GD-Zone Archives Logo

GD-Zone Archives Logo
Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Friday, February 29, 2008

NOT THE IDEAL MAN

I may not be an ideal man,

But at least I am real.


I may be short in stature,

But not of ideas, and dreams.

I may use four wheels for locomotion,

But I won’t take you for a ride.

I may be physically weaker than the average,

But I am strong in character and

Prepared to defend what I believe in.


I may have a way with words,

But they cannot fully explain who I am.

My life cannot be written down on paper,

Symbols on a page cannot express my being.


My longing for love and to share, who I am,

Being witness to the cycle of life and death,

To the eyes of those who judged me

Even before opening my mouth.


Yes, I can love - but am not faultless either.

I can laugh but also cry.

I can share the joy and the pain,

Of our temporary existences.


I know that we can only be with each other,

For a while. We remain alone in the passage

Of space and time.


To know me, you have to observe the empty space,

The silences that give meaning to my words.

The pauses that give music to the symphony called life.


I am only human.


I may look different,

But so would you.

To me.


I’m only special by virtue

Of being unique.

Like you.

No, I am not your ideal man,

For that would be stuff of fiction.

Simply An abstraction.

Devoid of humanity.


-------------------



I was inspired to write this poem this morning before I got to work. I jotted down the main structure and this is the complete version. Considering that today I had a bad headache, I wasn't really 'all there' these last few hours. But, at least, I managed to salvage most of the poem. Should be back here by Sunday! Hope you enjoy the poem...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

TAKING A STAND

Personal reflections on a history of a press release

Part 3 (click here for Part 1)

FINAL HOPES AND THOUGHTS

In my last entry I related my personal experience on how it was like to live in an institutional setting. However, it’s important to keep in mind the reason that I started writing this post entry in the first place – the press release. I believe that this was the only option we had since our objection to MLP's proposal had reaped nothing. A day after our press release was issued, the National Commission Persons with a Disability (KNPD), which is a government commission set up to safeguard the interests of disabled people (and my current employer), issued its own statement expressing its concerns over the MLP proposal:

KNPD criticises Labour proposal (7 Feb 2008)

However, the position on this issue seems to have remained unchanged as far as MLP is concerned. In fact, we read that the leader of the Labour party Dr Alfred Sand openly defended this decision:

Sant defends position to house social cases, disabled at St Luke’s (14 Feb 2008)

Since this issue was brought up, a few disabled people have publicly voiced their concerns on the possibility of creating yet another institution:


St Luke's for disabled persons (2) (11 Feb 2008)

Units for disabled persons (20 Feb 2008)


I can only say that the support of other disabled people against this issue fills me with hope. On the other hand, I cannot avoid thinking about the implications of such a measure on us as disabled people and on a society which has just started to accept the idea that we’re part of it. Given the Maltese political tradition has been characterised by sharp divisions mainly between the MLP and the Nationalist Party (PN) – in government since 1987 (except for 1996 till 1998) – issues tend to be given a political interpretation. And as I stated, disability should never be a politically divisive issue.


Having said that, if I were to give an account of how disabled people fared under PN administration, I would say that much has improved for us in terms of rights and opportunities. The Equal Opportunities Act which gives us a tool to protect against discrimination in many areas of life (including the built environment, education and employment) and a drive towards inclusive education (to mention just two) have taken place during this administration. Undeniably, both the MLP and the PN backed up these efforts to promote inclusion unanimously. Therefore, it was rather risky to state our position against institutionalisation, which according to what I know also flies in the face of true socialism – but that’s another matter.


As it happens, the current PN leader Dr Lawrence Gonzi also served as the president of the KNPD itself for a time, so it is unsurprising perhaps that disabled people have moved forward in this administration. This is also reflected in the measures proposed in the PN electoral manifesto 2008.


