Latest Huffington Post Column

I have just had another column go live at the Huffington Post. It’s called Not Going To Take It Sitting Down, which as well as being a line from one of my old songs is a play on words about the current situation faced by disabled people in the UK today. I wanted to focus on how us disabled people are not only one of the main focuses of current government cuts but we are also at the fore front of the protests against them, but using new and cutting edge methods.

I will say no more, so please take a look, and if you agree with the sentiments of the piece please visit the campaigning sites featured and give us your support.

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Thoughts of Chairman Mik

This weekend I paid another visit to the wonderful city of Derby. I had been invited to come up and speak at the launch of the new Speaker’s Corner in the city square. It’s a great idea. If you live in the area, get yourself down there and get your voice heard.

I took the opportunity to give the following speech about Embracing My Imperfections, a new social enterprise that plans to campaign to champion the idea that we are all beautiful. Here’s the script of what I said, although I did wonder off a bit. The joys of speaking live huh?

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls my name is Mik Scarlet. I’m a broadcaster and journalist as well as a disability rights campaigner. I would like to thank the organisers of today for allowing me to talk to you at this the launch of Derby’s Speaker’s Corner. When I started thinking of what to talk to you all about many things came to mind. I firstly I felt that congratulating Derby on being amazingly accessible for disabled people might be a great topic. It really is a great place for those of us who have mobility issues, and demonstrates that if a place is made accessible then the lives of disabled people can be improved beyond imagination. Then I wondered if I could talk about the representation of disabled people in the media, or should I say that lack of it. Sure we’ve seen disabled people everywhere in the media during the Paralympics, but we were pretty invisible before and we seem to have disappeared again since.

But all of this may only be of interest to those of you who are listening that may have a disability or know someone who does. So instead I felt that this was a great opportunity to bring to your attention a fantastic social enterprise that is starting up here in your fair city.

I first met the very talented local photographer Rei Bennett last year, when I was writing an article for a magazine on her project Beauty Through Damage. The driving force behind this project is to show that beauty exists in everyone, and that illness, disability or difference can actually make someone more beautiful. The strength and drive that allows a person to get through an illness or have a happy and successful life with a disability or physical difference leads those people to actually be more beautiful on the inside, and this can shine out. Rei uses her photography to capture this beauty, and she does so very successfully.

Now not only is Rei a great artist, but she’s a great person and I now count her as one of my closest friends. During another visit to your wonderful city, which I have fallen in love with I must tell you, Rei myself and group of other local talented people decided to take Rei’s project further. We want everyone to appreciate that they are truly beautiful.

Everywhere we look there are images of perfection. On TV, in magazines, advertising, even in shop windows we see images of perfect people. But now we even find Photoshop computer software is being used to make already perfect people impossibly perfect, unachievably perfect.

Of course there is much discussion about how this effects us all and about what should be done about the growing issue of unachievable images of perfection. But surely perfection is a construct decided by the wider society, so shouldn’t it be something that mirrors that society? Why are we so ready to accept the images we see around us? Well I would say it is a lack of confidence in ourselves. We don’t feel that we are perfect so we put up with these images.

This is what Rei, myself and the rest of our group are trying to correct with our social enterprise. We want to everyone to feel that they are beautiful, that they are perfect. We believe that those elements that make us different, that make us stand out are exactly what makes us beautiful, makes us perfect. Whether it’s the signs of age, our size or our imperfections, which can be small… or big – like my wheelchair, they show our journey through life and our experiences. This why we have called our group Embracing My Imperfections. That’s what we want everyone to do, feel happy with the things about them different, special. In the true meaning of the word. To see their imperfections as the very things that make them special and beautiful, and to be at one with the way they look. Which will lead to everyone being much happier, and so be even more beautiful as that happiness will shine out of them. 
 
Now all of this may sound great, but how are we planning do anything? Well we plan to campaign for better representation in the media, so that all areas of the media but especially the advertising and fashion industries mirror the wider world, to work with school and colleges to give our young people the tools to know that they are all special, important and beautiful, and to take our message of learning to love ourselves our to the country and then the world. We hope to get all of you here today to join us by adding your voices to our campaign. Together we can create a world that sees the validity in all of us, that allows us all to feel happy in our own skin and ensures that our children grow up to feel that they are all beautiful.

