Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Disclaimer: For a while, what felt like a long while, but which was actually short by comparison, I thought I was going to need a wee bit of superhuman help myself as my legs took on a bit of a life of their own, wouldn't go the way I wanted them to go, went dead randomly, and frequently resulted in my not being able to walk if I did something as stupid as stop in one place too long.

I'm okay now. (I'm not but we'll pretend I am, as I am mostly, enough for no one else to ever notice)

I'd like to say that that experience opened my eyes to the frustrations of the unpredictability of your body always working when you asked it to. That I'd never noticed disabled people before that. But I'd be lying. What actually happened was that Channel 4 did a proper job of broadcasting the Paralympics in Beijing and I was hooked. That's what actually happened. Then I went to the velodrome in Manchester to watch some racing and saw one of the most fragile looking people I'd ever seen tear the track up.

Or maybe some of it is a healthy dose of wake up call.

What's interesting is that my experience is not the other 2,999,999 people who've bought Paralympic tickets experience.

What's even more interesting is the stealth marketing campaign we are all being subjected to. Because make no mistake about it, when it's a broadcaster driving a narrative, one must assume it is a marketing campaign in order to drive audiences to satisfy stakeholders that bidding for the rights to the Paralympics was worth it and not out of some sort of social responsibility. Though I'd like to think there was a wee dose of that among some of the decisions which have been made.


It makes me think of the augmented physicality of Oscar Pistorius. It makes me think about achieving magnificent things in the face of adversity.

That's not the story I'm hearing from the athletes themselves, however. Instead, I hear conviction that disability has unlocked something that was there but was not needed, or was there but never acknowledged, or was there but was buried. That for those who have become disabled in the time their memories were awake, it is not a case of exist, it is a case of exist, deal, assimilate and then continue, but with eyes on goals and new found determinations and passions awakened.

But we shouldn't forget that the journey can be difficult. We shouldn't forget the darkness and sadness that comes from losing what you were so used to having. Melanie Reid has been writing a visceral and sometimes tear inducing column for The Times for some time now as she documents her recovery from an accident involving her horse which has left her paralysed. We should not forget that to be #superhuman is not to simply achieve physically. It is to be where Melanie is, to hurt and feel destroyed and then to somehow move past that.

Now, some people move quick and some people move slow. Some people channel anger and some people need to deal with it. And I disclaimer all of this as I have never felt these emotions except in perhaps fleeting moments, so I assume. I jump to conclusions, and they may be wrong.

But it feels really important to me to not assume that someone like Melanie is a failure because she is not in a wheelchair flinging herself around a court with her elbows out. And on the flipside it's really important not to assume that those who do, have not been down incredibly painful paths to go there. And yet again, to not assume that they have.

Because, you see, disability is not a brush with only one pot of colour. There are people in those wheelchairs, in those pools and on those courts. Amazing people. Magnificent people. Awe inspiring people. But they're people.

Tomorrow, any one of us could find ourselves in a similar position.

So I don't think we should necessarily cling to the #superhuman tag too hard. I think we should celebrate all people for who they are and what they achieve, despite of something or because of something with one tag, and one tag only.


Isn't it flipping ace, this being human thing?

No comments:

Post a Comment