The measures being proposed are the following:


  • to introduce new schemes to increase the employment of disabled people (246)
  • to strengthen community support for disabled people (247)
  • to continue supporting KNPD as a means to safeguard the rights of disabled people (248)
  • to provide more support to organisations working in the interests of disabled people (249)
  • to continue in current efforts to make the built environment and transport accessible to all (250)
  • to make the necessary changes required so that the UN Convention on the Human Rights of Disabled People is ratified (251)


Effectively, proposition 247 also criticises the MLP motion that proposes the restructuring of St Luke’s to house disabled people. Of course, I’m aware that the propositions listed will take time to come to fruition. However, the approach to disability issues demonstrated especially by proposition 251 is radically different to the position adopted by its opposing party.


Incidentally, a recent study on institutional life conducted in the European Union has concluded that disabled people who live in an institution tend to lead a poor quality of life, so it really makes no sense to even suggest a return to such a system. This same report called Deinstitutionalisation and Community Living also suggests that EU member states should work for the inclusion of disabled people in the community rather than promoting institutional settings.


In fact, the report points out that community services tend to cost less and ensure better quality to disabled people in the long term than an institutional setting. Naturally, this report also highlights the importance of involving all stakeholders to make such a transition from residential institutions to community life. More importantly, the report illustrates that it makes more economical sense to move from the institutional model to a community model for everyone.


As stated already, these entries do not mean to politicise the issue of disability, but my aim is simply to point out that proposing institutionalisation as a solution is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. These entries are also based on my individual views on this issue, so they don't write on behalf of MCoDP either. However, I hope that Maltese disabled people will agree, at least, that institutionalisation is a backward step for all of us.


Indeed, I remember how I felt when I read an article from a Maltese far right extremist stating that ‘disabled people are valuable members … just as long as they are stopped from breeding more of their kind”. I’m not saying that the MLP proposition comes close to such bigoted views, but it could once again open the doors to the idea that disabled people do not belong in the community. That we are, in some way, a threat to the social order – and so must be provided for separately. Or even feared and detested.


Finally, it doesn’t really make much difference what impairment one has. I believe that institutio, nalisation is wrong not just for people with a physical impairment, but also for people with sensory, intellectual and mental health issues. Arguments that seek to justify institutionalisation by arguing that it will only be for ‘specific’ impairment groups only servse, in my view, to separate disabled people. Indeed they attempt to distract us from recognising that disability affects us all – albeit in different ways.


I wrote here against institutionalisation out of real concern and, yes, fear. Indeed, it is a pity that so few disabled people talked against this propisal. But not speaking, for me at least, would mean that I would be leaving others with an opportunity to take away my rights as my silence would seem to imply agreement. What would I be saying by remaining quiet?


I would be accepting the segregation of other disabled people. Until, of course, it is my turn to give up my rights to live in my own society with equal rights. To speak. To dream. To live independently with support. Or even to start a family of my own. The implications posed by institutionalisation are too great a threat to simply ignore!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TAKING A STAND

Personal reflections on a history of a press release

Part 2 (click here for Part 1)

LIVING IT UP AT THE INSTITUTION


I was in an institution once for a relatively short time. Indeed, I had been a patient at St. Luke's - a state hospital. Now, this same hospital has now been replaced by a modern one (Mater Dei) and as MLP would have it, parts of it should be converted to a residential institution for disabled people. Undeniably, some parents of severely disabled children might come to agree with this suggestion as this letter entitled St Luke's for disabled persons (1) demonstrates.


Granted, parents may be disheartened to discover that there is a large demand for community services, which due to limited human resources are in short supply. Understandably, they are also worried about what will happen to their children once they pass away. But, then, is institutionalisation really a solution that our society should be considering in light of the progress we have made as a society that purportedly claims that it wants to include disabled people in its fold? At the same time, what would parents know about what it’s like to live in an institution?


Do they imagine it to be a life where their children are loved around the clock?


Or even a place where their children's needs are met with love and dignity?


A place where their children will be valued as whole persons?


A place where their children will be protected from neglect or abuse?


Admittedly, I ended up in hospital because I had to receive medical treatment that would eventually save my life. But besides that, I need not say it wasn't at all a pleasant stay! Yes, I suspect that if I had spent more time than necessary in there, I would have probably lost my will to live.


