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Are people professing to be disabled for political reasons

Does anyone see theirselves as normal these days? It seems to me that more and more people are choosing to define theirselves as abnormal, belonging to one minority or another, as if just being white, straight and able bodied is unfashionable. This might be slightly controversial, but I'm starting to think that defining oneself as disabled, or as having some kind of condition, is in vogue. (Either that, or doctors are giving labels to sets of symptoms which in the past they may have just ignored). It's as if being normal and impediment free is boring; or that people like to see theirselves as oppressed. It's as if certain rather impressionable people have seen guys like me, admired what they perceive to be our tenacity and, consciously or unconsciously, chosen to define theirselves among us. Thus minor impairments are now seen as disabilities, on a par with conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Of course, saying such things risks straying into rather dodgy, Daily Mail-esque territory. That, I must stress, is not my intention: I'm not accusing anyone of faking or imagining their conditions. It's just that, online I see disability forums filling up with people who in the past might not have perceived theirselves to be disabled; I also think people are using things like crutches or walking sticks more. I don't mean that they don't need such things, but that they are more likely to be open about needing them, as if belonging to an oppressed minority or a civil rights movement has become a cool thing to be. Thus more and more people are opening up about their mental health issues and equating it to physical disability.

In a lot of ways this is something to be warmly welcomed: people are finally being open about their disabilities, rather than seeing them as something to be hidden away. Yet I fear there is an overtly political dimension to this. Being a member of a downtrodden minority has become the thing to be, and you can't get more downtrodden than disabled people. These days, people want to be heard, they want to be noticed; but in the cacophonous world of mass media and the internet it has become much harder to stand out. Thus more and more people are claiming to belong to the disabled people's movement in order to gain a certain political cache. They want to be rebels fighting against an oppressive tory government. When it comes to claiming to be oppressed, there is little political milage in just being straight, white and middle class, so people have started to emphasise impairments which previously might have just been ignored.

That may be just as well - the more voices there are in the disabled people's movement, the better. Yet my fear is that sooner or later voices like mine will start getting drowned out. Those of us who have borne the brunt of the oppression in terms of segregated education or institutionalisation will be pushed into the wings while more forceful voices seize the centre stage. Such voices may indeed be disabled, but have relatively minor impairments and know nothing of watching classmates die one by one, or being put to bed at seven because the staff at your care home want to go to the cinema. Yet they will use their disabilities to get what they want and to gain attention, professing to advocate for all our rights while performing an exercise in self-promotion. Such so-called activists are rare, but I can already name one or two. I am not saying that they exaggerate their disabilities or the extent to which our current government persecutes them, but that these people use such experiences for a form of political capital. As controversial as I fear even thinking such things is, I think concerns like mine are valid; I just don't want voices like mine to be drowned out by people who use disability as political capital.


[Edited 17/12/2017 at 13:24:15 - added a bit]
[Edited 17/12/2017 at 17:27:33 - minor correction]

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