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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Capturing the Moment

There's much good to say about the times we're living in. I can't imagine living in a world where diseases were a constant threat, where the infant mortality rate was extremely high and when food, water or shelter was scarce. This is not even mentioning the benefits technology and medicine have brought to us.

However, in spite of all such richness, I do feel that we're losing out on other, equally important, values. We live in a fast food world where our communication speeds have multiplied over the course of decades. We made a transition from using letters to email, and now even to updating our status via our mobile phones. And yet, we seem to want more and more ways of keeping in touch.

We seek social networks, join Facebook, and try to keep up with a myriad of virtual and real social groups. Advocate for our right to speak and, yet, silence those who contradict us. But then, are our families stronger? Are the rights of others being upheld and respected? Are we really connecting with others? Are we even taking time to get to know who we really are?

I suspect that the answer to many of these questions is simply ‘no’! But this is not because we do not want to connect or find value in life beyond the material happiness we surround ourselves with but because we are not stopping to reflect on our position in the world and on the reason we're here.

There were many periods in my life when I found myself alone. Perhaps this is one of those times and the reason why I am writing a post about it today. However, contrary to popular belief, this feeling of being alone isn't a negative feeling as such. It only got a bad reputation because of the Valentine Card merchants 

No seriously, being on my own at times helps me get in touch with who I am. Or rather, discover who I have become over the years. Most importantly, these peaceful instances when I can be free from distractions, I realise that, yes, there are certain important things in my life. I find that there is an aspect of me that is unique, and that there is a degree of sacredness to this life. That being here and knowing you are here is a privilege not to be wasted capriciously.

Of course, during these moments of stillness surrounded by the sound of classical music at times, brings back both positive and negative memories and emotions. Yet, even if we might want to forget the painful aspects of our past and present, these are still a living part of us and, thus, they need to be acknowledged. I believe that this is what there is missing in many people's lives today. We fill it with things that appear (or are made to appear so) important to our happiness, but lose track of what really matters to us. We seem to repress the answers to our happiness by indulging in quick fixes.

And I'm afraid that no amount of money, no kind of technology, no discovery (however groundbreaking) and even no form of drug, can give you an answer to the questions:

“What makes me happy?”

What should I strive for?

And often, those who dare ask those questions.

Those who challenge the reality projected through media...
Those who are not happy with the injustice and inequalities in the world and who believe that change is possible...

Those are the ones who feel alone and estranged by a fast world obsessed with instant happiness.

A world where people do not stop and think. A world of fleeting dreams and promises but with lack of commitment and drive to deliver.

A world where most do not take the time to capture the moment and end up trapped in a cage they believe is the universe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Make Independent Living a Reality ...

When we talk of independent living, we're referring to our right as disabled people to have a choice over our lives which includes access to the support and resources necessary to exert our self-determination. Indeed, the philosophy underpinning independent living is one that recognises the right of every individual to decide for him/herself.

The European Network on Independent Living is lobbying for this right to be recognised on a European level, in accordance with Article 19 of the UN Convention Rights of Disabled People (more info on the link provided). However, for this right to become a reality, your help and support is needed.

I urge you to sign the petition found at:

THE EUROPEAN NETWORK FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING

If you are also a member of an NGO working in this field, I encourage you to pass on the message, so that this crucial right is recognised and given to us all.

Thanks a lot.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama's bowling blunder

I don't usually follow Jay Leno's The Tonight Show as it's aired days later on local TV. Indeed, I probably missed Obama's first appearance as president on this show. However, thanks to youtube, I managed to watch the now notorious segment where Obama says his poor bowling ability of 129 is only good enough for him to compete on the special olympics. Here is the video and the transcript of the short excerpt below it:



Transcript:
Jay Leno: “[Has the White House bowling alley yet been] burned and closed down?”
Barack Obama: “No, no. I have been practicing . . . I bowled a 129.”
Jay Leno: “That’s very good, Mr. President.”
Barack Obama: “It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something.”

Admittedly, it must be stated that Obama issued an immediate apology following his remarks to Special Olympics chair Tim Shriver but I feel a bit ambivalent about whether as a disabled person, I should feel offended or not by this joke. On the one hand, I know that disabled athletes put a lot of effort into competing on the so-called "special olympics" but, on the other hand, I am not happy with the fact that the special olympics are held separately from mainstream olympic events.

If Obama's joke had been sexist, homophobic or even racist, the public outrage would have been greater. Of course, we cannot forget that The Tonight Show by its very structure is a relaxed show that encourages guests to loosen up. Perhaps, for a few seconds, Obama forgot he was president... But would it make any difference if he wasn't the president?

Would his comments been taken so seriously? Had this happened before the US elections, would some people not have voted Democrat? These are only speculations of course...

However, there are some things that worry me. The first being that Obama appears to have a slightly disablist bias - at least in relation to any attempts we make at sport - despite all words or rhetoric to the contrary.

