I was asked to speak at a Forum regarding the Paradigm Shift that the NDIS could engender. We were asked to talk on the topic “How will we know when the paradigm shift has happened. What would it look like?” In my individual way I decided to turn it around! This is what I said:
I will start with reading from "The New Sociology for Australians" by Margaret Sargent. It was in this book that I discovered I was deemed as "deviant". But then I was pleased to note that Sargent turned it around later on with a chapter entitled "It's Those Normals Who Cause all the Trouble".
Sargent starts with a quote from E M Lemert. "Older sociology tended to rest heavily upon the idea that deviance leads to social control. I have come to believe that the reverse idea, i.e. that social control leads to deviance, is equally tenable."
The chapter begins: "to be Normal in Australia it is important - ONE. to belong to certain dominant groups of people who are male, Australian-born, Anglo Celtic, middle-class, about 25 to 55 years of age, Protestant and heterosexual; TWO. to live in a nuclear family household in your own house; and THREE. to be in paid work and believe in the work ethic for all. Precise figures are not available but it could be estimated that as many as 10% of people must be included in this problem group known as 'Normals '. These men are the ones whose indulgence in power perversion and obsessive pursuit of wealth are a problem to the majority: many of the difficulties of society at large ultimately flow from the dramatic types of normality which this group displays. Unfortunately most case histories of normality, indicate that the condition is largely inborn and has an inherited biological basis.
Family background is usually unfavourable, in so far as the nuclear family has inhibited any tendency towards autonomy, and the requirement to engage in steady paid work has prevented innovation of any kind. The disease of normality is largely irreversible because of the satisfaction afforded by the normal career and the self concept of utter superiority. Nevertheless, a Normal Persons Act has been enacted to provide compulsory aversion therapy to money and power. These people must be completely re-socialised. New normality treatment facilities are being built and training programs for normality experts have begun. The Minister for police has recommended an immediate crackdown: he said, 'we must stamp this sort of thing out before it spreads'."
Now I will describe a day in the life of a Normal. New lives for normal people that are ruled by The Normal Persons Act! The NPA. The Act has rules designed to reform Normal ways and practices. You may recognise some of them.
This Is Your Life as a Normal Under the NPA
The alarm goes off way too early and you wake up alone. Your partner has left you because living with you was just too much for them. Firstly, it was just the endless not being able to leave you alone for any length of time, (required under the NPA). The final straw was when you had to have a different bed as required under the NPA. That requirement means that now Normals must sleep in a single bed. That led to the breakdown of the relationship. Your partner left you!
No shower today even though you have to go to work. Under the NPA water is restricted to your house to inhibit "normal" behaviours. You are, however, on the waiting list for extra water if you overcome your Normalcy.
Time to get dressed. As you put your shoes on you look at them in disgust! This is the only pair of shoes you have and they are getting very old.
You only work part time because, for a Normal like you, it is very hard to get a job. And you have to go to the Normality Rehabilitation Centre three times a week for rehab. You hobble out to your car and get in. You wonder how long this car is going to keep going because it is ancient and you can't get another when you want, due to restrictions under the NPA. And then when you do get one you will be limited in your choice as there is a certain list of brands that you can choose from. You hope your car doesn’t break down today.
You arrive at work and are very grateful that there is still one special park left, for Normals like you. You take the convoluted route in through the back door, past the rubbish bins, down a very long corridor and upstairs in the goods lift. Normals are only allowed in that way.
You do your work for the day but lose quite a bit of work time because you have to go down to the public toilet next door several times during the day because Normals aren't allowed to use the toilet in the building they work in. You know your workmates resent this loss of input by you and it makes you angry because there is nothing you can do about it. You have asked and asked for a toilet for Normals to be installed but are continually told that it is too expensive.
On the weekend you have saved up enough money out of your meagre part-time wages to go out for dinner with some friends. You hobble out to your car again feeling very ashamed of your ugly old shoes cos you know all of your friends will have their nice shoes on. They will be able to dance all night. But not you because it will hurt too much. It's taken quite a bit of time to find a restaurant that will allow Normals in. You had to ring around and it took ages to find one. You have a nice dinner but the shine is taken off a little bit because people keep looking at your shoes. One person even asked why you have such old shoes on.
Anyway, out to the car for the drive home. Oh blast and damn, it won’t start. It's after nine now and you know that there is no rescue because you have to be home by 10pm under the NPA curfew. You call a special taxi, for Normals, who must be escorted after curfew, and they tell you that it may be a couple of hours wait as there are not many of the Normals Escort Taxis out this late at night. You are grateful that a friend waits with you because Normals tend to get hassled if out alone after curfew. You get home after midnight tired and cranky from waiting and cos your feet hurt. You feel like giving up.
Now that all sounded completely ridiculous didn't it? Normal people don’t need all that management and silly rules. It’s obvious how it restricts their capacity.
Sargent writes in relation to deviant people, "policies are adopted which enable these groups to be managed. The ideology that "help" is being given, legitimises these forms of management." I would substitute the word "controlled" in the place of "managed".
The paradigm shift needs to happen in the minds and beliefs of us all, non-disabled and disabled alike. A shift to understand that our lives do NOT need to be managed and controlled and restricted just because we are DIFFERENT.
I am about to use a couple of words that used to apply to us disabled people. Words that we don't use anymore cos they are now insulting. Yet we are still being insulted every day by the TREATMENT that hasn't changed along with the words. Let them ring in your ears and remind us all that a Shift has to happen.
I will know that the paradigm shift has occurred when I am being TREATED like a PERSON and not like a retard cripple.