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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Choice and Prejudice

Hi! I'm here again... At least today I found a few minutes to write a post entry. The truth of the matter is that between the fact that I had an awful lot of reports to write for work (and still do!), I was stuck on what to write about. No use writing if you're not inspired ... This blog has its standards doesn't it?

On the other hand, I have been active on Facebook and had the opportunity to get in touch with some old friends - some even going back to my school days (which in truth are not that long ago!). And as I remind myself of 'those times', the more I realise how much I've changed since then.

However, now that I've become involved in the disability sector - and most importantly being a disability activist - I have no real regrets. Admittedly, I have made it a point to dedicate my time to the things I like such as reading, music and exploring who I am in more depth but inside I still feel I cannot detach myself from my status as 'disabled' without being reminded of this fact!

And how I was reminded! At my office, a man entered red in the face as he saw me passing along and promptly stopped me and showed me the bruises he had on his leg. I looked at him with a puzzled look and then was told, "You people... you wheelchair cases... did this to me..." I left work on that day with a mixture of feelings... I felt angry, frustrated but most of all hurt because that was an insensitive and unjust comment.

For the last month, I've also been reading Stephen Covey's "The 8th Habit" and apart from all it's useful advice, I found that his argument on choice struck a chord. In his book, he argues that we are 'not the products of nature or nurture' but of choice. Granted, there may be many arguments to counter this. For instance, are disabled people that free to choose given the barriers and attitudes that we have to face on a daily basis? Can we really be free to live in a way that our choices come into fruition?

But perhaps the discourse of victimism and blame - that I'm guilty of using (even here) - are not part of the solution but part of the problem. If the residents of Le Court, for example, had given up hope of having justice when they asked Miller and Gwynn for their research support, would there have been a disability movement in the UK? Or if the students at Berkeley (US) hadn't taken any initiative and blamed destiny for their exclusion, would there have been any progress in the US?

Undoubtedly, our 'walk to freedom' (which incidentally is also the title of Mandela's autobiography) requires of us choice to move from being victims to activists, from blaming society to changing society and, more importantly, from choosing not to let society use nature as an excuse for our exclusion.

Now back to the disablist comment of the man I spoke about before. I don't feel the same way I do before. I have every right to be angry. It was indeed an unjust and prejudicial remark to put all wheelchair users in the same box and, on top of that, stereotype us as some kind of 'hazard'. But I should know that this is the price I have to pay for being different. I know it's untrue to be thought of in that way. That is why, I now choose to ignore such remarks but make it a point to change the society which brought on such a mindset. That, I believe, activism is all about ...

For more on the history of the disability movement, you can visit the Leeds Disability Archive