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.

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A stray cat.


Catching Flies With Honey

"Think twice before trying to take us on because we will fight back.
I will fight back."

Put that way, Peter Tan's
warning gives rise to at least two perceptions. One: Abled people are attacking the disabled. Two: Activists, disabled or abled and the entire disabled community are odd and angry.

Peter, prominent paraplegic blogger and "current pro-tem President of a rights-based association for people with disabilities" is ANGRY. You'd have to be real stupid to have to think twice about that. He's FURIOUS. LIVID. OUTRAGED.

And I would be the last person to dispute that.

But I wonder what exactly it is he's actually angry about. And why. Who is taking him on, for what? But for now, I'd just like to keep a sharp focus on his fury rather than the 'what' and 'why' of it.


In that strong warning, Peter, who has "worked with NGOs for people with disabilities for the past fifteen years" does not sound like he cares how anyone feels about it. About the disabled and/or actvists looking odd and angry, I mean.


If I may just think about it, aloud, here...

If Peter's mission is to change people's attitudes, then unfortunately he MUST care about what society at large (comprising mostly the able-bodied taxpayers who 'fund' those toilets ) thinks. He must change our perceptions for the sake of the disabled community. Thus he must make sure that his words -- letters, reports, interviews (to the authorities, sponsors, institutions, charitable and caring public and the media) -- are always rational, to the point, and preferably concerned or disappointed rather than outraged.


We all know that anger tends to put people on the defensive whereas concern and a rational argument can usually get a decent hearing. So, for the sake of the disabled, Peter Tan MUST be heard. The thing is, he will be heard most clearly NOT when he is shouting loudest and issuing warnings, BUT when he is communicating in such a way that people are willing to listen.

Oh. I believe I've just stumbled upon the 'why' of his anger.

These rights are in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Disabilities and is recognised by governments that are signatories to it. As I have often pointed out, these are rights, not privileges."

As a reaction to the lack of disabled-friendly access, the not-so-barrier-free environment -- do pardon that clunky sentence showing my ignorance, but you understand don't you, that I really coudn't hear anything above all that angry yelling -- very strong feelings (not actions, mind you) are understandable and entirely justified.

Perhaps it's his inability to deal with his anger in a constructive manner (the frustration) that leads him to create a raw dichotomy between oppressors and oppressed people. It's probably the same inability to manage his anger that has been a great hindrance (the futility-induced rage) to the advancement of the rights of the whatever association (if you heard him name it, please tell me) he represents, I think.

Over time (mind you, fifteen years is a long, long time to be unsuccessful), people tend to deal with their anger in different ways. Some take to protesting, some to screaming, hatred, and sarcasm. Others disconnect from society and surround themselves with only like-minded people, seeing society as a large conspiracy against the disabled.

Well, we all know how Peter Tan deals with it. We've heard that IT WORKS.

Now, I don't really think this does much to move society towards being more compassionate.

I sincerely believe Peter Tan needs a different approach. He needs to think twice before challenging someone, for instance, to dive into the pool so he can actually experience the same disability, sitting in a wheelchair. It's guaranteed NOT to engender compassion.

Perhaps Peter could TRY to READ/LISTEN CAREFULLY to what people are really saying. He could try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor. It might make it easier for him to continue in activism and to avoid self-righteous fundamentalism. All this would make it possible to interact positively and constructively with others. Which will make him a real and more effective agent for social change.

"As someone who would have to consider making provisions for the handicapped or underpriviledged, I would rather I act on my own sense of responsibility, not charity, than to be thrust with some rule that artificially specifies how I should make those provisions."
- Whatever said here -

Forgive the animal cliché but, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". It is human nature to care more about pleasing a friend who has been wronged than an adversary. The reader of your blog is only human.

Persuade and convince, Peter. Don't alienate.

Related: Illumining, Stand Up But Don't Lose It



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wah, great and lucid blog, O Pecolator! :D

Reminds me of the Gays in the US agitating for Gay marriage as the most important national agenda there.

"I wanna this and I want it now!", screams the brat. ;)

Time out at CyberCafe session for now....otherwise more says.


12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Percolator, it was way out when some supporter have to even SMS you to "imagine yourself in a wheelchair." Sounds like saying that one is flagrantly unfeeling. Therefore I support your your ("haughty" ;))outpouring here regarding the matter here. :) Much obvious truth of the matter needed to be reexamined.

As one famous violinist said, "Having talent did not come from just being on a wheelchair."

One might add also that being in one does not immunize oneslf from human idiosyncrasy either. It may, just as well, induce more of it, and stickingly.

That handicapped state does not automatically accord some erroneously idealized but unfounded positive qualities in recompense. That has to be earned and learnt in this present existence.


1:25 PM  
Blogger Lucia Lai said...

