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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Painful Memories of a Prize for 'Kindness'

Listen to a recent boo I submitted on my AudioBoo Channel about my experience by clicking this link to my AudioBoo Channel. Thanks!

I'm reluctant to write this entry but I feel compelled to do it just the same. Another child has been awarded the so-called 'Prize for Kindness' for assisting his disabled friend. The award which is awarded in tribute of the late Pope John XXIII has, as far as I know, always given to non-disabled children who befriend another disabled child.

I can understand how mainstream society may feel the need to reward acts of solidarity which promote the value of friendship. But, as a disabled child who learned that his best friend had received the prize for being a friend to him seemed to destroy the trust he once had. Inevitably, this made me more cautious of any later friendships and feared that I was always an inferior and could never truly be equal. It took years to repair the friendship I had with my friend and we never got close to repairing it as the memories are still there.

I don't want to open these wounds again for I've already written about it in this post. I'm afraid that in spite of all the good intentions of the organisers of this initiative, they fail to consider that the very need to reward some children for being friends whom society still considers as less fortunate is enforcing ideas of difference and separation as helping a friend becomes an act of charity just because he or she happens to be disabled-. So, in a sense, it also suggests that such friendships are, really, a sacrifice that must be carried exclusively by the non-disabled friend while suggesting that the disabled party brings no real value to the friendship!

As a person who has been on the 'other side' of the prize, I sincerely appeal to organisers of the award to rethink the philosophy behind this award. For, even if it might have been valid in an earlier Malta, it is not consistent to the principle of inclusion.

I believe that we are duty-bound to include everyone in society not just because we have the right to be included and treated equally - disabled or not, but rather this is what ensures the maintenance of a society dependent on the values of social justice and human co-existence.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't Politicise Disability (Newspaper Letter)


Below I am reproducing a letter published on yesterday’s edition of a local newspaper The Malta Independent on Sunday which can be also accessed online at Independent Online. The full reference for the online source can be found following the letter.

Don’t Politicise Disability

I wish to make an appeal to all those who really have the interests of disabled people at heart. I appeal to them to make sure that disability is not reduced to a partisan and political issue. I believe that would be dangerous since disability is perhaps one of the few issues that cuts across class, gender, race, faith and political belief.

Indeed, this issue has enjoyed political support from both our political parties. 
While there is still work to be done to ensure that disabled people enjoy full inclusion in society and independent living, I think that we have made significant progress in this area while plans to increase community-based services to allow them to be more independent are also underway. This is not to say that we are already there, but we cannot deny that the lives of disabled people are far better than they have ever been before. For, to be honest, I am a disabled person myself!

Thus, I make this appeal first as a disabled person, and second, as a disability activist because I fear that by turning disability into a matter for party politics, we would be doing a disservice to disabled people like myself and to the whole disability sector.

I propose that instead of engaging in dialogue based on confrontation and division, the disability issue needs an environment that fosters cooperation and solidarity. 

Gordon C. Cardona
PAOLA, Malta

Reference

Cardona, G. C. (17 June 2012) Letter: “Don’t Politicise Disability”, Malta Independent on Sunday. Available from: http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=146054
(Accessed: 18 June 2012)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

LET’S NOT TURN DISABILITY INTO A DIVISIVE POLITICAL ISSUE

In Malta, the interests of disabled people received support from all political parties - irrespective of their political ideologies. In fact, the first act to pass with the full backing of the Maltese parliament was the first comprehensive anti-discrimination act protecting disabled people from being discriminated on the basis of disability - the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act of 2000. I find that the unanimous support for the cause of disabled people by the political parties has made it possible for many of us who are disabled people ourselves to be included more and more in society.

As a disabled person, I believe that while one can speak of a ‘disability politics’ based on a social model understanding of disability which roots the main problems we face as disabled people in the way society is organised in such a way that it takes little or no account of our impairments, I believe that the issue of disability should never become the toy of politicians to win votes from those who find themselves in already difficult situations. Indeed, such political expediency is nothing else than exploitation of those who feel marginalised and may be willing to cling to any electoral promise which may, in truth, never be realised by an approach based on confrontation and enmity.

Let us not forget that disability is an issue that cuts across age, gender, race, faith or belief, sexual orientation and political conviction. I feel it would be too dangerous if this issue becomes politicised to the extent of creating unnecessary tension which, I assure you, will make it even more difficult for us, disabled people, to continue progress in inclusion and in achieving greater independence. Indeed, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel or wasting our precious time and energy in endless political debate, our political parties should focus on improving on what has already been achieved by all Maltese citizens. I, myself, feel that some politicians are more prone to make empty promises and make claims that are not evidence based just to gain political points from those who still feel marginalised or unaware of what Malta has achieved in the disability sector.

