Sunday, October 06, 2013

Who Holds The Camera?

Yesterday, on coming home after a really nice day, I spotted a man filming me on his camera phone. I was coming up a curb off a busy intersection. There were a lot of people at the curb so I couldn't make and immediate right and get out of the line of sight of his phone. So I had to simply come forward. He filmed me for a few more minutes, then moved away to where I could see him playing back the film, showing a friend who looked really uncomfortable, and laughing. I imagine that, right now, he's adding music or editing it to hit YouTube or some other social networking site.

For the past year or so I've done an image search for 'fat man in wheelchair' on Google and looked at YouTube videos to see if my image is in any of those places. I've been photo attacked before - I manage to frustrate the photographer probably 90 percent of the time because I've come to see them as just another hazard on the road that I have to watch for when I'm out in my wheelchair.

For a few seconds the existence of that man and that video ate at me, caused my stomach to churn and gave me the exact same back sweats that I used to get going down the high school hallway - anticipated bullying may be just as bad as the event itself. Then, I decided that I would think about this on the rest of the way home and that by the time I was home I would be done with it. I was not going to carry it around with me through the evening and into the days and weeks afterwards.

I thought about this two ways. First, the motivation that this man had to film me, to show that film to his friend, to laugh at what he saw, tells me all I need to know of him. This is a man who would rather spend time doing something cruel than something constructive. This is a man who thinks that pubic humiliation of another person - he knew I saw him doing it, he knew I knew he was laughing at me - was entertaining. This is a man who exists in a mind frame that I cannot understand, that I could not live in, that I have trouble even conceiving. He does not honour my personhood, I do not honour his - that at least is reciprocal. I don't need, or even want, his approval. The people who watch and laugh at this should it ever make YouTube, I need nor want little from them as well. they simply add up to the mass of human beings that willingly partake in cowardly anonymous abuse of others. I fear them, and the power they have to tyrannise, but I wouldn't want their approval had they had any to offer.

Second, I will not be terrorised out of living my life in the community. Joe and I had had a nice day, we were going to continue to have a nice day. I owe it to Joe, but mostly I owe it to myself to shrug off the experience - people can be cruel, I get it, I've learned that, I'm not surprised by that - and move on. I understand political terrorism. I have come to understand social terrorism. Both kill. One in spectacular numbers all at once. The other in spectacular numbers, one at a time. I will not be their victim because they have nothing I need or want, they can heap shame on me, they can call me names, they can equate my weight with my disability with my worth, I don't care. They can't hurt me.

I am loved.

I have been claimed.

I have purpose.

I live the best life I can, I do the best that I can, I want the best for others.

None of these things can be seen in a picture. None of these things can be seen on YouTube or Facebook or where ever else people post pictures. Those who see me without seeing me will be commenting on someone other than me. They will be commenting on the 'fictional me' that they create in their minds, they will write stories and biographies dipping their pen into the inkpots of stereotype and bigotry. They will hate the man who they think they know just from seeing a picture. I am not that man.

I am fat.

They think that they know what that means.

They don't.

I do.

That's why I win.

They lose.


jan goldfield said...

Umm, Dave, you do have some degree of fame. Perhaps the camera holder recognized you and wanted to record that he knew you?

Maggie said...

It just sucks that there are bullies in the world. As I read your words today, I had a vision of a little camera tucked into a pocket of your chair, quickly lifted and aimed at the man with the video and the laughing friend.

Who holds the camera now?

I so appreciate the way you see things, and how often the way you spell them out makes me see things in my own life.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Jan, I have had my picture taken many, many times by people who've read my books or seen me lecture. This was NOT one of those times. He aimed his camera, then got away from where I could speak to him, then looked at it and laughed. I am well old enough to know when I am being honoured and when I'm being reviled.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Maggie, Joe and I had decided to leave our phones at home. I will never do that again. I would have taken his picture so if I came across his little film I could snap off the cloak of anonymity.

Jayne Wales said...

Nasty bit of work who has no one who really likes him so has to get his pathetic kicks out of filming one of the kindest, thoughtful people I know and admire who was just going about his time off from work, with the man he loves. He is worthless pond life! Enjoyed saying that. Sorry to the pond life for the insults.
Two fingers to him Dave!

clairesmum said...

i remember when Ruby referred to you as "MY Dave" a while are indeed loved, and claimed...
i'm sad that you were bullied, but i am grateful to you for sharing your experience in how you refused to give the bully more power over you. you live what you teach, and vice versa.
hoping for a pleasant day for you and Joe.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

"They will be commenting on the 'fictional me' that they create in their minds, they will write stories and biographies dipping their pen into the inkpots of stereotype and bigotry."

