GD-Zone Archives Logo

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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Deadly Decisions

I recently read a story regarding a Swiss-based assisted suicide clinic Dignitas.The story appeared on The Guardian and it revealed how a significant number of UK residents who made use of this service could have lived for more years if they had been provided with treatment and support that was available in the UK. It was particularly shocking to me because one of the victims of the Dignitas service was a person with rheumatoid arthritis, one of the conditions I acquired in 1999.

The findings revealed by this news article exemplify a deadly trend in our way of thinking about disabled people and their value to society. Indeed, at times, I suspect some governments would prefer giving us the death sentence rather than providing us with rights, including the right to access support services. Moreover, even if the interviewed doctors seem to be appalled by the premature killing of people having arthritis, or paralysis (for example), the deaths of other people with conditions such as MS are glossed over.

The problems with euthanasia are many. Personally, I can understand why some people might wish to end their lives. The fact is that when you acquire an impairment or a medical condition, it takes some time to adjust. And going on in the beginning is always hard and painful – even with support or lack of information. So, imagine someone waking up every day to face another day, not knowing if there will be an end in sight. This isolation and feeling of helplessness is a great source of pain and can often lead to suicidal feelings too.

Not to mention the pressures some disabled people may face from family members, or dealing with the guilt of being a burden. Undeniably, these are painful feelings and make you wonder whether you’re being selfish for wishing to live on. Unfortunately, in these circumstances, euthanasia – short of suicide – becomes a rather tempting option. And yet, euthanasia remains a final solution and an irreversible one. When there may be other solutions that could help in improving the situation.

However, euthanasia has implications far beyond the personal. It upholds an idea that death can be a way out of problems. It encourages a world view where we should give up living when we are faced by a stumbling block. Finally, it implies that there are lives not worth living. And this is the saddest part of all because decisions of this kind are never made in a clear state of mind – and sometimes forced by doctors or family members. And if I think about it, if you consider my impairments and medical conditions, my life could be easily regarded as one not worth living. But is it?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Forgetting Life

No one knows what there is awaiting us at the end of our lives. Atheists affirm that there is nothing. Simply an emptiness where we just disappear from history into a place, if you can call it that, with no meaning and no future. On the other hand, those who believe in God believe that yes, there is life beyond death.

To be honest, I am unsure myself of the answer to the question of whether there is an after-life. Not that I am in any hurry to satisfy my curiosity, and so I hope the grim reaper delays the answer for more years to come. Even if there was one time when I was really close to finding out the answer myself - following an episode of kidney bleeding in 1998.

However, I thought about death even before I had that episode. My brother died a few months after my birth and I am still unsure of what came of him. Or whether he's watching me after all those years. It may be a silly hope, I admit, but I want to believe in an after-life. On the other hand, the question of whether there is an after-life or not is not deadly important (I couldn't resist the pun)..

I mean if you consider the zillions of things which could have gone wrong in the formation of terrestrial life. The many other factors which could have annihilated the human race, preventing our evolution. And, as for me, I wouldn't be here if my family line hadn't survived through life in different environments, wars upon wars, diseases and natural disasters. And yet, with all this, I might not have been born either. Without chronicling my medical history, I am astonished that I made it to this day. If I had been born in a different time, or even another country, I might also have disappeared from blogging history. OK, forget the part on 'blogging history'... I do get carried away during these moments.

What I mean to say, it may make more sense to live our life to the full now rather to dwell on the fate that is out there. While, as I said in my previous posts, we should be aware of our own mortality, this should make us appreciate more of what we have and strive to improve on what is wrongly denied us or from others. Life is too unique and precious to debate on who is right or wrong, if there is a heaven or hell, if you;ll end up in nirvana or stuck in samsara. Not that I don't appreciate a philosophical argument of this kind once in a while.

Now anyone fancy playing hangman?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sympathising with Caliban

As I was reading the book The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I came across the myth of Caliban. Although I was familiar with the character of Caliban found in Shakespeare's play > The Tempest , I was faced with a different kind of beast.

In this myth, Caliban is condemned on both counts. First, his body has been changed to become an ugly reptilian-like creature, and second, he is forced to live in a hostile swamp - away from all human contact. However, as in The Tempest, Caliban is obsessed with a woman who he wishes for himself. In the original myth, Caliban sends one of his creatures to steal the soul of his love interest each night when she is asleep to make her love him. However, Calibaan's attempts to seduce the object of his desire are to no avail as she refuses to give in to his advances.

On reading this myth, I felt that I could identify with many of Caliban's thoughts and feelings. Yes, his actions were most certainly wrong and ineffective. But it would be too easy to condemn Caliban if it weren't for the fact that there were times when I was made to feel quite like Caliban.

