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

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

ETERNAL CHILDHOOD

I will not brag about the fact I survived another charity open season. I only wish to put it aside. For a time at least. I have to say that one of the things that I will surely miss is playing with my nephews as they only come over for the holidays (from abroad). I have particularly enjoyed playing with Matthew and I'll miss him very much until our next meeting. Anyone who spends time with children realises how much we have grown to take things for granted and how much we thrive on preconceived assumptions. Or rather that we risk of not thinking about what are socially upheld truths.

And no, it doesn't mean that I'm saying that everything is relative and that we should discard all that has social value. But we must be more careful about the implications of what we think. I have experienced the sharp end of such fabricated reality. Ironically, it is tied to the idea that I can never be an adult. Being treated like a child when you're a child is one thing, but being treated like a child when I am 26 is another matter. But, yes, it happens. And I've come to laugh it off really. Yet, sometimes it gets me. And, I've noticed, it particularly affects adults having an intellectual impairment. Just two days ago, in a fund raiser event, I heard a presenter describing intellectually disabled adults as 'being essentially children'.

Not that there's anything wrong with childhood - indeed, it is a beautiful time - but people move on ... our bodies grow and choices we want to make change too. And even adults, who for mainnstream society appear as 'afflicted' (not my words) with the most tragic of impairments, it is our lack of understanding and prejudice which is the greatest of afflictions. and disability for these individuals. True, it happens to many disabled people to be talked down to... So there... it does happen to all of us. But unfortunately, I've seen negative attitudes against people with an intellectual impairment amongst disabled people too which is worrying to be honest.

While I tried to get my mind off this charity business I also followed the news regarding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I will not go into any depth on the possible reasons, or even repercussions, of her assassination. However, I guess that her return to Pakistan might have resurrected the fanatical opponents of change. Or even those who opposed difference. For, to be totally honest, there have not been many women in top political positions - not even in Western politics... so having a woman in a social system that has generally favoured men can be, for some, the modern equivalent of heresy.

Of course, we can defend the old tradition which establishes rigid definitions of what is acceptable or not in society... on the other hand,we may allow individuals to express their differences within a supporting society. I'd opt for the last one. Bhutto was definitely a strong leader. However, I sometimes go back and reflect on how history might change if things were different. After all, I sometimes think about whether thingds would be different if I had been non-disabled.

How many leaders who had an impairment do you know? I only knew of Roosevelt really. (although we are told he tried to hide it as much as possible) But I was surprised when I started studying to discover Helen Keller as one of the greatest leaders of our times. Perceived as a threat even by the FBI. But I guess this returns us to the question of eternal childhood. The image I have been raised with of Helen Keller were of an extraordinary girl who 'bravely overcame' her impairments (see this for a glimpse into how children might see her). I knew nothing about her radical opinions on women's rights, civil rights but only of her childhood. I wonder why we are never shown this side of Helen Keller. Perhaps this image threatens the traditional image of disabled people?

And yet, I know that as I am seen in the streets or in public life, there will be those who will not see beyond what they have been taught to see. And that is tragic indeed. However, I wonnder what the reaction of a non-disabled stranger when faced with the task of asking me a question when in the company of my nephew... who will he ask the question to?

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