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

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Life Apart

A boy is surrounded by doctors forming part of a medical team. He is told to follow the instructions. He is called by many names, but none are his own. He hears of his spasticity, his abnormal hands and his walk, they call a ‘scissor gait’. He knows that he is the subject.

As they continue to scrutinise his body, he feels strangely flattered by the specialist's attention. Yet, he knows, these medical experts are solely interested in his condition. Crushing all illusions of his humanity.

In the adjacent ward, a girl is naked as male doctors casually inspect her body. “It's a routine”, she tells herself. Yet, she still feels that it's as if she is just another mannequin - not regarded as a girl or a human being. No one even mentioned her birth name and the experts stood chatting amongst themselves.

The boy and girl glanced at each other as they were transferred on their wheelchairs to another room. They never talked but seemed to know they shared the pain. They would never meet again. Was the girl sent to a segregated institution?

A boy troubled by his own mortality strolled across his school’s corridors. His gait would appear ‘unnatural’ to many. But he was never bothered by it. One time, he realised that his walking appeared weird to other children his age.

However, he was unconsciously preoccupied by an idea of perfection in body and mind. Consequently, he rebelled against his own body. He disavowed the implication that he was 'abnormal', or 'defective'. Yet, he still loathed his impairment and denied what he regarded an ‘imperfect body’.

He cried, at times, and when he did, his tears expressed a burning passion to make right a silent injustice. The oppression of an imposed self-definition – To be told he was simply deformed, of less value than that of so-called ‘normal’ others. His life purpose only utilitarian.

"Do I only serve as an inspiration to others?” he asked. "Am I just a stepping stone for other people's salvation? Am I really a unique individual?"

He felt unfairly robbed of his claim to humanity by science and religion. It seemed God was punishing him for a great sin he had committed in his early childhood perhaps? His impairment akin to Cain’s cursed mark proclaiming a hidden sin to the world.

As a youth, he felt an outsider. Not belonging anywhere and often lost in thought. He tried to fit in. He did at times feel, yes, 'normal'. Alas, only few could relate to his experience. He hid away behind his shame by becoming another person - an impostor. But this conflicted with his desire to be valued as a complete person. His longing to be honest with himself. A wish to be free to fully express who he really was.

When the youth became an adult, he read about how society could exclude him because of the way his environment was designed. Not to mention the negative attitudes about impairment he was all too familiar with. An epiphany called “The social model of disability!” He could change his situation. He didn’t have to despise his impairment any more. Thus, he reclaimed part of his identity. He was largely disabled by a society which didn't take his impairment and that of others into account.

An adult now, he still seeks to be free from social straitjackets. True, His future and his past remain intrinsically linked. The various roles he has adopted are still part of him. The memories, the sense of isolation and of alienation appear at times. They are like haunting spirits. Yet, they are not threatening as long as you are ready to acknowledge they are an essential component of your unique experience as a human being.

This account is not really sad or tragic, for these ideas too are part of the oppression. Indeed, this story highlights the destructive power of prejudice and exclusion. Yet, it reveals that beyond our impairments, there is a unique individual with his/her own perspectives and experiences. At the same time, we are faced by a shared history of oppression and discrimination. In order to express who we really are, we often have to fight such exclusion which threatens the very fabric of our individuality.