The Way We Roll

Brooker, Cancel culture, pride and the last iron lung

July 28, 2020 Season 2 Episode 3
The Way We Roll
Brooker, Cancel culture, pride and the last iron lung
Show Notes Transcript

“…swimming pools were shut. Cinemas, too, and bars and bowling alleys. Church services were suspended. Cities doused their streets with DDT insecticide…they had to be seen to be doing something. Nothing seemed to work. As the summer wore on, the numbers of polio cases grew”

Did you think we were talking about Covid-19? Phil talks of the ‘last man who used the Iron Lung’, an early medical method to keep people who got polio alive. The Guardian ran an article on Paul Alexander and his life. 

Cancel Culture, is it real? Is it necessary? Do you think twice before you send a Tweet? Do you know the latest terminology for different identity groups? After well known people wrote an open letter in Harpers Magazine, Phil and Simon try and make their own sense of it. Concentrate as Simon has so many thoughts, they sometimes get muddled. 

What’s most important for disabled people to develop as a group? Is it pride or is it community? We reflect on a story about Stacey Park Milbern, a US disability rights activist who recently died. She said we need the support of community before we can take pride. 

Finally, Phil and Simon review the recent television documentary with Alex Brooker from The Last Leg. He explores how he feels about his impairment. Phil and Simon discuss the programme, Alex's relationship with his condition and specifically what do people mean when they say they don't want their disability to define them?

Links

Alex Brooker: Disability and Me BBC

BBC iPlayer - expires early August 2020 

Harpers Magazine Open Letter on Justice and Open Debate 

Stacey Park New York Times   Paywall

Stacey Park Legacy obituary     Free 

Joseph Stramondo on Twitter 

The Last Iron Lung - The Guardian, Free but can donate


Announcer:

This is The Way We Roll with Simon, Minty and Phil Friend.

Speaker 2:

[ Starting music ]

Simon Minty:

Hello and welcome to the show. My name is Simon Minty.

Phil Friend:

and my name is Phil Friend.

Simon Minty:

We h ad decided as well as having guests, w e a re going to do one show a month, which is just the two of us or one to one, as I'm trying to get Phil to call it, but he's not playing along. and the idea being t hat when we get a chance to explore things that we're interested in to make each other laugh and g et each other a bit annoyed, which is what we've always done. So kicking off first subject Phil, what are we talking about?

Phil Friend:

Um I thought it might be interesting to have a few minutes with Alex Brooker, one of the co presenters on the Last Leg, which began out of the Paralympics in 2012, which people may or may not know. And Alex Brooker is a disabled guy born with problems with his legs, which led to an amputation and hands, which aren't complete. So he's got various bits missing fingers wise and so on. And he did this,uprogramme an hour long, which kind of e xplore well, he, in which he was exploring his kind of take on his life, his disability and its impact on him, other people a nd s o o n. Uone of whom was his m um who features a lot and,uwho came over. I thought was a lovely woman. Uhe's got six brothers. Uthey were featured as well. When this programme went out, I was struck by the Twitter feeds, which then followed, which said "oh wasn't very social model". And,uall h e talked about was medical stuff and things like that. You've seen it Simon. I mean, what, what, what's your.

Simon Minty:

I as a couple of bits to add on? He won or he was named as the most powerful disabled person last year in the that Shaw Trust Power list thing. The year before Baroness Jane Campbell was the most powerful and the next year was Alex Brooker. And I said, well done to him. I like him as well as the , Oh, it wasn't really social model. And it was a bit to your medical model. There was also a lot of Twitter going. He is an inspiration. He looked at what he's done. Look at what he's achieved. I am slightly anxious of this one. Cos I wonder whether, and I hate this because it happens. But whether there's a twin track of disability going on here and.

Phil Friend:

Explain what you mean.

