Friday, 31 August 2012
And they’re off. To great acclaim and well-deserved applause the Paralympic Games are already bringing honour and glory to British athletes. And controversy; always the controversy.
The 1924 Paris ‘Silent Games’ evolved into the Deaflympics. Rehabilitative sports therapy spawned the Stoke Mandeville Games, with entrants in disabled and adaptive sports. And for those with intellectual needs the Special Olympics were created. Many of these movements have come together to form the modern Paralympic Games
As all the promotion has blazed, these are people who have overcome what most of us would regard as horrific handicaps to compete at international level with astonishing degrees of skill, strength, speed and determination. Which is where the controversy comes in; the games celebrate ability, not disability, yet they – as always – plunge us straight into a maelstrom of political correctness and wrong-thinking.
It's another of those subjects on which - as a white, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, working, educated, non-benefit-claiming taxpayer - I'm not allowed an opinion. Which is the only reason I can think of for all the opprobrium heaped on first Edwina Currie and then Frankie Boyle. The Thought Police are out in force.
Political capital is being made, with all sides laying special claim to the caring crown. And then there’s the language! Disabled, handicapped, crippled, challenged, differently-abled, person-with-disabilities… even to the extent of referring to the rest of us as ‘non-disabled’. I wonder if, when talking about birds we should refer to humans as un-flighted, or differently-winged?
The competitors, however they regard or refer to themselves, are of course in the minority. And such is our fear of appearing hurtful to minorities that we go out of our way to not only hamper our own language, but to suffer offence on their behalf, whether or not it is warranted. Free speech? Not bloody likely!
So, just for a while, can’t we shut the fuck up with the partisan bickering and not give a damn about what somebody we’ve already made up our minds about says (or doesn’t say) about a subject on which, almost all of the time, we have absolutely no opinion? Just get out your flags and wave!