More Stoicism in the Guardian
February 21, 2011
Time for another classic sentence, care of Dea Birkett, who tells us, quite emphatically:
This is cultural apartheid.
In another place, when one section of society was condemned to a different, less attractive, unseen entrance it was called apartheid.
What, you ask, has caused Ms Birkett’s lava stream of umbrage?
We used to be able to enter by the same door as every other visitor. But when work on the Tate’s £215m extension began last year, overnight all the disabled parking bays were removed. Instead, disabled visitors and their families can park at the rear and use the staff entrance.
Ah. A temporary inconvenience due to building work at Tate Modern. Which, I think you’ll agree, is just like the townships of 1970s South Africa. A quick call to the gallery reveals what Ms Birkett takes care not to disclose. On completion of the work, Tate Modern will be able to offer its disabled patrons enhanced parking facilities – double those available prior to building work - and swifter, more convenient access to the galleries. During the upgrade, provision is hardly threadbare. However, as regular readers will know, victimhood is a competitive business in the pages of the Guardian and wild overstatement is an art form in itself.
Update, via the comments:
Readers may wonder whether Ms Birkett is being sincere, albeit delusional, or just indulging in theatre and hoping no-one notices. She has, however, managed to avoid addressing any factual corrections from her readers and has instead turned on them, saying: “As so often is the case, it’s shocking to see such hatred against people with disabilities.” Despite being asked, repeatedly, to point to examples of this alleged “hatred” - none of which I could find - Ms Birkett has chosen not to oblige. Such is her righteousness. I can’t help thinking the article tells us more about the author than any hardship she experiences while perusing art, let alone “cultural apartheid.” For instance, Ms Birkett tells us, “Building work is not an excuse to remove access - and that is what happened.” But as the gallery points out and as many of her readers have noted, that’s simply not true. Wheelchair access is temporarily less convenient, and when the building work is done it will be much more convenient than it previously has been. Shocking as it may sound, the Tate isn’t trying to discourage or belittle its disabled customers, whose needs are catered to rather admirably.
Casually contradicting herself, Ms Birkett adds, “Access isn’t only about getting in a building, it’s about feeling welcome. If you’re sent to the back door, you don’t feel welcome.”
Yes, it’s Bethlehem all over again.