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

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memento Mori [2]

We move on as if we are immortal, untouchable by death, Living life escaping from death deluding ourselves that we will never die. And when death strikes close, our world suddenly collapses. We are left with a sense of unreality. As if this 'sudden change' could never have happened.

I don’t want to live like these others. I don't want to close my heart to the pain of other people. I don't want to find excuses for the state of poverty in our world. I don't want to seek refuge in prejudice to justify injustice and hate. I don't want to belong to the unquestioning herd. I always tried to do what is right. I failed at times but I tried.

A life I want to live again is a life where I am truly myself. A life, which requires me not to hide behind the mask of conformity. I have to lead a way of life that requires of me to rise from mediocrity and the status quo and espouse, again, the creativity and energy that life has given me.

Here, I return back to the beginning of my previous post. I want to understand myself. That is why I need to distance myself from the world at times. My life has to continue of course. But if I'm to find true happiness, what is required of me is to discover the purpose of my existence. This journey may take a lifetime. It will be full of ups and downs. Occasions when all seems to be going perfect and others when I feel stuck in an abyss of emptiness and despair.

There have been times when the pain was so great, living appeared not worthwhile. Times when the future seemed obscure and limited. These are the times when we have to prove ourselves. Many a life has perished at the sight of doom.

After all, our life may be just a road to discover why we are here, to know who we were at one point in our histories - to realise who we were always meant to be. For we all know where this road will lead. Not to Rome. Only to death! And in this awareness of my own death, I hope to have lived a life as close to what I was meant to live. For it's quite tragic to die without realising your own purpose.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memento Mori [1]

I woke up empty inside. In fact, I didn’t sleep that much either. It’s now more than a week since I resigned from my position within my organisation. Not that I’m regretting taking this decision. After all, I did want to dedicate more time to understand myself better before continuing with my commitment in disability activism. Or with life itself.

And life never works out the way you plan it. I was filled with great enthusiasm when I embarked on disability activism. And yet, there is still part of me that has been longing to get out. A side of me that I have so often obscured and hidden away from the world. As a child, I was taught a lot of lessons about life.

What about these lessons? We were taught not to lie, to be honest. Yet, out there many lie all the time. We thwart facts to suit our own agendas. We cheat social services and our governments. Worse of all, we lie to our loved ones and to ourselves.

We are also told to love and respect each other as brothers and sisters. Yet, the conflict between our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and in other geographical regions, the rising demons of xenophobia and racism in Europe, the implicit anti-Arab sentiments on one hand and the Anti-Semitic discourses on the other tell a different story. As we preoccupy ourselves with the state of our economies, we close our eyes to the poverty and suffering of other nations. We avoid this reality, which has been with us for decades.

But then, we have become numb to the death of others. We witness endless killings projected onto our TV screens, learn about them through our radio sets and find them stamped on our newspapers. The reality of death has been commercialised and trivialised. The death of a person is just another item on the list of everyday news. As insignificant as yesterdays gossip. We don't stop and think that a unique person has been lost to the world. - The creation of whom was a singular event in the history of the universe, a person who is irreplaceable. A life that no one can live again.

To be continued ...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Letter: A Passage to Independence

I have read with interest the many contributions regarding independent living for disabled people in this newspaper. As a person with a disability, I have a personal interest in any discussion on this important right.

However, the issue of independent living is not a simple topic and requires us to have a clear policy that addresses the situation of people with disabilities having different impairments, as well as those individuals who have complex or maximum support needs.

It's crucial to point out that independent living goes beyond the provision of accessible housing or personal assistance and support. Undeniably, these are two central principles underpinning independent living but they do not guarantee this right. In fact, the philosophy of independent living stresses the importance of having an opportunity to choose how we live our lives and thus exert self-determination. In this sense, personal assistance that does not fulfil these two principles cannot guarantee our independence on their own.

Agenzija Sapport has been doing a great job in ensuring disabled people continue living in their own communities. Moreover, at the basis of its mission statement is a commitment to involve disabled people at every stage of service provision.

However, Sapport is forced to work within limits - both in terms of financial and human resources. It cannot be emphasised enough that this agency needs more state funding to ensure it continues assisting people with disabilities remain in the community and contribute to work while participating in the life of their community.

However, for us to have the opportunity to live independently, we also need to have equal access to mainstream buildings and services, to transport and housing, for example. In addition, we should not be excluded from education and employment opportunities and to be given chances like our able-bodied peers.

Such access would enable us to be empowered while being active contributors in our society while helping the economy by being workers and consumers.

On another note, we need to revise our current benefit system by assigning benefits to people with disabilities according to their particular impairment needs and social situation. This would ensure that people with disabilities and families requiring substantial financial assistance receive adequate aid.

I believe that people with disabilities should involve ourselves in any debate on independent living. I feel it's important for us to transcend our own impairment group and recognise the right for independent living as the right of every disabled person - irrespective of impairment. As a person with a physical disability, I cannot ignore the importance of intellectually disabled people having their right to independent living respected. In addition, we also need to be open to the views of parents of people with disabilities, who cannot represent themselves on this matter.

Only by being a united front can we truly move forward on this and other issues. However, a word of caution: although we should welcome the interest of political parties on this and similar issues, we should be careful not to turn this issue into a partisan issue.


Source:

Cardona, Gordon C. (10/05/2009) "A Passage to Independence" in: The Sunday Times of Malta Online, http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090510/letters/a-passage-to-independence (Accessed 10 May
2009)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Letter: Unethical Behaviour

I feel that the conduct of both Malta and Italy in relation to the rescue of the stranded immigrants was unethical, despite any other claims to the contrary.

While I recognise that the problem of irregular immigration is putting considerable pressure on European states, especially those bordering the Mediterranean Sea, I still believe that both our country and Italy should have taken immediate action to ensure that these people are saved.

Malta and Italy preferred instead to engage in a war of words while the immigrants aboard the Turkish vessel were facing deteriorating conditions putting their lives in danger. Indeed, both Malta and Italy chose to use these immigrants as human pawns to make a political point. I feel it is unethical to put lives in needless danger, just to prove that one country is right.

Unless, of course, one is not using utilitarian ethics where lives can be sacrificed if they fulfil some other purpose.

My intention here is not to debate whether Malta or Italy were right to refuse to take in these immigrants. My point here is to highlight the fact that, beyond the regulations set by international law, these immigrants are human beings like us and should have been promptly rescued.

Had Italy not decided to intervene, and had lives been lost in the process, who would have been responsible?

Would we dismiss such a tragedy and add it to the list? Would we try to downplay the deaths of these people by using faceless terms such as 'boat people' and 'illegal immigrants'?

It may be pertinent to cite the principle set forth by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant here - that people must never be used as a means but always as ends (my paraphrase).

If the future of Europe is characterised by such hard and cold political responses to the problem of immigration, then this is not the Europe I wish to belong to.

After all, Europe's very foundation was built on respect for human rights.

Source: Cardona G. (2/5/09) "Unethical Behaviour" in The Sunday Times of Malta Online: Letters, Available from: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090503/letters/unethical-behaviour (Accessed 3 May 2009)

Related article:
STOM Interview: Losing our humanity

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.