Thankfully, I cannot relate any episodes of abuse in my short experience of institutional life. However, it is well documented that institutions have a greater prevalence of cases involving abuse or neglect in other countries. I dealt with this issue on my entry Infernal Institutions. Here I spoke about the horrific things that can happen in such a setting where people are segregated. Undeniably, although my experience was devoid of abuse, this period of my life left a deep scar within. Indeed, I don’t like talking about it that much. But I feel that I should speak about it since it may become a real possibility again.


I ask myself whether my life during my long hospital stay was really a life at all … I remember how everything revolved around the staff's timetable and despite me being respected by the staff and doctors there, such an existence started wearing me out. The only thing that seemed to interest people around me was my health. Don't get me wrong. I was really at risk of dying back then.


However, it's not exactly lovely to be asked repeatedly by staff, doctors, family members and even friends, about how your fever was... How I was getting on with my treatment, etc., etc. And it felt good, in the beginning, to be the most interesting 'case study' for consultants and young doctors to examine. It did make me feel important! But then, to be asked nothing that was remotely related to my old life. That was sad. And even if there was a medical issue that had to be treated, it was still ugly. Ugly ... because every aspect of your being gets sidelined in favour of your physical well being... as if you didn't really matter at all...


I also remember how desperate I was for attention! When I used to try to 'get better' so that the doctors would praise me for my progress in recovery. And I hoped that this would get me out of there... I just spent three months as life went on outside the hospital. Pathetic isn’t it? Hoping and hoping every time the doctors visited me … But the curious fact is that eventually you can start forgetting who you were ... About your past ... Yes, about who you were before! ... Your dreams... your hopes... your plans... If it weren't for the visits of family and friends I had back then, I'd probably have lost all sense of reality. You have entered 'Hotel St Luke’s’. But you can never even check out ... without professional clearance that is!


There was nothing that distinguished me from other people there, except obviously for my body! I had a bed number. Nurses and doctors woke me up and they made sure I slept at given times. Visitors came when they were allowed in. I had little choice on the food I ate. I had very little choice on who helped me bathe. And if it weren't for the Fact that I can attend to my own physical needs, people I did not know would have probably helped me in this intimate thing too. No choice at all for all people. Hardly the kind of equality I wanted in my life!


And if you think that living in a residential institution would be very different from my experience here, think again! The same tendency for your needs to be placed secondary to staff needs is what usually happens as well. Forces beyond your control will dictate your life choices. Indeed, my experience in an institution was a painful one - in spite of the respect and attention I got! Because of the way you start doubting whether the life you had was ever real. Or whether you'll ever get out from there. This on top of the physical pain and routine tests I had to undergo – but those, at least, where necessary then. In an institution, I expect, this hopelessness may lead to apathy and, as it has been termed, it may lead to 'social death'. After all, disabled people – like anybody else – need to be valued in society – where we find our purpose and value as members.


Another thing that I missed in this institutional setting and which upset me was my lack of space and privacy. I need not say that as an adolescent I was growing up ... and I was starting to become aware of the changes that were taking place in my body (you get the idea). So I had difficulty in getting accustomed to constant vigilance by staff and any potential visitors (or unwanted intruders) ... When I had my own room at home! (And still do of course.)


Unfortunately, I still find people who seem to ignore the fact that disabled people also need to be alone. I highly value my personal space and although some might even think that disabled people are ‘incomplete’ people because of our impairments, the fact remains is that we grow up like anyone else. In addition, an institutional setting conspires against us having social relations – having friends or expressing ourselves as human beings.