Simon Minty:

I think there are a generation of people that their social model is everything and it is the root to independence and access. And it is also a fundamental way of belief or understanding yourself. And there is others who are not, and they are more about whatever it may well be. It could be overcoming over barriers. He called it disability and me sorry that was my twin track . So there's people who just don't do that. They think, o r they do do it. They just don't realize what they're doing it. I a lso remember my early days of disability rights, it used to really drive me nuts because if I said something that people didn't think were social model, they immediately s aid, he's just not developed enough yet. And I'm like, wow. And they're like, well, you just haven't got there yet. And I'm like, Oh, I used to really annoy me, but there's some truth in it. And it's part of that progression of acceptance and accepting of yourself. And he certainly admitted five times in it that he didn't know where he accepted themselves. Obviously there were things like pain, but he didn't like certain bits the limitations. I was stunned that. I mean, I m ust a dmit I didn't watch it all every minute of it. I did that kind of reviewing type where you skip it, but did they brought the six brothers come in at the very end?

Phil Friend:

They did.

Simon Minty:

This to me is fundamental of how he is to have six younger brothers, all not to disabled as far as I could tell that will influence his thinking about himself. And that didn't come in until the very end.

Phil Friend:

Well, I tell you what was my take on it was this is a personal story about one man's journey and so on and so forth. So for me, the fact that he didn't do social model stuff and all of that was not really that relevant. He was making a film about himself. What I found really interesting was that he said several times and right at the end, his brother said it we've never really let his disability define him, or I'm not, I'm not going to be defined by my disability. And I, that was the bit that I found most intriguing because of course it defined him. I mean, it was everything, you know, he had a very, very interesting conversation with the para-athlete, woman swimmer, who had a very similar condition to him. She had an arm and her hand missing and so on. And she obviously had an elite athlete and they were talking about their appearance and how she wouldn't get undressed. And so on public baths when she was younger and so on and so forth and then overcame that in whatever way she did. And he, he resonated with that. So his disability was defining him.

Simon Minty:

I had some empathy. He does a bit about comedy and his mate from school, you could see poor old Alex c ause h e's, uh e's Alex says, I always worry that doing comedy around disability, am I just the jester? Am I allowing people to laugh at my disability? And where's my line and where's my dignity. And I totally get that i f s omebody does stand up and someone who's short as well. And then his mate said, sometimes I think, you know the jokes. Y eah. They're a bit bit rubbish aren't they. And a bit cheap. And poor old Alex looked like h e was going to cry through about 4 0 minutes of the show. And that was one of the moments he went, Oh, I knew i t. It was l ike, bugger, c ause I want the respect of my disabled peers. I want them to like the comedy that I do, unfortunately. And I b lame producers or directors. There was quite a lot of plinky plonky piano music. There was quite a lot of him walking down, corridors, w alking differently, leaning one way or the other and whichever way you want to look at it. That that is what he was trying t o, I think, trying to avoid that's the, this is all medical. This is the doctors that a re s uch a solution. That's where the social model was missing. It. Didn't say if we change this and we c hange that, that would have been better or, o r the people, the generation before me have made disability more acceptable. S o m y l ife's a lot easier. T here was a little bit of a lack or a lack of that.

Phil Friend:

I suppose in one way though to be fair, and this is you demonstrating your inner knowledge of these things. I'm I must admit, I didn't really think about the way it had been edited and cut and so on and plinky plonky in music. What we don't know is what was left on the floor, you know, in the cutting room. So whether there were bits, but you're , you're absolutely right about that. I don't know how much Alex Brooker was involved in that, but

Simon Minty:

This is why I would push back because Alex is not a novice. He's been around television for a long time. This is disability and me. I mean I've made television programmes and they've done it. And I've said, I'm not having that go out. You've got to change it. He could do that unless he's given over all editorial control, but I cannot. That was a, what you call an authored piece. That was him, jump back the word defining. I think that's, I think the definition of defining is wrong. I think when people say it's not going to define me, I think what they're trying to say is I'm not going to let it beat me. I'm not going to let it rule me.

