A PERFECT WORLD
As those of you who visit this blog can tell, I haven’t updated this space for quite a while now. Indeed, there were many things going on since my operation was successful which threw me into a rather pensive state. The fact is, even if many tried to understand, the shift I made between who I was becoming to the person I’m discovering now is pretty significant.
The answer to the question of whether being blind for three years has changed my life is an emphatic ‘yes’. And being now able to see things around me and perhaps more importantly people, has changed the way I view the world yet again. And that’s when I was finally adapting to my new life!!!
Admittedly, I am now able to do things that I never previously could do. Such as taking photos of unsuspecting people (which makes it even more fun) and so on. But the reason I do not engage in discussions that render the whole issue as me having to say that this is ‘normal’ is because it’s not entirely true.
Forgetting for a moment that I remain a wheelchair user, the ideal of ‘normality’ is so hazy and inconsistent that people who say that they lead a ‘normal’ life seem to me to have lost all ambition in life. Of course, what they mean to say is that they do not use assistive technology or require support in negotiating their environment. But then is that not something we create?
As the charity marathons are soon due, I must remind myself to keep calm and rather relaxed as I risk having a heart attack. Because at this time, we get lots of well meaning people who talk about disabled people like myself as being ‘less fortunate’ or as ‘angels’ needing love and care. And a common thread is that we, as disabled people, seek ‘normality’…
As many disability activists can attest, this is not the spirit of ‘inclusion’ but rather of integration – which seems nice and attractive (especially to some politicians) but is only placing the burden of change on the individual. It’s not different than saying to women that in order to be accepted in society, they must become more like man and give up some of their choices.
The perfect world many people – including some religious types I regret to say – is one with no impairments or disease. Whilst I would agree to a world without disease, the former … err …. Won’t have me at all! However, a world without these things is not only unattainable but has dangerous consequences. Was it not the same motivation to create a ‘perfect world’ the very same that gave rise to the practice of ‘genocide’ and mass murder?
After all, my idea of ‘perfection’ is not one that is objective or value free. The fact that I am attracted to particular features or personalities should not be saying something about the person I am judging. But for many of those who believe that impairment is a curse will normally freeze when confronted with an opposing argument – especially if submitted by one of their ‘weaker’ members of society.
The same arguments of ‘inferiority’ or ‘weaknesses has been also flown in the face of women who were fighting for their right to equal status. The bias being of course that it was not normal or even socially acceptable for women, for instance, to have a job or even vote. This state of affairs still exists in some parts of the world, mind you but the situation is slowly changing in the West.
Although chauvinism will still exist, the fact is that it’s now considered quite normal for a woman to work or do things ‘men’ were considered able to do. But there are still structures and attitudes that need working there in spite of all that! The situation facing disabled people is perhaps more complicated for the simple reason that not only do attitudes that point towards a seemingly innocent ‘return to perfection’ are bombarding us but that structures still exclude us.
What worries me further is that this bias against the life experience of disabled people, whatever the impairment, is leading prospective mothers to abort their child on the sole basis of whether impairment is detected. Yet again, this policy reflects a world view that places preference on what is considered ‘normal’ or acceptable. And in every instance, the decision on who should or should not live is made by people who are badly informed about the truth of our life as people with impairments.
No wonder that together with the ideals of love, peace and tolerance, the idea of a perfect world also contains hidden demons. For in this world, there is also a strong motivation to seek out and destroy those perceived as ‘imperfect’ or ‘abnormal’ or as failing to attain the physical, sensory or intellectual ‘norm’ of the masses. For their own good, they would say.
For a time, my idea of a perfect world was not very different than that. But when I realised the full implication of a society that praised you as log as you fitted a particular mode of behaviour or looked in some way. When I realised that despite the rhetoric of love and tolerance, people saying those words were in the same condemning and labelling others. When I learned that cure and care often meant the invalidation of the value of a person and his/her enslavement into an institution.
Then when I was blind, I started to see. I learned quickly that life was not fair not because of any ruling nature made. But it was rather in my interpretation of what was good or not, what was perfect or not, that reduced people to numbers and cardboard characters. And now I want a different world. A perfect world that embraces diversity but goes further than that. A world which gives means for everyone to make a contribution, however small.
For despite it all, we often forget that humans created society and that we are responsible for its course. If we limit our idea of perfection to some set of values and attributes we will fail to appreciate the basic to all this is our humanity. This difference is also part of that humanity.