Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Ten Signs You're A Fundamentalist Christian Or A Hindu Fanatic

Fundamentalist Christian:

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering.  And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers.  You consider that to be evidence that prayer works.  And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.


Hindu Fanatic:

10. You believe anyone who wears even so much as a saffron underwear is a human incarnation of ’Jagat Brahman‘ (God) and address them as “baba”, “swami”, “shri shri” finding the servile pleasure of touching their feet ‘intoxicating’.

9. You defend militantly everything the saffron-clad swamis have to preach, no matter how illogical and ridiculous, and believe that he/she will solve all your problems only if you continue singing bhajans (devotional songs).

 8.  You eject out of your chair at the slightest noise of someone uttering the word ‘Hinduism’ accusing the person of ignorance and launching into a lengthy diatribe on why the fool needs to address Hinduism as ‘Sanatana Dharma’.

7. You think all Muslims are “terrorists” and call any person who does not support the ‘Hindutva’ cause as an anti-Hindu, anti-India, pseudo-secular communist.

6. You accuse Muslims of being intolerant and yet become endlessly peeved at the distorted displays of hindu symbols or the use of hindu deities in works of art or movies by non-hindus and take boundless pride in protesting against such distortions or threatening them with dire consequences.

5. You spend hundreds of idle hours trying to find the ‘real’ meaning of different hindu symbols and slokas and take immense pride whenever the western media mentions something remotely Hindu  – convinced that it is an undeniable evidence supporting the ‘greatness’ of  “Hindu civilization”

4. You accuse ‘goras’(whites, but typically means Christians) of being racist when they ridicule Hindus but find no problems cracking Chinese jokes, Sardar jokes or even supporting the caste system by deciding not to marry outside your caste.

3. You find fairy tales of other religions amusing and entertaining but consider the epic fairy tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata as ‘itihaas’ (history).

2. You have no idea what a ‘testable hypothesis’ is but proudly claim that the Vedas are scientific works, distorting slokas and quoting personal opinion of scientists to make your case.

1. You have never read the entire Bhagavad Gita or other hindu religious texts but feel you are competent enough to talk about them loudly just because you read a few Amar Chitra Katha comics when you were a kid.


How Poverty In Africa Is Portrayed

An interesting photo project by Duncan McNicholl shows how the mainstream media often portrays poverty in Africa. Frustrated by what he saw at home in Canada, he decided to take pictures of his acquaintances in Malawi "dressed to kill" and "dressed very poorly".

We’ve all seen it: the photo of a teary-eyed African child, dressed in rags, smothered in flies, with a look of desperation that the caption all too readily points out. Some organization has made a poster that tells you about the realities of poverty, what they are doing about it, and how your donation will change things.

I reacted very strongly to these kinds of photos when I returned from Africa in 2008. I compared these photos to my own memories of Malawian friends and felt lied to. How had these photos failed so spectacularly to capture the intelligence, the laughter, the resilience, and the capabilities of so many incredible people?

The truth is that the development sector, just like any other business, needs revenue to survive. Too frequently, this quest for funding uses these kind of dehumanizing images to draw pity, charity, and eventually donations from a largely unsuspecting public…

This is not to say that people do not struggle, far from it, but the photos I was seeing only told part of the story… [To contribute to correcting this,] I am taking two photos of the same person; one photo with the typical symbols of poverty (dejected look, ripped clothes, etc.), and another of this person looking their very finest, to show how an image can be carefully constructed to present the same person in very different ways. I want to bring to light some of the different assumptions we make about a person, especially when we see an image of "poverty" from rural Africa.

McNicholl's acquaintances participating with their own choice of clothes and posing as they like:

It is not uncommon to see similar depictions made by charities for other purposes as well, be it for providing education to women in rural areas, financial assistance to persons with disabilities who need them, etc. The idea is to appeal to the better off groups by presenting those in need as objects of pity and completely at the mercy of donors. This is not only denying of dignity and highly dehumanizing for those at the receiving end, but it often also serves to remove a sense of responsibility those making the donations may have to take. Such representations tend to go in line with the just-world hypothesis where conditions like these are seen as simply matters of circumstance or cases of exception and often restrict identifying the reasons why these condition continue to exist or challenging oppressive systems that may be at work. Perhaps the worst thing is, whatever it is that these people are in need of, it is rarely shown that they have a RIGHT to get it. Not as an act of mercy from others or as a given.

