Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Dangerous Man

He stopped and chatted with us as we arrived home from work. I was in my wheelchair waiting for Joe to get the foot rests, and he was just heading out. I don't know how to 'be' in conversation with him. So, I'm "friendly cool". I don't mean friendly in a cool way, but friendly in a frosty way.

You see for several years when we ran into this fellow on the elevator or in the lobby, he'd chat with Joe and ignore me. This happens. I tried to enter into a few brief neighbourly conversations over that time and was firmly shut out. Even when Joe tried, as he did, to involve me, it didn't happen.

Then something happened. I was in the lobby, as it was winter, waiting for the bus in the morning. The elevator door opened and he came out. He greeted Joe, who was sitting on the couch beside me, ignoring me completely. I had stopped saying hello to him as he never, ever returned on. I thought I couldn't become uninvisible and I'd stopped trying.

That morning he asked Joe what we were doing there so early, Joe answered, "Waiting for the bus to take Dave to work." That one sentence change everything. He turned to me, which I was unprepared for, and said, "What do you do for work?" I was so startled to be asked I answered, something like, "I'm the Director of clinical services for a large service organization."

His face showed shock. "I thought you were on benefits," he said.

I said, "No, I've never been on benefits of any kind."

Then he started talking to me. Then I started practising my "friendly cool like frosty" way. I really didn't want to engage him. I thought about it and I didn't want to have a confrontation with him either. Maybe I should but we live in the same building. There are already people hostile to wheelchair users here, I want my home to be a stress free as possible. I don't need to be everyone's educator.

Here's the issue for me. As soon as he knew about my work, his sense of my social value changed. I was now worthy of his attention. I've always been very wary of the idea that social role should have any impact on value at all. Aren't people simply valuable because they are people? Do we really think that a human being becomes more and more valuable as they get promotion after promotion at work? My father worked as a miner. He worked hard. He worked underground. When he shook your hand it would feel like you were touching the rock he mined. Hard, strong, hands. If your father was a doctor,  would your father be more valuable, as a person, than mine? I know that they would get differing amounts of pay and differing amounts of social respect ... but I'm not talking about that ... I'm talking about value as a human being.

Buying into the idea that social role has a place in determining the value of a person is dangerous. It leads to, quite literally, death. Murdering this child is a travesty, murdering that child is charity. Assisted suicide for this person, suicide prevention work for that one.

Every time he talks to me, this man who now sees me as a fully human and fully equal person - he reminds me that others who would value the value of others are, perhaps, the most dangerous people to me, and I pray God they never, again, have power.

9 comments:

Colleen said...

So true, Dave. As a society I wonder if we are moving further away from understanding the inherent value of each person.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

And he made no attempt to apologize for his horrible behavior before he knew who you were?

What a miserable excuse for a human being.

It is not your job to educate everyone, and I have no idea where you would start with this one.

This is indeed what we fear, why we hide disability if we can - the stereotypes are literally killing.

Cindy said...

Many years ago I was on a high school band from Montreal trip to Streetsville where we were billeted with other families. At that time my dad was the executive director of a agency in the health care or social welfare world. The dad in the family I was staying with had a blue collar job. When I was asked what my dad did and I told them, I was told he didn't have a "real" job because all he did was sit at a desk. "Real" men did physical labour. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement!

Anonymous said...

It looks like you've been blogging on abuse issues for 9 years, but I don't see anything about the impacts of false abuse claims stemming from defamation and slander. I do, however, see a statement that you welcome debate.

So is your form of comment moderation actually evidence of your attempt to silence victims of slander and defamation?

And isn't silencing victims of abuse..... further abuse?

Why abuse the victims of slander and defamation through comment moderation? It's a very real issue since defamation and slander are very real crimes? You are the expert.

Maggie said...

Anonymous at 17:10:

You've recently shown up in the comment threads on Dave's blog on several successive days, always asking about 'false claims of abuse' or something quite similar. I think I've read Dave's reply to you saying that this is his personal blog, about his personal experiences -- some of which are about being, himself, the victim of abusive or at least inappropriate behavior; others of which are about working, himself, directly with people who have been victimized.

I don't understand why you are accusing him of silencing anyone's claims. Have you posted a comment here that has been moderated 'out'?

I haven't read anything in Dave's blog about false claims, or even disputed claims. Am I missing something? are you seeking debate on a different topic than the ones Dave is writing about?

As I read your repeated comments, I find myself wondering if you are seeking conflict here. Are you? Is conflict with Dave your agenda? and if so, why would that be?

B. said...

I think I sort of get a related type of behaviour towards me in an ever so sweet treatment - the smiles, gentle, meaningless talking like I'm a cretin before the person turns back to a companion for normal interaction. And a favourite phrase about my job/career has been "at least it gets you out (of the house)...".

Mary said...

Ooh, Dave. How dare you keep your personal space safe by moderating comments, using the Blogger.com built-in comments moderation system designed for exactly this purpose! ;-)

Anonymous 17:10, I would like you to be aware that it makes me feel angry that someone like you would cheapen the meanings of words like "silencing" and "abuse" by equating them to "someone moderating comments on their personal blog". I sincerely hope that comment moderation on a personal blog is the worst "silencing" and "abuse" that you experience in your life.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anonymous 17:10 You seem to think I'be been blogging about abuse for all these years, I have not. I have not ever stated that this is a blog about abuse or abuse issues. I say again, and for the last time, that this is my personal blog. I don't know what your agenda is or why you are seeking conflict, as Maggie suggested. Let me state this - false allegations have devastaing consequences for their victims, they are, and should be considered to be, criminal acts. I have not written about false allegations because I have not had cause to, the fact that I haven't written about them doesn't mean that I deny they happen, deny the seriousness of their consequences or deny that, as a professional, I don't take them seriously. I don't believe I have ever blocked one of your comments about false allegations.

Ruti said...

This is one of the reasons that Social Role Valorization scares me. Because I can easily imagine SRV proponents responding to this kind of thing by saying that it means social skills lessons in how to present a socially valued image are needed. Which is... solving the wrong problem.