the mudpond

It's good to let things breathe in your imagination because often your initial response to it is not the best thought-through response. I savour little glimpses of life. Mine and those of people who turn me sideways and around. Friend or stranger. Even a child. (the world looks different from down there) Sometimes an author, photographer, artist. I let things saturate and incubate here. Hopefully, deeper meanings can percolate up and flower.

Name:
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A stray cat.

6/25/2005

Rethinking Disability

HERE'S A DIFFERENT way of thinking about disability and happiness...

Strangers on the street are moved to comment:

"I admire you for being out; most people would give up.
God bless you! I’ll pray for you.
You don’t let the pain hold you back, do you?
If I had to live like you, I think I’d kill myself."
(or, " I don't know if I would have had the courage to live")

Actually we say that a lot, online as well, don't we? Even when we haven't yet met them.

But have we ever considered how such a (so-called) 'compassionate' response might actually reflect on the social worth we place on differently abled persons?

" I used to try to explain that in fact I enjoy my life, that it’s a great sensual pleasure to zoom by power chair on these delicious muggy streets, that I have no more reason to kill myself than most people. But it gets tedious."

Think about it. How your compassion really reflects on your beliefs.

|

12 Comments:

Blogger Tinkerbell said...

Percolator,
I would have thought such comments were insensitive rather than compassionate. There is a subtle air of superiority in them. Same goes for people who try to console parents of all-girls families telling them that it's ok, girls are just as good as boys. Duh!

12:21 AM  
Blogger narrowband said...

That's very interesting. But I'm sure more often than not, such comments are uttered for the sake of uttering something, for the sake of saying something. They don't always have a 'superiority' element in them. Sometimes, staying mummed isn't exactly a nice thing to do, too.

Some people find certain remarks insensitive, while others are cool with them. It's very subjective, I guess.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Calentropus said...

It's a double-edged sword. Any which way, the disabled come out as a loser, in real terms or as a matter of perception

If one feels "compassion" for the disabled, then that can only mean that one perceives that they are worth less in some way (else why the compassion if they are as equal as the next guy ?).

If remarks made are driven by a subtle air of superiority, then by definition, one has already measured the disabled as of lower worth than the able-bodied.

If one stays mum, then either one does not give two hoots (ie. "not worth my time commenting") or one may feel that it may turn out to be politically incorrect (implying a sense of possibly hurting those of less "worth").

The hard truth is that, one way or the other, the able-bodied do consider the disabled are of a lesser measure. It is only a matter of how such considerations are manifested.

Charity, compassion, disdain, dissociation, indifference, etc., are all manifestations of the same thing - the perception that others are worth less.

1:48 AM  
Blogger percolator said...

tinkerbell,
Comes back to 'pity' doesn't it?

narrowband,
it's like a reflex isn't it? And truth be told, reflexes seldom lie. Theys articulate the emotional default.
sstaying mum may indeed be the best better thing to do. Like they say: when in doubt, don't.

Calentropous,
exactly, 'pity' by any other word is still pity. it's surprising how many people don't know their compassion really reflects their pity , which is truly condescending an denegrating.
You only have to pay attention to the way bloggers our here 'speak' of compassion to the differently abled, Detaching yourself from it, you'll find that sometimes, it seems to 'confer' upon the 'speaker' compassion, as if enobling him/her.
The things we utter reflect us. If only we can be more reflective rather than reflexive!

6:09 AM  
Blogger Tinkerbell said...

I am getting great insight from all your responses.

I think the handicapped person want to live as normal a life as possible.

Just like everyone else, they want to be genuinely liked, wanted, loved or needed. Eg. we invite her to the gathering not because we want her to feel wanted, but because she is great company.

Calentropus, compassion does not always equate to seeing someone as being of lower worth. For eg. I feel compassion for his physical handicap but I have great admiration for his intellectual capacity or his musical or literary genius. How could I think of Stephen Hawking as being of lesser worth? Or Beethoven for that matter? A person is not defined by that one handicap but by all his gifts and handicaps put together.

