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

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is walking everything?

On reading the story of a young woman named Vlada on a local newspaper, I found myself battling with a multitude of thoughts and emotions. You see, this young woman acquired a spinal cord injury a year ago following an accident in an entertainment club. Now, she uses a wheelchair and had to give up dancing and modelling. However, as she affirms in the report, she is determined to walk again. She plans to do so by raising enough funds to undergo experimental stem cell treatment in Russia. Those are some of the facts.

I have no problem with the idea of undergoing treatment to improve your health or condition. What worries me is the fact that throughout the report, we are given the impression that a non-walking existence cannot be a fulfilling or happy one, as expressed through phrases such as 'wheelchair bound' which give the impression that not being able to walk, 'imprisons us'.

Having said that, I understand the young lady's concern with dealing with her new reality as a wheelchair user. Indeed, when I had to use a wheelchair more regularly, I felt that I was losing part of me. Although I had walking difficulties even as a young boy, I was somewhat reluctant to accept that I now used a wheelchair. Ironically, however, becoming a wheelchair user opened up to me new opportunities and got me where I am today. The fact is that hadn't I discovered the wheelchair, my quality of life and by extension my happiness, would have been much lower - and not the other way round!

To return to our story, I can further empathise with the young woman who wishes to walk again... After all, she had to give up dancing and modelling while the sudden change from being a 'walker' to a 'non-walker' is a traumatic shift for any person to have to face. It's only natural for her to dream of the time she could dance or move around with relative ease. I cannot judge her for wishing that the operation she is collecting money for gives her back those things.

All the same, inasmuch as we are confident that we will recover or - in this case 'walk again''... and despite our determination in achieving these dreams, there is a point when we have to get on with our life. I recall the time when I used to force my legs to straighten up by putting heavy loads on my knees or else fervently pray to God for a miracle. I had hope. I had determination. I had faith too. But the 'cure' didn't happen. And, in a way, I'm happy it didn't.

For if I had been 'cured', I may not have met the friends I know today. I might not have got the job I do today or learned from a diverse range of people and gone through the experiences that helped mature me in many ways. Moreover, using a wheelchair has given me an independence that I never had before. And, yes, there are times when I'm filled with certain longing... especially when I see my little nephews running around. But life changes. Those who don't change with what life throws at them risk losing all that makes life good and worth it.

At this point, I want to make it clear that I wish Vlada all the best for any treatment she may undergo. At the same time, I hope that she also considers the possibility that things don't work out as planned. I have gone through such a disappointment one time too often. However, even if things may not turn out as hoped for, it's important to affirm that life goes on after acquiring an impairment. In fact, for me the process of acknowledging and acquiring my impairment has paved the way to a new beginning full of exciting possibilities ...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Why Michael Jackson is not a good role model

Jackson's death has been in the news for more than a week since 25 June. Hysterical fans grieving ... speculation about the cause of his death ... gossip on the fate of his children ... etc. However, I was surprised to hear that major leaders within the Afro-American community declared Michael Jackson a role model for future generations.

I was rather unsure whether I heard that statement well. Yes, he was very successful as a pop singer - in fact he was regarded as the 'king of pop'. It's even true that the boy Jordan Chandler who accused him of sexual abuse confessed he had lied about Jackson. But Michael Jackson, a role model for future black generations? I just don't agree.

Yes, he gained success in music. But, did they perhaps forget that Jackson also chose to undergo surgery to become whiter? Is that the actions of a man comfortable with who he was and of his black heritage? On the other hand, does that only affirm that being white is better and that black people should aspire to be white?

By proclaiming Michael Jackson as a role model, I fear that the Afro-Americann community is sending the wrong signals to young black people. This message, simply put, is that it's not really ok to be black but you can get better results in life if you are white. It's like telling me that if you want to be respected in society, it would have been better to be non-disabled. In this sense, the logical conclusion to this reasoning is that a society which holds white, male, heterosexual and non-disabled people on a pedestal - ignoring other groups - is a good society!