Thursday, April 11, 2013

First Quarter Entries for 2013 posted on my blogs...

Hello again!

Yes, we have survived the end of human civilisation and so I have to update you on the entries that have featured on my main blogs. Over this first quarter of 2013, the highest activity has been on my Buddhist-inspired blog ZoneMind with other two significant long entries on my blog mainly focusing on my views as a disabled person on my blog at GD-Zone. Apart from that, I encourage you to check out my ever-growing collection of haikus which I update fairly regularly on Haiku Flow. But, without further ado, here are the posts submitted on my blogs between January and March 2013:
 

GD-Zone

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A Right to Secrecy Denied: Disabled People andthe Secret Vote 
This entry is self-explanatory. I discuss how some disabled people in Malta may still be denied to vote or, as in my case, to vote in secret. I explain that I was entitled to the secret vote and here I expressed hope that with Malta’s ratification of the UN Convention, this situation would change. I wrote this entry a few days before the general election which was planned for early March.
 
Dumbification: Why Dumbo isn’t my Role Model…
In this entry, I explain why instead of being a story about inclusion and acceptance, the Disney story of Jumbo Junior is really sends across the wrong messages and is certainly not a good teaching tool to discuss our real problems as disabled people.
 

ZoneMind

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The True Meaning of Charity
In this three-part entry, I reflect on the meaning on charity and explain that charity shouldn’t be an act by which we assume that we’re doing good because we are ‘more fortunate’ but because we are driven by a genuine sense of compassion where we relate to another in need on a human level. 
 
On the Dawn of a New Day
In this entry, I share a meditation on the nature of identity and on the importance of acknowledging our human condition.
 
Pain: Teach me Life!
I wrote during moments of physical pain that resurface from time to time. While I recognise that such pain is always unpleasant, I meditate on the things I could learn from the experience of pain to help me grow in compassion and self-understanding. 
 
A Violent Awakening
In this entry, I meditate following losing consciousness and on regaining awareness after being on the ambulance as I was urgently taken to hospital to spend some days under observation. Here, I reflect on the choices I have made in my life and how I still had to deal with moments where  I feel a certain dissatisfaction in my life.
 
The Thing Called Pain 
Another meditation on what I learned from going through more of physical pain and how experiencing pain is, in some way, an illusion that arises from our sensory systems. I also reflect on how our common human experiences of pain can make us appreciate the value of others in our lives.
 
A Sunset of Promise
In this entry, I share a meditation on hope in a better future but, at the same time, we must ready to embrace life as it comes and making a point to make the best of what life throws at us.
 
The Refuge of Silence
A meditation on the value and importance of silence in order to clear our minds and engage with who we are and to cultivate our self-awareness and compassion.
 
The Day of Reflection
As I wait for the day I have to vote in my country’s election, I reflect on the ethical motivations that should guide before casting our vote and how our political duties demand from us to vote in respect of truth and authenticity and should never be driven by selfishness beca
 
Failing in Spite of Trying
As I continued to struggle with getting out of bed following my return from hospital which had reduced my leg muscle strength, I talk about how while I wasn’t that happy for finding that I still needed help to get up, I realise that asking for help wasn’t shameful but one should still try to get better if possible for failing is essential to succeed and mature.
 

Haiku Flow

Image of a Blue Lotus: Haiku Flow Logo Image

 
 
 
 
This growing collection of haiku based on traditional Japanese verse is being constantly updated. Here are the links for all the haiku I posted every month since January till March 2013. I hope you enjoy and subscribe to the feed:
 
January Haikus
 
February Haikus 
 
March Haikus
 
You might also be interested in listening to the song “The Phoenix” which is based on a recent haiku trio with the same name. Just follow the link below:


Last Words…

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Thank you for following me on gordonGD.com. Don't forget to follow the other content I produce, including my podcast at AudioBoo and YouTube channel.

Best,

Gordon

11 April 2013.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

My Special Differently-Abled Challenged Sort of Life > From GD-Zone

Call me a disabled person...