Phil Friend:

Well, there's lots of things I've learned to come to terms with. There was a lot of that in it coming to terms with it,

Simon Minty:

But we can say disability defines part of us because it would be weird if it didn't that's the point, but I don't feel that's a lesser thing. I've taken control n ow. I'm talking about not you other people who say I'm not g oing t o let disability find me what they mean is I'm not going to use a wheelchair. I'm going to refuse any a cknowledgement about bigger disability and I'm going to make my life quite hard.

Phil Friend:

Yeah. I wanted him on my PDP course . That's what I wanted. I wanted him on my PDP course . I wanted to deal with. I wanted him to deal with the, I want him to buy the book Why you pretending to be normal? I wanted to say to him, you learn to live with you. Don't come to terms with, because if you come to terms with, you've kind of, it's done when it never is. And I get what you say about defining it . I don't, I wasn't meaning I wasn't being critical of him obviously. No, I think what he was saying was exactly that I'm trying to make sure that my life isn't ruled by this bloody thing. But actually, you know, he had it from birth, so it wasn't something he acquired, you know, it was shaping every bit of him

Simon Minty:

Well he says it. He says at the end or towards the end when he's sitting with his Mum, he said, I never will stop thinking about it. I think I'm always going to think about it. And he said it might be easier to think about, but I'm never stopped thinking about it. I did think. Okay. Social model and I'm at, I did feel slightly that I've got that. I don't think about being short all the time of course I bloody don't I do it with you because we do these shows. I sometimes do it as a confession, but it's not every minute it's kind of it's faded. It's just part of the landscape.

Phil Friend:

I used to be a bit surprised at . I can remember this. I used to be a bit surprised when I went past the shop window back in the day when I was young and I saw this bloke on crutches and thought, who's that? Oh, that's me. Yeah. Cause I wasn't thinking I'm on crutches. I was now I'm in a wheelchair permanently. I don't I'm I'm perhaps less surprised than I used to be. Who's that old bloke.

Simon Minty:

This is the hierarchy of disability. And me being a an irritant. When he starts to show, he gets out of the chair . He walks into the tube. Well, I can't do that. I immediately said well I can't do that, I can do that. L ike A lex your so bloody lucky walking into the tube, any c ab, y ou c ould just jump into I 'm n ow w here you don't even know anything about this, Alex. Anyway, he got on with it, but he always j ust, I, in my selfish, stupid head, I was thinking he's less visible. Could he pass. And then he says a beautiful line later on. And I just got him where he said, I'm walking down the street and they stare at me and he says, I'm fierce immediately. I'm fierce immediately. I want to spin around and go, what the hell are you looking at? That's his instinct. That's his retaliation. And then before he's got it out, they say to him, I love your show. And he goes, Oh, t hat just pulls the rug from under his feet. And yeah. And that is a bit, we forget, we go straight to defensive, which means we're still working it out yet. Some people are just cool. I like it.

Phil Friend:

That was a very, very good moment. And, and great that they left it in. You know, it wasn't that wasn't taken out. Cause it was a very powerful moment where yeah,

Announcer:

This is the way we roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us at [email protected]

Phil Friend:

I suppose it leads to the another agenda item, something else I wanted to just touch on really? Which was the recent absolute storm on Twitter and Facebook and wherever else. Lambasting people for taking positions. I mean the , the quote is the, the JK Rowling thing around trans people and so on. And, and I'm not getting into that. That's that's not, well, it's not. So I don't, I don't, I don't feel, I know enough about it to be able to have a comment really.

Simon Minty:

Well that just shows how much you care. Ha!Ha!

