Thursday, February 09, 2012

That's As It Should Be, Eddie

Several years ago, Joe and I went to a movie along with our friend Tessa, Made In Dagenham. We had little idea that the movie would have such an impact on us. It's fast, it's funny and it's powerful - it's also a movie that inspires anyone who believes in that injustice can be fought, that every voice is important and that struggle against oppression will eventual prevail. Tessa, a life long feminist, was held rapt by the story. She cried, and cried and cried. Afterwards we went for tea and stories about the early days of the feminist movement poured out of her. She spoke about her treatment as a woman, how her future was 'set' at birth - how she fought against living the life that others expected her to live. It was one of those 'great' conversations you have occasionally in your life.

The movie effected Joe and I, most particularly in one scene. Rita, who was spearheading the fight for equal pay for women and her husband, who was tiring of his role in supporting her, his role as a husband and father. He wanted her to understand exactly how lucky she was to have him in her life, here is that conversation, (I do apologize, I don't know why the text looks like it does and I simply can't get it to do what I want.):

Eddie O'Grady: Christ, I like a drink, but I ain't out havin' a beer every night or screwin' other women, or... 'Ere, I've never once had me hand up at you. Ever. Or the kids. 

Rita O'Grady: Christ. 

Eddie O'Grady: What? Why are you looking like that? 

Rita O'Grady: Right. You're a saint now, is that what you're tellin' me, Eddie? You're a bleedin' saint? 'Cause you give us an even break? 

Eddie O'Grady:What are you saying? 

Rita O'Grady: That is as it should be. Jesus, Eddie! What do you think this strike's all been about, eh? Oh yeah. Actually you're right. You don't go on the drink, do ya? You don't gamble, you join in with the kids, you don't knock us about. Oh, lucky me. For Christ's sake, Eddie, that's as it should be! You try and understand that. Rights, not privileges. It's that easy. It really bloody is. 

Of all that happened in the film, it is this scene I remember. It brought me to tears in the theatre and it brings me to tears just remembering it. Rita says something so important when she says, 'That is as it should be.' I remember when an older fellow with a disability, in Scotland, warned me, as a disabled newbie, not to become grateful for what should be. He told me that the temptation was for society to praise itself for giving me what is, by rights, mine as a citizen. AND that society would expect me to be grateful for getting what should be an ordinary expectation. 'Don't give in to the temptation of 'gratitude'. It was strong advice, tough advice, good advice.

And when I saw that scene, I understood, deeply, for the first time what he had been saying.

Since then when something happens, when the situation calls for it, either Joe or I will say, 'That's as it should be, Eddie.' Now, I know that's not exactly the right quote here, but it doesn't matter. 'Play it again, Sam,' was never said either. So, when a waiter says, with pomposity, as happened recently 'We've moved the tables a bit further apart so that you can get through to your table.' I know he expects gratitude but really, 'That's as it should be, Eddie.' People should simply be able to get to their table - shouldn't they. They set the tables apart wide enough for people to walk through but no one would ever say to a walking group, 'We set the tables far enough apart for you to be able to walk comfortably through!' No, they wouldn't ... why ... say it with me, 'That's as it should be, Eddie.'


Anonymous said...

Big great: YES

Great quote, great thought behind it - and something that should go without saying.

Thank you!!!!


John R. said...

Dave, Joe....

This post is "as it should be, Eddie"!

Love it! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

For me when I run into the "issues" I always picture that guy from the group Talking Heads smacking his forehead and saying "Same as it ever was".....I like this better...Hopefully as I grow older there can be way more moments as they should be
Have a good day

Andrea S. said...

Whenever there is a call for deaf people to join advocacy efforts to persuade more producers to put captions on their video content, there is often advice that deaf people ought to not only ask for non-captioned content to be captioned but that we also ought to write letters thanking producers for bothering to use captions at all for the things they *do* caption. And I have always resented this.

Yes, I do understand the need to do this sort of thing from a purely strategic perspective: Some producers still do not understand that, yes, there ARE deaf people out here who DO need and use their captions. They need to hear from deaf people to remind them that, yes, we are here and still need captions. And, producers like to feel good about themselves as much as anyone else, and thank you notes accomplish this--which gives them more motivation to expand their use of captions.

So, yes, as a means to an end, I can understand why deaf people are encouraged to thank producers for captions. But, the advice that we ought to do this still makes me angry. Hearing people never need to thank producers for bothering to include a sound track so they can hear the dialogue. Why do deaf people need to thank producers for OUR equivalent of their sound track? Why are we supposed to thank them when they simply do what they should have done in the first place? When videos are captioned, "That's as it should be, Eddie" --not something special, but something that *ought* to be ordinary.

