Letter to Occupy Together Movement by Harsha Walia
It describes some things I’ve been uneasy about with the #occupy movement, and some I hadn’t thought of, but it’s well thought out and fundamentally about the necessity of involving the perspectives of everyone in the “99%”. (Including the people whose land is already being occupied without acknowledgement from most of the people involved. I don’t see how people can ignore what my inner senses always perceive as this murky ooze of genocide and slavery that practically permeates the American landscape to the point it seems impossible to not notice it. But people do.)
While I don’t know when I’ll have the brain to put it together, my friend (the one who wrote the post about this movement that I linked to before) has requested that I make a video dealing with concerns we have about making sure that disabled people are likewise fundamentally respected by people who probably haven’t thought of it before (and probably don’t respect us now as full human beings). I’ve got ideas on what to put in it, and my friend has helped, but it’s really hard to make a video when you’ve got this little energy. Fortunately she suspects this will be around for long enough that I’ll have plenty of time to put it together. (And who knows, sometimes I say something like that and put everything together in a frenzy of energy one day and collapse for a week or two after. That’s what life with fluctuating skills and energy levels is like, you never know the exact moment when everything will come together right in order to get something done.)
But basically… most people (and therefore most people involved in this movement) fundamentally don’t grasp that disabled people are people. They’ll deny it, and they may believe they think we’re people, but their actions treat us differently than their words do. Even people who are against capitalist greed in theory, have usually not worked out that part of capitalism is valuing people differently based on the kind and amount of work they do, and the creation of a system that figures that if it can’t manage to exploit disabled people then we’re basically trash. And they generally also haven’t thought through the terror of becoming disabled (especially but not limited to cognitive disability) that drives them to the ultimate danger for us — that they’d want to die if they were like us, and therefore we are better off dead. And those two distortions of reality (because reality is that we are valuable because we exist, end of story, there can be no “buts” added to that) combine to horrific effect to both devastate and outright kill disabled people.
But the video I’m trying to make, while it will obviously go into those subjects in enough depth to get the idea definitely across, is fundamentally about the value of all people (and specifically the value of disabled people because we are people). Because without understanding that, this movement will end up reproducing all the screwed-up dynamics that already result in the oppression of disabled people as well as many other sorts of oppressed people. So it’s really, really important that while we support this movement, we also make our voices heard as firmly as possible to get things across so that it is reflecting values that will substantially change things for people already currently oppressed in ways a little more complicated than most people think of when they think of this movement. I absolutely support the general idea of the movement (because if someone doesn’t do something to stop the people with power, there will be destruction much worse than if they don’t do something, even if the something ends up being destructive to people like me in many ways), but I also know that without disabled people’s voices getting heard the outcomes could still be quite bad for us even if their goals are totally met otherwise, and I want to do everything I can to make sure things don’t happen that way.
(And if anyone’s going to get on my case about making a video while I’m supposed to be resting — I’ll try really hard to be careful. I have much more energy than I did when I first mentioned needing to rest, although it’s still a pretty fragile level of energy that can go away fast if I’m not careful. Today I had a doctor’s appointment so I’m really wiped out and can’t even think of making a video without brain-pain, especially given that right now all words I read are affecting me like Words That Bite My Brain, and the words I write are coming out much more scrambled than usual so then I have to read them over and over, biting my brain as they go, until I am fairly sure I didn’t get them in the wrong order. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read through this and found words like “by” and “from” and “with” and “about” and so forth mixed around, so if I haven’t caught them all, that’s why.)