Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will Disability Forever Be about the Other?


Two pieces circulating among disability activists remind me of a truth my wife often uses when she sees bullying or discrimination. "People are like chickens. They will peck the different one to death."

It's a farm girl's observation. Chickens tend to kill the sick or injured among them.

That bit of folk wisdom came to mind when a report began to circulate noting
"JAKARTA, May 26, 2009 (AFP) - Disabled pedestrians in Indonesia are required to wear signs identifying them as handicapped under new traffic regulations passed unanimously by parliament on Tuesday."

Perhaps an armband? Nothing new in that, as every sophisticated person knows, with medieval marking carried forward to modern times and spread from Jews to other concentration camp prisoners and then into places like Cuba.

To point to that is not to suggest fascist motives to members of Indonesia's parliament but rather to point out the danger of "otherness."

Spanish disability rights activist Javier RomaƱach speaks to that issue when he identifies "The Three Phases of Bioethical Immaturity."

As RomaƱach offers, "We" (meaning every human being) "are all unnecessaries."
The first phase begins with "cutting out" humans regarded as "others", e.g. by labeling them pejoratively as "retards", "cripples", etc. and ends with institutionalization, sterilization, or even euthanasia, including "mercy killings"
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