There is a crude, unthinking sports fan who confuses the human lottery with virtue; who worships a Bolt or a Phelps because they are big and physically impressive; or who thinks that Australian or British sportspeople are inherently "better". Why waste time talking about it? Because it's exactly the same kind of stupidity that denigrates other people because they happen to have been born with physical palsy or a learning disability, or to have had a car accident that resulted in both legs being amputated.See, we shouldn’t have cheered for Mo Farah, because it makes us more likely to go out and tip a disabled man out of his wheelchair.
I think that’s what she’s saying, anyway.
… the Paralympics may be morally more important than the Olympics. For the stupid adoration of people because of their physical luck has as its flip side the stupid ridiculing or hostility to people because of their disabilities. In essence, it's the same thing. The comedian's vile insult, the punch at a bus-stop, the schoolboy mockery of wheelchair-users are all failures of empathy – failures to see the people who are actually there.Ah. Yes, idiotic as it might sound, that is indeed what she’s saying.
And in Britain, at least, this is the time to worry. Official government figures show that the number of disability hate crimes reported to the police in England and Wales has reached a record high – there were some 1,942 last year.Have they indeed?
So what's going on?Well, it’s simple. For one thing, we’re recording them as such now, whereas before they would have simply gone down as crimes against the person (which, since you seem to dislike the use of labels, I’d have thought you’d be in favour of?).
For another, victims have realised that there’s an advantage to be had in claiming to have a ‘high profile’ crime, so it wouldn’t surprise me one little bit if a disability is claimed as the reason for a crime, when it may not have been the case at all.
Charities believe it must be linked to the rise in "scrounger" rhetoric by ministers, and the suggestion that huge numbers of people are dishonestly claiming benefits.Of course they believe that. Given the alternative…
And because there are always a few bad apples, it is an addictively easy blame game. Yes, there are idle people with disabilities. Yes, there are crooks who happen to be partially sighted. It's the same with those who aren't disabled … except that they are a little harder to pick out, and pick on.If you think people are more sympathetic to able-bodied criminals and benefit cheats, you really haven’t read many local newspapers…
As the Paralympics will remind us, there's a vast range of disability, and it's people with learning disabilities who are most at risk. According to the Papworth Trust, 90% of them report being bullied, with a third saying it happens every week or every day. These are the people at the sharpest end of the fear and insecurity that comes with hard times. What's happening to them is the latest episode in the sad saga of discrimination of old: "they're the same" – all black, gay or Jewish people. It's seeing the label, not the person.Oooh, a Godwin!
Mostly, in modern Britain, we've moved beyond this. Mostly, but not quite. That's why the Paralympics matters so much.Yes, to avoid labelling which leads to thinking of people as different we should have a great big separate event, exclusively for the disabled.
And not mention Oscar Pistorius. Not once.