I appeal to Maltese people and to politicians NOT to be tempted to turn disability into a political game. For, if disability issues become the stuff of party division and controversy, no one will be a winner.

I make this appeal to you on three grounds:

First, as a disabled person, I have seen a lot of progress happening in Malta thanks to political goodwill to increase inclusion and improve on our quality of life as disabled persons.

Second, as a disability activist, I believe that the political unity so far expressed by the political class has been pivotal in ensuring that we are treated equally as other Maltese citizens. Needless division on disability issue will only lead to disaster, or even to a regression in terms of what we have achieved so far.

Third, as another Maltese citizen, I caution politicians or others who are involved in the disability sector, not to use us disabled people, to attain political advantage or to increase your votes. We have been exploited too much already.

So, let’s be politically united on the issue of disability , shall we?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More than the sum of my parts

I don’t know what happened since I turned 30. The way I view the world and, I dare say, who I am, has undergone profound changes. I could try to explain what I’m feeling right now but I have noticed the change. I seem to have found something that was long lost. It’s like I have met an old friend. It feels as if I ham back home. I don’t even know where you’re reading this. I guess I posted this it on my two main blogs. But, then, these blogs only reflect an aspect of my identity. Or, really, my ideas about who I am. For while in ZoneMind, I express my discovery of the richness of the Buddhist tradition and try to capture my experience as I embark on a lifelong journey of self-discovery and on my practice of meditation.. And, on my other blog, the D-Zone, I express my point of view as a disabled activist. 

But, now, I wonder about whether people reading just one blog will get a whole picture of who I am. Indeed, we tend to know people in terms of the positions they hold, the jobs they perform, their income, their religion or in terms of the group they represent. The risk is that by seeing people in terms of categories and concepts,we miss the whole picture. We miss to acknowledge their humanity and their dignity. By setting them in a language of difference, we have the tendency to stereotype them and by doing so, defile their dignity.

Until now, I presented who I am to the world in many ways. To my friends, I don’t behave the same way I would do with my family or with my parents for that matter. But, am I being less authentic when I take up these different, sometimes inconsistent, identities? 

Yes and no. For, I believe that we must adapt to the particular audience or person we are relating to. You wouldn’t speak to your boss in the same way you would talk to your ten year old nephew. 

But, at the same time, I believe that there’s a certain authenticity that you need to respect and cultivate. I have come to a hard time in my life where I’m at the crossroads. 

I am happy with my discovery of a forgotten sense of belonging to a wider humanity. Yet, I recognise that I have chosen to define myself in definite terms - even if my intention was to claim my belonging to the world, I realise that I built more walls and barriers. 

Truly, I am confused because I am not sure what to do next. Yet, I have a clarity of purpose. 

I have the location but no map to guide me. 

I am lost but feel found. I ask myself questions about my current purpose and whether I can ever find the completeness I feel inside fully present on the outside. 

I continue to meditate. I try to cultivate compassion and genuine love. I also fail and fail. But I want to keep trying. I don’t feel that any other choice would be as fulfilling as that. I know that I will never achieve a state of uninterrupted happiness in this life but happiness I will strive for. I have defined myself as a ‘disabled person’ here and elsewhere. I remain disabled in the sense that society still raises barriers of structure and attitude that shout at me: Keep Out! Yet, I confess, I did erect my own barriers by using my difference as a weapon to emphasise my separateness. 

When, in truth, my aim was the opposite. I wanted to belong. But, in the process, I sought to belong for the wrong reasons. I spent part of my childhood with a need to define myself in terms of intelligence and IQ. Perhaps I wanted to escape my disappointment for being labelled as different, as other, because a mobility problem. Because I walked differently. Because I looked, in some way, strange. Yes, I wanted to belong. But I thought I could feel special if I set myself apart, better and higher than all the rest! 

Have I committed the same mistake when I grew attached to a new identity, however positive? Am I today, by remaining in the social position I held before, being inauthentic to my core being? Is it time for a change? I think that if I want to be completely honest with myself, I have to say yes… 

Yes!

Indeed, I might Have , unknowingly, fragmented my identity in neatly separate boxes, wen I felt inside that I was, as I had discovered in Gestalt and Buddhism, more than the sum of my parts? Is change necessary? I feel I have a commitment to who I am. I need to reclaim my full humanity. I need to manifest my humanity. 

I need to reach out to the world, because we are interconnected to each other. We are separate but united. We are divided yet joined. We are unique yet the same. We remain human. 

Born of a mother, prone to illness and old age. We can die at any moment. 

I have to be what I was always meant to be. 

This might be the most important purpose of my life. 

To be authentic to my being. 

To be fully human. 

To be open to the world. 

To be who I am!