AS I SEE IT! (a social comment)

Steven Demetre Georgiou, remember him? Probably not.

I’m a huge fan. His hits just kept on coming the albums sold millions. One of my favorites was “Tea for the Tillerman”

Ahhh, now your remembering. Cat Stevens, that’s right the bearded hippy, folk singer that took the world by storm.

Cat StevensThen he just up and quit. Years later, Cat Stevens resurfaced as “Yusuf Islam”, acclaimed singer-songwriter, humanitarian and philanthropist.

Trouble was, he had become Muslim. Stevens’ decision to leave the music business, become a Muslim, and devote his life to humanitarian and educational causes is one that has often been greeted with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. Then, out of the blue he was back on the world stage, touring and thrilling thousands of fans worldwide. He looked every bit the Muslim, softly spoken and words well chosen, a humble man with a simple message.

Who really cared that this great singer had become a Muslim? We were more than happy to pay the ticket price to see him in concert and listen to his philosophy.

It was inspiring and uplifting and for many, provided an insight into the way of Islam. We were more than tolerant and happy to sit for 2 hours, to listen, be entertained and even learn a thing or two. Or have we? I read daily of the conflict between cultures, the hatred that is building, the clashes and violence happening with regular monotony.

Sadly we have seen the terrible result of one idealist in Norway. Right now we are witnessing the rioting in London and the effect it is having across the world.

(I remember listening to Enoch Powell’s so-called ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which was delivered to a Conservative Association meeting in Birmingham on April 20 1968 & thinking this will never happen. How wrong could one be? )

Yusuf IslamQuestions are being raised as to how we could let these things happen. I don’t have the answer, but what I know is this, it has happened, for whatever reason.

I pity the hatred this Norwegian  man has for Islam amongst other things. We as a society must learn tolerance. We might not like what we are confronted with, but somewhere within, we must accept it.

It is hard to forgive and forget, but over time, the scar fades.

We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the haunting pictures are etched firmly in our minds forever. The destruction, loss, anger and pain suffered by everyone in their own way, will never leave us. But, here’s the thing, we have become tolerant and this tragic event for most, over time, has become a memory. It will never ever go away, but we learn to live with it. We live with the fact that Islam is here to stay, we might not like it, but somehow we tolerate it.

I learned to be tolerant a long time ago in fact, October 1973, the day I lost my legs. I’m well over that, but when I read and hear of how people of different cultures are being treated, I can’t help but wonder.

I have nothing but admiration for “Yusuf Islam,” aka “Cat Stevens.”

I will listen and no doubt I might just learn something!

AS I SEE IT! (a social comment) July 15th 2011

I was asked to comment on the recent performance of Lady Gaga at her concert in Sydney, where she performed a number, using a wheelchair as a prop.

Lady Gaga Wheelchair StuntIt seems this has outraged people in wheelchairs, their families and friends and has opened the floodgates, creating media frenzy with complaints to Anti-discrimination and other rights groups worldwide.

Look, to be honest, it didn’t faze me one little bit.

As a broadcaster in a wheelchair and someone that’s been in the public eye for the past 38 years, I got over the fact that people saw me as different a long time ago.

Truth is, I never saw it that way. Never have, never will.

Having no legs and in a chair certainly made me unique within the industry. It’s amazing the perception listeners have of you.

On more than one occasion, I was asked; “HOW DO YOU SPEAK ON THE RADIO WITH NO LEGS?” Once I stopped laughing and thought about it, I realized the observation that people had in general, when it came to someone in a wheelchair was draconian.

Education was in its infancy and public opinion was not very gracious.

Did I care? Of course I did. I decided to make it my goal to change public opinion.

I’ve lost count of the number of groups and organisations I’ve spoken to over the years. I coached my sons’ rugby team, shot hoops fished with mates, been the brunt of their jokes etc.

Did I care? No. I gave back as good as I got.

I was accepted as normal so much so that on one occasion as I recall, a group from the Radio Station where I was working at the time, went 10-pin bowling. Everybody was lining up for their bowling shoes and the manager (my best mate) turned and asked. “Porte, what’s your shoe size mate?” I told him and as he ordered my shoes, the person behind the counter stared at him with disbelief.

You see, the point here was simple. He never saw the disability. Just the person. That is how it was and still is to this day. However, there are still people that have a very narrow-minded view. That’s their right but sometimes I wish that those in a wheelchair that still have a chip on their shoulder, for what ever their reason, would take a step back, think about their attitude and the effect it leaves on others.

I never climbed any mountain, flew a plane or embarked on the hundreds of other challenges that people with disabilities have embarked on to prove a point. To say, “Look at me” I’m normal!

I am normal; I have my faults and failings just like you. But what I have is ATTITUDE. I really don’t give a monkey’s that I have no legs. I got a second crack at life and I have embraced it. It’s that simple.

Don’t get me wrong…

Dealing with a tragic accident or illness, is not easy, nor is the aftermath. The rehabilitation, the dramatic adjustment and realisation that things will never be the same are very real and do take time and their toll. I know it is a cliché but “it does get better.”

I actually like Lady Gaga, I think she’s branded herself into a pretty niche position and it’s working. Look, she’s not the first to use a wheelchair. She won’t be the last. Pink did it a year or so ago.

Some people really do need to get the chip off their shoulder and embrace their disability. Make the most of what life has to offer. As I said, I did.

I have no regrets whatsoever. At the end of the day, to be honest, it’s all about ATTITUDE.

The performance was nothing but brilliant and personally, I would hate to see her discard it”.

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