For the second time this week, I find myself incandescent with rage. This time, though, it’s not with my local supermarket but the BBC. I usually like the documentaries the Beeb airs, but last night they screened something I found utterly, utterly disgraceful. It is my honest opinion that, in terms of the representation of disability in the media, The Disability Paradox by Chris Lynch sent us back decades.
For a long time I have known that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I may have a disability, but with the right equipment and support, I’m just as capable as anyone else. Let’s put it this way: I may use a special contraption to feed myself, but the food tastes just as good. Most of my friends with disabilities, including and especially Lyn, had the same attitude. Yet to hear Lynch talk, I should be feeling sorry for myself, bemoaning the fact I can’t do things others can; and the fact that I don’t wallow in my own self pity was some kind of paradox.
Why should I feel so sorry for myself? Here I am, living independently in one of the greatest cities on earth. So what if I need a bit more assistance to do things others may find easy? Other people may be unable to climb mountains, so they use a bloody helicopter! I also know that there are people who need far more support than I do. Thus what right have I to be any more happy or sad than anyone else, just because I have a disability? Further, my friends with Muscular Dystrophy, for instance, had a condition which slowly sapped all the strength out of their bodies, leaving them paralysed and eventually suffocating them, in most cases before they reached twenty. I never heard them spew the type of cloying, whiny bullshit we were treated to last night; they just got on with their lives. That’s why to hear it coming from someone so relatively capable pisses me off so much.
I fear that for the BBC to allow this program to be aired, to frame disability as something one could feel miserable about and to problematise how someone like me could feel happy, does a great disservice to the representation of disability. Granted, lynch could well have body dysmorphia, depression or other psychological issues, but truth be told part of me wants to find the lachrymose twat and slap him. In presenting disability so negatively, he invites others to feel sorry for us. For zark’s sake the dude was shown driving, bombing around in an awesome new powerchair, and doing things I can only dream of; yet he gives himself the right to pity himself because he can’t, or thinks he can’t, do everything others can. There’s no denying that we sometimes need to fight for the support and equipment we need, or to stand up for ourselves against discrimination; yet that is no reason not to be proud of yourself or question your right to ever be happy – indeed, it’s quite the opposite. My fear is, people might see this bald fool and assume all of us crips think like he does.