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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

CHRISTMAS SEASON BLUES


I always tell myself to avoid at all costs watching some programmes on TV during the holiday season. But, alas, I end up having to watch (or endure) another broadcast that should make us feel good as people for this season of good will and cheer. Not, perhaps, if you're disabled.


Apart from surrendering to my curiosity to watch part of 'A Christmas Carol' featuring Patrick Stewart, with the 'brave' and 'patient' Tiny Tim ending with his message of courage 'God bless us all' ... Which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't that the fact he was a 'cripple' meant that his life was unbearable ... So the fact he was good nature made him look saintly or even the embodiment of virtue - not a real boy with sad and happy moments. Unfortunately, we are also made to feel - not love - but pity to the young Tim which is what some people still feel when they see disabled people. Perhaps we could hope that since Patrick Stewart starred in Star Trek in the past, his role of Scrooge might imply that the characters are coming out of yet another science fiction film. At least, give me Tiny Tim as an alien ... Please?


Anyhow, I was upset by a story aired on the news on a man who after getting out of a coma had to learn how to move again after his 'paralysis'. Well, he is now on his way to a full recovery after receiving therapy at a named institution. So, we're told ... 'he has now overcome his disability' ... We are told that we should draw courage from his fight against his tragic circumstance... Well, an appeal is finally made for someone to employ him... Of course, I don't have anything against the guy but the damage such reporting can make on our disabled life cannot be underestimated.


First, I find the man being described as having been 'paralysed' as misleading... After all, he is shown walking and exercising ... Unless I am not mistaken, paralysis is so far irreversible. However, the most serious and dangerous claim is that we can - with the right attitude or therapy - overcome our impairment. So, this implies that all of us - blind, deaf, intellectually impaired, with mental health problems or physically impaired should end our pretence and start working to 'normality'. Yeah, right!


This is what I was led to believe when I was young. Cannot walk that much ... My fault! I'm not trying enough ... Cannot straighten my knees ... My fault too!!! Etc. So, I was faced with a choice of either giving up on accepting a lower status I believed was tied to impairment or to fight a hopeless battle to fix my body.


I'm not saying that therapy or medical intervention are evil here. I'm just saying that not all impairments can be ameliorated and also that we do not seek to be normal. And, to answer a woman who suggested - during a charity marathon - our life is NOT a 'life of constant suffering' ... Well, at least, when we're not compared to Tiny Tim or else hopeless burdens.


I was doubtful whether I was on the right track when I chose to commit myself to disability activism. Witnessing this false readings of our experiences, where we are made to feel guilty for not trying enough to 'normalise' our bodies while society is not expected to change ... Or when we're made to feel less than other people because we are different ... Has compelled me to renew my passion to the change for my life and for the life of other disabled people. We cannot keep looking at disability as a personal problem because until the barriers in our environment aren't overcome, our disability can never be overcome!


I wish that this Christmas was better but then, there should be more of this disabling reporting and speeches yet to come. Yes, if you switch on TV or radio during these times, you could be pardoned for ending feeling self-pity or being made feel guilty for not showing enough courage and shake off your impairment. But we all know that the greatest injustices in the world are made by human beings... Not by nature or even God.


However, to be totally honest, another reason why I think that opposing disabling tendencies in our society is of crucial importance, is that I want to be witness to a new generation of young children - disabled or not - who are open to diversity and to difference. After spending the best part of the afternoon playing with my nephew Matthew, I realised that in another time this just wouldn't have been conceivable. True, he is learning that I'm different as he asked me for the first time about my bent fingers. But I explained to him about arthritis in a matter of fact way. With no melodrama or sad faces.


For it is a fact isn't it? Why should I be ashamed of something that I didn't choose and yet that I learned to adapt to. Why are we bombarded with images that put us down as less fortunate? Why cannot we simply look at ways we can dismantle the forces that are dividing us? Or go beyond the falsehoods about a life with impairment that abound?


After talking to Matthew, we continued playing, and then when he had to go ... He hugged and kissed me goodbye. Yes, I was close to tears I admit. And that's because I knew those signs of affection are not motivated by pity but were sincere. Truly, I'm also proud of my 5 year old nephew Matthew...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IDENTITY AND DISABILITY


During the time I read for my course in Disability Studies, I often asked myself whether it mattered to me if I was disabled or not. At face value, the answer was simple. Yes, of course it mattered. But, on the other hand, if I had not been disabled, would it matter as much? This question, I think, is an important one the more I get to know different people in society - ranging from the van drivers to educators, from doctors to managers. After all, I have never lived a life without impairments and I can never position myself in a non-disabled set of mind... or can I?

But then again, I realise that nobody can be in my place. My individuality, my personal likes and dislikes, (etc etc) are not bound to my physicality. Before you snooze and press a wrong button, I'm only saying that my identity as a person should not be tied to who I am, so to speak, as a 'body'.

And then again, is that really true? Our bodies, whether we want it or not, are the means by which we present ourselves to the world. But our bodies are still not who we truly are. In the past, I have enjoyed going online and meeting people through the virtual world of the internet. Nobody would know who I was, or whether I had an impairment or not. But it still mattered to people if I got to tell them this fact. The usual replies ranged from pity to admiration.

At first it seemed fun to pretend to be someone else. But, in truth, the fact was that some people who I met through these virtual communities (I no longer frequent) would have probably treated me differently had we met personally. Even if my first realisation of my disabled status came earlier on, such online experiences made me understand deeper the cultural roots of disability.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE ....

This year I've got a special reason to celebrate Christmas. Well, after two years of working on my Masters degree, I can finallly say that the waiting is almost over... as I receive preliminary feedback on these years of work. However, I am well aware that now that these two years of my life are coming to their natural end, I have to think about the career I'll be pursuing. I've already started the process, mind you, but now it's definite. I've got a future to forge ahead.