Not only that, but an institution also disallows the establishment of intimate relations we might wish to pursue. Indeed, the possibility of segregation through institutionalisation will also diminish our value as potential workers, friends, lovers, and parents by over-emphasizing our differences while ignoring the many common things we share with the rest of our community

Friday, February 22, 2008

TAKING A STAND

Personal reflections on a history of a press release

Part 1

BACKGROUND TO THE PRESS RELEASE POSTED HERE


Last Sunday, I posted a press release that was forwarded to the press some time ago relating to a proposition made by the MLP, one of the main parties, which are contesting the next general elections (to be held on March 8, 2008). Fortunately for us, issues concerning the protections of our rights have never been politically divisive, and I believe, that this is a positive thing. So, it was risky of us as an NGO to voice our concerns by sending the MCoDP press release I submitted in my last post:

MCoDP press release

Disabled people have gained a lot of rights in Malta over the years, such as an equal opportunities act in 2000 and now a majority of disabled children are attending mainstream schools. Even if I was one of the lucky ones who attended a mainstream school as a child, I now realise that if my impairment started preventing me from attending my class (which was at the third floor of my school), my future may have been rather different.


So, even the suggestion that disabled people with no family support should be housed in an institution send shivers down my spine. This was why I went ahead with discussions within MCoDP on the writing of a press release condemning the motion (now approved by the Malta Labour Party) on the institutionalisation of disabled people with no family support. Eventually, our press release might have been interpreted politically, as evidenced by the heading:


Local Disabled People’s Council Attacks Labour Proposal(6 Feb 2008)


But it was a risk we had to take. That’s the background part of the story. Now, I will be looking at how I felt when I learned that this motion we had previously opposed was part of the MLP’s electoral manifesto.


Disclaimer: What will follow in the next posts reflect my own views and not necessarily that of my organisation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

PRESS RELEASE (Originally Issued: 5 Feb. 2008)

Maltese Council of Disabled Persons
Kunsill Malti tal-Persuni b’Dizabilita



“Xejn Dwarna Minghajrna!” - “Nothing about us without us!"


TOP Full title, slogan and logo of MCoDP - Hexagon divided into six triangles filled with the colours (clockwise) yellow, pink, green, light blue, violet and red respectively - each colour representing the six main impairment groups.

Our Right to Belong in the Community

The Maltese Council of Disabled Persons (MCoDP) as an NGO comprised of people having different impairments and which is based on the social model view of disability holds that policy action that only takes into account our medical aspect is limiting, as it tends to promote the idea that disabled people are dependent and unable to contribute to society. In view of this, we feel we must express our concerns about the MLP motion on health regarding disabled people (number 5) as it is based on a medical model view of disabled people, which has historically resulted in the systematic exclusion of people with impairments in Malta's past and is a daily reality for other disabled people around the world.


Therefore, we disagree with the proposed restructuring of parts of Saint Luke’s (or any other building capable of housing a large residential institution) to accommodate disabled people who no longer benefit from the support of their family. Although we recognize that this measure may have been taken with good intentions, we firmly oppose the establishment of more institutions, which only serve to exclude us from the community. Moreover, this measure risks undermining our rights to equal citizenships set by the Equal Opportunities (Persons with a Disability) Act of 2000.

We believe that if this policy measure is implemented it will, in our opinion, signify a regression in terms of what we, as disabled people, have achieved thanks to anti discriminatory legislation and policies based on the Social Model of Disability, aimed at safeguarding our rights. Finally, we cannot fail to mention that in adopting this measure, the support agencies (such as Agenzija Sapport) that have started to provide disabled persons with the possibility of leading more independent lives and to have a better quality of life will be undermined or even dismantled.

Disabled people, like the elderly, have the right to enjoy community life and to be provided with proper support to lead a better quality of life. Indeed, community-based support should be the way forward. After all, we believe that we belong in the community.

Gordon C. Cardona
PRESIDENT

Vickie Gauci
SECRETARY

Notes:

1. MLP is short for 'Malta Labour Party' - one of the two largest parties, together with the PN (the Nationalist Party), which have influenced Maltese political history.

2. The now approved MLP motion in question states:

In Maltese:

MLP mozzjoni fuq is-Sahha
“5. Jirranga biex wara li jkunu saru bidliet strutturali mehtiega, parti minn San
Luqa tintuza biex tospita fiha persuni b’dizabilita, li hadd mill-familja taghhom ma jkun jista’ jibqa’ jdur bihom.“

Which roughly translates as:

MLP HEALTH MOTION
“After necessary structural alterations, parts of St Luke’s should be converted to

house disabled people whose families can no longer take care of them.”

