Deborah Orr: People love the statue, but would they coo at the image if it was on their scan?

Trouble is, not all disabled people are like Alison, and we still see them as a problem, if we see them at all
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The Independent Online

My enthusiasm isn't of the politically correct "mother courage" kind, either. The subject's gender (with nearly all human depictions in public statuary being of males), birth defect, her pregnancy, the reference of her missing marble limbs to classical sculpture's idealised beauty, all this, of course, brings visual interest, cultural content and social commentary to the piece.

Yet I find what seems like the most popular "intellectual" justification of the sculpture - that it displays a different, finer sort of courage than the admirals, knights, kings and lions already in the square - to be embarrassingly banal and cravenly self-conscious.

Yes, it took some guts for Alison Lapper to be cast naked and pregnant for Marc Quinn. But oddly, though Alison Lapper's own experience of life has been singular, the great thing about Marc Quinn's sculpture is that it says something wonderful about the human condition, in just the same way as Lapper herself does. This work is serious, yes. But it also makes your heart sing with joy.

Many people, including Lapper herself, consider the sculpture to have a political message. "People who are negative about the statues are the ones with a problem," she commented. "I think it gives a very powerful message about disability and motherhood and femininity and being a woman." This too, is true in as far as it goes. But my own view is that there are actually some rather unpleasant reasons why people might very much like the sculpture as well.

Chiefly, I think, the statue's existence there at the heart of the establishment, rendered in the medium favoured by Michelangelo, cooed over by people mithering on about Alison's own beauty and courage etc, is in some ways like much of the lip-service modern society pays to the idea of supporting the vulnerable. We can look at this statue and congratulate ourselves on our marvellous liberality and acceptance of people of all shapes and sizes, while at the same time forgetting that if we saw such an arresting image on our own ultrasound scan, we might not be quite so celebratory.

Alison Lapper was sent to a residential home for disabled children as a baby, which was an awful thing for her. Now, such places are being closed down, and the policy of "inclusion" dictates that all children must whenever possible be placed in mainstream education.

The trouble is that all disabled people are not Alison Lapper - brave and clever, brainy and stable, handsome and talented, passionate and vital. Many find it much harder to accept and be accepted, and they have a miserable time in the mainstream, without proper support, either as children or as adults. These people we still see as a problem and a drain, if we see them at all.

The public of London, I think, will love Quinn's statue. There ought to be a fund started now to buy it for London, and even to keep it in the square in perpetuity. But we should remember, too, that as a great piece of art the work has endless meaning, and that it is just as valid as a reproach as it is as a celebration.

Just walk away, Renee

Kenny Chesney, the musician whose four-month marriage to actress Renee Zellweger is going to be annulled, must be feeling pretty cheated.

Mrs Zellweger, it is reported, was astounded to find that Mr Zellweger expected her to clamp herself to his side, pore over fabric swatches and generally strive to make herself an even littler woman that diet and exercise has made her already.

He probably believed that since he was, after all, a country and western singer, his views about the roles taken by the two genders were fairly well advertised. Even so, he might have taken a couple of minutes to look at his bride, seen here on their wedding day, check his own song lyrics, and consider whether her minus four figure really suggested that she could be his ideal woman.

"Not too tart, not too sweet, my baby loves to watch me eat, Her key-lime pie, Her key-lime pie," goes one of Kenny's heartfelt ballads. Did this poet ever take the time to even ask Renee if she even had a recipe for key-lime pie? I think we must assume that he did not.

Stalking must be taken seriously now

If the appalling murder of 22-year-old Clare Bernal in Harvey Nichols this week displays one thing, it is how inadequate our criminal justice system is when it comes to dealing with crimes of obsession.

Michael Pech had been released on bail prior to sentencing, despite a six-month campaign of stalking, because he had agreed that he would not approach Ms Bernal or go to the store where she worked.

Exacting such a promise is rather like releasing a burglar on bail as long as he promises not to break into any one else's house (except, of course, that no one would consider that a realistic bail condition). Apart from anything else, such a condition would suggest a sense of frivolity about the serious crime of burglary that no court would want to hint at.

Letting Michael Pech out, as long as he promised not to repeat the behaviour that had landed him in there, by the same token, suggests that stalking is not in fact considered to be a serious crime. After all, Pech had broken the terms of restraining orders before, so he had a track record in breaking his promises to courts.

There is a real stench around this case, that speaks of Ms Bernal's fears being considered perhaps overly hysterical, and her pursuer's obsession as being somehow on a controllable continuum of normal behaviour.

Paradoxically, the fact that Ms Bernal had changed her phone numbers and moved home was instrumental in the court's decision that she was not in much danger, when it should instead have alerted it to the reality of the threat.

The truth is that our criminal justice system is built for dealing with professional crime, and cannot cope in the least with the sort of crime that springs from emotional or mental disorder. Again and again, it treats madmen as if they were logical, with tragic results.

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