Friday, September 12, 2014

Started As a Blog: Ended as a Rant

I do not like Rob Ford's policies or politics.

I do not like Rob Ford's interactional style.

I did not and would not vote for Rob Ford.


That's clear.

Let me make something else clear.

I wish Rob Ford the best in dealing with his latest health scare.

I hope he does not have to drop out of the Mayor's race.

I send him and his family positive thoughts as they face a difficult time.


Now that's clear too.

I follow Toronto politics fairly closely, reading most articles in most papers about the various candidates and their positions regarding issues that matter to me and to other Torontonians. I sometimes, though not often, stray down into the comments section of a particular article. I always do this with trepidation because, WOW, can people be brutal. With Mr. Ford, the comments veer from the very nasty to the outrageously nasty. Pro and Con - both sides tear at each other.

With the health scare, though, I see so many people who either say outright or pretty clearly imply that Mr. Ford deserves the tumour he has been diagnosed with because of his weight. "He didn't take care of himself, he's fat, what did he expect?" is the essence of these kind of comments. There are a lot of these kind of comments.

It's clear that fat people don't deserve sympathy, they deserve blame.

It's clear that fat people ask for every bad thing that happens to them.

It's clear that fat people ultimately deserve some kind of punishment.

A lot of these kind of comments are written as if the writer thinks they are funny. They are not.

Others think they are original. They are not.

People tell me that I shouldn't pay attention to these kinds of comments and dismiss them as 'written by trolls' or that people are just 'trolling' or that people under the cloak of anonymity don't need to be taken seriously.

I disagree on all counts.

I think these comments are a good way to get a sense of what people think but don't say and feel but don't reveal. I think anyone in any social movement needs to read these as kind of a free glimpse into the reality of our social world.

Racism - alive and thriving.

Sexism - bigger and badder than ever.

Homophobia - white hot anger continues.

Ableism and Disphobia - disturbingly violent.

Fat prejudice - completely ubiquitous.

Rather than ignoring these kinds of comments, these kinds of attitudes, I think we need to use them to prepare ourselves to live in the world as it's truly socially constructed. But I think we also need to use them as a means of understanding how to target appropriate pathways to social change.

In my work with people with disabilities I am always careful to teach about the world as it is, and how to live safely in that world. It isn't an easy world to navigate but it becomes safer when you understand that it's unsurprising that teens would dump feces and urine and slop on the head of an autistic kid. Don't you read the comments about autism? Don't you read the ignorance in newspapers? Those kids need punishing, kids with autism need to be better prepared to live in a world where that is entirely possible to happen.

Parenting, or otherwise supporting people, of any age, with differences means that an awareness of the intolerance, nay, hatred, of difference in our social world needs to be part of that training. Learning how to mistrust - trust and mistrust as skills as much as they are feelings. Learning how and when to be non-compliant - non compliance is a skill not a behaviour. Learning how and when to use your voice - we don't give voice, we suppress voice, it's time to help people discover the voice they've had all along. These are the jobs we need to do.

Just read what people have to say about Mr. Ford to be reminded that people who are different DESERVE PUNISHMENT ... and you know exactly what we have to do in order for people to live freely and safely in the world.


Jan Goldfield said...

Don't forget women in your rant. Women, who exist only for men to subjugate. They serve men and that is the only reason for their existence. This is institutionalized demeaning no matter the country or culture. It is and has been since hierarchies (states and religion) have existed. You can imagine life with your disabilities and add being female to that.

william Peace said...

Dave. I am a skinny guy and come from a family of skinny people. My son is 6'4" and weighs 135 pounds. I weigh less. I receive unwanted and often nasty comments about being slender. Too many say I am lucky. Sorry but no. I struggle mightily to keep my present weight. 10 pounds or more would help my skin, a real variable for a paralyzed man. The point here is any atypical body is going to generate unwanted stigma. I solidarity with you.

Tamara said...

I have been told so many times to not read the comments, but I agree with you. That's where you find the true feelings of so many people. The world is cruel - and it's better to understand that the world is cruel than to pretend that it's not.

clairemum said...

