David Thompson
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November 25, 2010

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Karen M

"a legless and rather prickly "activist" insisted that it was "oppressive" to view the loss of a person's legs as in any way regrettable."

I think I heard the same interview. Didn't he say he wished he had kids that were disabled too? A total nutjob.

David

Karen,

I didn’t catch the entire programme so I can’t say. What I remember is that the discussion travelled from an unremarkable sentiment – sort of, “look past the disability, see the person” – to the exact opposite: “Look at my disability, see nothing else. But don’t call it a disability because the word is oppressive.” By the end of the exchange, the activist was referring everything back to his legless condition and its alleged political implications - and railing against people who preferred to be able-bodied.

But this is what identity politics does. It turns people into cartoons.

WTP

So did the interviewer suggest that the activist could be even less able-ist himself if he cut out his tongue? Though I suppose in the "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" it's not very clear what the journalist was supposed to do here.

David

“So did the interviewer suggest that the activist could be even less able-ist himself if he cut out his tongue?”

Well, funnily enough, there are people who believe verbal communication is a tool of terrible oppression. For instance, there are some who claim that having functional hearing (or “audism”) is “a way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community.” Apparently, “phonocentrism” is “violent” and being “enforced,” and people with functional hearing are “dominating” and “exercising authority” over deaf people. A construal of events that seems a wee bit grandiose, to say nothing of paranoid, as if it were a favoured sadistic pastime of people with working ears.

http://curmudgeonjoy.blogspot.com/2008/01/v-for-victim.html

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ah32ktcvB28C&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=way+of+dominating,+restructuring,+and+exercising+authority+over+the+deaf+community&source=bl&ots=Vs4YZWxe6i&sig=A9Qoyw1tLz1BHInSO9OHqIQ4Ljk&hl=en&ei=WYXuTMc9zYWFB_OP1Z8M&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=way%20of%20dominating%2C%20restructuring%2C%20and%20exercising%20authority%20over%20the%20deaf%20community&f=false

It’s one thing to say that deafness can often put one at a serious disadvantage - and one might certainly feel *deafness itself* to be oppressive. But it’s a bit of a leap to then claim that deaf people – all of them - are being “oppressed” - “violently” - by some nefarious outside agency.

TDK

"Well, funnily enough, there are people who believe verbal communication is a tool of terrible oppression."

And they say "World According to Garp" is fiction

randian

"Didn't he say he wished he had kids that were disabled too? "

That's a very common meme among the deaf. Some even go so far as to deliberately damage the hearing of their children. I am certain the number who have far dwarfs the number who asked for official permission to do it, or who have been caught. Why would a parent be so afraid their children will abandon them? It's like being deaf isn't just something you are, it's a cult.

David

“Some even go so far as to deliberately damage the hearing of their children.”

I’d heard of cases of people wanting to select or “engineer” a deaf baby:

“If hearing people were to have the right to throw away a deaf embryo, then we as deaf people should also have the right to throw away a hearing embryo.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/mar/09/genetics.medicalresearch

But deafness aside, I think a kind of rationalised misanthropy is quite common among identity politics advocates. The nature of the politics and what it entails invites dogmatism and often attracts people with certain… dispositions. If your outlook is based on antagonistic group identities, then it’s much easier to be unrealistic and callous regarding other people. There are plenty of examples in the archives where the psychology and motives seem dubious, authoritarian, even sadistic. See Jane Elliott, for instance, or Margaret Jamison, or Amanda Marcotte:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/10/i-sense-a-malign-presence-.html
http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/10/the-masters-tools.html
http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/07/just-thwarted-sperm.html

Yes, the examples above are fairly extreme, but they highlight a dynamic that isn’t hard to find in other forms. See, for example, Melanie McDonagh and note the casual misandry and disregard for others:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/10/an-instrument-of-choice.html

For some, there seems to be a correlation between ostentatious claims of righteousness and an urge to hurt people.

AC1

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3246581/Muslim-artist-sparks-outrage-with-picture-of-bombed-77-bus.html?OTC-RSS&ATTR=News

Wm T Sherman

"If you weren't half a man, I would thrash you within an inch of your life."

-Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forest CSA, to General John B. Hood CSA

ryanjessop

David, just spent half the afternoon reading through your blog. Thank you for some great writing. I'll make a donation at the end of the month. Keep up the good work.

randian

“If hearing people were to have the right to throw away a deaf embryo, then we as deaf people should also have the right to throw away a hearing embryo.”

Apparently, creating disability has the same moral legitimacy as preventing it. That's an astonishing point of view.

David

Ryan,

Thanks for the buttering. Welcome aboard.

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