Phil Friend:

Anyway, what really concerns me is the free speech angle of this. And , and the fact that people on social media speak, they say what they think about something. Maybe that's why I'm not doing it here. Cause I'm a bit worried about what my happen to me, if I did. You know, so there's this sort of self editing going on the time. And I just w ondered what you thought about that because you know, y ou've, you've been in the media, you are part of that. I am too, to be fair, but the attacks on people for saying things that they believe, it's not t he people disagree with them. That's fine. It's the vile, unbelievably vitriolic responses that people get. And I know w e call it trolling and those things where where's this all g onna end because things I remember doing some work years ago, where we were looking at prejudice and discrimination in a more theoretical and the thing about Germany and the Jews and the Nazis was it began with name calling. It began with people making fun of and joking about, and it kind of escalated then to bullying. Then it got into violence and then we all know where it ended up now, not wanting to make too many direct comparisons, but that is how these things start. And it doesn't seem we can control social media. So how the hell do we manage this stuff?

Simon Minty:

But I , I feel there's a slight difference in the that was targeted to a group of people for how they lived, their religion, their culture, that kind of stuff.

Phil Friend:

What the Jewish you mean?

Simon Minty:

With the Harper's letter from all these eminent people saying stop, no platforming us stop canceling different points of view, just cause you don't agree that isn't a particular type of people. Oh , you could say it's the elite, that was one argument, but they're all mixed people. It's their thoughts, the things that they're believing or things that they've studied or the science that they're coming from. That's the, so it's , it's what people think that's being attacked at the moment. And I think Geeff, our lovely colleague and friend, he said a lovely line. And I use this in a speech. I did this week talking about disability. And I said, these days, if you make a mistake, you're crucified. I mean, it's just full on, you can be absolutely ridiculed and lambasted and that, that crowd mentality. And it's , it's terrifying. I, if you make a deliberate mistake, you're going to get a bit of my tongue. Absolutely. But I know there's lots of people who make genuine mistakes and you just said, and I'm the same. We wouldn't know everything about certain communities and we need to learn whatever. But if you're making a genuine mistake that doesn't make you my enemy and that's the problem, it feels that if someone does make a mistake, there is no where to go. No , you're dead. You're finished.

Phil Friend:

Do you remember a long time ago, we did a dining with the difference with our old mate James Partridge. And there was a group of people from various companies who came along and sat with us and broke bread with us. And, and the idea was for those that didn't know was that we would do a kind of disability conversation over a meal and challenge people and stuff. And one of the people in that room had a bit too much to drink, and as a result of that inhibitions disappeared. And he started saying all sorts of things about disability, which I kind of knew many of the people in the room were thinking, but were too terrified to say, now, looking back on that we could have said to him, you know, we could have really gone for him , but it was actually in the learning environment. So what he was saying gave us an opportunity to challenge what he was saying and to say why, what you were saying didn't necessarily, you know, it was a bit old hat and whatever, whatever, whatever. And I thought that was a glorious opportunity to help somebody move on. If I get attacked, if we'd gone for him. Yeah . I think, I think he would not have ever gone back to that subject again. And he certainly wouldn't have gone to a dinner like that and he would have kept his mouth shut.

Simon Minty:

So my , my , as I continued my speech this week, I said there are three types of people. There's the ones who just get it. And they so cool and calm and aren't they amazing. Then there's the big majority of us who sort of have to learn it and get a bit anxious, but we want to develop , but we have good intentions. And then there's the dinosaurs. And I said, they are my favourite. Because as you say, they're the people that I know exactly where they're at. And that gives me a chance to undermine their argument. And often they become the greatest ally. My nephew, who Max, who is about 23, listens to our show. I asked him when the statues were coming down, I said, y ou're a next generation. What was going on with this? I need to understand. And he said, h e's got something to do. If he's got something to do w ith s lavery, it comes down. And we were saying, it's complex, isn't it? There's this. And there was a time and place. And there were these good things. And he's like, i t doesn't matter. It's, slavery pull it down. And I was struck by, there's a simplicity of argument that i s very hard to push back against. But what the Harper's letter w as saying, some of the arguments we're talking about a re so complex. There's so many levels to this that it's really hard to be just precise. I would then also add on what I quite admire about the next generation. Their rebellion is t hey're like, yes, you've been debating all the nuances for years and things haven't changed. So w e've g ot t o cut through i t. I , I, I haven't g otten an answer cause I I'm still probably b e a bit older and a bit more, it's a bit more complex than that.

