London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius

As a Londoner I almost feel obliged to write something about the London 2012 Olympics. My topic? Oscar Pistorius.

There was an article on him in the telegraph that gives you a fair amount of background on him if you are interested beyond what I am going to outline.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/athletics/9452280/London-2012-Olympics-Oscar-Pistorius-finally-runs-in-Games-after-five-year-battle.html

Oscar Pistorius is a South African athlete who uses blade prosthetic legs to run. There was much debate over these biometric legs as some claimed that they gave him an advantage against other runners, leading to Oscar being disqualified from competing 5 years ago. However, it has since been proved that this is not the case and he is now able to compete again.

So this blog was inspired by a conversation a group of us had at a bbq when we were watching the race. There were several people who thought that he should not be competing in the Olympics as he was not ‘able bodied.’ They also thought that he should most definitely not be competing in both the Olympics and the Paralympics, claiming that you are either ‘able bodied’ or ‘not able bodied’ – you can’t be both. However, there was another side to the argument, several argued that it was good that he could compete and that he has proved that he is able bodied through his ability to run, furthermore, the blades give him no advantage so why shouldn’t he compete?

My opinion falls definitely in the latter. I think that it is a fantastic achievement that he fought to compete and has managed to do so, and not only that but make it to the final of the 400 metres as well. Personally, I think that his competing pushes the boundaries as to what we view as ‘normal’ and makes us think beyond the confines of the box that tradition draws out for us. Why shouldn’t we, with the plethora of technology we have available to us, take full advantage of it and let people compete in the way they wish. After all, Oscar has had to work extremely hard, if not harder than the other athletes to reach the stage that he is at now. I don’t know much about the physiological side of running but I would imagine that it puts more pressure on his other muscles as he has no calf muscles to take on the strain.

Therefore, I argue that Oscar should be able to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. It is narrow minded, I would say, to argue that we are defined by only one thing. Surely, we have progressed more as a society to be able to see round corners rather than just in a straight line.

Oscar has also brought the plight of the disabled and has shown that you can lead a fantastic and fulfilled sporting life despite a disability to the world wide stage, raising awareness across the globe. This is a priceless feat, one that should be commended rather than criticised.

Reform needed: UK benefit system


So I heard a story today about how the recent cuts to the benefit system have affected a friend of my Aunt’s. This woman is severely disabled. So much so that she is not only confined full time to a wheelchair but cannot push herself in it and is not capable of lifting herself onto the toilet without a hoist. She has such an immense amount of problems that even I can’t explain. Her benefits have been cut because the UK government has for some incomprehensible reason decided that she is actually competent to work. This is a woman who, if she could actually gain employment in the current economic situation, with the lack of experience that she now has for being out of the workplace for so long, wouldn’t be able to access to the toilet while she was at work. Quite frankly, I think that is degrading and ridiculous. This woman has 4 children who she has to support and their father is no longer living with them. So the government now expects her to work, look after herself when she is severely disabled and to parent her children.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cuts, I don’t believe we can continue to work efficiently with such a large amount of debt and matters definitely need to be taken into hand. Yet, these kind of cuts that have life changing consequences to the truly vulnerable in our society, for whom the benefit and welfare system was set up to protect, seems utterly irredeemable. The local MP in our area even got involved to try to prevent her benefits being cut, the outcome to this is still unclear, yet I still cannot believe that the system our government has put in place has led to this situation in the first place.

It seems to be that MPs seem to make decisions that affect people without fully thinking through the consequences of their actions, either that, or they are no long able to fully relate to the issues that face citizens today.

Of course, there are two ends of the spectrum to the benefit system. You have situations such as this where benefits are clearly and obviously needed. However, you then get the over claiming of benefits when they are not truly needed. I’m not an expert on benefit fraud but I do know that it happens, I think that it is probably over-exaggerated by news outlets but I still think that it is something that needs to grind to a fast and resonating halt.

I can’t believe and I don’t want to believe that this is the best we can get from our government and society. I look back in history at how far the UK, and other countries for that matter, have progressed and hope beyond hope that these advancements will continue. It doesn’t have to be fast but I need to see it happening to continue to have faith in my government and civilisation. I hope that benefit fraud will stop as people realise how immoral it is and how it negatively affects others, however, I’m aware that this is probably too hopeful.

A system that has to cater for a whole country is never going to perfect. But surely there is a better, more efficient and worthwhile approach for all that can be taken here. I’m not a believer in standing by and just dealing with what we get given. We elect our government to represent us, it becomes invalid if it’s not achieving what we want and desire, within the remits of what is possible of course, I don’t expect miracles!