For that reason, what you say reveals what you really feel. You would never utter those condescending remarks to someone whom you actually admire and respect.

10:12 AM  
Blogger thquah said...

What if you say from your heart.Does it make any difference?Just wondering.I sometimes uttter some words but it's not out of pity but from my heart.

10:20 AM  
Blogger percolator said...

tinkerbell,
On 'normal', exactly. I tried to say that thru the Jane anecdote but found it a difficult balance.. with 'sensitivity'. Hence the follow up entry "View from Above". But really, everything I want to say about this delicate issue cannot be better said than in Margaret Gill's own words (link in the 'Pity' post)
Back to 'normal'. See, how I just used words like 'sensitive' and 'delicate'. It just reflects just how much pity is a natural instinct, one perhaps better curbed. Not all natural instincts are necessarily good.

th,
Absolutely agree it can and does come from the heart. I for one believe the truth has an unmistakeable ring to it. I myself had problems dealing with this many years ago (commented in 5xmom's entry on special people).

But, wait, the people who perhpas know best how to make the differently-abled feel normal are kids. They just go right up, and say something like.. Eh! uncle, what happened to your leg??. I have yet to see the 'uncle' flich or smile 'politely' or tolerantly. It is usadults who feel uneasy with own honest feelings.
That's the whole irony: as we grow, we lose our innocence and learn 'subtleties' that almost never work the way we meant it!! Lost innocence!

11:39 AM  
Blogger percolator said...

tinkerbell,
oh, on Stephen Hawkins, Read my post "Not for Sissies" http://mudpond.blogspot.com/2005/05/not-for-sissies.html.
He said, most remarkably:
"I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which is not that many."

11:42 AM  
Blogger Tinkerbell said...

This is getting more interesting by the day.

Maybe we should just apply a simple golden rule: for the particular person in question, if you think that what you say will make that person feel good, then go ahead. If not, don't say it. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.

All boils down to personal judgement doesn't it?

I would not feel good at all if people were to say those things to me, so I would not say them.

I would want to belong. As if I were no different from anyone else.

But like Narrowband says, it is all so subjective.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Tinkerbell said...

Thanks Percolator. Will look those articles up :=)

12:07 PM  
Blogger Calentropus said...

THQuah,
The act of utterance, is merely the articulation of thought. The figurative use of "from the heart" is a literary instrument that detracts from the issue itself. In this sense, one can say that everything comes from the heart, so what difference is there ?

T-bell,
What is compassion ? By definition, it is pity. I remember an incident at the airport when an elderly lady in a wheelchair had trouble getting herself up a slope. Everybody came over to help, probably out of compassion, seeing her in such difficulty. Realizing all the fuss surrounding her in the wheelchair, the elderly lady got impatient and just stood up, thanked everyone, and walked away ! Thereafter, nobody would even give her a second glance.

(Some airports are required to offer help to the elderly, regardless of actual need, to mitigate possible future legal action in the event of accidents).

I think that if Steven Hawking was not disabled, he would be simply respected just like any other Nobel prize winner. His disability confers him superstar status because the human sense of compassion amplifies his great achievements.

Does anyone remember Richard Feynman ? Probably not. Arguably, he is even greater a scientific mind that Hawking, but he was fighting fit and lived till a ripe old age, so no one would feel that much for him.

Our view of the disabled is rooted in Pity (with respect to that aspect of disability). Whether that pity manifests in compassion and condescension, is another matter altogether.

A disabled good friend of mine whom I treat very well, kept reminding me.. "Please stop treating me like a spastic !". Up to today, I still have not figured out a way around that.

12:10 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

calentropous,
like how I got subtly flamed (I think) for my clumsy attempt at normal treatment.. ;D .. oh well, Margaret Gill article clarifies.
Thing is, we ourselves have created that compassionate culture/monster. Our reflexes are actually learned behaviour, different from kids' starkly different responses.

2:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com