I’m at a loss how to communicate what this hearing aid means to me–how profoundly it has effected…changed, my life. It’s not the inability to hear–but the effect of losing a capacity one has come to depend on, and lacks the resources to replace. Hard of hearing is not a less severe form of deafness–it is different, as any truly deaf person would almost certainly agree.
I belong to the hearing world. At my age, I will never belong to the deaf world–which is a culture onto itself, for which, “Hearing” is not something that’s been lost, not a deficiency… it is simply, Other. If I were to learn ASL (something I would very much like to do–though learning a new language at my age is probably more of a challenge than I’m able to take on) –and even become proficient in it–I would still be a visitor in the culture. I would still belong to the Hearing world, the hearing culture.
When I say, I’m at a loss to communicate what this means to me–it’s in part, because of how profoundly this has impressed on me the degree to which our various capacities, define us–and what this means. How all of these, are less about our physical differences, or neurodiversity, than the social conditions imposed on us.
I do not have a ‘disability’ because I do not hear well, but because I do not hear well– I am, to the degree of that loss, excluded from full participation in the hearing world to which I belong–in ways more profound than I would have imagined… and more profoundly than I can adequately express. Let me state this in different words: my disability does not consist of a hearing loss, but in how it excludes me from the social culture to which I belong–and there lies the more important meaning–for in different ways, this can be said of all the various ways humans diverge from the norm, from the privileged, power enforced mythologies of the Normal.
And in this, I can be thankful for this loss, in that it has given me insight into a range of human diversity, and the cruel tyranny of the Normal over all of us.. without which, I would not have understood with such clarity.
The neo-Nazi, eugenicists, who have risen to power–with representatives in the White House–are our ultimate enemies. Enemies of all of us. All of us. Because there is no such thing, as “Normal”… and there is no way to be rid of us… but extermination of the entire human species. Which is clearly, their unconscious goal.
There’s an invaluable lesson we can learn from the history of black people in this country. Counter to many distopic movies–which play on the assumption that need, and scarcity of resources will set people against one another. An idea planted as a seed of capitalist ideology–by the elite’s fear of the people, fear of real democracy.But if we look a their history, we see how black people, survived by mutual aid, preserving what what was possible to preserve, and so much more– creating a new culture, new music, new art. A history that refutes that dytopic fear. The Lord of Flies fear.If there is violence in impoverished neighborhoods now, it’s not scarcity, but excess that is to blame–the seductive promise of excess wealth and power, the omnipresent propaganda absorbed by living in and under a consumer capitalist driven ideology.Poor people learn how to take care of one another–or they die.The greater the wealth, the more that ability deteriorates. The billionaire elites are damaged–and damaged in ways that puts human survival itself at risk. The disposition that motivates mutual care, is lost. Excess corrupts… and at some point, corrupts absolutely. John Woolman understood this. Few have understood it better.I’m not setting up an argument for the virtue of poverty. That’s not the conclusion I draw. But I am making an argument for the corrosive power of excess, where some have more than they need, and many have less. We have enough food and material wealth to house and feed every person on the planet–and much more. The problem is, and has been since the first neolithic farmers cultivated grains and rice, that could be stored and accumulated, and did not need to be consumed as it was harvested, how to use the excess… other than providing the means for kings and priests and war lords to rule over the lives of others… invariably, over the ones who produced the excess.The problem didn’t begin with capitalism. Capitalism systematized and automated and dehumanized the machinery that had been at work since the first cities in China, the Indus valley, the fertile crescent.What starting me thinking about this, was watching a neighbor caring for an invalid aunt and grandmother.We are good at this, we humans. It isn’t scarcity that is destroying us, but excess… and how to deal with that without destroying those deep rooted communal habits we are so good at creating. Inequality is the symptom… a symptom that itself can destroy us. But there’s a deeper cause. Something we have never been able to learn.I think that the anarchists… some of them, began to get this.I think that’s our way to the future… if we’re to have one.
Once you understand the history of this country–whole shelves of American fiction, and great collections of American painting, become unbearable.
I think about this when I try to understand my almost exclusive turn to abstraction, and my resistance to representative art–even though that’s what my education prepared me to do.
It’s not my call to portray the lives of black people, or “first nations’ ( I like the Canadian term), and I don’t see any crying need to paint white people! Abstraction for me embodies a voice of resistance, of protest. Both a choice, and an act of self denial: a rejection of the world I see around me. A turn to landscape, or nature painting is no better–simply another kind of denial… unless I painted toxic dumps, industrial wastelands. I lean in that direction with my Recyclations (trash assemblages).
As I walked to the super market, I wondered what would happen if I were arrested, sentence to years or life (which wouldn’t be that long for me) in prison? I kept thinking about Murphy Cat and Merlin. Who would take care of them? And if I were to be released in a few years… would they know me? Would they be angry with me? Would they think that I’d abandoned them?
Of such thoughts are daydreams made in a Fascist State.
I think… these are going to be terrible times. Many of us won’t survive. If we are serious about resistance–about what it is we’re fighting, we have to accept that, as any soldier who goes into battle has to accept what may come. As the soldier finds courage and strength in mutual care of their comrades, so too, we need to draw strength from our comrades–by caring and supporting them, by being willing to lay our lives on the line that some us, at least, will survive. That some of us may live through these day or years to take up the never finished task, of making a humanly habitable world for all.
There is no more powerful tool for changing ideas, shifting cultural zeitgeist, and resisting authoritarianism than art. While theatre is not the biggest bat artists wield, our impact on the culture is not nil, especially if you include community theatre and school plays, and we must. Resistance to the Trump regime is the most crucial political battle of our lifetimes because this regime– and the zeitgesit behind it– stands to undo progress in every area of our society. Trump, Pence, McConnell, Ryan et al are actively seeking to impoverish you to enrich themselves, roll back every civil rights and workers’ rights gain of the past 100 years, eliminate every consumer protection, eliminate the social safety net, and pretend you begged them to do it. It’s telling that the very first appointee of the incoming administration was an amoral white nationalist, and the very first act of the new Congress was…
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