Body Positivity

It is important to emphasize body positivity. We live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with fake, Photoshopped body images as the ones "truly" desirable and pressured to achieve unattainable beauty standards. I wish more people didn't have to grow up in an environment where they were always reminded how ugly they are or how less attractive they are, and how much more effort they need to put in to alter what they have, just to fit in with the narrow external ideals. I wish people (women in particular) didn't need to have their self-esteem built around every small step they take towards what seemed to be closer to those standards, instead of celebrating what they already have. I wish the mainstream media messages we are surrounded with were more open and inclusive of diversity instead of sticking with only white, cisgendered, able-bodied men and white, cisgendered, thin, able-bodied women as the 'norm'.  And when I say inclusive, I mean positive representations. Not stereotyped or bullying stuff, because there's absolutely no shortage of that.  

The following is a video from ThosePeskyDames on body positivity.
(I've written a transcript, because I realize accessibility is much more than just ramps. And this was possible because it was of short length so that I was able to download it. I apologize for not doing the same for other videos I've shared, its only possible when my slow net lets me.)

Two things I wish I'd known as a teenager, and that are often still hard to remember today:
1) People are going to have all sorts of opinions about how you look, there is nothing you can do to control this, so it's pointless trying to.

2) The only person whose opinion matters about how you look is your own. Don't rely on other people to give you worth, they won't always be there.
Whatever you look like, there's always going to be people who think you're unattractive and misguidedly, think its their business to tell you so. Ignore them. Because there are others who think you're the most beautiful person in the world. And not even in spite of your so-called flaws and imperfections, often because of those things you think are so hideous and awful about you. This is something I was struck with, particularly while filming for the TV show that we're going to be in on Wednesday. We had talked to people about hair and the whole group of people we talked to, I'm not even exaggerating, physically recoiled when we showed them our armpits and leg hair. As far as they were concerned, any woman with body hair was disgusting. It didn't matter what she looked like, if she had body hair that was it, that was the deal breaker. And honestly, that's fine. Don't like women with body hair? Fine, don't date them. There's plenty of other people out there who either don't care, or for whom its a massive turn-on! This is a lie that we've been tricked into believing for our entire lives that beauty is some objective standard that we have to aspire to, when its entirely relative. We're told if you have body hair, no one would want you. Or if you're fat. Or if you're too skinny. Or if you have spots, or scars or stretch marks. Or if you're skin's too light, or too dark... the list is just endless! (My colleague I've always talked about my weight too, and there's a link in the description to my dieting week video which says a lot similar to what Holly said in her body positive video yesterday).
But body positivity is so much more than weight. When I was in secondary school, I got teased for a lot of things. I was a chubby, gingerish kid with braces, and I was a nerd. But one of the things that hold of me was I was teased quite a lot for my nose. Its not particularly huge but its not exactly dancy either, and that made me hate it. And I knew if I ever go for plastic surgery it wouldn't be to lose weight or anything like that, it would be to fix my nose because there was nothing else I could do about that. And then when I met my current partner, one of the first compliments he gave me completely out of the blue was that he really loved my nose. He thought it made me look distinguished. So I promise you, that part of yourself that you hate, that you think no one could ever find attractive, there is someone out there who thinks that's what makes you so incredibly gorgeous. And anyone who tries to convince you otherwise just isn't worth your time. You want to tell me that you think I'm fat, that I'm spotty, that I'm hairy, that I'm disgusting? Fine. I don't particularly want to sleep with you either. You kind of seem like a douche.
That said, you can't rely on other people to make you feel beautiful. They're too effectless. Yes, there's someone out there who thinks your fat rolls, and your stretch marks, and your hairy armpit and your giant nose are gorgeous. But there are seven billion people in the world and only a tiny percentage of those people are going to pass in and out of your life. The only person who's going to be there with you for the rest of your life, is you. And if you hate you, it doesn't matter if someone else thinks you're gorgeous. Because in all likelihood, one day they're not going to be there to tell you so. And you're going to be left with yourself and what you think of yourself, and you're going to be miserable. And that doesn't mean that you shouldn't feel that you can change your body. If you want to be thinner, go for it. If you want to gain weight, go for it. If you want grow your hair, shave your hair, wear make-up, don't wear make-up, whatever. But you need to question why you want to make these changes. And they need to come from a place of acceptance and not from a place of desperation of trying to conform to external ideals that you feel you have to fit in with. Acceptance and change takes time. But that's ok, because the way you look at the moment and the way you look between A and B is fine because there's nothing inherently wrong with the way you look. And accept that there are things about your body which you can't ever change. Or that it may be dangerous or difficult for you to change. And whether in the long run its really worth those risks just to make yourself look different. And it's hard. It's so fucking hard to be surrounded by a sea of messages that tell you the way you look is wrong, to not be represented as beautiful or represented at all, and to be continually reminded that you're not the supposed ideal. Which is where the second effects of this comes in and it relates to what Holly was saying in her video. Because just like you can’t rely on someone else to tell you you’re beautiful, we can’t keep dragging other girls down to try to make ourselves feel better. We need to stop making comparisons, saying “At least I don’t look like her.” Or buy into this ‘real women have curves’ bullshit like what skinny girls are just imaginary fairies.
We need to do everything we can to make it easy for each other, not harder. And more than that, we need to challenge the industry that makes us feel this way. We need to ask why so much of our media features exclusively white, exclusively skinny, exclusively able-bodied girls. We need to demand that we see ourselves and other women represented. And tell them that we are fucking fabulous exactly the way we are regardless of what they think.
I won’t feel this way on Wednesday. I know how loudly the demons in my head will be screaming “I look too fat” “I look too pale” “I look ugly compared to the other dames”.. But I’m going to keep fighting those demons, because I have to. Because we all have to. And the hopefully one day, we won’t have to anymore.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Matrimonial Ad..

