The perfect gift

I thought of the perfect gift for you this year. I thought I might give you time. What could be more precious? Better yet, I had loads of it. ‘There’s no present like the time, so that is what I’ll do’, I vowed to myself. ‘I’ll do that right away, mark it in the diary for next Tuesday.’

But time’s a passing thing, and Tuesday came and went. So did March, and July and September, and 2010 and 11 too. I spent so much of it, in truth, that before I noticed, it had all flown. I didn’t have time to be concerned though. You were four now, and the things I’d written about you, just weeks earlier when you were two, were still barely dry on the page. I was sure I’d had time to spare, an endless supply, but each tick of the clock was a grain of sand, crashing to the bottom of an hourglass that nobody tells you is there.

I frittered it away, too many evenings, too many days, on the things we have to do to get to the things we want to do. Time is money, but money takes time, and between you and me it took a whole lot of mine.

I can see it now, great big heaps of it, all in the rear view mirror. Up ahead there’s fog, and I’ve no way of knowing how much time there is. More for you than for me, I suspect, and I rejoice in that, although it makes me uneasy too. Your knack of slowing things down, of making me look at things that nobody else sees, maybe next year I’ll learn how to do that.

Next year I’ll give you more time. Next year I’ll spend it on you.

Roses are blue. It's time to smell them.


The Assassination of Down Syndrome by the Coward Ricky Gervais

‘Monged up’ Gervais.

‘When I use a word,’ Ricky Gervais said, in rather a scornful tone,
‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

So stand up, you, child with intellectual disability and mud on your hands and tears on your dirty face, and do stop making a fuss. Mr Gervais clearly didn’t mean you. And if those other children pushed you to the ground and shouted Mong! at you, it’s hardly the fault of one of the most successful English entertainers of the last fifteen years, is it? No it is not.

Because when he calls people monglets it’s ironic! This is a man with a stellar career. He’s worked with Samuel L Jackson, for God’s sake! Next you’ll be saying that selling millions of box sets of The Office gives Mr Gervais some sort of sway with the impressionable public who, let us all be crystal clear here, are quite capable of deciding who’s a mong and who’s a retard or a spazz, thanks. And anyway, the other kids were at least including you in their activities, no?

Honestly. There’s no pleasing some people.

Yes. Get over it. You don’t see all the gays standing around with dull looks of incomprehension, wondering what’s going on and why they’re being victimised, do you? And it’s not because they can’t go on about it. Christ, the gays LOVE to talk! Nobody can out-talk Graham Norton! But they know it’s not all about them. No homo isn’t saying, like, no to homosexuality. It’s an in-joke, see.

Here we go. I can tell I’m going to have to explain every single thing in this one. The gays are getting on with it. Why can’t you mongs get that? And no, I don’t mean people with Down syndrome. I have friends, some of my best friends, who have Down syndrome. Plus too, this isn’t some bandwagon Mr Gervais has suddenly jumped on. He mentioned mong in his Science DVD, and he even explained there that he doesn’t mean Down’s Syndrome. See?

Really you should be grateful. The more the great Mr Gervais popularises the word, the less power it will have in precisely this situation. He’s doing you a FAVOUR, Down syndrome people. If you weren’t a- if only you hadn’t an intellectual disability you might’ve saved everybody a lot of trouble by figuring that out for yourself.

As it is, the PC brigade has come running. Typical. Bloody Richard Herring. Clueless tool. You lot just don’t get that everyone does it. It’s NOTHING to do with Down syndrome. And the extremist idiot cretins who keep mentioning suicide and abuse of people who have intellectual disability, why do they insist on coming up with this rubbish and then bringing it back to someone who has a huge following and is very successful and has worked with Larry frigging David, ffs? How could the two be related AT ALL?

Mr Gervais is shining a spotlight on the ridiculousness of this PC nonsense. He only ever says mongol to explain that mong isn’t related to mongol, which is a word he would never use. Besides, if for one second anyone could show a link to the popularising of abusive hate language and abuse suffered by people with disability would instantly change things.

If you were to say, just go with us here for a minute of hypothetical indulgence, suppose you were to say that South Wales Police figures show there were 379 reported disability hate crimes in 2010/11, an increase of 214 on the the previous year, well that might be something. But it’s not going to happen because clearly it’s UNrelated.

And besides, it’s Wales.

