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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My House in Malibu

I need to make a short announcement. In the last few weeks, I was playing around with creating a new blog dedicated to my creative self. To be honest, as a child, I had always dreamed to become a published author… with my own house in Malibu, sipping my orange juice as I typed away on my laptop next to my swimming pool ump…I think I put to many possessives there.

OK, I haven’t attained writing fame, or a house with a swimming pool in Malibu. Although I can still have orange juice - even if it gives me heartburn! I also have my own laptop too, even if it has become rather slow lately. I am digressing big time, am I not? So, here goes my announcement:

New Blog Launched!

Yes, I launched a new blog called Zyhil. It’s the second best thing to attaining world fame as a best-selling author, don't you think? Sadly, I do lose out on the many luxuries and lavish lifestyle I could have had (sigh!)

But I should be more cheerful as this blog should complement my online book Cosmos Online which means I have 3 electronic offspring (without the need of changing any cyber-diapers).

Currently, most of Zyhil's contents have appeared before on this blog. However, I've recently added some new content and I hope to contribute to this blog on a regular basis in the future.

The latest posts I've added include a brief account of a boy living in the streets of a 'great city' entitled Street Boy. The other post is a poem dealing with the often painful experiences of love and contains personal reflections on the meaning of life. The poem is called Cinders but you got to read it to discover why I called it so. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Aftermath - Europe now decided?

At last, some common sense prevailed following Italy's decision to take up the stranded immigrants as we read that they are being landed on Italian territory. Or did common sense really prevail?

Undeniably, it's good news that the people on the ship have been saved and are not at risk of starving or dehydration but the fact remains that the dispute between Italy and Malta is far from resolved and both countries will argue their case in front of the European Commission. However, I won't go into that in this post.

The fact is that I believe that the standoff is far more serious than the coverage it has received. In fact, if it had been simply a dispute over some unwanted cargo, then I wouldn't write about it at length. On the other hand, what was at stake here was human life - forget the definitions of these people set by international law for a minute. If neither Italy nor Malta had intervened, the result would have been far worse than a temporary strain in Italian-Maltese relations.

Indeed, it is precisely this precedent where people were used as a means to make a political point that is of serious concern. Whilst this represents a full breach of the immigrants' human rights, it is also an unethical position for any country to take.

For if this will be the way European member states will be settling the immigration issue in the future, then I expect more people will be sacrificed on our seas as countries immerse themselves in political disputes and clinical political strategies.

To conclude, it might be appropriate to cite the often forgotten principle of Immanuel Kant, which affirms that human life should never be used as a means to an end but as an end in itself (my paraphrase). Sadly, it appears that as far as this dispute goes, we have chosen to treat human lives as a means to prove a point.

Related post:

The Human Cost of Europe's Indecision

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Human Cost of Europe’s Indecision

I have followed the problems faced by the influx of ‘illegal immigrants’ and the impact this is having on European member states close to the Mediterranean Sea, including Malta. I believe that there should be action by the European Union to address this issue. However, I also believe that Europe cannot honestly claim that it has nothing to do with this emerging problem. Indeed, European states (especially ex-colonial powers) were very eager to exploit African resources and manpower in the past.

In this sense, it’s horrible to hear that Italy and Malta are squabbling over who should take over the responsibility of taking up the 154 immigrants who were rescued by a Turkish vessel. It is horrible because while my own country and Italy are debating on the issue of whether Italy or Malta should bring these very same people in their respective countries, these people are dying as the situation on their vessel deteriorates and supplies of food and water are slowly depleting. Yes, they're at sea waiting for these two European member states to decide on who is responsible for their rescue.

Even if Italy or Malta may be right on their interpretation of international law, the fact remains that in the course of their confrontation, they are ignoring the basic right to life of these people. In other words, their conduct here flies hard in the face of any convictions they claim to have on the value of human life. It seems, however, that if you’re not a European, your life is at the mercy of politicians who prefer to waste time debating on whether they should rescue you rather than rescuing you now from the sea and settle the technical stuff later.