Each and every noun and adjective of this matrimonial ad that appeared in the main edition of India’s leading newspaper ‘The Hindu’, recognizes our divided society and the difficulty in connecting the divisions.

1) It is the father who has applied for the daughter to get married, not the girl herself. The ad targets the boy’s parents and not the boy himself. Parents re-enforce the ancient habit of elders deciding whom the children should spend the rest of their lives with.

2) The girl is only 22 years old. At such a young age and fresh out of college, she would have no idea of the real world. A practice of traditionally conservative families, to get the girl married, as soon as she finishes her basic college education.

3) The Ad describes her as ‘family oriented’, which usually means she is an house-wife material and is ready to sacrifice all her career dreams, to take care of her husband and his family.

4) The girl is fair (colorism? Check. because we never see 'dark' being mentioned. Writing 'fair' is not to show the girl is fair but to indicate she is not dark.), pretty and the boy should be handsome (no criteria for 'handsome' here but since its a boy, anything will do). This rules out a huge majority of the Indian male community, even if their wealth can match this aristocrat and even if they can be better husbands, in terms of care and affection.

5) Even if the boy happens to be extra brilliant, handsome, well-cultured, highly qualified and belongs to respected and reputed family of high stature, his horoscope (a.k.a mumbo jumbo superstition) should match the astrological requirement.

(source for pic and part of the text: 'Indian Quotes' page on Facebook)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Relating to Roosevelt's Sister

My recent change of self-perception and awakening to the disability rights movement has set me on a learning spree. All of a sudden I'm discovering some of the best blogs on disability, activists, writers and scholars (not only online but also few I am finding myself reaching out to) dealing with disability issues, and a new interest (not just interest, facination as well) in the field of disability studies. I want to do M.A. in it, preferably from TISS because they are one of the few universities in India that offer the course, they seem to be more accommodating of PWDs and it's worth. I'm actually relieved that the passion to do something for others like me is building up more than the fear of likely resistance I will have to deal with when presenting the wish to my parents. In a rather obvious yet strange way, I'm discovering myself. And seeing everything about me or what I've been through, finally, from a different angle - my side. The side of silenced voices, the 'special' children, the intitutionalised 'threats', the receivers of 'be exceptional or be dead' attitudes...and those challenging the status quo.

