Writing our voices…. PT 1

What do you think disabled peope could write if they wrote a book about how they are more than just welfare recipients or whatever stereotype people think they should be?

All sorts of deeper academic areas that could be mined simply using interdisciplinary models but Dis Studies guys are all linguistics freaks and talking to themselves so we are stuck with the language the welfare state and the press give us which is – insufficient for our needs. Positive identity is needed NOT the ‘positive’ of Paralympians but a positive identity that can survive _not_ having ‘done’ big stuff, that you retain a sense of self after you have lost your health, job, ‘role’ or especially if you never had job, health or a social identity beyond ‘the kid in the corner’ or ‘that poor girl’. ‘Welfare State’ implied a care for the welfare of other beings as human beings as medical and social entities, perhaps having people’s welfare at heart regardless of colour, creed, income but it seems synonymous now with age, failure, sickness and fraud. Not too abstruse, I hope?

As a Disability Studies academic I might have managed to make a really effective study of what people _really_ feel about being referred to as ‘brave’ or ‘different’ , ‘courageous’ or ‘scroungers’ and an interesting study of why it is that though society ALWAYS claims it has our ‘best interests at heart’ and that ‘decent people don’t mind ‘genuine’ disabled people getting support’, WE nearly always feel as if it is _we_ who are being labelled as ‘scroungers’ even when others are being kind, or are simply weary of being definedn by what we are not – able- bodied financial cheats.

As a disabled person, with a particular experience of being brought up to feel inferior anywhere outside academia I can’t speak for everyone, but I do wish that more of us who are willing and able to speak out could be heard, before our identities are completely subsumed by whether we are ‘deserving’ or not in others eyes. (an interesting parallel with the struggles of women to be seen outside what the patriarchy thinks is ‘good’ I think.

NOT being academics, the majority of people find offensive any suggestion that there might be a different experience out there than the one they imagine and rightly so many would argue against an identity politics that divided the world into disabled and non- disabled, chronically sick or born ‘object’ instead of subject’. From the perspective of ‘real/normal life we are considered to be splitting hairs about improbable, imponderable and from impossibly erudite angles (yet always being accused of insufficient evidence – as though the experiences of those in Dachau and Auchwitz though personal, were surely ‘evidence’ – and yes, it has the ability to be every bit as bad as that across several continents ) there are a whole raft of interesting and probably impossible for me to explain adequately from the perspective of my always having been supported by the blessed Nanny State (not always as benign when you look at the semantics, but still. As David explained to a the department store manager recently, who mentioned the eponymous generous ‘people who don’t mind’ contributing to the welfare of disabled people who are the ‘they’ that they get first say on what is right or wrong as if disabled adults were not adults or as if we were outside society, separate from ‘decent people/ the taxpayer etc’??

It is not an exaggeration to say that for any historian the impact of watching human beings make the same mistakes despite all that the past _appears_ to have taught us is depressing if you are on the outside and stomach-churning from the inside in a way that few of us can now pretend does not remind us of the ‘modern history’ we were taught at school. We can say that love is stronger than hate, but when we are up against it, does it feel that way?

I’d thought a lot about what you said about making a documentary about how it feels to be in a wheelchair. Mostly about how they would be unlikely to screen it, since my head was primed with all the fascinating stuff about how the good stuff is spun by the corporations who can pay for it, which generally leaves disabled programmes onn the cutting room floor at best since ‘The Disabled Programmes Unit was axed and ‘BBC ‘Ouch’ is going also despite all the Hate Crime Network has done. For every person who does not want to listen, there is one who does and yet some things are just not to be considered. And it is assumed that WE are not trying to get them out there. Every writer knows ‘you should write’ syndrome. You do indeed, but it gets out there with backing, luck, comissiioning and probably a lot of things which you have studied far more than I have!

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