Phil Friend:

I think one of the other things that was said around the statues idea was that, of course, if you remove them, then we stopped seeing them. So then we forget about it all completely. And there's a chance that generations, I love the idea. Was it Hungry or somewhere? I heard they got all the statues of the nasties, stuck them all in the same park and then put loads of information about each one of them. So he could go in there and see just how despotic they were. Yeah. Despots. It was despots. It was people like that.

Simon Minty:

Of all newspapers, my friend Shorto. He sent me the Daily Mail and they had done a whole article. It was massive on all these statues and the people and the good and the bad that they had done. And I sent it to Max and said, look, have a read because you'll then see the bigger picture. There is an element that sometimes I've seen this around certain arguments, people will go, well , one in three of us are this way and someone will go, well , actually, but all the science and the research says, it's about one in 2000. And then people go , well, who knows, who knows what it could be. So there is, there's a bit of a lack of, of evidence. What is great is it is a very supportive culture of those who may be marginalized that is evident. The slight risk we've got is we are absolutely smashed into bits people who could be allies. They're not the enemy, but just because they're not quite up to speed, it's difficult. It's really difficult.

Phil Friend:

I think the worry, I suppose, just to finish on it is, is the, is what it's doing to the ability of people to speak their mind and say things and then giving others of us a chance to challenge them and help maybe shift their view. I don't know.

Simon Minty:

I, if I write a tweet, I will think about it twice, but it's difficult because I can't speak my mind. But then I think, well, social media, is that the place to speak your mind? I think it's a weakness of mine. I sometimes didn't get off the fence Minty and you know, take a position on something. Yeah ,

Announcer:

This is the way we roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us [email protected]

Phil Friend:

S imon. Yeah. What have you got? What's on your agenda.

Simon Minty:

(Joint laughter) I love the way you said that it's like an American chat show host!

Phil Friend:

(More laughter) So what's rattled your cage?

Simon Minty:

Okay. There is a U S activist who has sadly died. Her name was Stacy Park. It sort of links to what we were talking about. So there's a , another guy I know called Joe Stramando. Joe is a short man. He's a philosopher an a , a lecturer. And I, I saw he put up a a post on Facebook. I will try and cut to the essence of it, but I want to just talk about it. She said she was, he , Joe said of Stacy . She was one of the few people who is significantly younger than I am, but was a mentor to me. She was very patient with my white over educated middle class , you know thinking and so on and so forth. He says, you've got lots of examples. But one , he was in the Bay area for a conference. She came across the whole city. She was a profoundly disabled woman. We just all sat in the lobby, just had a chat. And I adore this. I do that. When I'm in the States with my short people, we have those big chats to the early hours. He said, Joe says, I mentioned to her, I was interested in doing more writing on disability, pride and Stacy very quickly got me rethinking paraphrasing. She said, dude, I know we've talked about this before. Don't you know how alienating talk of disability pride is to many people. A lot of people are struggling, especially people with mental health or poor disabled people. Your you're not talking to them when you're talking about pride, what we need is community. Everybody understands and appreciates community. That's what disabled people have been denied and need more than anything. My line is I've been banging on about pride for ages. I read this comment and I thought, I would say Stacy to you, you've just educated me as well. Do you think that also goes back to Alex, Brooker , you or me? Jane? Have we got community? Have we lost community? Is it important?

