To bravely go where no-one has gone before…
Queue the music…
Please excuse the inner geek in me, I have so few opportunities to let it out these days!
Well we certainly have come a long way from the days when Star Trek exploded onto our screens, and yes I will have to admit that it did start production before I was even born, but I am non the less a Trekky and when I finally curled up in front of the old black and white TV and watched Scotty beaming up Kirk from planets unknown I was forever hooked! Thankfully there have been many generations and iterations of Star Trek fans and so, hopefully, it will be appreciated for decades to come. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever…”
Anyway, that being said, I should return to the point I am hoping to make, which is this. During the time since Shatner, Nimoy and the team burst on to our screens we have seen changes in civil rights and we have been slowly but surely exploring new worlds and “boldly going where no man has gone before… ” [again, forgive the Star Trek references. Spoiler alert: there may be a few more to come].
We have seen the first black President of the United States take office. Which I hope will be a testimony that colour is becoming an unacceptable reason for bias and racism is becoming even more and more unacceptable (admittedly we still have a LONG way to go). Feminism has made some inroads too and women are chipping away at the patriarch slowly, ever so slowly. Recently gay rights have had the legal stamp of approval in almost all civilized countries in the world. I stress civilized because I truly think to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation is unworthy of the term civilized.
This now leads me to the saddest and mostly unexplored (even unmentioned) areas of discrimination and suffering left on this planet; disability and chronic illness.
Now I will admit that before I became sick and disabled I was one of the ignorant who didn’t really understand a thing about what it was like to be chronically ill or disabled and what challenges they faced. Lets just say I have had a trial by fire which is why I have dedicated my life to advocating for people who are sick and disabled and I am prepared to lose friends, family or public approval along the way, particularly if they are part of the millions of people who are deep in denial and don’t want to have their beliefs tested or expounded. I am more interested in the millions of people I help by giving a voice and dignity then those I might offend or make feel uncomfortable. With any cause there must always be sacrifice and with any step forward there has to be someone prepared to speak up. Ghandi, Martin Luther, Mandella, Germaine Greer and many others knew this and even I have to accept that change comes after a lot of hard work and sacrifices.
You see the types of discrimination that disabled people face is everywhere and endemic in this perfection obsessed society. If we aren’t able to ‘perform’, ‘look’ or ‘serve/achieve’ as others can than we really have a difficult time gaining acceptance and/or being valued. The truth is we are valued far less than any other of the groups I have listed earlier (not that it is a competition) and it is perhaps the most painful because we really struggle to ‘fight back’ as we are generally not physically able to do so.
For example, how many times has a black, gay or feminist been denied welfare because they were not black, gay or female enough? How many times could a black, gay or feminist not be able to access a building because they are not physically able to enter it? How many disabled people are in public office or hold seats of power? You see if you are black, gay, feminist today you can access college, still go on holidays, still attend public functions or hold public office. You can still earn a living and you still have choices and options that many disabled people do not.
Even when I scan through TV, Movies, books, magazines it is very clear to me who is NOT represented in the media and who is missing from the landscape. Nowadays when I look at a place, a picture, a magazine, a movie or a news story, I ask myself “Who is missing from this picture?…”
I can remember people telling me how lucky I was that my husband stayed when I became sick and disabled. They thought they were being kind to me by saying this, but it was like pouring insult onto very serious injury. I looked at my husband and I said “If you want to go you have my blessing,” and he said “No! I love you. I married you for better or worse…” I am glad he has character, loyalty, commitment and recognize my innate worth … but would he have wanted to even date me if I was disabled when we met? I honestly don’t know. But this is a real question facing many of my disabled brothers and sisters who have been disabled all their lives. Many of them will never find partners due to how undesirable disabled people are viewed by society. We are far more likely to be viewed as a liability and devalued, even though we are very much as human as every other human on this planet and have hearts, emotions, ideas, creativity and love to offer.
Disability really is the Final Frontier on the social agenda and we are losing more and more ground with each new ‘perfection’ obsessed generation, but I hope that we will boldly go and explore new territory together and that ultimately we will “Live long and prosper…”