Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Superhumans

When I disappeared from the Bloggosphere the other day I reckoned without the one or two very kind souls who continue to read my work, but do so in total silence so that I don’t know they are there. One such reader lamented my decision to tank Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard over the head with a large brush, in particular because he had hoped that I might contribute something about the forthcoming Paralympic Games in Rio.

So being back and yet not being back at the same time, I now have the opportunity to do that without actually subjecting myself to the tough crowd that is my Facebook page. Anyone can view this but only a select few will. That’s fine. What’s worrying is when you look at your stats page and see that 70-100 people have visited your blog that day without ever having indicated that they were there. It’s like you’re so bad that they aren’t admitting to having wasted three minutes of their life on you. Stop it. Also, with Twitter the only people who follow me do so because they have a common interest in St Helens Rugby League Football Club and enjoy my work for and Ninety-five per cent of them have never met me and as such are fairer judges. And when they don’t like my work I can either defend it in a hopefully highbrow debate with them, or I can shrug and consider that I don’t know the person having a pop at me anyway so maybe it isn’t a crisis. Facebook is full of real people who I have met several times and will meet again. Their rejection is hard to take. Even if they are fucking philistines.

On to the matter in hand. The Paralympic Games get underway in Rio in just 15 days time. Presumably the downtime between the start of the Paralympic Games and the end of the Olympic Games is to give the people on 20% of what we would call a minimum wage enough time to clear up all the shit left behind by Ryan Lochte and his mates. At the time of writing the event is threatened by the prospect of financial difficulties making it impossible for some smaller nations to attend. There has also been talk that not all of the venues used in the Olympic Games will be available for the Paralympic Games due to financial jiggery-pokery. All of which is a major concern at best and a bloody outrage at worst as it was my understanding that any host city bidding for the Olympic Games would not be successful unless they could put on what my nan used to call a full spread. You have to be able to fully stage the Paralympic Games also.

Whether we see a slightly scaled down version of the games or not, it won’t stop Channel Four in their relentless crusade to promote disability sport while driving an enormous wedge between elite athletes and people who work in….say…..universities at the same time. Channel Four’s insistence on referring to the competing athletes as ‘The Superhumans’ in the promos is something way beyond hyperbole. It has left hyperbole at the door and gone out on the lash to a strip club with Inspiration Porn. Paralympic athletes are not Superhuman at all. Rather, they are elite athletes who have devoted their recent history to mastering their chosen sport in the pursuit of glory. I don’t know, because the closest I ever got to Paralympic sport was being benched in the Great Britain under 23 team for a bloke who had ambled in from the athletics track outside, but knowing a few people who are or have been Paralympic athletes I wouldn’t mind betting that they would prefer to be seen as athletes rather than a group of bionic superheroes recently bitten by spiders or blasted off dying planets towards Earth by Marlon Brando. Ask your dad.

Look, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m all for the promotion of disability sport and will be as hooked as the next person when the live coverage gets underway in September. I just think that more and more now, in the eyes of the media a disabled person is either an all-conquering superhero or they are an undateable sub-species who, bless them, need that extra £30 per week that IDS is using to pay for his second home because they can’t be expected to earn their own living. There is no in between with labelling of this nature and it is utterly unhelpful for those of us who are just ordinary members of the public who happen to have a disability.

Not that we don’t get a taste of what it feels like to be seriously over-rated also. Inspiration Porn is part of life for us all. There are people who don’t mind telling you that your getting out of bed that morning and managing to avoid a trip to Dignitas is an act of heroism deserving of a day out at the palace with Her Maj. It’s brilliant what we do, you know, that breathing in and out 24 hours a day thing? Yet in many ways this Inspiration Porn serves only to illustrate to us normal crips out there what little is expected of us. If only we could be more like that David Weir, a photograph of whose dinner once amassed 635 Facebook likes. But we can’t because he’s Superhuman.

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