Posted on | November 29, 2013 | 2 Comments
When you’ve taken a hiatus from blogging there will be one thing that causes you to start up again, and for me it was this awful Huffington Post article by maverick disability campaigner Simon Stevens.
One of the most shocking aspects of the piece is not his arguments but the lack of logic behind them. He claims to “truly believe all disabled people as well as everyone else ‘can’ work” and that he defines work ”as the ability to perform an activity for which an organisation or another person is willing to pay money for.”. This is on the surface a shrewd move – by defining his own terms in his way they will become immune to being critiqued, however he fails at that. The word ‘can’ is the trick here as he hopes you would confuse ‘can’ with ‘can do with competence’. Yes I ‘can’ walk up stairs, I ‘can’ make a sandwich and I ‘can’ kick a football but I can’t do these things with any competence and often decide not to due to the sheer frustration they cause. And similarly some people are far too impaired to work with any competence.
Simon attacks both Sue Marsh and Nicky Clark (the latter who I’ll admit red-handedly I’ve previously been far too critical of after shaping my judgement on a minor dispute we had on Twitter and then reading opinions of some like-mindedly angry and eccentric bloggers, but we’ve since chatted and she’s cool) for some very mild comments concerning the right to die. He says he fears “the real future of disabled people on the wrong side on that line in the sand, unfit for work and society, is a bleak one indeed.”, this is nothing but a slippery-slope argument at its worst. There is nothing to say those who suffer the depression onset by being incapable to work will therefore kill themselves.
He also criticises Sue for telling her “follow[er??]s” how “miserable it is to have a minor impairment” and I could happily spend a whole blog just critiquing what’s wrong here but I’ll try to be brief. Firstly, ‘minor’! Disabled people, quite rightly, get up tight when you go around comparing other people’s severities and who is he to say what’s minor? This is trolling at its worst. She has Crohn’s, and while I’d hate to prescribe how disabling this is to her I can see how being told it’s a ‘minor impairment’ could cause rage. Secondly, does she do this? I follow Sue too and I’ve never seen her say anything morbidly depressive like this. Yes we both share a certain cynicism – one I feel is healthy and should be encouraged around disability – but to confuse that with an overall depression and general negativity is a gross misjudgement.
Admittedly it took some time but I learnt to accept others have their own unique way of viewing their own disability. I find it easy to draw a crowbar between loving life and an indifference to disability – yeah I’d rather not have it but I’m over it! – which is why I don’t like the idea of Disability Pride, but I accept to others who see less of a separation Disability Pride is a good thing. Simon’s problem is he can’t see any other way but his own, to him there isn’t a difference between not being completely in love with your disability and wanting to enter the garage with a set of keys and a hosepipe.
Although it is unjust (even by my standards) to pick at someone’s insecurities, Simon’s weaknesses inform his most venomous opinions. If you’re familiar with his articles or follow him on Facebook/Twitter you will know that every couple of hours he’ll inform you about how ‘proud’ he is to be himself. Plus he is very open to talk about his imaginary friends and show you just how full his bedroom wall is of pictures of himself, whereas I choose to look up and see Neil Young rocking out on my wall, he chooses to see himself swimming with dolphins. He has admitted he gets very little out of relationships and therefore one can tell he needs this constant self-gratification to get by, these constant reminders of how ‘proud’ he is are more of a way to convince himself this is true than you. It’s not fair to criticise him on this however one must bear it in mind when he goes on the offensive about disabled people campaigning for the right to die and suggests they’re weak, implying he’s somehow better than them.
Yes, I’m an egomaniac too but I’d like to think it’s something I’ve learnt to self-parody. If I smash a gig (which obviously happens all the time!) of course I have to tell Facebook all about it but I always qualify it with either an overtly-disgusting comment about the sweaty disposition of my genitalia or a refreshingly-honest acknowledgement that I am being an all-out dick. I feel doing this makes my comments much less needy, admittedly still ‘wanty’ but ‘wanty’ in a way that’s hopefully humourous so no-one takes it seriously. Simon’s consistent reminders of how great he thinks he is seem to lack any sense of self-awareness and come across as pleads for others’ gratification. Again I don’t want to attack him on this but should we take barbed comments about others’ mental wellbeing from a man with such insecurities?
This man isn’t evil nor malicious at heart but he’s become so great at convincing himself he’s the business, without actually believing so deep down, that he’s just a parody of himself. And I pity him for that.