Days After

As the reality of the UK’s vote to leave the EU sinks in, I’m left comparing my feelings on four very different ‘days after’…

Obama’s first victory in the US Presidentials: I walked a full foot taller. Proud of America. Looking at passers-by: smiling and feeling we all felt a foot taller because America had done this. For all its racism and inequality America had elected the most amazing man – who was also an amazing black man – as its president; and in so doing took the world to a new place. Everything is possible and we all have a say. PROUD


The riots of 2011: blazing buses and rioters at the end of my street; on one hot sticky evening it felt like we were all barrelling out of control. A ‘towering inferno’ that was just one blazing furniture shop, dominated the world news. Hardly Mogadishu, but a day when our society wobbled, people became frightened and frightening and entropy reigned over order. ASHAMED.


London 2012 Paralympics: a month on from the amazing 2012 Olympic opening ceremony our family day at the most amazing venues; beautifully, proudly and brilliantly British in design and execution. Exceeding anything I’d ever hoped or believed my country could do. Smiling volunteers, the kindly helpful lads of the British Army, fast transport, high spirits, even a McDonalds which hit a standard of service friendliness, warmth, welcome, inclusivity and diversity beyond our dreams. And then the ‘Superhumans’… Paralympians: recast as supremely able not disabled, all brought to life by our second great ‘for profit’ public service broadcaster: Channel 4. PROUD


Brexit: what have we done. How do I explain this to my children. How do I explain it to to people overseas I’ve lived among, cared for and kept in touch with; people who were yesterday fellow EU citizens and today feel we have made them foreigners. We used to share ‘Ode to joy’. Now I feel we on this island don’t deserve to feel a part of it. This ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is a small minded place; divided among ourselves and no more a part of a great unifying European enlightenment ideal. I believed in the EU’s motto that we could be ‘united in diversity’; and we all should be. We are now where we were in the 1700s: a backward, self-absorbed and ruddy faced caricature of ourselves. ASHAMED.

Relevant Complexity 6) Superhumans

ImageThe most moving thing I’ve seen in a long time is the Channel 4 ‘superhumans’ clip to preview the London 2012 Paralympics. Just watch it.

The music, the muscles, the missing limbs and pieces of bodies, the bomb, the womb, the car smash, the slap of the basket long shot. It’s stunning.

But the bit that chokes me up, is the lad in GB shirt number 5101 in the middle. He looks at you like he’s maybe not sure if you’re going to laugh at him, but the almost imperceptible smile suggests he’s starting to believe that after this Paralympics you never will again.

I’m proud of Channel 4 and the UK for taking the ‘dis’ out of disability. There are millions of people round the world who – like those in the video – have to be ‘superhuman’ in their daily lives. All with different stories and obstacles they overcome and some they can’t.

What a way to remind us there’s amazing relevant complexity in people – which we often demean as disability – that too often we, society, employers, even governments choose to look away from and ignore – instead of recognising it as superhuman.