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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Yuletide Post

It’s only a few hours until Christmas. Christmas … a word that conjures childhood memories more than any other occasion I celebrate on an annual basis. Not even on my birthday!

I guess I am not unique in that way. Well, Christmas appears to be the most magical time when you’re still a child. Full of hope and with a longing to learn new things about the world, you imagine what it was like when baby Jesus was born and trying to fit Santa and the reindeers in the picture. Tonight, I would be filled with anticipation of what Father Christmas was going to bring me this year…  I also secretly wished I could be granted a Christmas miracle and get to walk again (so sad)...

Alas, when we grow up, the charm of  Christmas seems to vanish as we discover a world that is quick to judge and many times superficial when making such judgments. Well, this doesn’t refer to anything in particular but it’s a general comment on how I feel things are today. I wish I could, for a few minutes, recapture the childhood innocence we all possessed once. On the other hand, we wouldn’t survive for long in the adult world if we really retained our childhood way of thinking.

However, I believe we have the choice to stop worrying about the material possessions that have become synonymous with this season. Indeed, I must say that we have come to associate Christmas too much with presents when it’s about gifts.

A play with words, I hear you say. Not really... “Presents” are often simply inanimate artifacts that, yes, can be useful and a source of pleasure. On the other hand, a gift can mean many things - of being a friend, of letting go of the past and of giving oneself to a righteous cause. Yes, related to the act of giving is the idea of ‘charity’… a term that has gained notoriety in my dictionary.

Well, charity reminds me of the many times I have felt out of place as people judged I was unlucky, or as they say, ‘less fortunate’. Oftentimes, these negative messages emerge again like a haunting ghost around Christmas – although I admit things have improved as (disabled people locally appear no longer to be paraded as pathetic, dependent and pitiful things. Yet, the modern Christmas, despite the messages of peace and love it expresses, also bombards us with images and messages promoting instant happiness through the purchase of things, presents and such. Ok, it’s still nice to receive a present occasionally but aren't forgetting something?.

This act of giving material goods to solve problems is what charity sseems to mean nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s bad to give some money to charity but, I believe,  this is not what charity is all about. Charity is about giving a person who society has rejected and stigmatised, the dignity of being treated as your equal. Admittedly, it’s not easy and I have often been the one acting as the better person. But when I was on the receiving end... thought of as the 'poor', 'less fortunate', 'pitiful' and 'crippled' boy … it didn't feel that good. But is our way of thinking as adults, natural? Can we still hope in the new generations?

Well, all I can say that judging by my experiences with my nephews, children don’t naturally assume  they're better than their uncle simply because they can walk and run amok around the house. It's natural that they ask questions about why uncle uses a wheelchair, etc but that's pretty much like using a car for them. Still, I fear they will  probably assume that a 'cruel' nature was the source of all my problems when they grow older (though I still hope not!).

As adults, we have the opportunity to go one step further than looking at disabled people as equals. We have the faculty to consider the way society creates problems through its lack of access and the various wrong ideas about who disabled people are. When I started suspecting that society had a part to play  in the negative way I sometimes thought of myself, I was about 10 years old – long after I stopped believing in Father Christmas. To cut a long post short, I think that we should go beyond basing our happiness on material objects.

For even if we cannot return to our childhood state, we can try to be less narrow in our judgments and be open to the possibilities life offers. That’s the only way we can renew ourselves for the New Year – forget any resolutions that we plan to make (which for me last less than 5 days).

Enjoy the holidays and I'll be back in 2010!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Babbling aboutBlogging

We often take new media (a term that covers all social networking sites and computer-mediated user generated content) for granted. For some of us, including moi, when we were young, the floppy disk was an amazing tool to exchange games or other software and used to envy the person who had a 80486 model computer. I think that those had the memory of mobile phones now. In short, we've become hooked on technology and we have progressed in our communication repertoire from snail mail to twitter, facebook and blogger. I sometimes try to imagine what all this new technology and experience of new media is like for a 9 year old today.

I guess it would be only part of his or her daily life. At least if s/he lives in a country with proper infrastructure. Added to that, his/her family must afford such technology. In this sense, we can speak of a global digital divide that separates nations with access to the net and those who lack widespread access or who have state-imposed restrictions (like Iran and China). In spite of all that, can we say that the new media is making us better individuals and building a more equal and just society?

Yes, people form communities and virtual friendships through social networking. At the same time, groups propagating prejudice or encouraging separatism are also gaining strength through the use of the internet - thus closing themselves within their virtual social circles and to alternative views. I'm not implying that social networking is a bad tool or, as some fundamentalists put it, "the instrument of evil"... But, like other technology, it is being used to promote dialogue and justice as well as immobilising hate groups and radical extremism. On a more personal level, we often take our status updates on facebook or twitter lightly or may write a careless blog post. Or else, divulge information to all the virtual world that you might regret later...

