today I would like to address the comments Mark made on my blog about my use of the ''us and 'them'' mindset. I must admit I find this subject incredibly difficult: is there a disability subculture, set apart from the dominant, able-bodied culture, or is there one homogenous mass described as 'human'? this question is hard for me to answer, because, as usual, I see both sides of the argument.
The disabled are an odd group of people. Disabled people can belong to any religion, any ethnic group. They may have grossly divergent political views. Indeed, they may have nothing in common with each other, save that they are disabled. With ethnicity (I do not use the term race) one's direct family belongs to the same group, and one may select friends from that group, so the case for a subculture is clearer. Yet, with the disabled, it is not so clear-cut. I have many nondisabled friends, and a nondisabled family. Indeed, even the term disabled is contentious: just because dad can't run as fast as the spandex-clad athletes on T.V, he pointed out last night, does that make him disabled?
The question is, are we a subculture, a group of people who are somehow linked? If so, what links us? The answer, I think, is necessity. Disabled people, for the most part, have certain experiences in common, ranging from being unable to enter public places to being pushed into special schools. It is shared experiences that bring us together - common struggles. We all have similar problems, and I think many people find the knowledge that we are not alone in those problems comforting. Moreover, it is only by coming together and combining wills that these problems may be solved.
Now, this may seem to imply that, as a single group of people, we face an equally united enemy. Not so. I do not think we are being systematically repressed by an opposing culture, just as black people were once repressed by the white people. While I maintain that there are parallels between segregated education and aphartied, the reasons behind the former are not the same as the reasons behind the latter. Segregated education arose out of a grossly misguided concern for the wealth fare of disabled children, rather than a hatred of them, or a will to keep them out of the way. Granted, I suspect that some may harbour the unconscious urge to repress disabled people, butt I am sure these people are in a tiny minority. There is no overt group of people campaigning to relieve us of our rights, but rather an inherited status quo which was not geared towards the needs of the disabled.
By and large however, society is slowly gearing itself towards the inclusion of disabled people. Almost everyone agrees upon the necessity of this inclusion. Thus, there is an 'us', but paradoxically not a 'them', as there is no overt, opposing force. We have already seen that the disabled are a group o9nly because they face the same struggles, but once they work together to remove these problems, they will have as much in common as any other two people.
Thus we are a subculture through necessity. At the same time, I have many good friends who are disabled, but they would be my friends regardless, and the same applies to my nondisabled friends. I am, I must admit, proud to belong to this subculture, which has so many great people in it, but I am equally proud to belong to humankind. You see now why I find this subject so complex. It is full of paradoxes: we are all the same, yet we are all different; the disabled are a group, yet we are innately no different to anyone else.
Regardless, I will continue to campaign for the rights of disabled people. I got a sense of belonging at the Onevoice weekend which I have not felt before - the sense of security one gets when one is around people you have a great deal in common with. This is a group of people to witch I belong and can contribute. There is no 'them' to oppose disabled people, but there certainly is an 'us'.