Saturday, 29 December 2012

Teaching us a lesson

  © Copyright David Wright and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Taunton School in Somerset has decided to include anti-defamation lessons to it’s PSHE curriculum, in an effort to dissuade children from falling into the libel traps that seem to be an occupational hazard of Social media these days. Ironically as this is an independent school it will come in for a savaging of it's own based on only that fact, such is the febrile nature of social media at times.

I think that teaching caution is an excellent idea but wonder if more adults could benefit from this too.

I’m described charitably as an avid Tweeter and have been on the receiving end of Twitter savagings in the past. However the groups in possession of a loaded keyboard, weren’t children in need of an education. These were adults and the many and various ways in which they chose to “spread the word” about me ranged from suggestions as to my being  "dangerously" mentally ill,  to uninformed opinions as to my ability as a parent. 

Not forgetting some choice views on my looks and perceived intelligence.

I’ve also witnessed some pretty inflammatory savagings of public figures dragged writhing  and protesting into a twitchfork hounding, faster than you can say pause and reflect.

How are our children meant to learn appropriate behaviours online when their doting parents seem incapable of restraint, themselves? The answer it would seem is via school.

There are many great blogs out there suggesting caution whilst online and I have to agree with all of them.  My own feeling is that one crucial rule is necessary. Before you propagate any juicy titbit which may wreck a reputation, imagine how you would feel if it was you. It's a simplistic take but worth at least considering.

A quick scan of social media networks , demonstrate that telling the world about your fabulous life and denigrating others can be the toxic waste product of the information superhighway, which comes as a staple of life now. But is it any wonder that our young are less than mindful of the preferred method of expression when they Facebook friend or twitter follow Mum only to see her pedding celebrity gossip or joining in with attacking someone for not being “on message” zeitgeist wise or joining the mob attacking Twitter’s latest “villain”.

You can find and promote any link, clip, photo or embarrassing news story online and it’s exponential speed of mass contagion via social networks makes the noro-virus look pathetically slow by comparison.  A non story transmutes to a news story in less than an hour at times, such is the breath taking speed and ravenous hunger that is rolling news.

So yes on balance I think teaching anti-defamation in schools is an excellent idea and now that modern parenting does seem to comprise increasingly of learning from, rather than instruction of, our children, perhaps more of us might benefit from this valuable lesson.

Effectively it's teaching us the crucial and mutually beneficial skill of constructive compassion.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Assume the position

Copyright Bob Jones and licensed for reuse under thisCreative Commons Licence

This is Twitter on any given day. From rumour to fact in ten tweets.  These are fictious but  based on my experience and conversations I've witnessed.

Add in a couple of hundred RT's, reproducing exponentially to a couple of thousand and you're there. It's Twitter Norovirus releasing and spreading opinions and bile as fact. Just like with Norovirus the end phase is crap.

@Writer Just saw a woman in the supermarket, slap her child for asking for Chocolate. foul.

@Fan RT @Writer Just Saw a woman in the supermarket slap her child for asking for Chocolate. foul. #poor ? lol

@FanFollower Sorry but @Writer has no right to comment. Note the use of the word woman,  Heard  them “joke” about women before. #sexist

@FanFollowerFollower Oh my God.  It’s also sickening to see them using their pivilege like that. Some people are really struggling. #sexist #privilege

@FanfollowerFollower hey @HighlyReactiveFirestarter have you heard about @Writer ? Tweeting sexism and attacking the poor.

@HighlyReactiveFirestarter Typical I’ve also  heard they  used the word Chocolate? I think it’s fairly obvious the real agenda here #racist

@FanofHighlyReactiveFirestarter OH my god everyone get over to the AMAZING BRILLIANT and BRAVE @HighlyReactiveFirestarter Timeline NOW

@HighlyReactiveFirestarter Please Read/ RT my new blog “Why @Writer is worse than Hitler and how I hope this gets picked up by an online paper" 

@IdiotBystander I think we all owe a huge debt to @HighlyReactiveFirestarter for their blog on @Writer exposing sexist, racist, abuse of the poor.

@Writer Thanks for all the hundreds of tweets of abuse. I can’t be bothered to explain. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Meat is delicious... I mean murder.

Photo credit-
I've been a vegetarian now for almost a year. Yep for nearly a year I've not allowed the flesh of an animal to pass my lips. No bacon or pork or beef or anything with a face at all. Nope, Nada, nothing.
And it's all Rich Watt's bloody fault.

Last Decemberish I was on twitter and Rich posted that he'd accidentally left the gate at the side of his house open -like you do. Fortunately everything was fine but he'd been worried that the turkey might escape.

Aww I tweeted you've got a pet Turkey that's nice He tweeted back yes very nice, especially on Christmas day.

I replied 'please don't tell me you are going to eat your pet Turkey'. He replied that no he wasn't. He was however going to eat this turkey which he'd bought for Christmas.