Phil Friend:

Well, we watched didn't we, and we were both impressed by and moved by. And we had Judy Hueman on a show. When we looked at the Crip Camp film on Netflix, what would that was about, was a community. It was about people who'd had similar experiences. They've been through similar kinds of things. I think, certainly speaking for myself, I went to special school. I spent many years in hospitals with people who had had polio and so on. And there was a sense of community. I think there was certainly a sense of solidarity or, or something of that sort. We, we seem to understand each other. We were all different. Of course we were, but we had that experience, which was common. That definitely has gone because we moved on. I mean, there are still special schools and, but people don't spend years in hospitals now generally. And they don't, they don't have the opportunities to be with their peers in that way as they used to do. So in that sense, I guess c ommunities gone a pride for me is always more of a movement of r ights. Things. It's always felt like gay pride. You know, it's always been about fighting for something. And in 95, when the DDA came in the Disability Discrimination Act in one sense, that was a culmination. Although there were lots of disagreements about that. That was the culmination for disabled people in t he UK to achieve rights of some sort. So I separate pride and community in, I see pride a s more political is that. Y eah.

Simon Minty:

Yeah. I agree. You made me think of a few things maybe, and I'm jumping back to Alex, but Alex hadn't hung out with a lot of disabled people. That's for sure . He had his friend at school and you saw Alex Brooker and meet up with him. And both of them, when they heard the word Crip said it made them wince. And I I'm in that generation. I still, I'm not convinced it was great to reclaim it, but I get it. I do get it. That next generation, if you haven't all hung out, when you're growing up, then your community is online. That's how, you know, people, unless you, I don't know, football matches, there was all the Arsenal supporters.

Phil Friend:

Oh, there was. Yeah,

Simon Minty:

I do. Pride is, is political. I've never t hought a bit just purely rights I do think it's a political statement. It's a bit of it's so counter the orthodoxy of, I love being me and what I have is joyous and I love this rather than you think I'm limited or defective or whatever phrase you w ant t o use. A nd, and that's why I adore it because it takes us away from the, Oh, I'm not sure about myself t oo, you know? A nd he does say t hat h e sense this is what I 've been given. I mean, that's a big change of phrase. This is what I 've been given, not, this is what I've lost. This is what I've been given and I'm with that. So I'm a big fan of the pride bit, but this community, if there's another community t here first. There's a , a relatively, a young person. I know Becky who couldn't believe the community on Crip Camp. This was something that was new. So do you think Stacy's right? Have we, have we missed a trick? Do we need to go back to get the community stronger? And the pride will come from that?

Phil Friend:

Yeah, I do think we've lost the community. I mean, although it may be online and, and so on. And one of the things that we've, you've heard universally said during the COVID thing is how we miss being with each other. Now, why wouldn't that be true for disabled people? Why , when we run our PDP courses, one of the most glorious things about them is that people are together with people who have not got the same things, but have lived through similar kinds of discrimination or prejudice or whatever you want to call it. So there is a sense of community comes out of that where I am not on my own. There are others a bit like me. There are others who get this, the pride bit, thinking of the marches, the celebration of myself with others. That's much more, as you just said, it's much more about I love, I love being like this. I love who I am. And I love being with people who are like me. That's the sort of pride bit that I'm, and I am speaking as an older person. Now I'm very clear on that. I'm not as in touch. I think with pride as perhaps I would have been, if I've been 20 now or 30, perhaps

Simon Minty:

It's in my two instincts of bride , I go to a LPA, little people of America or the UK equivalent and there's 20 of us and we all go out and, Oh my goodness, me, we get every look of that . You can imagine, but we, we own it. We absolutely control it. I also have had it with Liz Carr and her partner, Jo, and we'll be in the States and we will go down the high street. And there's someone who's walking there's a wheelchair user. There's a short person on a scooter and we own the pavement and we're playing with this. We're messing with this where we've got absolute control. People don't know what's going on. I mean, it's an immense sense of pride when that happens. And you , you know, you can fill the chest that only comes from hanging out with people who are like me. So that community bit is crucial. That takes me on

