being brave and bearing witness to ableist violence
29 March, 2017
My mother came into my room on Monday night to see if I was planning to watch Four Corners. She informed me “Ummm… I am thinking that I can’t stomach it, I probably will give it a miss…”. My rationality reflected that precise sentiment in my own little body, but my heart urged me to watch it. That night, I was fielding all kinds of self-centred negativity, and trying to passively surrender to my hindrance of an ego to find comfort and to piece together a way through. It took me until yesterday afternoon to feel grounded enough to be able to watch it, and be less likely to collapse in a heap of anger and despair. Lynne must have come home and came upstairs in to say hi, and she immediately goes, “You are watching Four Corners? Don’t, you are only going to upset yourself….”, to which I vaguely replied, “ But it’s important…”. I think it’s important to acknowledge suffering, be a witness and feel the heaviness of this life, this society with many of its fractured and corrupt systems, and to at least not say it’s “too much”. To say that it is, to say that it’s too painful to just listen to horrid (and common-as-fuck) stories, is to not observe the abusive structures of power at play. To metaphorically leave families and people even more isolated and voiceless, just because we don’t feel strong enough to fully comprehend the depth of the pain in these individual lives. I’m of course talking about those of us with enough professional and personal distance and social security to not have Immediate knowledge of what really goes on in some parts of the disability sector.
I am the first to admit, I’m a bad disability activist, I often bore myself with talking about the struggles and the indignities of living in a non-normative body. But that’s a sign of my ample luck, to have enough education and social support to be bored, not constantly angry – to have space to be complacent and not feel the quality of my life depends on desperately fighting horrific and systemic negligence. I guess it’s how social attitudes seep into my pores and pull the covers over my head, so I feel like I’m too mainstream and too removed to have these issues affect my life and my world. Therefore, shamefully, I am more comfortable thinking about and protesting for the plight of refugees (while i'm here, #Savesaeed), than I am about disability issues. Disability issues aren’t pretty, they don’t get the same weight as other social justice issues. (I was thinking about the Don Dale report, and although it’s the same – systemic abuse of power, abuse of vulnerability, neglect and torture, there’s no outcry on newsfeeds, no snap protests or even a series of angry rants)
Recently, I have been reflecting on how I deeply want to be autonomous, not in a completely practical sense, but an emotional and relational sense. Meanwhile, acknowledging that the idea of independence is completely damaging, and a socially and rigorously curated falsehood, I have literally stopped at various points in my days, and randomly gone “Fuck independence, it’s all a lie!” Well, it’s not really a lie so much as it’s one of the things most people put a lot of value in, and that’s only because western/capitalist society makes us feel that any sense of freedom is first established in our individual personhood.
Stay with me, this is on topic I promise. This is what ableism is based on, what causes such disregard for disabled lives, and creates lofty despondency, because we don’t matter as much. We can’t even think, talk, walk, function in a way that’s seen as “the most productive” in society. So who cares if we get assaulted, abused or murdered?
The senate inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings was dismissed last May, because apparently there's a stricter and more robust system of reporting abuse coming with the full rollout of the NDIS (in 2018!?). People are dying, living in terror and being assaulted daily....We can do much, much, much, much better!