I protested and he very reasonably asked me if I ate turkey at Christmas. I said yes, but not a running around Turkey, just a lump of generic cream coloured pinky stuff, in an aluminium dish, from the supermarket, which just happened to be called the same name as the winged, ugly, sentient creature. A vaguely pondered something-ness, which bore no relation whatsoever to an animal with feelings and faces and ...things.


Damn that OH. That oh made me think and think again and realise that I was an animal loving hypocrite. I can't kill a wasp or a spider. I was raging when a friend smacked Milly dog on the nose for sticking her snout in her crotch. I cried for three days when I had to hold Hamtaro our hampster as the vet put him down with a needle, which I have to tell you rendered him basically a furry kebab.

He had made a little scream which will stay with me forever. I still miss that little guy. He was the sweetest thing ever apart from 'forcing me' to take him to the vet when his testicles swelled to the size of walnuts and I'd thought he had cancer and the vet laughed and said "No he's just larger than your average Hampster in that department". 
There we were two middle aged women laughing about hampster testicles whilst a teenage boy on work experience, hovered in the background looking like he wanted to die.

Anyway my point is this- I was more than able to put all that to the back of my mind and chow down on a bacon sandwich before you can say PETA, because it tasted so good. I was weak and a hypocrite and I hate that.

So 1 did the only decent thing and that was to annoy my husband by announcing that on January 1st 2012 I would no longer be a meat eater.

Phil's response as with most of my "good" ideas was a muttered hmph. Followed by "I'm not bloody doing it".

"Nor me" said Liz "you're bonkers Mum"

I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't a ploy to show me the error of my resolution but last New years Eve Phil cooked every delicious type of animal corpse there is. There was also salad I think. I don't remember all the details because I was too busy eating my weight in dead animals to notice.

Anyway Auld Lang Syne came and went and I left 2011 and travelled into 2012 via a happy food induced sleep, full of the courage of my convictions. 

I did OK on balance.

Justin Moorhouse was brilliantly supportive on Twitter. A sort of vegetarian Obi one Kenobi to my wailing Chewbacca and so I began the year really well.

Then Lizzy and I went out for dinner with some friends. We'd neither of us been out anywhere for ages and we had a great time. Liz had been really nervous but had relaxed and had really enjoyed herself. It was only the next morning though when Phil asked me what I'd had to eat that I realised in all the anxiety, of going out, I'd forgotten something.

It was quite an important something if you're a vegetarian.

I'd had a steak sandwich.

It's probably significant that I'd only remembered, after I'd been asked, but as I say I'd had other things on my mind and to be fair it was at the top of the menu and it seemed a quick easy thing to remember. unlike my conviction to animal welfare apparently.

Anyway moving forward...My diet has pretty much made cheese, my dietary staple followed by bread. If I'm honest it's a combination of these two things that I'm to be found eating, on any given day. I've only been out for a meal once since steak sandwich yum-argheddon and instead of bread and cheese (in the form of a pizza) or bread and cheese (in the form of cheese on toast) or bread and cheese in the (form of vegetarian wraps) or bread and cheese (in the form of Quesadilla) I totally branched out and had the only vegetarian option on the menu. 

Bread and cheese in the form of Welsh Rarebit. Which as everyone knows is just a 'funny' way of saying cheese on toast. 

I have to tell you that the one thing I had hoped for didn't come true. Bacon and steak and chicken and beef and pork still smell absolutely amazing as they're cooking. No amount of pointing at the Sunday Roast and saying "I hope you're all enjoying your cooked animal corpse" can stop that. Mainly because Liz and Phil say "Yes delicious" but also because contrary to my best hopes it doesn't smell anything like stomach churning, cat food and dog food odours.

So as we're plodding towards my first meat free Christmas. I'm not overjoyed but I am still determined. They'll be Turkey and sausage meat stuffing and home made sausage rolls and salmon and cold cuts of meat and on and on and ....on.

I have to tell you now no matter how well intentioned, how ethically sound, or how delicious it will be, an impending nut roast is no substitute. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Disability Hate Speech Survey results.

Disability Hate Speech is more than just words, Hate Crime begins with Verbal Abuse

This is the response summary from my survey.

Respondants to the survey were divided into 3 groups

Disabled person-56.7%
Paid/family carer or friend. 36.1%
Not disabled/carer/friend 11.3%

Where did you experience disability hate speech?
84% of disabled people/carers have encountered hate speech in person
11.7% online
4.3% in the media (print ,radio, television or online)

How did it make you feel?
53.1% of disabled people /carers felt angry by the hate speech
19% felt helpless
15% felt hurt
8.2% accepted disability hate speech as a part of life

Did you misunderstand?
52% of disabled people and carers  encountering disability hate speech knew it was hate speech
27% thought the speaker was unaware that it was hate speech
14.4% thought it might be hate speech
4.1% wondered if it might be a joke
1% knew it was a joke

When did this happen?
27% of disabled people/carers has experienced hate speech in the last month,
23% in the last 6 months,
18.2% in the last week,
14.1% in the last year,
12% in the last 5 years
2% more than 5 years ago.
3 % have never encountered  disability hate speech.