Ricky Gervais is straight down the line. He has shown respect for nobody, equally, and you’d do well to bear that in mind. He’s torn strips off 84 year old Hugh Hefner. He’s ripped into Hollywood stars. He’s lampooned the holocaust. He’s worked with Kate Winslet, for the love of Christ. What sort of unequal signal would it send out if he started treating people with intellectual disability as if they were somehow different?

Not his style. He is honest. If you can’t take that, do as so many of his loyal fans suggest. Don’t listen. How can it hurt if you just change channels? You won’t have to hear what he’s saying, or what his millions and millions of catch-phrase loving fans will be repeating. Simple, simpleton.

Why SHOULD he apologise? He’s got 450, 000 followers on Twitter alone, and they understand exactly what his high ideals are on this matter. This is a man who has worked with Robert de Niro. If Mr Gervais says Susan Boyle looks like a mong well then I’m at a loss to understand how you could take that up wrong. She just needed a makeover and a bit of a do. Crikey, I hope I don’t get stuck in a lift with you any time soon because it already sounds like your jokes will be TERRIBLE.

But still, the streets are lined with the haters, jealous of the Gervais Midas ways with words. No matter. As the man himself has said, ‘two mongs don’t make a right’ (please don’t make an association there with Down syndrome: there clearly is none). It’s easy to forget that he didn’t have to have a character in a wheelchair in The Office. But he did it. No word about that now though, oh no, Nicky Clark. Now it’s all ‘Ooh you can’t say that’, and ‘What would Richard Herring say?’ Who cares what Richard Herring would say? I mean, look at what he says on his blog:

I am not offended by Ricky “reclaiming” the word “mong” (though I don’t think it’s his position to attempt this), I just think it’s a bit odd and pathetic to be doing what he’s doing and I don’t agree that the word is harmless. But no one is trying to ban anything – I have used the word “mong” in this blog (oh, I’ve done it again). And as I’ve also said there’s loads of comedy in disability and our attitudes towards it. But ironically enough, by Ricky’s 300,000+ followers taking his lead and using the word against people (including me today) they are demonstrating why it is misguided of him to use the word in the first place. I don’t think he has found a way to make it mean something different, but his fans definitely haven’t (here’s the latest example – “Who the hell is Richard Herring? I’d call him a mong, but I don’t want to insult mongs!! :-)” – is that man using “mong” to mean something other than disabled? Don’t think so). And the term is suddenly proliferating, which is making life uncomfortable for the disabled people I have been in contact with. Which seems a shame. I guess having done these two Objective shows on the golliwog and the wheelchair has made me more acutely aware of how these names affect people.

What. A. Mong. (No disablist.) Richard ‘Softie’ Herring has quite clearly never co-starred with Orlando Bloom in ANYthing. Also, Ricky loves his fans. Really loves us. How could you, whining on and on about being PC, possibly hope to understand real love? Have YOU worked with Ben Stiller?

I did not think so.

Update: Gervais replies to Nicky Clark following her emotional reaction on a BBC radio show. I can’t hear it in Ireland, unfortunately, but maybe you can. It’s here.

And thanks for a link to a more reasoned response, from comedian Robin Ince here, thank you Moloch50.

SNAs: sacrificing the neuro-atypical

Disclaimer: I am not in a good mood with the people driving the bus. If you’d prefer sunshine right now, maybe come back another time.

It’s a big, scary world when you’re a little person. Things just are. They’ve always been. They don’t change. Big people know best and must be trusted. Daddy’s hand and mummy’s arms are the safest places in the world.

Occupy Wall Street for as long as you like. Just don’t get cocky.

If you’re lucky, you get to hold on to that trust for a few years. You get your disappointments handed to you in bearable increments. You might even get to sensible, middle-classed middle age before you get the shock of being arrested for peaceful, legal protest in the land of the free. in your home town, as Naomi Wolf was in New York last night. ‘…if DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] now has powers to simply take over a New York City street because of an arrest for peaceable conduct by a middle-aged writer in an evening gown, we have entered a stage of the closing of America, which is a serious departure from our days as a free republic.’ Lucky you, Naomi, in one bitter sense, that you got quite so long out of the illusion. Don’t worry. You’re certainly not alone. We’re through the looking glass with you.

