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.

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.

My thoughts: UK benefit system

So no, I’m not going to obsessively and solely write about the UK’s benefit system, it’s just something that has gotten under my skin in the last few days.

I remember back when I was 15 having a passionate discussion with my dad about how the benefit system should be structured. This basically revolved around who should get which benefits. I was told by my dad that I was extremely right wing, at the time I had absolutely no idea what that meant, and I still don’t think I fully understand the implications. People tell me that students are mainly left wing, and that if you’re right wing when you’re young then you never get out of it. I can’t see how that is a bad thing, it’s my opinion and surely everyone is entitled to their own perspective? I wouldn’t say I’m right wing about everything; I have extremely liberal views about many other matters, particularly abortion and sexuality.

Anyway, moving on from labelling my political views, onto my thoughts on the benefit system. I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of expert on the various benefits that are available and how they work, but I do have some idea and I’m basing my opinion on that.

My main point in this argument with my dad was the benefits that people out of work receive. I believe that those who claim benefits when they are capable of work, yet choose not to, should not be able to do so. After all, why should the hard working members of  our society pay for those who ‘don’t really feel like working’ or feel that they are above working, someone, please, explain to me how that is fair? People in other countries do not have the same luxury. I am aware that we are lucky enough to live in a society that supports the vulnerable but I do not think that this should extend to supporting those who simply do not want to work. This, I think, resonates particularly true in the current economic climate where all kinds of cuts and sacrifices are having to be made by all.

Therefore, I believe this. Those who are capable of work should have to work. They should have one chance at turning down an offered job and then they have to take the second job offered, otherwise their benefits are stopped.

There are of course, several key issues with this theory. Firstly, there has to be the jobs available. In the current economic climate, finding jobs is much much harder and they tend to go to those who actually want them. However, I don’t think it’s wrong to strive for something better in our society and begin to think of ways to improve the welfare system. After all, how else does the community as a whole progress?

Secondly, it would be necessary to have the system and bureaucracy in place for the jobs to be offered and benefits to be cut within the correct time frame. The benefits system is notoriously inefficient and this would need to change for any kind of scheme similar to this to work.

More importantly, however, I stress that this theory only applies to those are actually capable and competent to work. I fully support those who are on benefits because they simply cannot work. I think this is the beauty of our society, that we can protect the vulnerable and those who need help. The disabled and single parent, to name only two general groups of people, are without a doubt exempt from this theory.

There we go. A few more of my thoughts. This is a theory that I believe in at the moment, I’m interested to see how the benefits system will progress in the future and whether it will become something that is actually beneficial to all.