3. ' St Luke's Hospital' was the former state hospital that has now been replaced by a modern one - the 'Mater Dei' hospital. Parts of the old state hospital have been proposed as a site for a residential institution

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


SOME RANDOM REFLECTIONS ON LOVE

Photo: Snowflake – our white musical bird and the new addition to the family.

Well, it’s that day again tomorrow. Saint Valentine’s. And I cannot fail forgetting that as every time I switch on the radio, the DJ reminds me through talk or the choice of love music. I do love listening to this kind of romantic or sentimental music sometimes but there’s a limit to everything. And as a
single 26 year old, it is rather irritating to listen to the same themes of love, betrayal or even despair and feeling awkward because you’re single. I’ve lived through these experiences of love and more, so I think I don’t need to be reminded of the pains and joys love entails.


On the other hand, I have been in love before. Starting off with my first crush at age 6 to the recent past, there’s always been some lucky (or unlucky) girl I was in love with. But the more I think about it, now that I look back, is that I’ve often been in love only with love. I was in love with my own image of the one I thought I loved. And I know that I wanted to seek something in others that I felt missing in me. Indeed, the idea that someone else can bring you happiness is misleading at best and deadly at worse. But we are made to believe it through mainstream culture.


Don’t get me wrong. I have cherished the moments I spent with girls and women I loved. It was nice being honored by their presence. To have the opportunity to share the laughter and pain we face on a daily basis. The gift of friendship. The gift of being there for another person. Yes, I do enjoy that very much even today. But should our happiness depend on another person? I think for a time I believed that this was the case. But now I have come to realize that I should seek happiness in myself – irrespective of whether I’m single or not.


So, I find myself wondering whether the many love songs I am listening to are but based on an artificial conception of love. I know that my doubts are based on painful experiences of unrequited love – which I know very well now. My impairment, yes, had a role to play in conspiring against women to value me as a man. But then, I could say that I have had the chance to share with women the experience of being judged by my appearances or have my opinions undermined because I appeared different than the average man. Of course, there
were other times when things followed their natural course and the girl in question wanted me to be just a friend.


Therefore, I only wish that as I grow in my understanding of myself and of life, I will appreciate the gift of love that I have enjoyed and the moments of love and togetherness that I will have with my closest of friends. I do know that there are institutional or cultural factors that might preclude me from being perceived as a man. Yes, I’ve been hurt that way before.


But I also know that some feelings of insecurity and inadequacy as a man stem from a childhood characterized by medical assessments and through a social consensus on my ‘position’ as a disabled man. Indeed, I know how I have seen myself unworthy of love, perhaps enforced by episodes of rejection. It’s not a sad story but the truth. As I grow in my knowledge about myself, I realize how stupid I was in believing all these things. Of course I’m a man, even if my voice on the phone is sometimes mistaken for a woman’s (note to self: I hope to remember to delete this last one).


And I think that this is the greatest lesson I learned about love. That you cannot try to mould it into a shape or form. That you cannot describe it without distorting it. Indeed, before loving anyone else you must love yourself – although it’s been said before. For in truth, love is not this or that. Why? Because love is …

Friday, February 08, 2008

ELECTRONIC BLACKMAIL


It’s now the start of a new weekend. It was quite a stressful week to say the truth, so I’m really looking forward to a good rest. At least I hope to get one... Eh... Judging by the heavy rain currently pouring at intervals, it will be a cold and wet weekend. Yes it seems I need to keep warm and cosy. However I still got something to look forward to. That's because if I’m lucky I should see an article I wrote for a newspaper as part of my work get printed... Fingers crossed. However, before the weekend started I get an email that I don’t often get … well, I won’t go into its content because you know how it goes if I quote an excerpt :


“If you care for your friends or loved ones, send this email to friends and all those in your address book. etc etc“


I usually delete these kind of emails, especially the last one I cared to read promised me peace and prosperity if I did forward it, but promised me a great deal of misfortune and curses if I didn’t. It’s a modern equivalent of a chain letter. Only that it’s much easier to get rid of. But why did I feel so angry with the one I received today?