I agree that comments do reveal what people believe and feel, but I also know that I have to be careful not to spend too much time in those nasty activates the abusive voices in my head.
Words hurt - and it is hard to speak back to words that hurt, sometimes. The bystander phenomenon in bullying is pervasive. I have to try to speak up, when I am able.
Thank you for YOUR words, Dave.
PS - no one deserves illness or disability, ever!

Anonymous said...

what a powerful post. thank you.

Mary said...

I agree that these comments aren't and shouldn't be dismissed as "just trolls".

I agree that many of the commenters are putting forward their truly held beliefs. The cloak of anonymity permits them to be less circumspect than most people would be in polite company - but anonymity is not what puts the prejudices into their heads in the first place.

Even if they *are* trolls, spending their time and effort saying ridiculous and hurtful things that they *don't* really believe in order to lash out and try and make some waves/get a reaction - that's a problem too, and it also says something about our society.

BUT, I think perhaps you're erring to pessimism when you say this is "the reality of our social world", "the world as it's truly socially constructed."

I believe that of the people in my world - from the people reading this to the people walking by in the street - maybe 3% are friends, family, or people who want to be nice, then maybe 2% are bigots and people who want to be mean, and 95% are people who don't actually care, one way or another.

They certainly don't care enough to sign up to a website and make an account and take the time to type out paragraph after paragraph, then come back and read the other comments and respond to other commenters and spend literally hours arguing...

Look at your own blog stats. You can see how many people read every day - and you're intelligent enough to figure out what percentage of visitors are taking the time to leave comments. Comments are only left by people who (a) passionately care, or (b) have nothing better to do.

You say you wish Rob Ford all the best. Well, I don't. I don't wish Rob Ford any harm, either. I honestly don't care enough about Rob Ford to express a hope for his future one way or the other. Nor do I believe any hopes I express might make even the tiniest difference. I'm only typing this paragraph because I really, really have nothing better to do...

I believe in the social reality of apathy. :)

Rolf said...

David, I think you are very close to the grown up position. I don't think that the world has changed so much, I think the deep revulsion many people feel when they see someone who is obese or buoyantly homosexual is most likely an honest emotion, it might even be that evolution has hard wired us to respond in ways that hurt others. I think many well meaning people have had some success at suppressing the expression of hatred/revulsion in a public sense but that has just added pressure and strength to the backlash that I am sure is coming.
It is tempting to think of positive change as permanent, that we have outgrown as a species certain hatreds, but I seriously don't believe this. It becomes a problem when we start to assume that the "correct" or "tolerant" way of thinking is shared by the majority, I used to assume that this is the case now I'm not so sure.The battle if it ever really was one is hopeless. Clairmum you state that no-one deserves disability, that's not the nature of disability, no one does not deserve it either. What no-one really talks about is that when the obese person is insulted, it simply confirms what he/she already knows, they hate themselves more than any stranger could ever do. There is probably nothing a bully could say that can match the internal self hate. Bully's often hurt us because they hit the nail right on the head.

Purpletta said...

I read your comment early this morning and it has been sitting with me all day. I don't know if you'll come back to read further comments on this blog entry so I don't know if you'll even see this, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing with all of us your honest and deeply felt comments. I like to hope that we are not really wired (or doomed) to do damage to one another but given how hard we can be on each other, even those we care deeply about, I can understand where you are coming from. I too try to balance deep feelings about self which are far more self-critical than most others could be towards me; and when someone is intentionally hurtful to me it does just reinforce what I already hold true about myself. But it hurts my heart to hear that you may feel the same way. Someone asked me once if I were teaching a child would I teach him/her the same "truths" I know to be true about myself... which was a good question because there is no way I'd ever want a child to believe about him/herself some of the things I believe about myself. That hasn't gotten me to change my own thoughts of self, but at least has pushed me to take a step back and think. My heart hopes at least the same for you... As you go about your day, may you hear people speak the wonderful qualities of who you are and may your heart know they are right.