Am I throwing a pity party?

Sorry. I am sure that it sometimes comes across that way in posts and videos related to my latest course.

The thing is, society throws a lot of literal and figurative hurdles into the lives of people who are unlike the masses around them. We call some of them “disabled” in English or “invalide” in Dutch. But it’s often those hurdles that society creates or forgets to remove that do the disabling.

They’re roadblocks.

And I don’t want to make light of those. (So that we can do something about them.) And I know that some conditions also go with lesions (bed sores), pain and other challenges. I don’t want to make light of that either.

One of the figurative hurdles for disabled people is similar to the stigma on being a migrant. You are deemed relatively useless, hence not hired, which then “proves” that you are useless. How some countries treat them can stigmatize refugees. Forbidding them to work and forcing them to lead extremely limited frustrating lives, sometimes for over a decade, can do that to them.

Being “disabled” also has the idea that your life is automatically worthless, devoid of joy and happiness, attached to it. That’s bullshit. I know that.

(That one is akin to the stigma / prejudice to do with being older or being single, isn’t it?)

My long deceased mother, not disabled but severely ill, went into town one day, got a new outfit including a new suede jacket – blue – and huge sunglasses. Pretending to be an incognito movie star, she dropped in on family. She had a heck of a lot of fun doing that. Called a taxi cab so that the car couldn’t be recognized.

She used a cane with a delicately carved dog’s head as handle as her walking support when she was still able to walk relatively well. Refused crutches. Too ugly.

But being severely ill is not the same as “disabled”. I know that too. It’s just that I have known a lot of severe illness around me, so I can’t talk about the time so and so and I did this or that and we had such a blast because I don’t seem to have known anyone who is physically disabled. Also, doing that would make me feel a bit biased or abusive. If so and so and I had a blast, we would merely have had a blast, you see, and it would have had nothing to do with whether or not so and so was “disabled”. It might make me feel like I was using the disability in some way, which I wouldn’t want to do.

So I have to use other people’s stories, to convey the message I sometimes may have trouble getting across.

Here is one.

Sue Austin is an artist. She is also a deep-sea diver. There was no wheelchair for deep-sea diving so she developed one. For her, wheelchairs symbolize freedom. The power to do what she wants to do.

An elephant called Happy.

Later today,

“in Albion, New York, a court is set to hear arguments on an elephant’s legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty in the world’s first habeas corpus hearing on behalf of an elephant.

With support from world-renowned elephant experts such as Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss who have spent their careers observing elephants living freely in their natural habitats, we argue Happy’s imprisonment at the Bronx Zoo is unlawful and deprives her of her ability to exercise her autonomy in meaningful ways, including the freedom to choose where to go, what to do, and with whom to be.

Show your support for Happy’s release from imprisonment and transfer to an elephant sanctuary by sharing this image on your social media accounts and using the hashtag #IStandWithHappy

Also join us on Twitter @NonhumanRights for live updates with the hashtag #HappyHearing and on this Facebook event page where you can leave an #IStandWithHappy message of support for Happy. We’ll be posting to the event page throughout the day.

Happy deserves the opportunity to experience the freedom of a sanctuary, including the opportunity to meaningfully interact with other elephants. Learn more about her life and court case here. To support the work of the NhRP, please visit this page.”

I believe that the respect we have for other animals also reflects how we treat each other and vice versa. Humans too are merely mammals. We are not supernatural, not separate from nature but part of it.