So when I read Rosmarie Garland Thomson's essay "Roosevelt's Sister: Why We Need Disability Studies in the Humanities", it was something that I could relate to in many places. Taking Judith Shakespeare from Virginia Woolf's famous book A Room of One's Own, she creates a similiar character, Judith Roosevelt, who has cerebral palsy and is the sister of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In a clear and realistic way, her life is narrated both in the traditional setting and contemporary period.

Virginia Woolf is probably our greatest modernist writer and our most creative feminist thinker. In Woolf's 1928 collection of feminist essays, A Room of One's Own she, invents a character she calls Judith Shakespeare, the imaginary sister of the famous playwright, who is equally creative and ambitious as her brother. In her amusing, but instructive essay, Woolf uses the figure of Judith Shakespeare to show the social constrictions women who wanted to write faced. Woolf invents Judith, who as Woolf has it, must stay home to care for the family while her ambitious brother Will goes off to school and then to London to try his hand at theater, and the rest is history for him. Dutifully, Judith obeys until her father plans to marry her to an odious neighbor. When she refuses, he beats her, and she runs away to the London stage door to offer her talents, where they are rejected. She becomes pregnant by a charming fellow actor she meets that first day. Disgraced, Judith dies alone in childbirth and is buried in an unmarked grave.
I'll offer here another figure to think through the social constrictions facing disabled women. Following Woolf, my heroine will be Judith as well. But this is not Judith Shakespeare; rather this is Judith... Roosevelt, the younger sister of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
continue reading here..

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Beauty And Women With Disabilities

This noteworthy paper written by Francine Odette gives a good insight into cultural standards/expectations on beauty and the position of women with disabilities in it. Excerpt:  

Body Beautiful/Body Perfect: Challenging the Status Quo:
Where Do Women With Disabilities Fit In?
Francine Odette, M.S.W., DisAbled Women’s Network

With a body that doesn’t ‘measure up’, we learn pretty quickly what our culture wants from women” – The New Our Bodies Ourselves

When I was approached to write about the issue of body image and its impact on women with disabilities, the invitation brought with it a chance to explore the link between fat-oppression and the experiences of women with disabilities. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on this issue, which may reflect the belief that the lived experiences of many women with disabilities are not important, nor perceived as valid by mainstream researchers.

I do not represent the experiences of all women with disabilities regarding the issues of body image and self-perception; however, over the years I have listened to the stories of many women with a range of disabilities. This includes women whose disabilities include being non-verbal, mobility, hard of hearing and/or visual impairments. Many of these women spoke of their lives and how they have begun to deal with some of their concerns around body image and selfperception. While recognizing that the issues for women with disabilities may vary from those of non-disabled women, our lives, experiences and fears are very similar.

Cultural standards of beauty

Women are identified socially with their bodies. For women living in Western culture, thinness is often equated with health and success. We are taught early to be conscious of our body shape, size, weight and physical attributes. The current cultural “norm” or ideal is unattainable for most women. Fat women, women with disabilities, women from particular racial or ethnic groups or with non-heterosexual orientation, and other women who do not conform to the prescribed “norm” of social desirability are viewed as having experiences and attributes somewhat different from that of other women in this culture and as a result are often isolated.

Women with disabilities living in this society are not exempt from the influence of messages that attempt to dictate what is desirable and what is undesirable in a woman. These messages are often internalized, and they have an impact on how we see ourselves. The further we view ourselves from the popular standard of beauty, the more likely our self-image will suffer. We may experience a greater need to gain control over our bodies, either by our own efforts of restrictive eating and exercising, or the intrusive procedures performed by those deemed to be the “experts”—the medical profession.