Not that I have lizard-like features as such. I don't have an extendible tongue or the capability to climb walls, for example. However, I did feel that my physical impairment at times caused discomfort among some. Or even shock, perhaps... The fact is that it's not uncommon to find that the so-called 'deformed' body has been used in myths and literature to denote impurity of some sort or other. Moreover, the implication of the term 'deformed' also implies the notion of a 'form', I allegedly deviate from. In this sense, Caliban and many people who are considered 'deformed' or 'imperfect' can be outcasted and made to feel unwelcome simply because of how we appear to them.

But then, surely I don't live in a swamp? No, but then again, I can say that I do experience a similar form of isolation. This is because the environment I live in is difficult for me to negotiate as I encounter different obstacles ranging from bad pavements to lift-less buildings.

Not to mention the fact that there are also implicit cultural barriers that are not easy to overcome if you're disabled. And this brings me to the last point that I feel draws me nearer to Caliban. The fact that Caliban, for all intents and purposes, is denied love. True, he is obsessed with his desire to possess this woman. But I expect the fact that Caliban was also an ungodly sight to behold didn't help his case a single bit.

Even if I'll leave it to my readers to decide from my profile photo whether I qualify as an ungodly sight, I think that many ideas about disabled people we are exposed to as children exclude us from love or equal relationships to that of others. Indeed, we are always expected to be 'normalised', to fit in and to accept our perceived misfortunes. Like Caliban, we are made to feel frustrated in our pursuit of love because we are at times perceived, often in secret, as not human enough.

This affinity with Caliban that I feltt on reading the myth proper is not without its dangers. We can't be obsessed with goals we cannot reach. We don't even want to waste our life in pursuit of things which remain beyond our control. However, there is much to be said in defence of Caliban since some of us may experience a sense of loneliness and isolation akin to the one faced by him. However, unlike Caliban, we still have the chance to fight the 'swamp' unless we don't lose ourselves into a hopeless obsession to become 'normal' when we are already fully human as we are now.

But, admittedly, it's not always an easy thing to do. But that might make it even a more worthwhile goal.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm Afraid of Fear!

It was Franklin D Roosevelt who once said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself”. These words were spoken during his inaugural address as US president when America was facing hard economic times during the 1930s Great Depression. While much can be said about the relevance of these words to our own times, with the collapsing markets and global recession, I want to focus more on the impact of economic collapse on society, and more specifically on the destructive power of fear.

Another episode from the 1930s can help us understand how easy it is to create a state of fear in the population. The event happened on a Halloween night of 1938. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) had scheduled an adapted version of HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. However, the only idea that was retained from the original text was the one relating to Martian invasion. In this sense, the radio script contained references to real places in the United States with the Mars invaders landing in a part of New Jersey.

Orson Welles, who was an actor, producer and performer wanted to change the script in such a way as to make it more realistic sounding and the production now took the form of a music variety programme (which was common at those times) interspersed with news bulletins about the Martian invasion. No big deal, isn’t it? However, for many of those tuning in later and missing the introduction stating that this was simply a radio play; this was the end of the world as they knew it. Shockingly, many did believe that they were doomed and many people in the West and East coast of the US started fleeing their houses, calling the police and trying to save themselves and their families. Despite the disclaimers that were aired once the studio was given an indication of the impact of this broadcast outside, the damage had been done.

Why did people believe that Martians had invaded Earth? Apart from the realism of the production, there are a number of factors that made people panic in such a way. First, there was almost unquestionable faith in what radio says as a means of mass communication. Second, Americans were already at high stress levels with the looming of war in Europe. Finally, Americans were still facing the economic difficulties of the Great Depression.

All these reasons may have played a key role in creating panic and to fool otherwise rational people into believing Martians were planning to take over. However, the over-arching reason that I can think of to account for this irrational behaviour is our fear. Today, as in the 1930s, we are still plagued by the same fears, albeit going by different names. We fear uncertainty. We fear war – this time from North Korea or Al Qaeda. We fear for our future. We are more suspicious of people who come from outside our culture.

The economic downturn forces us to become ever more hostile to immigrants, people who have different beliefs or traditions. Unfortunately, our media does not help to educate us but is often agenda-driven and encourages us to inflate our fears by throwing data, statistics and claims about our impending doom. No wonder the far right is growing again in Europe. We are afraid of so many things. New scary things. Global terrorism, unemployment, material loss and climate change.