Because it was allegedly written by a local child who had a brain tumor and I was promised that if I forwarded this email to my friends or those in my address book, I would be helping this child pay for his operation. If I didn't, the child would still "pray for me". I am not cold or heartless. I hurt when I sense injustice and dishonesty that preys on the stories of real people. So, I promptly deleted this email. But why?


First of all, no such technology to track forwarded email exists. Besides that, such emails only exploit our good natures and put us in a position of falsely empathizing with someone who probably is fictional to start with. I believe that there is indeed sadness in seeing children suffer or die young. Therefore I believe that there should be respect to such an experience. And as part of this respect, people should be made to relate to the person and the experience. Not made to feel pity or better than that person.


I don’t want people who are comfortably sitting in an office chair creating drama or write emails that exploit real life to elicit responses or create false hopes that simply forwarding an email will change lives. I know it won’t. I took the time to research whether this email, if forwarded, could help in some way. It won’t.


Indeed, it reminded me of the many charity events I have seen or watched throughout my life. People who have impairments or who had health problems being exposed to audiences who were expected to feel sad for them. To give money for their cause. While forgetting the most important thing. That, above all else, it should not be about pity or feeling sorry. That is not enough. That is not really right if you think about it.


Whenever I come across people who seemed too relate better to me as a sick, or as an ‘unfortunate’ man, I feel uncomfortable. I would have preferred if I had not come in. If they hadn’t noticed me at all. Why?


It’s the same feeling I get when I open such emails. It’s as if you are forced to feel guilty for being such a lucky guy, or even for being so unlucky really the emotion is artificial, imposed on you. And that bothers me. It’s even worse if this emotion only creates situations in which other's life circumstances are exploited. When I am placed in a position where I have to choose between feeling:


  1. Bad: for not sending this email – since I know it will only elicit false hopes but still give me – for a few minutes – a false sense of guilt for deleting it.
  2. Good: if I had sent it of course. But what would I have achieved really? Just perpetuated these false feelings in others. Thus, causing illegitimate suffering. And of course, I would have encouraged people to focus only on people’s suffering while ignoring that a person should be at the centre of our attention, not the suffering itself. And while the requiem music plays in the background, we forget that the only thing we can really do is to relate to such people as people and not – as we do get – as ‘sufferers'



It’s really frustrating to realize how powerful words and images can be in eluding us into believing things or feeling things that aren’t real. I can tolerate it in art to a point. But it’s not ok if we are made to feel this out of a thwarted mindset. Especially if it’s for people who do not actually exist and are constructed through clever deception. This, in this case, can
be said to be electronic emotional blackmail.


PS: The resource I linked to -Snopes - is a good site to check out whether you're being fooled or misinformed about some facts.

Monday, February 04, 2008

THE BLIND HAND OF JUSTICE?


It’s that time again. Malta will be soon facing another season of political debate, or rather of heated arguments on local TV and radio. I’m rather forced to talk about this here since I need to get it out of my system. No, I won’t be discussing my political views here. Not that I’m not tempted to do so. However, there’s an issue that bothers me every time an election comes up.


Well, back in 2003, I was legally blind. Indeed, I couldn’t see at all. So, I had to vote like any other blind person would. In front of what is called an 'electoral commission’. Practically, this meant that six or seven people representing the political parties contesting (then 3, now 4 parties) knew how I voted that day. And, believe me, it’s not a comforting experience to know that other people may use this against you in the future. Besides that, why should someone else know who I believe should lead the country – when not even my closest friends would?


Even if this time will be my first vote as a sighted person (in one eye), I cannot help looking back at the time when I was denied this right. The right to a secret vote that is. Unfortunately, attempts made by organizations of blind people in Malta to attain this right to secrecy through the use of alternative means of voting have failed. Indeed, the court denied this right to secret voting deeming it a constitutional issue and thus requiring the approval by two-thirds of the parliament to pass.