I’ve been called many things in my life when people wanted to refer to the fact I had a physical impairment, way long before I acquired my visual impairment.

I admit that I was ready to accept being called a “person with special needs” and preferred to refer to myself, if the situation required that I mention my impairment, as “physically challenged”. I found a little problem with having to talk of my physical impairment as a boy and I tried my best to pass off as ‘physically normal’.

Back then, I would not have imagined that I would come to describe myself as a 'disabled person' - a phrase I detested with a vengeance when I was much younger. But, yes, if you asked me today, I would tell you that I prefer to refer to myself as a “disabled person”. However, more on that later…

Misleading Euphemistic Phrases…

Of course, disabled people have been described in very derogatory terms ranging from “cripple”, “retarded”, “deformed”, “defective”, “wheelchair-bound”, “deaf and dumb”, “mental” and so on and on. These labels may be given to disabled people in general or to particular impairment groups. However, they all invalidate our worth as human beings which reminds me that “invalid” is also the term that captures what is meant when they call us by all those names.

But why haven’t I included the term “disabled person”? Yes, I use it today but it's not a term that some disabled people would want to identify with. The main reason is that both the general public and a number of disabled people misinterpret the term as meaning “lacking in ability”. And, yes, that interpretation is rather similar to calling us “invalids”. Yet, as I will explain later, this is not what disabled people who formed the first movements composed primarily by referring themselves as “disabled people”. But, be a bit more patient for first I must reveal my top three terms that I dislike being referred to today since choosing to refer to myself as a 'disabled person'..

Differently-Abled. Who me?

I’ve heard the media using this to describe disabled people and even some disabled people themselves to describe themselves. I suspect it’s a term that is meant to replace the term “disabled”. Yet, on close examination is meaningless and is really a term that can be applied to the whole of humankind.

For aren’t we all, disabled and non-disabledpeople, ‘differently abled’ in our own ways? For not everyone knows how to write a book, how to fix a car or how to  sing, for example. There is no such thing as a “normal ability”.

In fact, whether one has a skill or ability depends on many factors, including the person’s own likes and dislikes, social and family background and life circumstances, including whether one has an impairment..

To claim one is differently abled is like saying I’m a human being or stating the obvious. Ability is most often a matter of opportunity and everyone in this world is, in fact, 'differently abled' if you think about it and as disabled people, I don't think we have any special privilege to make use of a phrase that really isn't saying that much but, in my view, actually emphasising our differences as if they were very different than that of others.

Explain to me exactly what are my ‘special needs’?

This takes me to the second term, I confess, I did accept as young boy. Today, I realise how this term is oppressive because it appears to imply that we are, in some way, an alien people. Not in the sense employed in immigration law but in the sense that we're somewhat 'out of this world' and that we are somewhat an alien species.

But, when I ask people, what exactly are my special needs? They often mention two things. First, my wheelchair. Second, is the lift. Delighted that they believe they answered correctly, their faces beam expecting me to accept their brilliant answers. But, I point out that they're wrong because  the wheelchair and the lift are means to fulfil my needs, they aren’t needs themselves. 

Indeed, my needs are exactly the same as any other person. I need to move around or to be mobile, so I use a wheelchair to realise that need. I need vertical access to buildings higher than one floor.

And, yes, if tomorrow new technology was invented that made either the wheelchair or lift redundant, I would use it if it was better than the existent technology. Butt no, I’m not bound by my wheelchair! In fact, it permits me to go places I would have never been able to go… It gives me the independence and mobility other people have! 

I’m challenged… You must be joking!

Another phrase that, at first, appears to be nice and politically correct is when disabled people, depending on their impairments become ‘challenged’. I was physically challenged and then became visually challenged. So, now I’m both visually and physically challenged. Am I brave or not? Of course, I’m being sarcastic here. Yet, I was more ready to accept being regarded as ‘challenged’ rather than ‘disabled’.

However, the problem with describing myself as 'visually and physically challenged' is that, this follows a medical model view of disability by implying that the problems I have in my daily life are simply due to my impairments.