It may sound paranoid, and it is to a point, but when you communicate in cyberspace, you are really talking to 'everyone' (assuming you are posting on publicly accessible sites). So, you who are reading my blog right now might be ... oh ... a serial killer ... or even president Obama ... Steven Spielberg ... Bill Gates ... or even ... the Pope or the Dalai Lama? Better calm down and take a deep breath, Gordon ... It's probably the occasional visitor who has found your blog by accident and has left before reaching this point.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Just some thoughts ...

These days I am spending my free time doing reading for my thesis. As a consequence, I am getting worrying symptoms.

For instance, while I'm eating, I see an idea emerging from my mash potato... I'm listening to the radio and a string of words coalesce to form a meaningful sentence... I'm watching TV and through my fogged vision, I perceive a vision... When I sleep I dream I'm discussing what I read during the day... it gets worse...

The last time I felt this way was when I was in love. Very disconcerting. Well, it's ironic that the more I spend reading about blogs and blogging, the less I spend doing the thing myself!

Seriously, I hope that countries agree on concrete action to address climate change as they go on with their discussions at the Copenhagen conference. Even if, to be honest, I am unsure whether we are in time to save ourselves from climate change. Or whether, like some sceptical scientists claim, our actions have no significant impact on the climate. I wonder...

It's also International Human Rights Day today. Yet, I'm also not very convinced that our world has incredibly improved its human rights record. In some aspects, I think we're even regressing. Yes, we have the UN Convention Rights of Disabled People now and many other instruments to protect the human rights of many. But there are some rights that are being contested or even denied. Abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide are, in my view, serious threats to human rights. And it's also concerning that a Swiss vote will now secure that no more minarets are built... and there's a movement, it seems, to remove religious symbols from public places. Not sure if we're on the right track here...

Alas, the majority world (referred to by media as the 'developing world') is experiencing the greatest breaches of human rights ranging from poverty to torture and execution. I think we who live in the minority world have some responsibility in this state of affairs - after spending decades exploiting these countries' natural resources and polluting their habitats - costing the lives of livelihoods of many inhabitants. And we cannot solve these problems by simply giving money to charity because that's only a symptom... The cause, I believe, is bad distribution of wealth and by that I mean that the money doesn't go where the real poverty is.

Finally, I find it unjust that the majority world will be facing the brunt of climate change. In this, I feel that the minority world must not dismiss its responsibility to what, after all, made it what it is but really help to prevent the worst from happening.

For, if I think about it, the distinctions we make between the majority/developing world and the minority/developed world are only in our mind. If a drought starves the whole of North Africa, for instance, it will affect us as well - wherever we are... But, I guess, that would be stating the obvious (!))

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yesterday was International Disabled People’s Day ...

Yes, it’s true – the 3rd December is remembered as International Disabled People’s Day. As a disabled person working in the disability field, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t write a line or two about this. Even if one day later. But, to my defence, I had to deliver a presentation to a conference to mark International Disabled People Day organised by the National Commission Persons with a Disability (KNPD) - which is also my employer.

This year’s theme adopted by KNPD is employment, or more precisely, our right to work expressed by our slogan The Right to Work - Our Right Too! (my translation)

The sad reality is that this right to work is still denied to many disabled people around the world. In Malta, the rate of employment amongst disabled people stood only at 14.6% within the disabled population (Census 2005). Indeed, despite any anti-discrimination legislation that exist locally (such as the Equal Opportunities Act / Cap 210) or any European directive (such as the EU Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation), the facts reflect a worrying trend. But,, hopefully, now that we have the UN Convention Rights of Disabled People,, which includes Article 27 on work and employment, I hope to see more progress in this area as well as more countries ratify it.

Yet, the current reality remains that disabled people who want to access employment must face obstacles not only in terms of finding an accessible place of work, or in suitable assistive apparatus, but must deal with the complexity of a disabling society. Obstacles include lack of accessible transport, lack of personal support and with the past failures of an educational system which provided them with a poor level of education. But the barriers do not end there! A good number of employers are still reluctant to employ us because they think, for instance, that we will be less productive, take more sick leave or create problems to other employees.

Well, writing those negative assumptions down reminds me that Christmas is soon coming. I do like Christmas, mind you, but I really dislike those charity marathons that portray us as dependent, pathetic or sick. I guess that clears the mystery of where employers get some of their funny ideas about disabled people. After all, we are often depicted as dependent, pathetic and in need of charity. Who would think that we are fit to work under that light? I hope this year will be better but I’m not holding my breath.

I think that’s enough for today. I hope to be able to write some more in the coming days – especially on my impressions of this year’s charity events. But, for now, enjoy!