Obviously, I disagree with this ruling as it denies Maltese blind citizens from exerting their right to express their political choices in secret. However, I wasn’t comfortable with the way this legal complaint was filed. Indeed, secret voting is not – strictly speaking – an issue that only concerns blind people. What about people with severe physical impairments who cannot vote because of the way voting has been designed? Or those people who because they have been judged as intellectually disabled or of having a mental health condition are barred from the voting system?


I am not in a position to judge anyone here. Yet, I think that given that voting is perhaps the only time when a citizen can directly have a say in the democratic process, I think that barring certain disabled people from the voting process emphasizes feelings of exclusion and dependence. Indeed, justice is not blind. If it were, it would start by safeguarding its own right to vote!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

EMPTY LABELS with FULL IMPLICATIONS

Part 2


I left you with a thought spout how words pose the danger of turning people into words – or in life, ‘diagnosis’, ‘conditions’ or even ‘impairments’. Of course, I cannot hide the fact that words can be useful. However, inasmuch as this is so, I often find people who have come to believe the labels they are forced to adopt that they become really that label. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that has disastrous effects and has ruined lives. Yet, why do I call myself ‘disabled’ then. Well,
the fact is that I am not describing myself as such when I use that term.


Simply put, when I say that I am ‘disabled’ it’s describing my social position. It’s pointing to the fact that I am not accounted for. It’s not judging me. So, I believe that in a sense it’s liberating. The way I want to be perceived, how I relate to others or how I see myself should never come
into play when I call myself ‘disabled’. On the other hand, terms such as ‘spastic’, ‘retarded’, ‘feeble-minded’, ‘schizoid’, ‘deaf and dumb’ which have all been used (and still are) without looking at the implications they have on the persons they label.


Indeed, it seems to me, that instead of helping people understand each other, these labels have only served to provide justification for action that isolates, excludes or penalises, individuals based on a mere word, that replaces everything that constitutes that person and subjects him/her to an invisible prison. That is, I think, one of the tragedies we face. Not just disabled people, it affects everybody.


There’s no easy solution. But I think it rests with us to go beyond what we have grown to believe, or whatever we have come to associate with people who we label. Describing ourselves
as white, or black; as men, or women; as gay or straight; etc. has its uses. The danger, however, is when we forget that these labels are not reality. Moreover, these labels do not reveal to us the ways in which particular groups are excluded.


However, if you think about it, believing that people can be represented through the names we ascribe to them is no different than believing that there is a green sky or a blue forest. Here, I exclude the paintings of any surrealist who has chosen this theme.



PS: To read more on the relationship between name and identity, you might be interested to read the entry Be Careful what You Call Yourself at Planet of the Blind.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

EMPTY LABELS with FULL IMPLICATIONS

Part 1

If I had to say that the sky is green or that the forest is blue … what would you say? I expect that you pictured these very things, or at least understood what I was saying. Even if you might have thought I was writing nonsense. OK, before accusing me of overdosing on tea or salt, I’ll get to the point. Talking of ‘green skies’ or ‘blue forests’ are deemed meaningless with valid reason. After all, we know for sure that (during the day), we can see blue skies and (pollution permitting) green forests.


Indeed, there is agreement that green and blue refer to definite visible colours. However, we often forget that the words referring to colours are not really the colour itself. Great, so what? Well, the fact is that we don’t stop and think about the implications of words very often. Especially, when they are labels or terms that have gained a certain life of their own. For instance, I was just zapping on the TV when I hear words such as ‘mentally retarded’, or ‘genetically predisposed to …’ on what would be called ‘authoritative’ programmes…


But then, I wonder whether the implications of using these terms are fully understood. And then when I suspect that terms, or labels, take a life of their own. Indeed, when I was growing up the idea that a doctor would call me ‘spastic’ or imply it hurt, and calling me ‘special’ doesn’t help either. It’s not because I don’t want to face reality. It has more to do – and always has – with being defined solely in terms of those terms. I took a funny look at this in my previous post confessions of a shape shifter and it’s amusing to a point. But, on another level, words have the power to kill and destroy people by reducing them to words.



END OF PART ONE