear to have indiscriminately attacked all who fall within the category of vulnerable.
Not content with slashing away at the funding needed to keep our health service, local government and educational services, transport, the arts and community services running, they’ve also ensured that any future Disabled people may have looked forward to has also been destroyed.
After years of struggling against an unjust and inaccessible society, Disabled people had begun to feel that at last they were starting to get somewhere. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) brought us much needed legislation and doors were literally opening for us all in areas of education, transport, housing, employment and the Arts.
Now those doors have been slammed shut and we find ourselves once again the government’s scapegoats, the ‘useless eaters’ without whom society wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.
We shouldn’t be all that surprised though. Most of the current government consists of MP’s who belong to a class of people who count amongst their friends and associates those very people who created the deficit. These are the bankers and financial speculators who spirited away billions of pounds from our economy using the self same tactics!
Come the revolution!
For a comprehensive analysis of the government's so called spending revue, click on the following link which will take you to the Inclusion London site and their downloadable information paper. Here is the introduction to the analysis.
"We reject the government’s claim that these cuts are either fair or progressive. They are a brutal attack on disabled people and will intensify poverty and inequality. Cuts in services and jobs will hit disabled people hard. Disabled people have also been targeted for specific cuts, particularly to Incapacity Benefit/ESA and DLA."
Download the information paper by clicking here
Inclusion London is an organisation of Disabled people run and controlled by Disabled people and promoting equality for London's Deaf and Disabled people.
Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.
The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.
By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.
Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner.
Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.
I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.
Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!
So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.
Change to original artwork following comments
Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?
Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.
A lot has been written both for and against the Pope’s visit this week.
Apart from the fact that he continues to tell people in the third world that to use condoms as a protection against HIV and AIDS is a sin, the main thing that rankles for me is that the Catholic Church has never publicly updated its belief in the origins of Disability.
Talk to many older Catholics and they can remember their Priests telling them that a person was born disabled due to a sin committed by one or both of their parents. I bet the Priests loved it when a Disabled child was born out of wedlock because then they could say “I told you so!”
They tell me that today’s more enlightened Priests no longer say this, but that old belief has never, to my knowledge, ever been fully weeded out from the faith. Even today, in countries such as Spain where Catholicism is the leading religion, a lot of people still believe that Disabled children are only born to those who have sinned. I’m told by Spanish Disabled people that it is mainly due to this belief that they have found it difficult to move towards any real equality within their society.
Perhaps it is time for the Pope to lay to rest this outdated and damaging belief and to use this visit to the UK to do so publicly.
Only by hearing it from the lips of ‘God’s representative on Earth’ will many Catholics put down this corrupt understanding and start to work with Disabled people towards our full and unconditional inclusion into societies throughout the world.
A recent survey shows that society has completely fallen for the latest piece of CONDEM misinformation that millions of pounds are being claimed fraudulently, especially those benefits that are designed to assist Disabled people to compete more equally in the work place. They also endorse the use of paid Bounty Hunters to track these alleged cheats down.
The fact that the government’s own figures show that this fraud claim is a complete nonsense and that millions of pounds lay unclaimed by those people who are entitled to them, doesn’t stop them from continuing to spout out this dangerous rubbish.
Disabled people have once again been identified as being either frauds and not entitled to the benefits they are claiming (and this particularly applies to those of us with a hidden impairment) or as being vulnerable members of society that need caring for (us crips having been lumped back in again with the ‘vulnerable members of society’ definition!).
So much for all of the hard work that has gone into identifying the disabling barriers that exist within society; the attempts to make society a more level playing field with Disabled people having an equal opportunity to live, travel, work and play along with our non-disabled brethren.
What next - licences for Disabled people to beg in the streets as ‘deserving poor’ as was the case a hundred or so years ago? With this lot in power nothing would surprise me!
PS. It looks as though there will be the biggest turn out ever of Disabled people and their allies for the planned protest outside of the Tory Party conference on 3rd October. Watch for some quick changes in the law as the CONDEMs declare us all terrorists and ban everyone from the streets during that week!
The following is an extract from Baroness Jane Campbell's recent comment in the Guardian.
"Disabled and terminally ill people have had to deal with fear, prejudice and discrimination since the beginning of time. Our lives have been devalued by statements such as "he/she'd be better off dead". In recent years, calls for a change to the law prohibiting assisted suicide have grown louder and more frequent.
"They capitalise on fear. Fear of pain, fear of loss of dignity, fear of being a burden. And, yes, fear of witnessing those fears being felt by those we know and love. The solution offered to the fear of disability and illness is final: suicide.
