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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Friday, October 13, 2006


Yesterday I was invited to a medical symposium on arthritis, one of the conditions that ‘afflict’ millions of ‘sufferers’ around the world. Wait there … I have arthritis myself so I’d better rephrase that last one for my sake at least … here it goes again:

I have arthritis, yes, and a particular form of arthritis from the many hundreds that exist. It’s called Dermatomyositis or DM for short. A name that on my speech synthesizer has the habit of being interpreted as the old German currency (Deutsche Mark) now obsolete. When it’s active, it can be painful but then again it can be controlled. Added to that, I was born with cerebral palsy which has affected my mobility since childhood. A bonus to all of that is a visual impairment as a side effect of medication for my DM. That’s what you get when you invest in discontinued currency right?

Why am I joking? This is serious stuff I have to say… isn’t it? Yes, living with arthritis and my other impairments has its difficulties and I admit that the doctors I have worked with have been of great assistance in providing me with adequate counsel and support. But as I read on about arthritis for my reference, I cannot but frown and get rather, err, sick… because if I take a peak at medical texts with their accounts of how my life should be there’s nothing that would give a prospective client receiving the news that he or she has arthritis the motivation to get out of bed.

True, science and particularly medicine has the duty to improve health and perhaps prolong life. But that doesn’t mean that the medical history that you find scattered all over the net should enlighten you into what living with arthritis means. And I don’t say that I ‘suffer’ from ‘arthritis’. Because I don’t … I have occasions when I do suffer pain but I don’t regard myself as a ‘sufferer’ or an ‘afflicted’ human being!

If you consider medical texts who speak in terms of our ‘suffering’ and ‘afflictions’, or the ‘burden’ of having arthritis, you may understand how dehumanizing such discourse is. And they won’t be talking about an art work here but you, and me!

To be honest, I had a bitter experience recently and I am still shocked by it. Once I went into more detail about my impairments, in this person’s head I suddenly became part of the notorious category of ‘the disabled’ (quoted directly). Which wouldn’t be that bad if being disabled didn’t mean to society as being:

A bunch of people who are faulty and generally uninteresting.

All the same, character dependent on impairment.

To be tolerated not included.

And when do you get disabled people on the media usually? To raise funds for charity or to make people feel happier about themselves… whilst businesses often become sudden benefactors. Not that those funds are not needed but they are needed most often because society has failed us big time! And yet people apparently want to consume this view of disabled people as a social burden, all happy and friendly, or like children…
Whilst thinking of us as an epitome of imperfection, they expect us to be perfect in our attitude to life and in our performance.

If that’s what people want then why argue? The whole issue is that it’s not only a disservice to disabled people to promote such negative or pathetic images of themselves, but it sends out a conflicting message to many.
For how can I be part of society if this same society regards me as a burden? How can I speak of my life without referring to my impairment if society strives to limit who I am by using it as an excuse? Why is my health such an important issue to government, whilst my civil liberties are not? Is not this a travesty of social justice?