Who should deal with disability hate speech?
37% of disabled people and carers feel that the responsibility for dealing with hate speech lies with individuals
35% feel it’s politicians
11.5% feel it's Newspaper/News outlet editors
9.4% feel it's parents
3% feel it's Broadcasters
3% feel it's Teachers

As a disabled person what happened to you?
30.6% of disabled people have encountered hate speech suggesting that they’re not actually disabled,
27% a mocking jibe/joke
18% a mocking epithet for disability used abusively,
14% an accusation that they were claiming unjustified benefits,
4% A threat to their personal safety
5.1% other

How did you react?
28% of disabled people encountering hate speech did not respond to the abuse.
26% were too upset/shocked  to respond.
22% responded calmly
7.3% were upset but attempted to respond
7.3% attempted to explain their disability
3.7% did not attempt to explain their disability
1.2% asked the speaker to stop.

As a friend or carer were you included?
56% of carers/friends of the disabled people targeted were included/verbally abused
43% of carer/friends were not included/verbally abused.

When you saw this happening to a disabled person what did you do?
25.9% of those witnessing disability hate speech did not respond to the abuse.
25.9% responded calmly
13.8% were too upset to respond
10.3% asked them to stop.
10.3 % responded angrily.
 8.6% attempted to explain the disability
5.2 % were upset but attempted to respond

NB-This survey had 140 completions

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Disability hate Speech Survey

I'm collating responses about disability hate speech and so I've created a short survey.

If you've experienced this as a disabled person, or carer then I would be very grateful if you could complete this short survey.

Click here to take survey

Many people use disability hate speech everyday, sometimes unthinkingly, sometimes not, but as there is currently no protection under the hate speech laws as they stand, as a crime in and of itself,  then the situation will continue unless addressed.

Free speech must be defended. All I'm asking for is an amendment to the current hate speech laws to ensure that disabled people, many of whom are the most vulnerable people in society, have same rights and protections as any other targeted group.

Currently they don't.

Very best,

Nik xx

Monday, 3 December 2012

A year on.

Emily aged 4
We're going to see Emmy this week. The school are having a christmas party and they invite the parents to visit and join in.

We haven't seen her for 9 weeks.

Emmy has settled in really well and is enjoying everything just as we hoped she would. She's learning and thriving and has managed the changes required of her with stoicism and with her usual charm. We're pleased of course and I have good days and bad days but I know that this was crucial if our hope for Emmy to have any kind of independence was to be realised.

She's doing well and we're really proud of her.

It's also the very first anniversary this week, of the day my Mum died. I still find it really hard to believe those words. No matter how many times I write them or say them, they still won't quite sink in.

Me (aged18months) and Mum. Chester zoo

When I was little on a Saturday we'd walk to the paper shop and Mum would buy her Cosmopolitan Magazine and I'd buy a comic and we'd sit together on the sofa silently reading.

I'd always lie with my head resting against her chest and I'd hear her hear beating and I'd worry that it would stop and she'd be gone. I'd chatter on like children do and she'd listen and answer me and then we'd read a bit more. It was in the days before my dad left the days before my brother died and I wonder now that I'm exactly the same age how she coped when everything fell apart. 

Where did her strength come form.

Were they just a different breed these women who were born before the war. Part human, part granite. uncomplaining, stoic, calmly centred and utterly capable. It makes me embarrassed that by comparison my worries are few and far between.

She travelled to Africa by ship, at a time when a woman travelling from a small Shropshire Village to another continent may well have announced she was moving to the moon.

She was 23.

Her mother, who she adored, took her to the station and stood and waited as her train left from the small platform. Watching her go for the last time, because my grandmother died two years later.

Mum with her mum on a weekend home from nurse training early 195O's

She missed her Mum as I miss mine. 

A year on from her dying is no easier than with every year that passed, post her diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Just because you part from them slowly, doesn't mean it's easier or any kind of relief when they leave you absolutely.

It's just a blink of an eye when you compare it to the life of the Universe, but to have been loved well, leaves an indelible mark on all future relationships. It's the flipside to the damage done by those who parent badly.

I hope I'm the mother to my children, that my mother was to me and her mother was to her. I hope too that I was the daughter that my mother deserved. The debt of real love can never be repaid, because it's repayment is never sought. How can checks and balances feature in something unquantifiable.

I doubt I'll feel future anniversaries as acutely as the first because of the healing properties of the passage of time, but for now I do.