Despite understanding the strategic value of these thank you letters, I have rarely been able to bring myself to actually write them, because the very idea that I ought to demonstrate gratitude that a video company has chosen NOT to violate my rights(!) has made me too resentful. On one occasion many years ago, I have a vague memory that I wrote a sort of "unthank you letter" -- a letter in which I probably said something among the lines that I had been asked to thank them but wasn't going to because they were only doing what they should have done in the first place. I cannot now remember if I actually sent it or not.

Dave, you do a lot of successful advocacy (more often than I do, despite the times you have felt unnecessarily guilty when you haven't). How do you deal with the tension between doing what strategically "works" in advocacy (including being, if not ostentationally grateful, at least friendly and not too overtly angry about failure to do what they ought to do) versus the knowledge that accessibility is simply "As it should be, Eddie"? How do you get past that anger to adopt the cordial tone needed for effective advocacy?

Nan said...

I was just thinking how nice it is to have someone beside you to say "That's as it should be, Eddie." and to be totally understood, or even sometimes, have them say it . . . and be totally understood. May we all have people beside us!

CapriUni said...

@Andrea S. --

Maybe you could have a bunch of post cards with a single message printed up:

"To (name of producer, written in):
As a Deaf member of your audience, I took note that you included captions in (name of media product, written in). This is as it should be. I look forward to a day when this practice is commonplace."

And so you can just drop them in the mail without having to think any more about it?

Andrea S. said...


Thank you--this is perfect. It hits a balance in tone that feels much more "right" to me than the kind of "thank you letters" I felt I was being prssured to write (versus the ones I felt so tempted to send in their place). I intend to crib it and paraphrase where needed.

It even offers an opportunity to put Dave's quote (apart from the omission of the name "Eddie") into good use! :-)

Shan said...

Oh, sounds like a great movie!

I understand your point about things being 'as they should be'. But I don't necessarily agree that the next step is, "don't offer gratitude". I have trouble with the idea of denying gratitude for anything in life. It's part of being happy and civil, rather than entitled.

Recently you posted about how "privilege is always believed to be deserved"...I think that everyone, no matter what you have or what life gives you, should feel gratitude, not entitlement. Not to say you shouldn't strive for more, and also not to say that people should use a spirit of martyrdom while offering what is rightfully yours (in this case, access) but...okay, an example. My kids are entitled, by being born into my family, to being fed. I still want them to say "Thanks Mum" when I cook them dinner.

Does this make sense at all? I'm trying to offer a different perspective, not to shoot you down. You KNOWS I love you.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting Shan. I'm thinking that when ppl say thanks for the food I have made, maybe they are saying thanks for the love and care I have put in to it. I know I feel thanks just the same regardless of whether the food is yummy or didn't turn out so well.
If they just move the tables to make room to get through, I think that's a 'that's as it should be Eddie'.
If they do so with tact, care and acknowledgement that that IS as it should be, and they seem like a nice person that you want to say thanks to, then there's feeling gratitude towards a kind person for their kindness and civility.
I think I will be suggesting to kids that they say thanks for MAKING the food, not just thanks for the food. I feel a bit of feminist liberation in this....

Anonymous said...

I just wrote a big comment that got lost when I tried to post, so I will try this again.

Much as "Shan" identifies in [her?] first post. This is a great quote and one I agree with. I run out of agreement though where the lack of gratitude begins.

I suspect that in real life the conversation would be much more productive if, instead of reacting angrily, the protagonist had treated her husband like a lover and ally and said "I know this is hard for you, and I appreciate that you are trying. In this case though, success looks like this....." Rather than venting her anger in the equivalent speech of "My aren't we a hero. Congratulations, you peed in the you are supposed to".

I think good advocacy opens communication and fosters discussion. Sometimes that might involve smoothing the way to make your message easier to hear. "As it should be, Eddie" is powerful, and interesting, and correct. But most people react better and change more quickly when they are convinced of the correctness of a position and when they are shown the merits of adopting something.

Perhaps this is just my white, male bias speaking. As a group, for the last couple decades anyway, we've held all the cards and have given them up only with prompting. But I think that things got better, faster when people talked, or acted civilized. I think about Gay marriage in Canada. When it was taken to the supreme court (which is mostly white males) the court, when presented calmly with the evidence ruled that to do anything other than legalizing gay marriage diminished the rights of people.

So, when you are advocating: try saying please and thank you. Build bridges. You can always use dynamite later if things aren't working for you.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Andrea, I don't know that I have any kind of answer to your question. I have definately written thank you letters, I've filled out employee comment cards, I've sent emails to managers - all to say thank you. I try to thank for the quality of service - not for access, not for being allowed in. I suppose it's a case by case issue depending on the stength of the feelings I want to express and the energy that I have that day.

Shannon, I don't disagree with you and welcome alternate points of view, but I think that there is a difference between being thankful and being made to feel that ordinary respect is deserving of a kind of grovelling thank you.

William, like I said to Shannon, I think it's important to still be a thankful person but in the way that all should be thankful - not in the way that minorities are often expected to feel grateful. I think you need to see this scene in its whole. Why are women always supposed to buck up the man - why can't women get angry and say what they think?

