When I became “disabled” due to an illness after proper 20yrs of living a life of privilege ability my life and not just my life alone but the life of my family changed too. While I am on the very difficult path of self-acceptance, my father is not okay neither do I think he will ever be after his daughter’s life took a complete 360°turn.
In the early years of my disability I decided to volunteer in an organization that houses people like me, the only organization here that takes care of their needs and provides training and education but the stark difference is that they are worse than me physically, mentally, emotionally and economically; this being the only life they have known.
Baba was not enthusiastic taking me there he feared what if I became depressed; lose hope in the ability of myself, what if my self-esteem and self-image take a deep dive never to recover and lots of other questions all starting with what if and ending with you. Mummy and baba convincingly voiced their fears and I decided not to go. In retrospect that was a good decision because I have learned to not need sympathy and pity at all times.
The thing that worried them most was the display of photos all over social media in developing countries like mine without realizing we have become slaves to narcissism. First, it was celebrating birthdays in old age homes which I thought was a noble gesture, then there was the change in venue “orphanages” I had my reservations about that too and now the venue has changed again to the organizations that houses and takes care of kids with Severe Disabilities.
What could be nobler than spend your special day with such kids, right? The smiles that greet you however struggling and deformed as you enter their home makes for a great picture. They clap for you when you cut your cake, smile genuinely when you give them the small packets of food and gifts, now the time for the main event “photo op” you stand there with your friends and family dressed in your finest and they in their usual everyday clothes; some visible struggling to eat .The picture then you post on social media with kinds of stuff how fortunate you feel, what a special day it was and blah.. blah!
Why does anyone share their photos online? I’d say, it’s to affirm and to let the world know about their own stories. You have a story about yourself that you tell yourself every day. You’re a good person, you believe in equality, etc and when you go to a charity, you’re telling yourself, “I’m doing this because I care. I’m doing this, because I’m a good person.” you who just came for a couple of hours you didn’t eat with them and were disgusted to touch their faces because they were constantly drooling; scrunching up your nose as you pass as some of them have a lingering smell of piss and puke. However when you share your perfect photo of the occasion, you’re telling the world, “I did this because I’m a good person.”And it’s not bragging when you get instant like and comments confirming what you wish the world to believe, that indeed you are a very good person and you care.
However, have you ever thought what your visit does to them? You think they don’t know anything they are too happy to worry they are just a child, etc and say other mean things I don’t wish to write about but the feeling you make them feel is undeniably there. Some of them question their very own existence but the real questions that they are seeking answers for, lie hidden in their hearts – “Can I also do what you do, when I grow up? Can I also live how you live? But Are we not teaching them to live in the environment of sympathy and engraving in their mind that’s this is the only environment they will get attention and thrive in. It is always agreeable to have the power to “give” than to receive.
Have you ever wondered why are you inclined to post that picture with those kids with disabilities, Does it have anything to do with power and privilege? You don’t post with other kids, children you don’t know
- You know someone (like yourself or their parents) is willing and able to vigorously defend the interests of a child of privilege.
- Your culture actively protects the privacy and safety of children.
- You have internalized these cultural expectations. You know it is wrong to do this.
- You would not get any reward out of posting it.
So, why do you do not find it permissible for you to post a picture of you with children with disability that you do not know nor have any direct relationship with? Why this behavior is considered culturally acceptable? Why does it not concern most of us when we see children with disability with people he/she does not know? People with disability, are not props for our “philanthropic posts’’
I do not know. I feel sick just thinking about it.
Why do you want to share the picture? Why do you want to override this child’s interests? What would the child say when they see they are only props for your photos? Think deeply how a day of yours is most days of the year for them. My family looks out to prevent all that has the potential to hurt me but who will do so them if not all of us? Have you given a thought that what such “your celebrations” teach them? Self-adornment, it is only this you want?
If you are being honest and saying yes! Thank you. I have something to say, why you don’t keep the picture to yourself. Share it with your loved ones if you must but off-line.
If the goal of the post is, hoping to encourage others to get involved then post the picture of the organization.
However, if you want to celebrate among them, then pledge on your birthday to support a less privileged child with disabilities who is fighting against poverty and discrimination. Your pledge can make a difference in his /her life to ensure his /her inclusion in mainstream society with equal rights. Make an impact by asking your friends and family to donate to your campaign to help a child with disabilities for his / her health & rehabilitation, education, and inclusion. But don’t use a picture of a child in a situation you wouldn’t want yours. We have a proverb, which says “left hand should not know what right hand gives”, “do a good deed and forget all about it”.
Giving is just not about making a donation; it’s about making a difference. When did people become props in our do-good lives, and why do we not call it out? Perhaps by celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with these children, you are making them realize what they don’t have.