What an absolutely perfect way to describe what happens. WOW, Dave...poetry.

Glee said...

hear hear Dave :)

Deb said...

When I read this I thought of a quote I have in my file that is so very true.

"When people insult you, don't take offense, don't take it personally... They are revealing how they see the world. They are revealing the negative qualities they themselves possess.

'The Law of Mirrors' states that one can only see what's inside you, regardless of whether it is present in reality or not." ~ Doe Zantamata

Shan said...

Man, that stinks. :(

CapriUni said...

As horrible as that experience was, I do see a small glimmer of hope in this story -- namely, that the camera-wielder's acquaintance, with whom he tried to share his sense of superiority, did not join in his laughter, but was, instead, visibly upset by the "joke," even from a distance.

I hope he (and all of us) had the courage to speak up, and say why.

John Kelly said...

Great post! I am reminded of the final episode of Seinfeld, in which the group is arrested under the good Samaritan law for not only not helping a man being mugged, but filming and laughing about how fat he was.

Belinda said...

You do win. Good for you. It is a hateful thing that he did but I can't think of any way to redeem the situation better than you did except for asking for his name and address so that you can report him to the police--but I don't think I'd be brave enough to do that. What he was doing must be a violation of privacy on some level. If not there should be a law against it. I know there is work being done in response to online bullying and posting of compromising video clips. It can't be done fast enough.

Anonymous said...

There are 3 things that disturb me about this post. One - the actions of this man. Rude, disrespectful and obviously with intention to hurt. Two - that you search on Google to see if you are attacked. Wow. Really? Thirdly - you mentioned that once you were home you were done with it. I sense that may not be true. You wrote about it. Further, in your comments,you vow to take your phones with you to take his picture. I certainly understand the reason. Yet...I can't help but think that there is more here. You said something about "anticipating bullying". If you arm yourself, physically and emotionally, are you not playing in their arena? I see you as being so much greater than that! You are loved, you are claimed and boy do you have a purpose. Is it about winning? Just a few thoughts. I too dislike being colored by crayons of fiction and fantasy - crayons from someone else's pack.

Tamara said...

I really wanted to respond to this and be supportive, but I've been at a loss for words. I really like what you said about the man existing in a mind frame that you cannot understand. I can't either.

Anonymous said...

I read a blog called "Dances With Fat" in which there was a recent post about how dangerously disempowering it is to suggest that if someone is truly at peace with themselves, that they can't react with justifiable anger when confronted with someone/something that is intended to oppress or cause harm. I thought about this as I read the comment toward the end by Anonymous in which they question Dave for preparing himself against bullying, etc. It basically says that if Dave is really as at peace with himself and his life, he wouldn't react like he did, and to me, that kind of thinking silences the voices of people who should be heard.

Gary M. Arnold said...

This post resonated with me. I am a person of short stature and often have my photo taken. The experience you shared -- both that of the film taken and the discourse you have with yourself after the fact -- completely mirrors what goes through my head when I think about strangers with cameras pointed in my direction. Thanks for sharing.

Gary M. Arnold said...

thanks for the post. I am a person with dwarfism. I often encounter strangers with cameras pointed in my direction. I strongly identified with your reaction to the filming. Though I am sorry this happens to you, it's empowering to know that we share a similar struggle.

Andrea S. said...

To the Anonymous on Oct 6 at 23:00 ... Um ... how is arming yourself FOR SELF DEFENSE playing into the arena of the bullies? This is not making sense to me.

Princeton Posse said...

Reading your post, I am reminded of the line from the previous post "He fears in himself what he sees in us" Just about sums it up.

Ettina said...

"Then, I decided that I would think about this on the rest of the way home and that by the time I was home I would be done with it. I was not going to carry it around with me through the evening and into the days and weeks afterwards."

You can do that?!?

Wow. How do you actually *choose* not to think about something? I could never do that. No matter how much I try to think about something else, the moment I relax my guard, the thought I've been avoiding comes back up.