"Yet suicide is not well thought of in our society. It is 'committed' by the mentally ill and those unable to face the future. In both cases, society does all that it can to prevent suicidal thoughts being enacted. Life is too precious to be solely entrusted to individual action.
"That society is willing to protect us, even from ourselves in times of personal crisis, defines our – and its – humanity. However, those seeking a change to the law on assisted suicide say such ideals have no place when considering severely disabled and terminally ill people. Such lives, it seems, are not so precious: ending them prematurely should be a matter of individual choice.
"Perversely, if you can take your own life without assistance, society generally strives to protect you; but, if assistance to die is needed, they argue, it should be provided. The option to choose the time of one's death is to be reserved for those for whom assistance is required.
"No equality there. Yet many see this as irrefutably logical and compassionate.
"It was the realisation that the majority of disabled and terminally ill people were not being heard in this debate that led to the formation of Not Dead Yet UK. We joined with other groups in opposing the two most recent attempts to change the law.
"In each case the House of Lords was decisive in rejecting calls for assisted suicide. However, the euthanasia campaigners have vowed to try again in the current parliament."
Please click on the high-lighted links above to find out more about the current campaigns organised and led by Disabled people.
On Wednesday the 16th June the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (D.A.N) will take to the streets in solidarity with the National Day of Action against the dismantling of the Welfare State.
D.A.N demonstrations will be taking place in Manchester and London and will welcome all people who identify, or who are regarded as disabled, whatever their background or impairments.
For those of you who have never been on a D.A.N demo it's important that you know that D.A.N. uses the strategy of non-violent civil disobedience and does not beg for the right to protest. This means that all of D.A.N's protests are without permission and participants could be seen as breaking the law and leaving themselves open to arrest. However Robert Lizard Solicitors will once again represent any Danner who may be arrested during the demonstrations.
There are usually PA's available to offer support to Disabled protesters but you are encourage to bring your own support team if possible. British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters are being recruited for the event on the 16th, so if you are an interpreter or know of someone who could help in this respect, please let the organisers know.
Log onto Clair Lewes' blog for more up to date information about the event. Regular danners are requested to contact Becca Y and Steve G as usual.
Information about the general protest can be found on the Defend Welfare site.
To see D.A.N members in action visit this You-Tube site
I've recently received an email from a Disabled equality trainer in Australia asking if she could use some of my cartoons about labelling within her courses. She hadn't come across the concept before and felt that it might help her to get across the equality message to both non-disabled and disabled Australians.
"No problem" I replied, and then began to wonder if other readers of this blog in other parts of the world were as ignorant of this concept as she was. With this in mind I've recreated a simple example and cobbled together some information about the subject for you.
The concept of labelling people, especially Disabled people has been with us since early times. Then we were made to wear labels that identified us as ‘witches’ or as the ‘familiars’ of bad spirits or ‘changelings’, or, if we were lucky, as the harmless village ‘dolt’ or ‘idiot’. Although if hard times came, such as a crop failure or something equally as harmful to the community, then the ‘idiot’ often became the 'scapegoat' and was disposed of to appease the gods.
As times progressed and society became more enlightened (Ed - our American readers should note the use of irony here!) we were seen more as figures of fun and were given the labels of ‘Jester’ or ‘Fool’. Those of us with mental health issues were also allowed to entertain the nobility, but were put on display in places like Bedlam and given the labels of ‘Mad’ and ‘Insane’ regardless of our actual condition.
We were also given the label of ‘villain’ in early children’s stories, usually with an eye or a limb missing, or labelled as the ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ character whenever sentimentality or charity were portrayed by such as Charles Dickens and other writers of his time.
Following the onset of the industrial revolution we were deemed ‘worthy poor’ and allowed to beg, and some argue that this is where the label of ‘handicapped’ (cap in hand) originated. The label ‘Invalid’ also appeared about this time and literally means ‘not valid’.
The medical professionals during the 19th and 20th century, deciding that we needed repairing brought with them their own labels. These ranged from the familiar ‘idiot’ to the ‘imbecile’, the ‘feeble minded’ and the ‘moral defective’. More labels followed as they began to split us into groups of impairment, resulting in 'Mongol’ and ‘Spastic’ to name but a few.
The more subtle labels remain to this day and are still used by those groups and organisations who wish to control us and wish to separate us from society. It is mainly the charities that rely upon the power of labelling, still portraying us as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘incapable’ amongst other disempowering descriptions. The medical profession also continue to play their part, although have changed some of their labels to appear more progressive; ‘Cerebral Palsy’ replacing ‘Spastic’ and ‘Down’s Syndrome’ replacing ‘Mongolism’ for example.
Remember, labelling people is about disempowerment and only works if the person who is given the label agrees to wear it.