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Disability… in Slow Motion

Pretend intelligence is smartphone quality.  The better quality the smart phone the faster frames per second it can record.  So for example you can do super slow motion shots of people jumping off the diving board with the most expensive phones.  Now bring it back to intelligence, the smarter you are the more information you can process in the same amount of time.  So you could say a smart person trusting their “instinct” is processing a huge amount of information on the fly.

So what does this have to do with disability?  Well, unlike racial prejudice, disability based prejudice doesn’t go down as much as IQ goes up.  I think this is because disability introduces some additional negativity and fries people’s sacred cows on the griddle.  During the process of encountering a person with a disability, intelligent people are unconsciously thinking things like the below.  It’s kind of like a row of balloons being popped in this OK Go Video.

  • I have innate worth.  A person with a disability really puts to the test the idea that everyone has innate worth which deep down most people know is a lie.  But this person is shoving this lie in your face by showing you a test case of someone who, if innate worth were true, you would think would be worth something.  But in acknowledging this individual’s worthlessness you acknowledge that your worth is based on function and nothing more.  But this is not something you appreciate being shoved in your face.
  • I can express myself in any way I choose and still be accepted.  Individuals with disabilities also test the limits of free expression.  What you find is that just like tan skin is tolerated but only if you’re not a minority, disability is only accepted if it is seen as temporary.  So for example if you have a cast on your arm but are expected to heal people will treat you well but if there is something wrong with you they perceive to be permanent then they won’t.  “You do you” only applies to things that aren’t irreversible (for example a funky hairdo).  As an individual with a disability you understand how life giving conformity is and see through the “be yourself” ruse normal people are never required to.
  • I want to bring children into this world.  Almost everyone becomes a temporary antinatalist (someone who thinks procreating is cruel) when they encounter an individual with a disability.  I always thought “I wish you were never born” was communicated through disability based prejudice (as opposed to race based prejudice which is “I wish you’d die”). Disability reminds people that their life, on balance, could contain way more suffering than joy. And why would you bring anyone into this world if that was what was waiting for them? Of course after the encounter with an individual with a disability ends instead of moving towards antinatalism these people project their negativity on that individual. And why not? Cognitive dissonance is experienced as emotional pain by most people.
  • Medical science can fix people good enough to function as good as new in society.  As an individual with a disability I have gotten this one a few times.  On a diet of seeing shiny new smartphones we’ve been brought up on this narrative that science is going to fix everything which is far from the case.  For both my disability and mental illness I’m basically using treatments that were invented in the 90’s.  And I’m the lucky one, for others there are even less treatment or none at all.
  • God can heal people.  People of faith (particularly Charistmatic Christians) do not like encountering individuals with disabilities because they demonstrate God’s inaction in action.  A question mark is an enemy of most people of faith and a question that gets brought up is, “what does God really promise?”.  If nothing, is the faith really worth it?