It’s when I read stories such as this that I feel ashamed of being Maltese, or even to be a European. These are not the principles Europe was built on. At least, this is not the European Union I wish to be living in.

More about this story:

Pregnant woman's funeral on stranded cargo vessel

Malta, Italy row over migrants


Dispute turns into war of words

Migrants wait on rescue ship as Malta and Italy debate their fate

Note: The term ‘illegal immigrant’ is denoted to every person trying to access another country with no legal permit or who has over-stayed permitted limits. However, a number of countries with no rule of law will not issue any valid legal documentation to escape such a country. Thus an ‘illegal immigrant’ can later prove to have a valid claim for ‘refugee’ or ‘humanitarian’ status depending on the country they are escaping from.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Disability: A Form of Apartheid?

After finishing reading Nelson Mandela’s account of his movement’s struggle against apartheid, entitled “Long Walk to Freedom”, I could not help noticing the similarities between the struggle of black South Africans against an oppressive apartheid system (instituted by Afrikaans rule) and our struggle, as disabled people, against a disablist system. I admit that I always felt close to the black civil rights movement. As a boy of about 9, I used to love reading about how Martin Luther King Junior brought about the changes in the US. Indeed, the legacy of Martin Luther King Junior is more significant to this generation since Barrack Obama is the first Afro-American to attain the highest position in the United States.

Yes, I felt that I could identify with the cause of racial equality but I didn’t know why I did at that age. The fact was that I was white. And I didn’t even have black friends or relatives. But, in retrospect, I suspect my feelings of ‘not fully belonging’ in my society or, in some way, I was considered ‘not normal’ were probably the reasons why I felt ill at ease with such ideas as patriotism. For, in truth, was I really being treated like any other Maltese boy of my age when I was 9? Although I tried to deny it, the fact was that I was not.

Mandela talks of how he used to look up to the ‘(white) British gentleman’ as the ideal he should strive for as a South African when it was still under British rule. In fact, the educational system was geared towards bringing this about. However, in the process, Africans were urged to deny their language and their pride in who they were – including their history and traditions. While the idea of a disabled culture is a controversial one, there is certainly a non-disabled ideal of 'normality' many of us had to aspire to. I spent many a day in my childhood praying God to ‘straighten my legs’, or want to have a more masculine body.

There was also a time when I had to do a lot of physiotherapy to get my legs straightened. Indeed, the messages we get from the media is that our bodies are faulty and imperfect. Although some may strongly disagree with my position to stop my exercise regime, I decided that I wanted to live my life as I was – I didn’t want to spend hours doing meaningless exercises to get closer to what mainstream considered ‘normal walking’. I wanted to live my life… and have real friends!

However, the problems we face are not simply overcome by dismantling disablist attitudes. In fact, like in the apartheid system, we often have experienced segregation. In some countries, this is still a daily reality. A few examples of what I mean should help clarify:

  • Segregated education: Non-Inclusion and Special schools – The word ‘special’ here is a nice word for ‘segregated’. In fact, the end result is the same. In Malta, disabled children started being integrated into the mainstream in the late 80s. Even if services offered by these schools can help, no child should spend all his/her childhood in segregated educational settings where no real socialisation occurs.

  • Segregated buildings: Inaccessible buildings – No, there aren’t buildings where only disabled people or non-disabled people can enter. However, if you have an inaccessible building, it pretty has the same effect.

  • Segregated transport: Inaccessible public transports – Again, we don’t have buses for disabled or non-disabled people but the very fact that a number of buses cannot board a wheelchair user or offer other services to disabled users means that, for many of us, public transport is not a viable option. In addition, as a user of accessible transport, I find that the cost to use such transport (in spite of subsidies) is steep when compared to regular public transport.