As I contemplated my 'final days' awaiting my (provisional) results, I have been struggling to discover what I want to do next. Surely, I need a more secure source of income but, apart from that, I want more. Indeed, as the holiday season approaches, I know that what I want cannot be realised in a day, a month or a year. It's a metter of years, or even decades.

Just yesterday, for instance, a well-meaning health care professional commented that she always saw me with a smile on my face. Such a comment could be interpreted as a compliment, and indeed it was meant that way... but I fear that such absolute statements such as 'always' or, on the other extreme 'never', seem to condemn me to a particular character. As if I'm always happy... or smiling for that matter!

And if I'm totally honest about it, it's this naive judgements about who I am because I appear different that make me angry. And I know that I'll be exposed to many images that talk about people with different impairments in the coming days. For charity fund raisers, most probably, we'll be served the image of the 'less fortunate', the 'poor thing' or brave people 'fighting adversity'.

What do I want then? I just want to be whatever I can be, not socially bound by prejudice and assumptions. Not excluded from my society just because I'm forgotten. I don't want money if I can earn it, pity if I can have respect, or concessions if I can have rights. Finally, I don't expect others to tolerate or accept my body for what it is. But please, do not impose your own preconceived notions of disability on me. Ever! And that's not just for the Christmas season ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DISLIKE THIS LIKE


(right) Little Man Pissing

Statue of a young boy err... pissing

and a famous monument of Brussels.

Photo taken by N J Cardona
(my older brother)

Unfortunately, I haven’t found much time to update my blog. After I finished my research project for my studies, I found myself torn between different priorities. First I had to start thinking about my future career and second I was invited to a conference in Brussels. Besides all this, I haven’t been feeling that well about myself. Or more precisely about my impairment.And about how you can get pissed off because of what people think of it...

It all began when I decided to go through the process of finding work as everyone does. And since we’ve all gone high tech here, the process now involves fingerprint recognition system. Good if your fingers are straight and all that. But bad if you have arthritis. I tried it once, twice or thrice but then the machine tells me that I’m not do ing it right. And forgive the machine… some people (who should know better) tell me that my fingers are not, well adapted for the machine.

So, if I got this right… the machine is ok but I must change my body –indeed my whole physiology – for the process to work. What’s wrong with that picture? It fits to the story of many of the experiences I’ve had growing up. My walking is bad, not the fact that the world around me rejects different (perhaps more artistic) ways of walking… Then my wheelchair is badly designed … because it doesn’t fit a lift designed to hold two persons … what else? Yes, I might be consoled by the fact that after assessing my medical history, a doctor sighed and said – wait for it – at least “I got brains!” So it would be pathetically tragic if I had an intellectual impairment as well, would n’t it? As if one could ever measure intelligence with some pieces of paper labelled 'IQ' tests ...

I was particularly struck by a note a speaker made during the last Friday’s Brussels conference on media and disability. He wanted the media to ‘normalise’ our experiences. Of course, I know what he meant … putting us across as part of society, occupying any other jobs or roles in society, having families of our own… etc. That’s my dream too. Yet, I don’t like the word ‘normalise’ or its derivative ‘normalisation’. I remember when I was a pre-teen, praying God to have this ‘burden’ of an impairment taken away from me.

The nights spent crying because no girl would look at me or even consider me as a man in my late adolescence. Pretty personal stuff, yes, but factual. I don’t want that children who have impairments today go through the same issues I faced when I grew up. Because on going through assessments that I’ve been through in these two weeks has reminded me that, irrespective of what I wish to believe, parts of society still would have preferred me physically different. And see me differently simply because I ‘walk’ on four wheels and because I am too gorgeous for them to approach me (I’m being particularly generous with the term here as beauty is in the ‘I’ of the beholder).

And for no reason other than the fact that you are judged by your physical characteristics and largely socially-imposed limitations, you sometimes wonder whether you should dislike who you are or your body and strive for a better body and mind. Then, without realising it, you end up hating what is, in essence, someone unique and irreplaceable. And I’m not speaking about just me. I’ve heard many disabled people who wish to be physically ’normal’. I was one and sometimes become one.

But then, is it a solution for black people who are subject to racism to become white? Is it a solution for women to reject themselves and transform themselves to males to fight sexism? Is it an option for people of minority faiths or beliefs to reject their traditions to become ‘one’? Is becoming ‘one’ meaning we lose all of our diversity, all of our differences, and be ‘normalised’? Would that be a better world? It would be a hellish place I think.

Hope to be able to defrost since it’s getting rather cold over here. I needed to get this out of my system. I hope to compensate by writing a livelier blog in the future. Hopefully after I’ve sorted out the things that need sorting out. Try saying that five times without stumbling in your repetition.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

5 reasons why life CAN suck if you're disabled ...

Yes, I've finished my dissertation and hope to recover from the sudden void that's in my life. No, seriously, I'm now on a mission to do something with my life. However, in spite of it all, I hooe to start blogging again...

But, on second thoughts, after a number of public appearances I discover that it can sometimes beat you down being disabled. Here's why:

1. Whatever your achievements in private or public life, you are pitied.

2. Complete strangers feel that they are better than you because you use a wheelchair, or cannot walk.

3.You get talked to as if you were from Mars, or Venus...

4. You get unwanted affections from people you'd rather not (no need to go further on this one)

5. You get complimented on your speech/words, but you quickly realise that they weren't paying attention to what you were saying in the first place.

But then, they think you're cute!

This Thursday I'll be off to Brussels fo r a media conference...

Bye for now (unless I figure out how to blog from far, far away ...