Phil Friend:

You. Remind me of Riding for the Disabled. When I was about 18 or 19 and I'd left special school, I was working, I was on my own as a disabled person. I didn't know anyone else. And a riding school started in Chigwell and a bunch of us from my old school plus one or two others started going there at weekends. And the bit that you just reminded me of is when this group of 10 or 12 young, mainly men, there were one or two women with us, went into the Kings Head in Chigwell in the public bar. We took the place over. We usually played darts. We ended up always slightly sloshed and we all began to sing and we were all in the school choir. So we all kind of knew stuff. We would take the pub over. It was unbelievable. And I did it for about four years, this, this, every Saturday, every weekend. And I look back on that now as being vital, to keeping in touch with my, in my, you know, use that expression, my roots so that I could negotiate my way into this world of non-disabled people that I was inhabiting for the rest of the week. And you've just reminded me of that. And that was, that was in our, we were very proud of who we were and what the trouble was. They all thought we were inspirational, of course , which ,

Simon Minty:

But I always say, I can imagine if I had gone in with my average sized friends, there might be a couple of minutes of working out, whether we're going to play darts and whether I can reach and all that sort of stuff. If I go in with my short friends, there is no conversation about that. You're straight into it. Yeah . Yeah .

Phil Friend:

I know your dants are going all over the pub.

Simon Minty:

Well, it's still pretty accurate. You patronizing whatsit (laughter) t

Phil Friend:

Oh, you've got medals I'd forgotten that. Y eah. You're an Olympian.

Simon Minty:

Yeah. I am (more laughter) But so I think if you say I'm sounding like an old bloke, if I was the next step Martin, we've had Martyn Sibley on our show recently and he talked about, he can call someone in Australia with the same condition as him and how powerful that is for him and how great it is. I totally get that. I think we're also saying is lovely. If you can actually hang out in the flesh as well,

Phil Friend:

That's even better. I don't think it's the only way, but it's certainly, and I think that's what a lot of people have said in the COVID thing, not being able to touch and be and hug . And those things has been horrendous for so many of us. Really.

Announcer:

This is The Way We Roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend.

Phil Friend:

I came across an article in the Guardian. I think you sent me actually, I'm fairly sure you sent me the link. And it's, it's it's about a guy called Paul Alexander who got polio like myself. He got it in 52. The thing that's really fascinating about this man and the story that's in the Guardian is that he he's one of the last people in the world still using an iron lung, something . I spent six, seven weeks in myself. Anyway, he, he he was six when he went in, he still in it, he's now 75. It is the most remarkable story. And I just thought if I just read out a couple of quotes in this article,

Simon Minty:

Because they were first, there may be people who don't know what an iron lung is. Okay . That's a very, good point could you describe an iron lung,

Phil Friend:

Yes that's the old man thing. And it's a breathing machine. There's been a lot of talk about respirators and ventilators and so on . Basically you lie inside a big metal box, curved metal box. It sucks air out. So your lungs expand and then it puts, then puts the air back in and your lungs are forced to expel air. It takes over your breathing function. It was very, very crude in its day, but of course it saved lots of lives, mine included and Paul, this chap . So just a couple of quick quotes from this. "What made polio so terrifying was that there was no way of predicting who would walk away from an infection with a headache and who would never walk again. In most cases, the disease had no discernible effect of the 30% or so, who showed symptoms most experienced only minor illness, but a small proportion, four to 5% exhibited serious symptoms, including extreme muscular de dum." What does that remind you of, does that remind you of anything?

