I normally write at i.Mephisto:i.Muse & i.Amuse! but decided to camp here for a change.
Gary’s article From the Slums of Mumbaih (Bombay), has garnered quite a few comments. One of the rarer instances of [Australian] Deaf people getting off their arses and actually contributing to a public forum, and putting forth, considered, erudite and intelligent commentary.
What was unusual, was the response from a CEO of a Deaf organisation. I consider it unusual, because most of the time, leaders of [and] deaf organisations refuse to engage directly with their critics. Most choosing to remain aloof, refusing to entertain, let alone, engage in any open debate. Regardless of the veracity of any of the criticisms hurled at them, even if only to alleviate the critics concerns. This is a familiar scenario that plays out with depressing frequency in Deaf communities the world over.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing that a CEO of an organisation can be so moved as to offer a comment on an issue of concern. It is a good thing. One that does not happen often enough. The last time it did, was to…………………. yeah! I remember that! But that is not the point here. The point is that, a CEO has bothered to enter into a commentary. So, a few audio claps all around for that effort. Deaf people can dry their hands, and everybody else can turn up their hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Or just tear your hair out!
Contrary to Paul Flynn’s assertion [he being the CEO who made his presence felt in the comments, not once but twice], From the Slums of Mumbaih (Bombay) is not sensational journalism. It is a personal reflection by the author, Gary who is A DEAF PERSON, on the age old existential dilemma of “Deaf and Disabled People Shaking Organisational Money Makers, While Crying”. The article was an HONEST reflection by Gary, who OPENLY ADMITTED his ambivalence and personal dilemma over the situation he described.
So WTF is the problem?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, we know, but dismissing Gary’s article as an act of tabloid sensationalism, and a cynical maneuver to increase The Rebuttal’s readership, is ignoring the central point that Gary was trying to make. A point that all the other commentators understood. A point that Gary is continually having to clarify in the comments to From the Slums of Mumbaih (Bombay). I mean, Gary loves beating his head against a brick wall. Well, it is a favourite pastime of Deaf people. Last time Gary was in Sydney, he showed me how to beat my head against a wall, without shattering my skull. I will tell you the secret in another post, but, anyway, to compound the lack of objectivity displayed, by not engaging in the very issue being raised, and instead obfuscating the debate by throwing up words like “hard working volunteers, deficit, board representation, welfare issues, health issues, mental welfare, et al”, is to…….. compound the obfuscation.
I am breathless at how the charity/welfare model remains firmly entrenched. In the intervening years since I left New South Wales Association Of The Deaf [but not the last organisation I was involved with], and it has been over a decade, some things have changed, but to mine own eyes, it’s not much. Gary is right. The victim mentality is the first port of call in any marketing and fundraising campaign that taps into people’s natural tendency to be moved to tears. It is demeaning. I expect our Deaf [and disability] organisations to do better than this. It is 2009, not 1909!
I recall, the first time I joined the Deafness Awareness Week committee, representing NSWAD, back in 1989 [I think], and one of my first ports of call, was to have negative depictions of Deaf AND deaf people thrown out. My motto was “create awareness through depictions of life, not misery!” To see that it has since splintered off, morphed into a Hearing Awareness Week….. says it all really.
Now, if the thrust of Gary’s post, is that “using the victim mentality to tug at people’s heartstrings, imploring them to part with a few coins, to help the poor “insert your favourite fundraising target here”, is ultimately demeaning, then Paul’s comment [which ignores the meaning of what Gary intended]:
What gives you the right to suggest that people with a disability do not deserve the right to choose what they do with their time?
compounds that demeanity [don’t search your dictionaries, the word doesn’t exist, but it means the perpetual state of being demeaned. Trust me, I’m a linguist.] Well then, what are his comments?
Paul, we accept that people have the right to choose what to do with their time, and that includes Shaking Organisational Money Makers, While Crying, but what are you, Paul, a CEO of a Deaf organisation, actually defending? The choices implied here, seems to be 1. shaking the money maker and crying, 2. shaking the money maker and smiling, or 3. having no life at all?