In this sense, my impairments are the ‘challenges’ I must face on my own. It can give the impression that disabled people are exceptional people if they are able to overcome their ‘challenges’. Yet, those who may need extra support or do not 'succeed' in the eyes of society are often cast of as 'lazy' or 'pathetic' and, worse still, told off for not being to achieve like those disabled people who are deemed to have 'overcome their challenge'.  

Yet, if I accept that, say, I’m physically challenged, I am accepting the fact that my impairment is a personal problem and it’s up to me alone to get over such a ‘challenge’. It’s assumed that it’s my destiny, fate I must deal with and a burden I must bear. And yet, is impairment really the great ‘challenge’ I have to face alone? Is it my and only my problem?

Yes, I am a disabled person…

The problems with all the misguided attempts at political correctness is that they start off by assuming that the problems we face as people with impairments are simply  related to the fact we have an impairment.

 

'Differently-abled' attempts to present us in apparently more tolerable terms or close to 'normal' but the label 'differently-abled', when examined, is without real meaning. The second term, 'special needs' attempts to present us using   flattering language like ‘special’ when it calling us 'special'

 is actually reinforcing the ideas that we are not fully human or that we are very different than other people to the extent that our needs are 'special'. The last term which describes us as somewhat 'challenged''  is defining us using  the same idea of a medical  model view of disability which roots all our problems in the fact we have impairments using nicer language.

Indeed, all the three euphemisms appear to be a reaction to the term ;disabled person' as this term is assumed to be negative and oppressive. However, I choose to define myself as a 'disabled person' because I came to understand what it really meant and that, in fact, it's a positive and liberating self-definition.  

Why am I a disabled person?

If I thought that calling myself a disabled person is negative and belittling, I would not use it. If I thought that it implied I lacked in ability, I would not use it.

Yet, when disabled people in the early 1960s came together for the first time in history, they redefined the meaning of disability. Indeed, while they recognised impairment as lack of functional ability, they observed that it was not the main barrier that was preventing them from being included and to be active participants in their society.

The early movements of disabled  people rooted the problems faced by people with impairments in the way society itself was structured and organised in such a way as to take “little or no account people with impairments’.

Nothing about us without us!

When I discovered the social model of disability,  I realised that the problem wasn’t only  my personal problem any more but something largely imposed on me by society on top of my impairments.

 Thus, by affirming I am disabled is a political statement by which I am affirming that impairment has little or no part to play when I am excluded but, rather, it’s the structural and attitudinal barriers that prevent me from benefitting from my human rights.

That is why, readers, please call me a disabled person.

And, no, I’m not one of ‘the disabled’ but part of an international community of ‘disabled persons’. We may share in our experience of disability, but we are also unique and different in our own ways but we’re not a uniform and a homogenous bunch of people.  

Indeed, our goal as disabled people is to break down the disabling barriers that still exist around the world. And to emphasise the fact that we want to be full part of our world and societies. Affirming that we are disabled is an affirmation that our disability is not due to the fact we have an impairment but a proclamation that  we believe our societies have failed us and it should change in a way as to take us into account as whole human beings.,

We want to be actively included in all areas of society and we want to be involved in matters that concern us. And that means that we are part of society and not remain left apart from it. The motto adopted by the international disabled movement says it best:  

Nothing about us, without us!
From my blog Gordon's  D-Zone, first published on April 8

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I love blogging for the very same reason I love writing. It gives me the opportunity to express myself and my ideas to others. Yet, the great thing about blogs are their potential to reach out to people across the world. Blogging is also a means where I can explore thoughts and ideas, express my creativity and better examine who I am. As a disabled person, blogs are also tool to raise awareness about how society excludes us as disabled people through its failure to take us into account. Besides disability activism, I also enjoy creative writing and to read about a wide range of topics, ranging from science to philosophy which I also explore in my blogs.. I dream of a world that includes everyone, irrespective of our differences. A world where people have true equal rights and opportunities. A world where everyone is given the means to succeed and attain his/her full potential.