Simon Minty:

Lockdown? Yeah ,

Phil Friend:

Let me read this bit "In places where the outbreaks occurred. Families sheltered in fear at home with the window , shut all kinds of public gathering places closed human interactions were laced with uncertainty, according to the historian, David Oshinsky, some people refuse to talk on the phone out of concern that the virus would be transmitted down the line. During the first major outbreak in New York in 1916, 72,000 cats, and 8,000 dogs were killed in one month after a rumour went around that the animals transmitted the disease. They don't!" This I , as I was reading this, this is a remarkable story by the way of a man's resilience. I mean, unbelievable. He qualified as a lawyer and never, ever went to college. He did it all from his bedroom. What does that remind you of this i s way before social media quite extraordinary.

Simon Minty:

Yeah. He took the bar, isn't it? Where you become the fully fledged. And they said, and he , cause he was paralyzed from the neck down, couldn't move at all . And he had a slight movement in his thumb but he sort of raised slightly as I sort of swearing the allegiance to do the, I didn't know, the honest or the right thing or whatever he had to sweat . And it was just a tiny little movement of the thumb that was the acknowlegement

Phil Friend:

That's right. And , and that you wouldn't have seen because it was inside the iron lung. He did learn to breathe in a way which allowed him for a short time to be outside the machine. But this is very poignant. Another quote, he and the other children tried to communicate by making faces each other at each other. But Paul said, "every time I made a friend, they die because so many children in iron lungs didn't survive. I mean, it was a , and you kind of, you get this sense of this man has spent 75 years in isolation, more or less . And it resonates today. Some of what people are facing, you know,

Simon Minty:

There was a couple of bits. He he's got a few friends, maybe he's written his biography autobiography that took eight years. Cause he had to sort of do it with his mouth tapping out letters or one of his friends and he's got a few friends. It's not, it sounds like he's had a relatively full life. He's not his whole life in the iron lung he has time out. And I feel a bit old school myself, the bit that just made me really warm to this person, there's a photo of him. And maybe that linked back to his time of the kids. He's his, head's just popped out of this machine and he's beaming. And then there's another one. Who's got a what's it called a paintbrush in his mouth and he's dabbing away. And I just looked at I just want to go and hang out with him. His face has just got life and energy and something interesting about it.

Phil Friend:

He's, it's, it's remarkable because of the, the sheer wasting of muscle, his body inside the machine is still like a child . It's just obviously shrunk, but because he uses everything is done with his face, he's got jaw muscles that are enormous because he's controlled as you say, the pen, the painting and all those things with his jaw. And in order to keep the vacuum, his head has to be completely encased. You know , it has to be airtight the thing around his neck. So you're right. What you get is this round head sticking out of this great metal box. And apparently people come from miles when he's in hospital. People come from miles just to look at it cause they've never seen one. It's so old hat.

Simon Minty:

There are several photos of him out of the iron lung at the bit that I think we're very fortunate to live where we do now or in the time that we do now. Anytime I see a 70 year old voters, they're all in suits and ties. If you've got a major impairment and you got to go through the hassle of putting on shirts and ties and suits nowadays, you're just in a pair of jogging pants and a sweatshirt, but the fact he was so smart. But no, I thought it was it was quite a joyous article, not in a twee patronsising way. There was, it was something. But then they said we had somebody in the UK up until 2017 who was living in an iron lung as well . Yeah.

Phil Friend:

I used to know a group. This is going further back. They were called the respanaughts. They were all people in iron lungs and they formed a little group. This is way before social media and stuff. I don't remember the iron lung myself. I have one or two memories of it, but to have spent your entire life in it and being dependent on it is remarkable.

Simon Minty:

Yeah. Your, your recognition that COVID of its time was, this is polio , presumably a little bit of it. Yeah . It's . It's quite stark.

Phil Friend:

Yeah. And I go, I guess, you know, today's world, we, one of the things that Paul says in the article as he doesn't want people ever to forget polio and what it did well, we've now got COVID, which isn't the same at all, but it , it , but it's an epidemic and it frightens people. No question. Alright . Are we done? I think we probably are. Aren't we ,

Speaker 2:

This is the way we roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us at [email protected] or just search for Minty and Friend on social media. We're on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. [ ending music ] .