But then, the thing we need to consider is that an over-reaction on the part of the disabled community to such a joke might be counter-productive. I'm not saying that Obama was justified or anything in his stupid banter. However, as a disabled community, I think we should take this remark and use it as an opportunity to delve further into the issues we face - and clearly state why such a remark is disablist - rather than take a defensive or antagonistic position against politicians. Moreover, I believe it's essential to emphasize the fact that we, as disabled people, can laugh at ourselves - if jokes are not about our impairments (directly) but about the often ludicrous situations we find ourselves in...

In fact, this seems the approach being taken by representatives of the Special Olympics. They are taking Obama's statement as an opportunity to raise awareness about sports and the efforts made by disabled athletes in sporting events.

Undoubtedly, sports isn't the only issue we need to draw politicians' attention to. However, it's a start in the task of underlining our prevalent invisibility in many other areas of life and on the importance of having the UN Convention ratified by all countries to assure our rights are respected and our voices heard.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Judging Others' Lives

The last month was filled with disappointment on one hand and excitement on the other. However, all my concerns revolved around the issue of life. How much do we value another person’s life? And on what grounds?

Of course, the issue of whether Eluana Englaro should live on sparked a lot of debate on an international level. Eluana, who had been in a coma for more than 16 years, was deemed by her father as being kept alive ‘against her wishes’. According to news reports, doctors interviewed agreed with the father's testimony. Ultimately, the final decision was taken. Eluana should die through the cessation of feeding. She eventually died on 9th February.

Inasmuch as modern medicine is greeted as a ‘miracle’, it raises ethical issues that cannot be simply resolved in terms of good or bad. Having said that, I believe that the interests that were being safeguarded through Eluana’s murder are those of others. The decision of whether this woman should die wasn’t a decision relating to her wishes but more to the wishes of her parents and those who were pro-death (or those supporting the so-called ‘ right-to-die’).

Indeed, if you think about it, no one considered that Eluana may be quite happy where she was. Many tried to picture themselves in ‘her situation’ but, alas, none of them were! It’s this rashness to assume that a disabled person or someone who cannot voice his/herself that really worries me. A quick judgement that reduces the value of who we are to how productive we are, to how much we contribute to society or how much we consume. And even if we get that right, there is also the risk that the way we look to others may seriously reduce our life expectancy.

On this point, the view persists that it must be awful to be disabled. It must be terrible to be in a coma for more than 16 years. But the point is, you’re not there and you cannot decide for me or that person. Inasmuch as our judgment about the quality of another person's life may be close to the truth, such a judgment can only be made from our own point of view that may, or may not have, a bias and a model of the world that fails to recognise different ways people can live or prosper.

Needless to say, having no voice has a further disadvantage. It’s difficult as it is to make your point when you can speak. But it’s often the case that people who are not recognised as ‘persons’ with rights are easily turned into objects that are open to exploitation by politicians and scientists alike. I’m talking about Obama’s decisions to allow US funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) here. The unborn are another ‘voiceless’ majority. But because they have no voice, they can be denied their protection under the law where it is legally sanctioned.

While ESCR could hold a 'promise' for the discovery of new cures and treatments for the world, at what cost? Obviously, the cost is the destruction of human life. I correct that. It's the use of another life to sustain another - or worse to manipulate an embryo into becoming another human organ. And if you think about it, it’s not that far from Mary Shelley’s idea of creating a living thing out of dead people’s body parts. In fact, the only thing Shelley got wrong was that instead of using cadavers to build humans, modern Dr Frankenstein is using living and developing human beings as spare parts. That is, unless you believe, that the nine months of pregnancy your mum withstood have nothing to do with the fact you’re here today.

Frankly, I believe that more money should be invested in adult stem cell research or even into the benefit of using the stem cells present in the umbilical chords of babies. On this matter, financial reward is being given for research that takes an easy way out. Some people may be offended if you compare such experimentation with those Nazi experiments on Jews to find out what temperature extremes our human body can survive, so I won't.

Now, a different subject altogether. Remember I had launched my new blog Cosmos Online a few months back. It's been offline for some time. Fortunately, I had the chance to use my free time to update Cosmos Online by identifying labels for each chapter, revamping the site design and making it easier for you to follow Namuh’s story. Moreover, I have changed my blogger icon on both this blog and on Cosmos Online, so when you bookmark them I hope they stand out from the others.

Incidentally, the original book Cosmos was written in part of my life where these ethical issues worried me. In this sense, re-reading what I wrote back in 1999 rekindled my pro-life passion and, simultaneously, my love of writing. While free time is precious now, I am toying with the idea of writing a social novel now – or something along those lines. I also managed to figure out how to turn a power point presentation into a you tube video. In fact, here is my first you tube video – which is a promotion for the updated Cosmos Online blog:



Yes, it’s not exactly a work of art but as my first attempt, I hope it’s bearable to watch at least. Well enough said…