It’s time for all of us to stop putting up with the Tyranny of Perfection, to know that there is Beauty Through Damageand to allow everyone to begin Embracing My Imperfections.”

So there you go. I’ll keep you all posted on the progress of EMI (which means beauty in Japanese apparently). We are still getting everything together, but are hoping to get the ball rolling early 2013.

I love this photo by the way. Very “power to the people”. Appeals to the rebel in me. Watch out politicians… next step Mik for MP… and then PM!

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With age comes wizdom… or what was I like?

At the minute I am transferring some of my previous TV work into the digital domain so I can up load it on to You Tube, in the hope that it might get me back into the media. While most of what I did was really very good, even if I say so myself, there are some items that made me squirm as I watched them. Back in the early 2000’s I was regularly asked to come in to the BBC’s News 24 studio to review the newspapers. I thought I was there to be a bit out spoken and unlike the usual paper reviewers, who were normally editors and columnists from those very papers and I remember my appearances as being quiet rational fun comment on the news of the time.

Oh boy, was I wrong. As I watched 5 minute clip after 5 minute clip, I found myself wanting to go back in time and slap myself. OK, there was the standard Mik Scarlet left wing rantiness which any of my regular readers know and love (?), but I also had a few subjects that seemed to throw me into a crazy irrational state. One of my favourite targets was the farming industry. At this time Foot and Mouth gripped the UK farming industry, and the hunting ban was being discussed. Yes, I have strong beliefs on methods used in modern farming and equally strong feelings on hunting (and the current cull of badgers being considered at the minute) but I seemed unable to even see the opposing view.

As I realized just how many reviews I had done, and how often I seemed to go off on a crazy rant on various personal hot topics, I felt feelings of shame and embarrassment creep over me. Just as I was about to rush towards the off switch of my coping machine to prevent me anyone from ever seeing me make a fool of myself, it hit me. This was a really bad time for me. I had found it necessary to stop working as a presenter, due to ill health, and this was pretty much the only work I was doing at that point. I know myself well enough to see that this angry 30 something in front of me had been made that way as he was in the grip of a serious and life threatening problem with his spine. Yeah most other people would have tried to be measured and thinking of the future, but I was really unsure I’d have one and so felt this was my chance to comment on things I felt were as unfair as my illness. I have always found that getting angry when I’m ill gets me through. It might not make me fun to work with, or the nicest guy, but the energy it creates gives me the strength to get through.

The weird thing is this is the first time I have been able to see myself during one of these phases, and it has really freaked me out. I look back on that time and know how bad it was and I now feel I owe a debt of gratitude to anyone who stuck with me. Especially my wife. I also would like to say sorry to anyone who found me difficult going during this time. I know I alienated some of my friends and people I worked with, and I also know that my attitude during this period did effect my career. To anyone who worked with me between 1999 and 2005, I am sorry if I was an arse. I hope you understand… and might even forgive me?

As well as the realization of why I was so confrontational, I found myself confronted with the truth that your state of mind can really effect your politics and beliefs. The stress and worry of being so ill had robbed me of my ability to show any empathy, and I wonder if the entire country is not going through something similar at the minute? The dire financial situation, and personal worries regarding money and jobs is causing society to become like I was during my newspaper reviews. Fixed in an extreme position and unable to see how that position might effect other people.

So I ask everyone who reads this to remember this phase will pass. I am now back to full health, and feel much more positive. The world will come out of this period of financial chaos. When it does, and it looks back on all the things it did and said during the fear and worry of it’s past, I hope it hasn’t done anything that can’t be undone. I’m lucky. Most of the stuff I have appeared in on TV exists almost no where except in my box of VHS tapes, and now on my PC. I doubt I’ll put the more extreme ranting online for others to see, and I will definitely learn from my mistakes. As a society we might not be so fortunate. Major changes to our society made while we are frantically scrambling around for a solution for our current hassles might really damage the steps forward we have made, and may never be able to be undone. I won’t say what changes, but I do hope we really examine what legacy each new decision and direction we take will leave behind. If we do, we will not have the awful feeling of looking back to wish we could undo something that caused great suffering during a difficult period.

On a lighter note, the one great thing about looking back at footage of a younger me is that I haven’t aged anywhere near as much as I thought I had. In fact I even look better now than I did in some clips. So while I hope I may be wiser, I don’t look that much older. Now that has made me smile… a huge wide cheesy smile. Tee hee.

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