‘The Tory vilification of disabled people is truly sick’ is the first of many results that I find when looking at Google to see how the world perceives conservatives and their relation to those that are disabled. The article obviously sets a tone of ‘Conservatives don’t care’ with only its title, and it isn’t the only one to do so.
Just ten minutes online, or watching the News whenever a story related to disability appears, shows us one irrefutable truth; many see us as an enemy of those who are disabled. They say that we dehumanise, that we actively oppress, ignore and inflict suffering – that to be a conservative in any capacity is to condone such actions.
Is that view worth the time taken to read it?
Before I go on I shall add a disclaimer, I am not stating that every Government measure ever taken has had no adverse effect on those who were disabled in any capacity, so if there is anyone who accuses me of blanket defending governments and ignoring facts, well, they simply haven’t read the article. Also, I will point out further that disability in of itself is an incredibly broad term, so I shall have to discuss it as broadly as possible.
Being a conservative, at least in my eyes, and I would hope the eyes of many others, dehumanises no-one as a baseline. I’m a conservative because I believe in people, because I know that when you can encourage people to succeed, and give them the tools to do so, they can achieve great things, as long as they take the opportunity.
But an important element of that is also understanding how best to use and cultivate people’s potential. People with disabilities are requiring of more help due to their ailment, and there is absolutely no shame in that, and I would fiercely disagree with anyone who would say otherwise.
The root of what I am saying, I suppose, it that people with disabilities are, to me, people that need help, a fundamentally human thing.
Therefore, it is difficult to quantify the anger I feel when many accuse the entire right of not caring about them. When they say that we are actively working against them, as if we were all recipients of Nazi purity ideology. Well, I hate to break it to them, but we are not. The very idea of purity laws, not only based on disability but also on any other qualification, fills me with disgust that is tricky to express succinctly.
Yet I have seen argument after argument, protester after protester, figure after figure sully our name and compare us to such vile ideologies, if not by name, but by connotation. Do they think we have no empathy? Do they think that we do not care?
There are those who are on the right of politics who would perhaps subscribe to the extreme views that many of these commentators accuse us all of, but they are on the fringes, and by no means the norm. We are constantly accused of generalising the left into all being far-left, when it seems that many on the left do just the same to us.
To give a more personal example of why the view that all conservatives hate those with disabilities is fundamentally incorrect, I recently watched a film that heavily featured a deaf girl, and I found it to be a very interesting look at the disability. It restrained itself from presenting a caricature of the issue, and gave me an inkling of what living as deaf would be like.
Did I feel no empathy? Did I think that I was more than her due to that disability?
In short, no.
Now, I can see why some would accuse us of hating those with disabilities. In the UK, the Conservative government has made changes in public spending that have affected many of those who are disabled. We could have a whole article discussing whether such changes in spending were ethical or not, and whether they were correct, and when I was originally planning this piece I did consider using those changes as a framework for discussion. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that it is besides the point I’m trying to make.
The issue here isn’t whether the were cuts necessary or ethical, but on perceptions surrounding them. Many use measures such as these to justify sustaining an extreme view of the right while demanding that the right does not generalise them. Looking at the pages upon pages of mainstream touting of such views, I am not surprised that many are frightened to come out as conservative in this day an age.
After all, that just means you hate disabled people.
It couldn’t possibly be an attempt to cut down on public spending, rather than a purposeful assault on disabled points. Regardless of how justified or misguided you think measures such as these have been, is the answer truly to jump to extremes?
So, I could rant about this until the sun goes down, but that wouldn’t be very practical, and incredibly self-serving. Instead, I will pose an open question, both to myself and to you, the reader.
How do we get past this?
This does, in some ways, transcend just the issue of disabilities. After all, the right is accused of hating and dehumanising many, from immigrants to workers, but lets just focus on this one element of it.
Fundamentally, there has to be a two way exchange, but the Left has to put in a lot of work due to the perception coming in some ways from their own beliefs. They need to move away from this ludicrous view that there is widespread dehumanisation of these people in conservative circles, and to move away from putting the mainstream in the same category as the extremes, as they demand of us. And fundamentally, they need to talk to us a hell of a lot better.
Surprisingly, demonising your opponent does little for discourse, and has led to many on the Left putting disabled people on a bizarre pedestal, where they are completely incapable of looking out for themselves in any measure, no matter how limited. I want to know how to help disabled people help themselves, to treat them as human beings, not political ploys and helpless talking points, and any perspective on that is greatly appreciated. Shouting me down isn’t going to help my considerations.
If the Left feel they have something to add, an issue with our policies, then protest them in a healthier manner, with proper discourse, rather than taking to Guardian articles, Twitter and protests to chant slogans and demonise us. Is it any wonder that many accuse our current government of being out of touch when this is the opposition?
And to those on the Left that do not subscribe to this lunacy, I encourage them to take back control of their movement. I know that there are many like this, removed from the extremes that many know the current Left for, but they must understand that they are not the Left’s representatives at this time. That is a role that has fallen to these radicals that seem to have a monopoly on the public perception of the left.
But finally, I cannot absolve the right completely. Too often, perhaps we take things too far with our rhetoric, in that in trying to regard those with disabilities without a pedestal, we forget that they do need assistance.
Regardless of how we address the problem, I believe that politics can be more than this, generalising and demonising the opposing mainstream, and that we can use groups where these arguments are being made with far more respect than they are given.
And, if nothing else, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you are on, next time you meet someone with a disability, consider them as a human before you consider them as disabled.
Small steps such as that, taken seriously, could begin to heal much that is wrong with politics, both between the parties and those parties relationship to others.
And no-one else but ourselves are going to prove wrong the assumptions of the opposing side. And most importantly, only we can prove something to ourselves.