Kicking our SNAs out with the baby

Closer to home Anonymous Writer, posting on The Anti Room, is under no illusion as to what his or her son is losing now that the IMF, ECB and EU are telling us in Ireland what to do but not how to do it. The how we’ve been figuring out ourselves. Special Needs Assistants are being sacrificed, and the needs of the most vulnerable among us are being stripped to show what they are: expendable fringe elements. The autism, dyspraxia, severe receptive language issues, below-average IQ, motor issues and assorted other issues that Anonymous’s 15-year old son must live with, and take the scorn of his classmates for, are first on the forgettable list when it comes to squaring our debt with our external corporate masters. In his parent’s words,

But credit where it’s due. Well done Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs, Christine Lagarde, Jean-Claude Trichet and all the rest. You’ve taught our son a good lesson: divide and rule is a tried and trusted strategy. It allows you to slink out the door with all the world’s wealth while ever-willing, ingratiating foot-soldiers at the coalface get on with finishing your dirty work for you. (Funny how those foot soldiers are never in short supply, isn’t it?)

Anonymous has no doubt been keenly aware of the imbalance in life for quite some time. Speaking of foot soldiers, it doesn’t exactly give me a warm glow inside to know that our Finance Minister Michael Noonan, a man in his seventies, can mug for the cameras today and grin like a well patted monkey and tell us that the overlords will be pleased to announce tomorrow that we’re doing ever so well in paying them huge sums of money, while back home our damaged kids, and the flimsy routes through life that we’ve been trying to construct for them, will somehow have to make do, because frankly they, like our old and our sick, are lessers. This is our Serengeti migration, folks, and devil take the hindmost. The government is doing well under difficult circumstances and we all have to make sacrifices and things are improving and blah blah bullshit. It won’t save the weakest ones. And if we’re to reach above ourselves for even the merest second, we’ll do it by holding out our hand to the weakest ones. And yes I’m biased, and yes I feel it all more keenly because I have a son with special needs, but the feeling of aloneness in the face of what you once simply trusted is no different that the lurching realisation that Naomi Wolf felt in her marrow yesterday when her police came to take her away for doing no wrong.

…unfortunately, my partner and I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007: first they come for the “other” – the “terrorist”, the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law.

So no, the trust is no more. The realisation that you have to fight for it all stays with you. And it makes you tired. You get inspiration and you find friends and you have brief moments when you can stop thinking about keeping the roof secure, whatever about the rattling windows, but what you do not want, what you absolutely cannot tolerate, is wanton cruelty from respected people in privileged positions. But that’s in the next post.

A girl speaks out for her brother about ‘retarded’

Thanks Regan. Your brother and you are clearly a wonderful pair of people. And thanks to Max’s mum for tweeting the link. Without whom etc. 🙂

Losing my religion, my Caitlin Moran and my Frankie Boyle

I struggle with many things. I ponder the existence of God. How can I square what worked once for me spiritually, but now no longer does, with the future? I wonder frequently about what I can give my children, that will be as decent and formative as doctrinaire Catholicism once was for me, yet never can be again. I knew a succession of priests throughout my education, and each of them was a decent, giving human being, but I’ve come to realise that this was not the case for many people of my generation, and, more shockingly, many since.

Yet they taught me, those priests of the 70s and 80s, and I think they mostly did a fine job of it. Paradoxically, they gave me enough rope to hang them with, and now that I’ve seen so many other men of the cloth swing, at least metaphorically, for the grave crimes they committed under cover of The Cloth, I feel cheated. Not necessarily by the decent men who taught me, but by the nonsense they themselves peddled, and allowed themselves to believe and pass on. Bad merchandise. The scandal of my religion teacher (Fr Lynch we’ll call him), leaving the priesthood for a woman is now, seventeen years later, one of the most honourable outcomes imaginable from that era. At least to me.

They burned something into me nonetheless, those fine and wasted men, and my mind’s eye wanders back now to every Sunday morning growing up in rural Cavan. To Henny Maguire, bouncing along the bog road morning at half past nine, en route to mass at the chapel. Mrs Henny sat on the wheelguard of the Massey Ferguson Twenty, shaken but immovable, while four or five or nine of the kids stood behind, swaying in the transport box towards another unheard sermon.

What drove them, beyond God’s diesel, to congregate so? Peer pressure? Was this just to be The Done Thing? The 1940s Catholic Ireland of Eamon de Valera and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid was a powerful regulator in the lives of most Irish people, rural and urban. My friend Rosita Boland wrote recently in the Irish Times about the simplicity and deception of our religious education. I say religious education, but I might as well say education on its own, so complete and pervasive was the extent of Catholic dogma in everything that we were taught. The cyphers of Catholicism demystified something ethereal, and built it into a national identity that was as much a statement of resistance to the oppressor and godless British as it was about anything connected to affairs of the spirit and life everlasting beyond the grave. My hero, the poet Patrick Kavanagh, railed against it at a time when to do so would cost you dearly, and he got neither respect nor reward for it until he was long gone to meet his maker. I take far more comfort from his confusion now than I do from going to a church to listen to a sermon I can give no credibility to.