I love this kind of discussion and am pleased to have remembered, somehow, to share that line, and the context in which it was spoken, with you. I hope some of you are encouraged to watch the movie.

Anonymous said...

I lean more to what Shan said. There is a wave of "entitlement" out there - every one feels they are entitled to what they want and need. Nope.

Some things come through education and growth, some things come from earning them, some things come from the generosity of others.

In the case of caption - it is not a right. You do not have to watch TV - it is a pleasurable choice. TV is also a business, and it costs to add captioning to the shows. When a station is willing to take that on I feel you should write and at least acknowledge their efforts. This is not grovelling, this is letting the station and their advertisers that this is something appreciated. If a station did captioning and it came to budget time and no one had expressed continued interest - it could be cut. Why? If it isn't drawing an audience it can go. How would they know? (The same can be said for when companies do not accomodate. Let them know.)

As to someone taking the time to move the tables apart in a restaurant, it is not as it should be. Again, it is a business. They have the maxium tables in a place to make money. Often places have sections for wheelchair access - but just as often they are off in a corner. I prefer to sit where I choose, if able. If someone takes the time to make it easy for me - you bet I thank them. It is a layered effort.

Should there be more awareness - definately. But this comes through education and unfortunately experience. How many "handicapped" washrooms are useless. Doors not opening correctly, bars not in the right place, sinks/soap unaccessaable and so on. It is only when we speak up are things going to change.

Following some of the chain of thought expressed here - it is as if you expect everything to meet your needs. Are all cars to be manufactured so if a person unable to drive the usual way wants to buy a vehicle, they could? Of course not. Should restaurants run at 1/2 capacity on the chance that one or two wheelchairs could show up? No. Should all buildings necessary for the function of all people be accessible - definately! Is the goal to make all buildings and outlets and entertainment accessible - you bet!

Until someone "rolls a mile" in my chair - I can't expect them to totally get it. Instead of just expecting them to accomodate my unspoken requests - I choose to educate and particpate in organizations that do so.

Appreciation is not grovelling. Assumptions are dangerous. A sense of entitlement puts people's backs up. Why not pave the way for the next person by noting someone's efforts.

If you expect everything to be accomdated for you, you will be an angry and frustrated person.

We must be grateful to all those who have moved things forward - by meetings, letters, petitions - a lot of hard work. I for one am thankful. That is my choice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dave -- I have written my share of "thank yous" also, though there are days when certain kind of "thank yous" frustrate me more.

I'm probably responding too late for William to see this, but just in case:

Yes, I do understand what you're reaching for. A nice, friendly, polite approach is usually more effective in advocacy, yes, aboslutely. The trouble is, certain kinds of experiences are so pervasive, and so infuriating, that it's not always so easy to maintain a civil tone in the heat of the moment. Yes, sometimes you can deal with that by walking away until you can calm down enough to take the more effective approach--I've done that when I have needed to write a letter advocating for my right to communication access in a non-urgent (but important) medical content, for example. But sometimes that option may not be immediately or easily available.

And I think that is when it becomes helpful for others to consider why some activists dislike what they call the "tone argument" -- See "Derailing for dummies" You've Lost Your Temper So I Don't Have To Listen To You Anymore and the section rigt after it, "You Are Damaging Your Cause By Being Angry"

I understand you are not at all trying to be dismissive. But I think there are times when the person who is feeling "attacked" may need to be the one who needs to take responsibility for pushing those feelings aside and listen long enough, and sincerely enough, to see if they can understand *why* the person shouting at them is so very angry. Yes, civility is always a good thing to reach for -- but if a person is always getting the short stick, then it isn't necessarily always fair to completely freeze them out every time they become angry. Because sometimes there is a very d*** good reason why they're angry, and sometimes if you make an effort to listen you might understand them well enough that you stop feeling attacked and start feeling more sympathetic--or even outraged on THEIR behalf.

Is it easy to ignore a person's angry tone or attitude and stay focused on their underlying message? Of course not. But it can be done. I have been there, and I have done it. Sometimes another person's hostile attitude can be an opportunity to start paying attention to an extreme injustice or unfairness you hadn't really noticed before.

It may also be of interest to consider that one blogger once took an unscientific poll of her readers once (though unfortunately I cannot locate the link now) asking for situations where they DID adopt a polite, civil tone in trying to point out a systematic unfairness (I think in this context, it was racism) and had success in getting the other person to listen. A large number of people responded with stories where they had tried to use a very civil tone and still got attacked, sometimes with great hositlity, for having pointed out instances of racism. None of them were able to present a case where using a polite tone had actually been effective in getting the other person to listen to something as difficult to hear as, "This is racist." I'm not saying that there therefore aren't any such cases at all. But sometimes the real problem is a person who doesn't want to listen, and not necessarily just the tone of the activist.

Andrea S.