Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bad News/Good News/Better News

Bad News: I missed an opportunity to club another "autistic advocacy" group over the head.

Good News: I wasn't missed.


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) - Sections:
Victory! The End of the Ransom Notes Campaign
Hello everyone,

I am pleased to inform you that this afternoon the NYU Child Study Center announced that they will be ending the "Ransom Notes" ad campaign in response to widespread public pressure from the disability community. You can read that announcement here (at the NYU Child Study Center's website). The thousands of people with disabilities, family members, professionals and others who have written, called, e-mailed and signed our petition have been heard. Today is a historic day for the disability community. Furthermore, having spoken directly with Dr. Harold Koplewicz, Director of the NYU Child Study Center, I have obtained a commitment to pursue real dialogue in the creation of any further ad campaign depicting individuals with disabilities. We applaud the NYU Child Study Center for hearing the voice of the disability community and withdrawing the "Ransom Notes" ad campaign.

Twenty-two disability rights organizations came together to ensure the withdrawal of this advertising campaign. Our response to this campaign stretched continents, with e-mails, letters and phone calls coming from as far away as Israel, Britain and Australia. The disability community acted with a unity and decisiveness that has rarely been heard before and we are seeing the results of our strength today. Our success sends an inescapable message: if you wish to depict people with disabilities, you must consult us and seek our approval. Anything less will guarantee that we will make our voices heard. We are willing to help anyone and any group that seeks to raise awareness of disability issues, but those efforts must be done with us, not against us. This is a victory for inclusion, for respect and for the strength and unity of people with disabilities across the world. It is that message that has carried the day in our successful response to this campaign. Furthermore, we intend to build on this progress, not only by continuing a dialogue with the NYU Child Study Center and using this momentum to ensure self-advocate representation at other institutions as well, but also by building on the broad and powerful alliance that secured the withdrawal of these ads in the first place. We are strongest when we stand together, as a community, as a culture and as a people.

Thank you to all of you who have made this victory possible. Remember: "Nothing About Us, Without Us!"

Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, President

When you think about it, "Nothing About Us, Without Us" is a pretty damn good slogan for anyone. In our particular socio-political context - well, the Democratic Party springs to mind. The whole idea of "superdelegates" who's entire role at the convention is to suppress any outbreak of democracy is endemic of an authoritarian mindset.

Or if you prefer an apt literary reference - "All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others." I'd agree - if you are speaking of porcine volunteers for the role of luncheon meat. If I WERE a member of the Democratic Party - and I have a rather too much self-respect for that - my driving goal at the moment would be to purge the party of every authoritarian sonofabitch who thought it was a good idea to "organize" it in the same way the Republicans organized theirs.

Personally, whether it's Mommy or Daddy claiming to know best - well, I got fifty years of experience and a millennium of well-documented history that says they don't. Yes, folks, I did indeed start learning this lesson in infancy.

The sine qua non of American Authoritarianism at it's purest and most simple-minded is NeoConservatism. So, let us look back on how well the "Republican Revolution" worked. Taking a party from oblivion to domination to extinction in thirty years is definitely an achievement of significance - in the sense of "whom the Gods would destroy, they first make proud." It's not an example to emulate.

And it all comes out of listening to people who say "trust us, we know what we're doing."

This is why no advocacy group - and that's what political organizations of all sorts are, whatever the breadth of focus - should be allowed to forget "NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US."

Or the import of the Second Amendment.

When you think about it, it's the summation of the US Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, with the second amendment being the underline and "or else;" the final resort when the cluebat breaks.

You may well wonder why the hell in our culture, with an express written constitution that literally enshrines and makes sacred the right to use force against those who believe they "know better" than you and I that we still have to do things like this, that we need any "advocacy groups" other than our elected representatives. But the fact that we do need the constitution is exactly why we NEED various advocacy groups that have the express purpose of sneaking up on the powers that be with nail-studded cluebats.

Remember that Alexander Hamilton was pretty much saying "it's just a scrap of paper" before the ink was dry. There are many nations and cultures that do not need such explicit standards - because, well, they are more civilized than this nation made up of cowboys, pirates, remittance men, fugitives and grifters. Don't think I'm disparaging our heritage - but I'm not blind to it's implications, either.

The Constitution was written by a very cynical group of men - including Hamilton - and while no doubt many of the did indeed agree with Hamilton that they "knew better," they were mutually aware that their visions differed enough that some enforced guidelines of mutual toleration were required, and that if they did not agree on some set of rules that permitted them to differ without violence - violence and barbarism would ensue. (Or "greater barbarism," as any of King George's advisers would have said. I suspect Franklin would have cheerfully nodded and asked him to pass the wench.)

So I suppose this is the real message. If you belong to ANY minority group - and you do - and it isn't soldered into unshakable connection with the Powers that Be - and trust me, it ISN'T quite proportionally to the degree you innocently assume it is - you need to support all us whining minority interests seeking our "special rights," as the social conservatives like to dismissively say.

There is no form of social conservatism and social conformity that can contain the range of people and the range of ideas needed to create and maintain a wealthy, expanding civilization. And more critically, there is no form of authoritarian, centralized government that can productively and usefully attend to our diverse and conflicting interests. Bluntly, a reliance on authorities - and particularly the sort of scum that rises to the top of OUR melting pot - is no substitute for individual self-governance and the excercise of one's rights in defense and advancement of one's individual rights both as an individual and as a collective of individuals with common interests.

This particular case illustrates that there is still a large gap in our culture between genuine disability and exclusion based on prejudice, for if it were not true, it would hardly be profitable to even consider pandering to prejudicial parental panic. And as such, it's a beautiful illustration of a particular instance of a deplorable degree of collective stupidity.

We are entirely too tolerant of routine intolerance, and far too forgiving of casual, institutional ignorance. Well-meaning ignorance is possibly the worst and most insidious form - and that's the sort that I'm sure this particular incident revolved around.

But the worst possible manifestation of such social norms is the panicked thought that it is somehow reasonable to attempt to camouflage or adapt children to the expectations of the stupid rather than expect other persons to live up to the minimal standards of mutual toleration and acceptance required of a diverse society.

To be especially blunt - this campaign assumed that parents of children with mental distictions should assume that their children would be brutalized unless they were somehow "cured" of being noticable.

I do have a very effective cure for that attitude myself. It's called "Martial Arts Classes."

Not only was the campaign appallingly offensive, but clearly, nobody involved in creating, deploying and funding the campaign noticed. That inevitably leads me to the assumption that they suffered from prejudice against the "differently abled" to a shocking degree themselves.

That sort of thing is bad enough when the folks involved are advocating against your interests, but when they are supposedly acting on your behalf - and sucking up money that damn well ought to be spend in your collective interests if it's going to be spent at all - it's not just offensive, it's injurious.

And whatever sort of minority you are, when the powers that be "act in your interest" in such a way - it's time to haul out the cluebat.

Attention, all minorities. Particularly Florida voters. Those who say "trust me, I know better" had best be required to prove it. And if they prove - spectacularly - that they do not, it's time to rid yourselves of them - or continue to suffer the price of their possibly well-meaning foolishness.

1 comment:

hawa said...

Thank you thank you for this post! I was just talking about this very issue. Women fighting for women's rights. Gays fighting for gay rights. Blacks fighting for black rights.

It almost gets silly, because they're all fighting for the same thing - universal justice.

And if one group isn't willing to see that same reason to fight in another group -- they'll remain at odds making little progress.

Thanks for this.

BTW: I laughed out loud at your description of the superdelegates. God forbid democracy actually broke out... hehe


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