What the Paralympics Taught Us

Wheelchair Rugby (google images)

Disabled sports are hardly ever advertised or televised and it is generally assumed someone with a disability cannot partake in the same activities as everyone else. As we are all now aware this could not be further from the truth. Wheelchair basketball is one of the most violent mainstream sports, rivalled only by wheelchair rugby. I cannot think of any other instance where a disabled person is left to fend for themselves after being knocked out of their wheelchair.

You watch with awe as these athletes pushing themselves to the limit, not just to prove to the world they are as capable, if not more capable than most of their able-bodied peers, but to explore the limits of the human body.

We were watching the blind football, where the crowd has to remain perfectly silent unless a goal is scored so the players can hear the soft jingle of the ball. It was truly amazing. I can’t kick a ball when I can see the thing let alone have such ball control as these athletes did – and they can’t see a thing!

To me, and every other able-bodied person, it is almost inconceivable that the achievements attained by the Paralympic teams are possible. In some ways I believe they deserve more recognition than the Olympians since they overcome barriers which without their drive and determination would see them struggling to survive in our cut-throat modern society.

Ellie Simmonds – Paralympic swimmer (google images)

Not only do these Paralympic games teach the world that disability or illness should never stop you from reaching your dreams, they have provided an excellent block upon which foundations of understanding can be built. I agree that there are some things about disability which should never be said, but sometimes political correctness goes to far and prevents able-bodied people from accepting the disabilities of others and treating them as ‘normal’ human beings in fear of offending. I’m sure, in reality, that those with disabilities would much prefer their status as ‘wheelchair user’ or ‘MS patient’ etc does not define their identity. They are so much more than their disability and the Paralympic games have opened a gate for true acceptance, respect and unity.

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Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

After watching Jon Richardson’s programme on channel 4 about living with OCD I wondered how common it is. I mean, sometimes little things annoy me or something has to be done in a particular way. For instance, if the teaspoons aren’t all facing the same way in the drawer and I have to eat all the foam off the top of a mocha or cappuccino before drinking it (do you eat or drink foam?). But this isn’t OCD, sure I get annoyed if my morning routine is interrupted but I move on, I can forget about it and enjoy the rest of my day. For others though, this isn’t an option. It’s either their way or no way.

What surprised me is how much of an effect this has on people’s lives. Missing all the cracks on a pavement is livable, might slow you down a bit but that’s all. One teenager has to tap the door frame twice on both sides when he walks through a doorway. What does he do for lifts? Automatic doors? He’s 16, been doing this since he was six and it’s only getting worse with little habits appearing for every action most people would do without thinking, like pouring a drink.

Why doesn’t he just stop? I hear you ask. It has no real influence and he knows it’s irrational, but it has to be done.

Another woman is practically housebound due to an obsession with cleaning, when she’s not cleaning she’s planning on what to clean, how to clean it etc by making extensive, detailed lists.

OCD is ruining people’s lives, it’s a killer. It’s a real issue, not a joke or something to be taken lightly. Lots of people say “I have OCD about this”; “I have OCD about that”, when really it’s not OCD at all, not in the real sense.

People with OCD can move up and down the scale, usually it’s triggered by stress. Anxiety over career, bullying or other uncontrollable health issues. However, some believe it can be genetic. This could be both nature (biology) or nurture (growing up around it and developing you own ‘tics’ or ‘quirks’). One mother, unable to bring up her son due to OCD, has to live with the knowledge that OCD was passed onto her son, who committed suicide as he impulses stopped him from doing anything, all he could do was pace backwards and forwards.

Jon Richardson was told he does not have OCD by an expert at Bath University. For this he feels extremely lucky, he has obsessive compulsive order, not disorder. He knows his ‘quirks’ reassure him, give him a little control, but he does not become too distressed if things aren’t ‘right’.

Living with OCD must be hard, it affects people’s lives and those around them, just as much as any other illness. If someone has OCD telling them to stop won’t help, it might even make it worse as they worry about their compulsions and impulses. OCD is treatable and people can move down the scale as well as up, all is needed is support and guidance, and the end to the stigma this very real illness holds.