I take those comments as a slur. Because those comments ignore the fact, that for many, choices are actually limited, or non existence, and not much, beyond fundraising activities, is being done to expand those choices.
I keep reading and re-reading your comments, Paul, and those of your sole supporter, and I cannot help but feel, that there is more interest in maintaining the status quo, which is short termism, than in change for the better, which is long termism. And long termism, as we all know, demands a far greater effort. Hey, I could be wrong, but the argument that short term priorities of mental health and other welfare issues, are the main issues, just doesn’t wash with me. They were short term priorities 20 years ago when I first entered the Deaf community, and they are still short term priorities now. It really raises the question, are our organisations devoted to upholding the reigning hegemony, band aid solutions, or providing lucrative career paths for hearing people? It is the same in the same in the US, it is the same in the UK, and seems to be the same everywhere else.
Everything in the Deaf community is short term priorities. Which obviates the need for mentoring Deaf people to take on leadership roles and run the very organisations that purport to represents them. The RNID in the UK, found it’s current CEO, at an organisation that represents veterinary interests. Basically dealing with animals. Visualise this, if you can. The speed of change in the Deaf worlds leaves a sloth breathless.
Though, I will hold my hand up to the fact, that there are things going on behind the scenes, that I don’t know about, that are agitating for change. However, it is what I can see that counts. It is what is visible that counts. And from what I can see, it is not all good. Though, I do appreciate the hard work of looking for gold in a coal mine.
Paul, we all know the human fall out, which is a direct consequence of the way the hearing world treats deafness and deaf people. We all know the human fall out of the hearing world’s failure to deal appropriately with the way they don’t deal with deafness and deaf people. Paul, we all know the human fallout as a result of the Hearing world not allocating the necessary resources to support those that fall through the cracks. We all know the human fallout that continues to this day, because the speed of change for Deaf people, as I’ve said before, leaves a sloth breathless. We know all this shit. I have known it here in Australia, and I have known it over in the UK. Same shit, different food!
Yes, Paul,we understand that these issues need addressing, but some of us more savvy types, Savvy Deafies also understand that there are, as Gary aptly put it, more intelligent ways to fundraise, to achieve our aims. So the question is, is it a choice between Shaking Organisational Money Makers, While Crying, or Making People Laugh So They Don’t Notice They Are Handing Over Money. You know, hearing people never seem to be short on imagination, then again, when it comes to Deafness and Disability, only one thing will do.
For us to get better as a people, we need to be engaged with as people, with talent, skills and imagination, not just participating in a committee that will decide the colour and model of next year’s Organisational Money Makers. Though, I have it on good authority, that they will be blue for a change. Long term, they are planning for puce, torpid and morbid. In that order.
Paul, I don’t know you personally, and I have no brook with you personally, but you are the head of an organisation that represents Deaf people. As a professional, part of your role, is to LEAD. As the leader, representing and working for Deaf people, your job to is SUCK IT UP, TAKE IT ON THE CHIN, and HEED what Deaf people are actually saying! Your job is to also acknowledge this. Your job is to take on board what Deaf people are saying. Your job is to BE SEEN to be LISTENING……
The fact that you responded to Gary’s personal musings, a DEAF person’s ruminations on the state of the world as they see it, as if it were a sensatorial [another fictitious word I just made up to describe the perpetual state of sensationalism], sensation seeking, merely a canonisation piece by the author and for the author’s own vanity, printed in this morning’s edition of The [insert your favourite brand of toilet paper here], was an exercise in poor judgement. You have trampled over a DEAF PERSON’S fears about the very choices he has available to him.
Tony [aka Mephisto]
PS Paul, Gary speaks for a lot of people!
PPS I am writing in the style that represents what many of us feel.
PPPS THIS, Timothy, is clever writing!
PPPS Cross posted at i.Mephisto:i.Muse & i.Amuse!