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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

TURNING BACK TIME

Left: Photo of a clock with red hour and minute hands. The sky is reflected in the clock's face. Picture by Didi90 from StockXpert.

I was sick with a persistent fever the past three days … so I had no energy to think about anything, including my studies (!) It felt like I was dying. Really … But this post is not about uncovering the mysteries behind the fever, and it’s certainly not a post (you might find elsewhere) that usually ends with a message along the lines of:

“Thank God you’re healthy (etc. etc.)”

For it’s not my intention to push away some of my unhealthy readers. And yet, as I write this I remember two newspaper articles I recently read on a local newspaper which implicitly or explicitly reinforced the idea that being impaired is a very sad state of affairs (like a disease) and you should do whatever it takes to become ‘normal’ or get better ...

The stories were about two disabled people with different backgrounds. A woman who acquired her mobility impairment after a disease and another who had it from birth. Although the time they got their impairments varied, they were quoted as saying that all they wanted was to be ‘normal’… which is really bad news for me as I have given up on trying to be ‘normal’ a long time ago.

This is not saying that sometimes I don’t take a nostalgic trip back to when, with my mobility impairment, I could still manage to cover long distances and even rode a bike and would go places on two wheels … yes, those were great days but I cannot live in the past… or hope that some day I’ll walk again as I did before. Otherwise I’ll just lie on the sofa watching TV or on my computer (may be writing a post every hour).

I also had to make some important choices.

I chose to stop doing physio around 10 and get more of a life. After my arthritis kicked in when I was 18, I had to use a wheelchair but life had to go on. My impairment rarely disappointed me! It’s the people who insisted I be more ‘normal’ that crushed the view I had of myself as a child and as an adult. It was this which was my real enemy. And the unfairness of it all is that by accepting that ‘normality’ or as it is understood by people as being:

“The ability to walk, speak, hear, see, think and reason”

Is a better life (or an ideal we should strive for), might force people with similar impairments to hate their life or even themselves. I know I did. And whilst the definition above is very generous to non-disabled people, it is largely based on prejudice which judges our impaired bodies as inferior, if not worthless.

This is what is called ‘internalised oppression’ and it may be one of the toughest form of oppressions because it is self-directed. Indeed, impairment is always described in tragic and negative terms and it is accepted by many (including some people who have impairments themselves) that having a child with no impairments is better than having one who has an impairment.

And whilst it doesn’t really make me feel better about myself, if you think about it it’s not different from saying that having a boy is better than having a girl. The only difference is that people are ready to sympathise with arguments against giving birth to a baby with impairments because they think that we’ll always be less than others whilst the idea fills people with fear and horrible images for the future. A future they think they can change by controlling a physical feature.

And what about my disabled existence?

We cannot turn back to a place where we think everything was perfect, or to a time when we think things will be perfect. If I believed for one minute like some do, that if I got to walk I’d be the happiest man on Earth, than I’ll never be happy with myself because there will always be something else that bothers me. Despite my choice to stop physio aimed at straightening me a bit, I don’t regret it. But it might not be a good choice for everyone of course I’m just saying it was for me.

Sometimes it’s not us who need to change but it is the world we live in that needs to do the changing. I am not saying that I’m perfect or even always right (though I sometimes want to think so) … I’m saying that it’s not always right that we should sacrifice ourselves to reach the impossible dram of some ‘normality’. For if we did that, we’ll be just accepting that we are faulty and inferior human beings because we have impairments. Then life becomes once again a desperate attempt to recapture a time in our past, or to hunt down a future which will never be. Or arrest a past that never was.

It’s not our impairments who make us lonely or excluded. It’s not our impairments which make us unhappy and depressed. And no, it’s not our impairments which make us happy and cheerful either. It’s who we are. The real tragedy is if we believe that if our impairments went away we’ll be better off.

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