In this, the late 1930s has also much to teach us. A man rose in Germany during a time when Germany had lost World War I and was recovering from economic ruin. This man blamed the foreigners for Germany’s collapse, more specifically what he called the ‘polluting Jews’. He wanted all Jews, gipsies, and others to be denied their rights. He then also wanted to annihilate those he deemed a threat to the pure German ‘race’: starting with disabled people and then passing on to the Jewish people, gipsies, homosexuals, communist sympathisers and so on. They were bringing the German economy down and taking up German jobs, he said.

The man, as you can probably tell, was Adolf Hitler and his state was now called the Third Reich. And how did Hitler come to power? How do leaders who feed on hate, racial intolerance and half-truths gain power? Because they feed on our fear. On this natural instinct that can save us but that can ultimately destroy us. Sadly, in a Europe plagued by economic problems, we risk losing our humanity and give in to our tendencies to give in to fear. And believe that not Martians, but foreigners are planning to invade us. And that would be repeating history wouldn’t it? If not ending it…

Thursday, June 04, 2009

An Elusive Silence

Stop for a minute. Can you hear the noise around you? Can you notice any lights or other visual distractions around you? If you’re living in a populated area, you now probably realise that we’re being over-loaded by sounds and images. All the time.

Last night, for example, I had difficulty sleeping as someone in our neighbourhood decided to play new age music till late in the night. And I don’t like to listen to those loud beats and rhythms at that time! Especially if I want to get some rest after a day at the office. However, this sensory bombardment I faced seems to be a characteristic of modern technology. Instead of spending time reflecting on life, we are often forced to hearing and seeing diverse stimuli without actually listening or engaging with them.

Yes, I find technology has opened a lot of possibilities in my life today. Indeed, thanks to the computer and the internet, I can manage work and life in general - even more than before due to my visual impairment. But all technology has its downside. If we become too dependent on it to get solutions and advice – even opinions – we risk losing the capacity to think critically or reflect on what we consume. It’s like believing that the picture of a dog, for instance, IS a dog! OK, it’s Thursday evening and I’m out of better examples.

What I am trying to say is that there is sometimes too much happening in our life that we fail to experience life itself. Instead, we tend to be engaged in a reactive mode where we are stuck in our world view and where moments of silence remain elusive. and if you think about it, that’s not a very happy life to live…

Monday, June 01, 2009

Look In to Reach Out

It’s unusual for me to write on a Monday. At work, it was a bit hectic and I should be relaxing. The weekend was mainly characterised by reading, checking FaceBook and surfing the net for anything interesting. Right now I’m interested into learning about the origins of creativity and how the mind works in producing creativity. It’s really fascinating how complex our minds really are and how we take our consciousness for granted.

For you to read this post, for example, you need to be able to read or hear language, decode the meaning and coordinate your body to access the information from this page. And that’s not mentioning keeping the body functioning by inhaling and exhaling, etc. I guess I am rediscovering the joy of learning about new things. Or, rather, to learn a bit more about myself and my position in the world and in the universe.

Yes, last week was one full of contrasts. On one hand, I was happy that I had more free time to use for my reading but, on the other, I was saddened by the fact that I realised that I couldn’t continue feeding the feelings of love that had been developing for a person in my life. I won’t go into details about who she was but suffice it to say that it was the right thing to do dealing with my ‘love sickness’ given our particular life circumstances. Actually, a creative poem "Loving ... Her" [from my Zyhil blog] as I dealt with my emotions.

I don’t mean to say that I simply buried my feelings or turned my heart to stone. If the latter was true, I’d probably be undergoing a post-mortem exam right now. It means that even if our relationship is great, both have made different plans for our futures – and that’s life! In the past, I would have blamed my impairments right away. While this might apply in some cases, I don’t think that impairment is the reason for this sad result this time round.

In fact, the more I thought about this in the past, the more I realised that if a person thinks of you differently because you’re disabled, then what sense is it to pursue such a relationship in the first place? And often times I find that it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of believing a relationship is the be all and end all of our success or our happiness. It’s equally dangerous to equate success in love to your self-worth as a person. As a disabled person, I did feel of less value when I was not treated or valued as any other man because of my impairments. I can now assert that it’s foolish and can only lead to unhappiness.

To be in a relationship... It’s a great thing, I admit, but not the only great thing about our existence. I want to be in a relationship one day but I don’t want to force myself into one! I find that there is so much to learn about the world – not to mention about ourselves – that opens up a great number of connections and different kinds of relationships that may be very fulfilling.

That ‘s why I am trying to invest more time and energy in building a relationship with myself. That sounded very bad. What mean to say is that before I can give to another, I first need to know who I m better and what I can offer. Without knowing ourselves, we can only offer so much. And risk discovering a truth about who we are that puts us at odds with who we thought we were. To put it simply, I can’t believe in another unless I believe n myself. The alternative would be co-dependence.