And there is a generation of people like me. We came along at an unremarkable time, but by the closing of the 80s we were in new territory, both materially and spiritually. Confidence in ourselves was growing and we weren’t just going to transplant our way of life into the major Irish population centres of New York and Boston, London, Manchester and Birmingham. We were going to look outside our own. And when we were done, and the unexpected confusion of having money in our pockets awoke something unknown in us, things would never be quite the same. Mother Church, meantime (and never was the epithet Mother so damningly misapplied to a misogynistic monolith), was undergoing cataclysms of her own, and faith – and those who managed to hold on to it – took on an entirely new perspective, as trust lay in ruins and banks of expensive lawyers lined up to pay hush money to the people who had been most cruelly conned and abused by those we were taught to trust. All change.

From Rosita Boland's found catechism

And yet. And yet. I may be on a road to Damascus of my own, yet the eternal duality of all things remains unchallenged in my mind. Light must have its darkness, rain must have its drought, Jedi must have Sith and, it seems, our all-powerful Lord must, inexplicably, have this Devil that remains beyond His control. I come to believe now that duality is within all of us. If we remove the certainty, what is left is just life. And we must choose sides, as surely as Darth Vader and Lucifer and Judas did, and people will judge us for it without recourse to evidence or circumstance. That is the human way.

I still want to believe in the better natures of people, that we all strive towards the light, despite all the evidence that points to an untidy Manichean duality of balance. I am reminded of this necessity to choose sides on two counts on this beautiful, exultant June weekend in Dublin.

One is somewhat minor. A woman called Caitlin Moran, a journalist with The Times, has just published a book. About feminism. Quite good, judging by the opinions of some people I’d respect. But yet she sideswiped me, and possibly some of you, with casual cruelty. Anna Carey, reviewing her book, How to Be a Woman, says ‘It’s not all good, of course. Her description of her 13-year-old self as possessing “the ebullience of a retard” is ill advised, to say to the least (though she has since said she regrets using the word).’

Oh well. Long as she regrets it. I just thought, y’know, that Caitlin might have a small degree of that there wider view, seeing as she was writing from the perspective of a put-upon subset within society. But that’s my stupid fault, for still expecting some establishment, be it church or architecture of information like The Times, to act in a trustworthy way. You are welcome, Ms Moran, to come along and comment. I do not rush lightly to judgement, and if I do so incorrectly I am man enough to own up.

It pales into insignificance beside the other example however. That idiot Frankie Boyle, already on the most gobshite list, has been offensively bullying people with special needs again. This time it’s the son of Katie Price, a woman of sufficient backbone and public profile to give him what for, but why he should continue to reveal conversely just how spineless he is plain mystifies me. Katie Price’s son Harvey has Prader Willi syndrome. Here’s your starters on Prader Willi, plenty enough to be getting on with.

It causes poor muscle tone, low levels of sex hormones and a constant feeling of hunger. The part of the brain that controls feelings of fullness or hunger does not work properly in people with PWS. They overeat, leading to obesity.

Babies with PWS are usually floppy, with poor muscle tone, and have trouble sucking. Boys may have undescended testicles. Later, other signs appear. These include

  • Short stature
  • Poor motor skills
  • Weight gain
  • Underdeveloped sex organs
  • Mild mental retardation and learning disabilities

There is no cure for PWS. Growth hormone and exercise can help build muscle mass and control weight.

So why would a ‘comedian’ feel it a good idea to pick apart someone’s personal life in order to abuse her nine year old son, who has plenty enough to deal with? One of the less nasty things he said was that she and her ex-husband Peter André would fight over custody of Harvey.  ‘Eventually one of them will lose and have to keep him.’ He said worse. She outlines them here.

Frankie Boyle, to go for the cheap shot, is as his name suggests. An inflamed and pustulating swelling on the skin, causing massive irritation. He has angered me before, not because I am an easy mark, but because those he targets specifically are. He is a weakness in the human DNA chain, and I do not ever wish to meet the spineless excuse for a man, because if I do it will involve a day in court.

In the meantime, I shall ponder the existence of a just God, one who would allow such patent uselessness to exist in a realm of infinite possibility. And apologies to you all for such a meandering and incoherent post. Next time I’ll just smack the ugly bastard in his ugly bastard mouth.