Sunday, 3 May 2009

Random thoughts about being disabled - NOT

A couple of thoughts in the wake of Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st, 2009.

1. I haven't been round reading tons of entries on the subject, but a few I have read, and Alison Hymes'Psychophobia 201 was definitely the best I've come across.

2. There's a lot of talk about disability and disablism, also in regard to people with emotional problems. Here for example is a YouTuber, Mary Van Pelt, who does some awesome vids against disablism in work places.

Another aspect is the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, whose wording also was fundamentally influenced by user/ex-user/survivor organizations like MindFreedom.

I very much appreciate the effort both individual persons like Alison Hymes and Mary Van Pelt, and organizations like MindFreedom put into raising awareness about discrimination against and the rights of people in emotional distress. Nevertheless, I have a problem with the overall concept, the overall idea, that people in emotional distress are described as "disabled". Which is that I don't regard emotional distress a disability. Consequently, I myself do not identify as disabled.

While it is true, that I probably would have an extremely hard time coping, get stressed out in no time, and experience emotional trouble, if I had to work under 9 to 5-ordinary job circumstances, I know quite a few "normal" people, who would have just as hard a time, who certainly wouldn't be happy, if they had to make a living under the same circumstances I make mine: working early mornings and late evenings, working weekends and holidays, working outside, regardless the weather, being on "stand-by" 24/7, and handling horses. Does that make these people disabled? If someone ended up with some kind of emotional distress doing the job I do, let's say because they're afraid of or simply don't like horses, is that a disability then?

People often ask me, if my job isn't very hard work, and how I manage doing it without getting run down. Yes, it is hard work. It is physically demanding. On the other hand, it isn't more demanding than being a hunter-gatherer or a pastoral nomad, which is, what human beings are by their very nature. Indeed, I'd say, my job is a lot closer to (human) nature, and a lot less alienating than most of the work situations, modern western civilization expects human beings to cope with. Does it make me disabled, that my human nature rebels against a maybe "normal" but nevertheless unnatural way of living?

Well, of course it makes me disabled in the eyes of an alienated and alienating, and in fact disabled and disabling, culture. While I myself regard it an ability of mine, that my nature is capable of reacting - rebellious - to unnatural demands and situations. And I'd definitely prefer not having to resort to the CRPD, but simply to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to have my human rights respected in any given situation. In my opinion it is a human rights violation in itself, that the latter doesn't protect my human rights in these given situations.

Last but not least, let's face it: which actually does disable the vast majority of people with "psychiatric disabilities" isn't the emotional distress itself. It is the "treatment", the punishment, they receive for rebelling against unnatural, disabling life situations. So, "psychiatric disability" isn't that misleading a term anyway: disabled by psychiatry.


Gianna said...

I have a problem calling psychiatric issues disabilities as well...unfortunately I'm indeed disabled now because of the drugs that treated my so-called psychiatric disorder which was nothing more than a hallucinogenic trip at age 19...I'm fully physically challenged and pretty much bed bound disablism applies to me whether or not we look at psychiatric issues.

in any case there are times when mental distress does indeed get in the way of functioning the way society demands and so it's hard to know how to categorize one who does not function like the majority without using the term disabled, if for no other reason just in order to legislate protection for said people (if I didn't have a diagnosis I wouldn't have an income!!) I worked until the drugs did me in...anyway...

anyway...I'm off to watch a movie and chill out...I'm so wasted I feel like I'm dying. I don't know why I bother doing anything anymore except I would be dead then.

Marian said...

Gianna: This is indeed a problem with many layers. One could write books about it. I guess, there have been written books about it...

My "philosophy" is that no one should be labelled "disabled" just because they don't fit the mould of what a culture's norms and values norm and value as "able", while they otherwise function perfectly naturally. The ability to recognize and react to unnatural cultural norms and values included.

In my opinion, the disablism lies not least in the fact, that our culture leaves almost no room for natural diversity, and forces a lot of people to identify as disabled, who, if our culture wasn't as alienated from nature as it is, would be perfectly able.

If I lost my job, and couldn't immediately find another one that matches my abilities, I'd risk to be asked to apply for something like check-out assistant at the supermarket. Where chances are, that I could cope for a couple of months before running into trouble. I would have to go and get labelled disabled, in order to have my personal abilities respected, and not end up home- and incomeless. While no one would ask a sacked check-out assistant to apply for a job as a groom, or go and get themselves a label.

Gianna said...

well...yeah...diversity can be recognized and whatever ability people still have celebrated, but shit I sure as hell am NOT ABLE BODIED. what do we call that???

frankly I don't care. I need help. right now the politics of it all is too much (I mean in this moment--not all the time)

all I know is I'm invisible and most people just forget I exist...because I can't go out and see them...I must not exist...they don't see me...

I only exist in this virtual world now it seems sometimes and that is horribly painful.

Marian said...

Don't know. Maybe I'd settle for "hurt", "harmed", "traumatized". But I guess, these too, society in no time would turn into the hurt/harmed/traumatized person's own fault, and (ab)use them to discriminate, if they were to replace "disabled".

Why do people discriminate against others? Because they're scared of whatever "flaw" they attribute to the discriminated against person might one day come upon themselves - or of having to face, that it already has come upon themselves. Repression and denial, turning a blind eye.