Monday, 23 June 2014

Disease and Disability

Says Wikipedia:

"A disease is a particular abnormal, pathological condition that affects part or all of an organism. It is often construed as a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs... In humans, "disease" is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes paindysfunctiondistresssocial problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuriesdisabilitiesdisorderssyndromes,infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors..."

Says Wikipedia quoting the World Health Organization:

"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus, disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.."

Interestingly, they also both easily function as insults! Speaking of which,

"A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a mental or behavioral pattern or anomaly that causes either suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life (disability), and which is not developmentally or socially normative. Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feelsactsthinks or perceives. This may be associated with particular regions or functions of the brain or rest of the nervous system, often in a social context."

That seems to pretty definitively settle it. I am diseased and disabled. It had been easier to ignore this state of affairs before I watched this otherwise only moderately interesting film:

There was a love story going on in this movie, but what I mainly noticed was how clearly diseased and disabled the heroine was, especially, and her attitude towards this fact. Interestingly, even in her failly clear-cut, cancerous case there is a "mental or behavioral pattern or anomaly" which is not "socially normative": She wants to acknowledge the fact that despite being young she will soon be dead, and her surroundings don't particularly want to hear about it.

That really struck a chord. It may well be true that I am less healthy and less capable - or in a word weaker - than the norm or average, but it doesn't mean that my deviation from social norms is somehow explained away. Ostensible empathy and acknowledgement of pain become marginalisations of inconvenient personalities.There there, far away.

What does it really mean for somebody to be sick? That they're sufficiently miserable that it is okay if they don't have the right attitudes and behavious? That they're forgiven? That it's okay that they're losing? Being sick implies something's broken, but what if it can't be fixed? What's the point then? What if it's the social norms that are broken? Why don't you warrant empathy without being "sick"?

Some people just find it more difficult to do things. It's not something they should be made to feel apologetic about. It's certainly not something they should be made to associate with being who they are.

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