  • Problems accessing employment – Of course, there is no sober employer who will openly declare he or she would not employ a disabled person. But if you look at the low rate of employment for disabled people across Europe and in Malta, you then start wondering. Not only are workplaces often inaccessible to some of us but some employers are even reluctant to make them accessible or even consider a disabled applicant who uses assistive equipment but is equally qualified to a non-disabled one. May be this same employer is more comfortable giving away thousands for charity during Christmas time instead?

  • Segregated sanitary facilities: Claustrophobic toilets – Well, I leave that to your imagination. Just note that an accessible toilet has been used by some irresponsible people as a store, or as a repository – sometimes even being locked. Let me not talk about the one time I was going to burst while waiting for the key to come!

  • Segregated Housing: Residential Institutions – Perhaps the worst kind of segregation is when you are forced to live apart from other people solely on the basis of your impairment. As explained in an earlier post, such settings can do much to kill any motivation you might have, let alone to aspire for freedom or equality.

All this reveals that there are many similarities between the apartheid system and the state of disablement. Our struggle may be only different, and perhaps more difficult, because we are often the only ones in our family with an impairment which increases the risk of internalising our oppression and believing, as many of us do in our early years, that we should accept unequal treatment. Incidentally, there was also a notable disabled activist who joined during the struggle against apartheid: Vic Finkelstein. His work reflects the parallels between his struggle against apartheid and his later involvement in disability activism.

To conclude this rather long post, I wish to quote part of Mandela’s concluding paragraph to his book:

“I was not born to be free. I was born free.”

However, as illustrated through Mandela’s account, freedom can be denied. When that happens, it’s not enough to be satisfied with the status quo but we must work towards the dismantling of the barriers that prevent us from achieving equality which involves a degree of responsibility. At the end of the day, any struggle for equality, is a fight to regain our very basic right to be acknowledged as part of humanity.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April, the Cruelest Month

Cruellest it's perhaps not a good idea to start off a new month with such a gloomy title. However, April brings with it many things I can do without, such as the heat, and insects. Let's not start about insects. Of course, April 1st is synonymous with another tradition I have come to fear - April fool's day... Perhaps it's like Friday the 13th for me as I'm always at the lookout for some practical joker.

However, I don't think that I'm being melodramatic if I believe that there is something quite spooky about April fool's Day. Waking up in the morning with the feeling that today something rotten will happen. That they will trap me. That they will say something which I don't believe because it's April 1st and then, it ends up being true! How's that for a joke... a joke that wasn't even a joke to begin with...

No, credibility goes out of the window on this day. That is why I am somewhat reluctant to announce any news or updates on this day. It's a day which lacks credibility and which forces people to think about each thing they happen to hear. And ask the question... is this really true?

On the other hand, it may be a good idea for us to take on board the April Fool Mindset (AFM) because it puts on guard against being misled by inaccurate or partial reporting and one-line titles to reports. There have been many of these over the past months but I won't elaborate on those. Yes, it's the credibility issue again.

As I was saying, it may be prudent during these times, when realities are being contested and when everything is relative, to be more alert to what you read and consume. This is all part of the AFM set of principles. As a disabled person, I am bombarded with titles and labels that drive me crazy. A heading which you should avoid reading when I'm in your vicinity is the following:

BRAVE HANDICAPPED, WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, OVERCOMES ITS DISABILITY!

Ok. I'm pushing it but I have read more disturbing headlines and news items in the past. So, I won't be surprised to read at least half of those adjectives in a heading. And why I wrote 'it'... because we're often considered 'asexual'. And that, I'm afraid, is not an April fool.

Well, I guess I've done enough complaining about April and, yes, April fools. So I'll end here without further ado. And apologies to T S Eliot for not analysing the meaning of the post title taken from his famous poem, “The Wasteland”.

Please note: if you circulate this post to 100 of your friends you'll receive 99 complaints and 1 insult. You've been warned!