Equal Pay

Gilles Simon commented last week at Wimbledon that women shouldn’t get paid the same as men in prize money. This was firmly rebuked by the female players and sparked discussions in the commentary box as the male ex-players backed away from accusing females, afraid to state that, ‘yes, in fact, we do play more sets, our matches do last longer. This guy has a point.’ In a poll conducted by the Guardian, 77% of people thought women should be paid less than men.

Another argument against equal pay is that because of the length of the mens matches it is extremely unusual for the top players, or at least those expecting to enter the second week, do not play doubles as well as singles. Whereas, the women find it easier to do both, and so can collect doubles and singles reward money. I remember a couple of years ago the Williams sisters played together in the doubles finals and against each other in the doubles. It is hard to imagine the men doing the same, and not only because it must be hard to face your sister acroos the court after being a team only the day before. Even the greats like Nadal, Federer or Djokovic would struggle imensley under the pressure of five set matches in both singles and doubles.

However, saying all this, equal reward money should be given as the women play just as good tennis and play, if not equally as long, equally challenging matches. Also, they have the same expences, the same committments to family and so deserve to be paid the same. Personally, I think that in this day and age, stating women shouldn’t recieve equal pay is an outdated, pointless, not to mention sexist, move.

Seven Pounds: Will Smith

“In seven days God created the world. And in seven seconds I shattered mine.” – Seven Pounds (2008)

Yesterday my brother was doing his PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) homework and said he needed a film which had moral implications. After suggesting Seven Pounds and trying to remember what exactly what happened we decided to put it on.

Will Smith stars as Ben Thomas, a man who is trying to redeem himself after causing a terrible catastrophe, ruining several lives. He chooses seven people who he believes deserve a second chance and plans to help them. However, after developing feelings for one girl, whose life is in the balance, he must decide whether he should reveal his secret or continue with his original intentions.

The first time I watched it, Seven Pounds was a bit confusing as the scenes flashed between Ben’s life before and after the accident. At the time, as I remember it, it wasn’t clear what had happened to cause the torrent of guilt and the drive for redemption, however, it remained a powerful and moving experience as the story becomes apparent by the end.

This film certainly shows Will Smiths’ acting at its best, he displays real emotion for each decision he makes and causes the audience’s emotions to fly with him. Though Seven Pounds is not a happy film, it ends on a joyful, inspiring and hopeful note as Ben succeeds in bringing new life and opportunities for the chosen seven.

As well as being an excellent film, Seven Pounds is also a thought-provoking experience as it raises questions and moral issues over who has the right to decide who deserves life, death or a second chance. Ben Thomas tests his chosen seven to see if they are kind enough to be worthy of his help, but should that really be his decision? Who is he to condemn a person to a life of poor health just because there is someone else who he sees as a more worthwhile subject?

Anyway, moral issues aside Seven Pounds is an absorbing, captivating film; perfect for an afternoon with your feet up. My advise would be to watch it with a comforting cup of tea and a box of tissues.

Disappointed Expectations

It’s very easy to find reviews of new films, music and books, but, and I don’t know if anyone agrees, I enjoy looking for good ones that I may have missed two years, or even ten years, ago. However, information on these can be hard to find and unless I just wander into a shop and pick out random films/books/cds I never know how to choose (especially as some turn out to be rubbish and a waste of money). Whether this fondness for things out-of-date is because of new ones being too much and I’m a poor student with no money, or whether it’s due to previously seeing/reading/hearing something that had such a big hype and being disappointed, I don’t know.

For instance, one of my friends recently got round to seeing ‘The Social Network’ (a little late I know), which I haven’t seen but want to when I get time, and he says that although it was worth seeing, he wouldn’t go out and buy it. This makes me wonder where all the hype came from, and if my friend would’ve enjoyed it more if he saw it without hearing all of the raving reviews, which probably boosted its image too much.

Also, I find I like the anticipation of picking up a book or film which I’ve never heard of or has been recommended, but isn’t so much in the public eye, and being allowed to make my own judgements without having dictated expectations or opinions thrust upon me.

Do you find hyped-up films often fall short? Do you agree that sometimes you enjoy the more unknown as it gives you freedom to form your own conclusions without external influence?