"Think twice before trying to take us on because we will fight back. I will fight back."

wah indeed. and scary.

like totoro ( was asking in peter's comments, fight back? did anyone attacked him personally? here i gave further quote from him:
People are filled with bitterness and vengefulness nowadays. "Everywhere we go we see our versions of injustice and we take retribution into our own hands, we make everything our own business. We don’t want them to understand, we want them to pay. We don’t want harmony, we want vengeance. Hit them where it hurts most, then they will learn their lesson."

it really baffle me how a small matter like someone's personal opinion on an issue can be blown up into such melodramatic issue. have we all gone so sensitive that with just a slight provocation (reading something we don't like), we quickly hit back HARD going to the extreme?

sad. :(

6:55 PM  
Blogger Spot said...

Hmmm..sounds like there's some background context btwn you two (in the blog sense) that goes back before the "good man" issue? heh.

Fair take. This whole fiasco can do no good for advancing the most basic of human virtues - compassion and consideration.

To me, the disabled should be given priority to use disability-friendly toilets not because they are entitled to it in terms of rights, but simply because it is considerate to do so.

The principle is very similar to Battered Wife Syndrome in the context of using it as a defence by a battered woman in a criminal case (usually where she's killed the batterer in self defence).

There's a strong argument against calling the defence a "syndrome" because it labels battered women as victims, which leads to the attitude of "she's a battered woman, so she's excused". Voila! Victim mentality and victim-labelling.

Oh how that detracts from understanding the circumstances from the battered woman's shoes and acting accordingly.

From understanding comes compassion and consideration. The woman should not be excused merely because she is a battered woman. Treat her as a fellow human being, albeit one with specific circumstances that, for the sake of consideration, ought to be accomodated.

But that doesn't mean that the woman should be angrily telling the jury to get battered themselves to see how it feels.

You know, Percolator, there's an example in itself, the fact that you didn't take similar righteous umbrage at how your perfectly rational hypothesis was belittled into "menses dribbling down her thighs".

Bravo for not saying anything in retaliation. Most would not have taken such a misogynistic remark quite so gallantly. The subsequent outrage by others at that statement spoke volumes. That's integrity, dear lady.

12:36 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

I don't get the sms reference. The 'wheelchair challenge' was thrown at a 'mr smith' who commented in his "two sides to human nature" post.

This incident has multiple/many subsidary issues. All said, the true victims are the disabled community, activism and Christianity - all sacrificed at the altar of one superego who took the inane rants of a girl nearly half his age far, far too seriously and turned it into 'us (disabed) against the rest fo the world". But as I said earlier in your blog, despite the casualties, it is indeed good that some things come to light, primarily, the right vs priviledge issue which is of public interest. And in the glare of all that (I'm really not sure if it was unsought) publicity, character is also laid bare.

1:20 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

There isn't any history other than what you already seem to know. Most commenters clearly missed what you very deftly connected. In the deluge of comments and attendant chaos, bigger issues (vis my comment to lucia) came to light. Let's just say that some situations are self-combustible. Any contribution from me would just be redundant.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous xpyre said...

I think both you and totoro have got it spot on, actually, from different angles. There are many ways in which I think Peter Tan's stance is wrong.

I had the first signs of warning when he proceeded with some others to go right out and lodge police reports against "good man".

It's not what "good man" did that should be under discussion, it's how they dealt with what "good man" did. And I found, unfortunately, the same stone wall in his post about "fighting back". Fight what, exactly?! And fight how?! This is all very Ahab-vs.-Moby-Dick-ish, lor.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Lucia Lai said...

if you read aizuddin's latest blog here:
which is about the tudung issue in the islamic U, look out for the last paragraph regarding majority and minority views. he ended up asking that, that person who protested against the wearing of tudung, writing to lik kit siang, does she speak for ALL the non muslims in the U?

i wonder then does peter speak for all the disabled... or even a small handful majority? who is the 'we' there in 'we will fight back'?

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot:"To me, the disabled should be given priority to use disability-friendly toilets not because they are entitled to it in terms of rights, but simply because it is considerate to do so."

Right, spot on! :)

In a family, e.g., the elder young kids in the family are always made to acquiescent to accomodating the younger. It's however a loss if, later later in life, developes into some sort of spoilt brat.

Despite this potential caveat this is being practised as a rule of the thumb but for the existing infrastructure to change to provide the said toilets cannot be rapidly made for various obvious reasons existing.


2:00 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

You know, among othe rthngs, this whole PT drama makes for one damn good argument for anonymity. How many of us can afford to be retaliated against in such manner?

1:30 PM  
Blogger thquah said...

Ai yoh sorry no time to comment this last few weeks. I feel the issue on the use disability-friendly toilets is a small matter. As for me I won't use a diability-friendly toilet even there is no toilet arounf.

10:31 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

long time no see! welcome back.
I missed you commonsense comments. You are quite right on the use of disabled-friendly toilets being a small matter.
Most decent people would not use those toilets EXCEPT in emergencies.
In so much that we are all only human, there can be ocassions when we will not be in control of our bodily functions eg food poisoning, and err... uhmm.. you know what lah! and in the most unfortunate circumstances - long queue for normal toilets or normal toilets too far away.
In this particular case, a mere matter of difference in opinion was so fantastically blown out of proportion, you'd think someone actually fought with PT for the use of THAT toilet, resulting in someone's bladder bursting. How a small difference of opinion can justify the terror retaliation that followed was quite shocking indeed.

2:08 PM  

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