We form images of ourselves early in infancy and these are confirmed or altered by the responses, or evaluations, made by others.
Based on physical judgments, women with disabilities hear various messages from family, friends and society-at-large about our perceived inability to participate in the roles that are usually expected of women. Society believes that lack of physical attractiveness, as defined by the dominant culture, hampers our ability to be intimate. These misperceptions hamper our ability to get beyond our physical differences, perpetuate body-image dissatisfaction and contribute to eating problems.

Invisible or distorted lives

Within this culture, having a disability is viewed negatively. This notion is supported by the fact that the lives of women with different disabilities are not reflected in the media. We are invisible. However, when our lives are spoken of, they are distorted through romantic or bizarre portrayals of childlike dependency, monster-like anger and super-human feats. This increases the discomfort of others when in contact with women with disabilities, which in turn perpetuates the sense of “otherness” that women may feel.

As women and individuals with disabilities, the messages that we receive often indicate the lack of role expectations for us. For young girls with disabilities, the invisibility of our lives becomes reinforced by the fact that much of popular advertising implies the belief that the “normal” body is that which is desirable. Once these messages become internalized and reinforced, young girls and women with disabilities may try to compensate for their disabilities by striving to look as close to the non-disabled “norm” as possible. Similar to many non-disabled women’s experiences, some girls and women with different disabilities may try to hide their bodies or change how their bodies look. Comfort and health may be sacrificed as we attempt to move
closer to the realm of what the “normal” body appears to be, by manipulating our bodies through continuous dieting, plucking, shaving, cutting and constricting.

Much feminist theory has been focused on identifying the reality that within Western culture women’s bodies are objectified for the purpose of male pleasure and domination. As a result, women’s perceptions of themselves and their bodies become distorted. We are taught to mistrust our own experience and judgment about desirability and acceptance. These qualities are defined by the dominant culture. They are socially and economically defined by those in power—white, able-bodied, heterosexual men. Within this context, the body becomes a commodity with which one may bargain in order to obtain more desirable opportunities, e.g., work or security.

Objectification by the medical profession

Feminist analysis identifies women’s alienation from themselves and their bodies as a result of the objectification of the female body. However, a great deal of feminist analysis may not be reflective of all women’s experience. The way in which women’s bodies are portrayed, as commodities in the media, may not be a reality for many women labelled “disabled.” In reflecting societal beliefs regarding disability, our bodies become objectified for the purposes of domination, but within a different context.
Traditionally, disability, whether visible or invisible, has tended to be viewed as something that is undesirable. Whether we are born with our disability or acquire it later, our bodies become objectified by the medical process. Medical examinations are often undertaken by groups of male doctors, who despite their aura of “professionalism,” are still perceived by the client as a group of anonymous men. Regular routines such as dressing ourselves, or other activities, are observed by doctors while on their “rounds,” as this is seen as an excellent training of new doctors.

Many of us recount our experiences, as young children, of having to display our bodies to groups of male doctors in the guise of “medical treatment” without prior knowledge or consent. We may have been asked to strip, to walk back and forth in front of complete strangers so that they could get a better view of what the physical “problem” is, or to manually manipulate our limbs to determine flexibility and dexterity.

Today, pictures or videos are taken of us and used as educational tools for future doctors, with little thought given to our needs to have control over what happens to our bodies or who sees us. While the medical profession attempts to maintain control over our bodies, some women with disabilities may attempt to regain control through dieting, bingeing or other methods of body mutilation.

Body image and ‘different’ bodies

Some disabled women speak of having numerous surgeries conducted with the hope of a “cure,” when in reality the surgeries may result in increased pain, discomfort and altered physical state of one’s body. The concept of body-image as it impacts on young girls and women with disabilities is crucial, especially when one looks at instances where the functioning of certain body parts must change or be altered, resulting in scars, diminished sensation or radically changing the physical state, e.g., amputation, mastectomies. A common theme emerges between intrusive medical intervention and popular methods of cosmetic surgery: the perceived need to change or alter the “imperfect” body. For many women with disabilities, the message is clear—the way our bodies are now is neither acceptable nor desirable. To be non-disabled is the “ideal”
and along with that comes the additional expectations for the quest for the “perfect” body. Body image, self-image and self-esteem are often linked with the perceptions held by society, family and friends. Disability is often seen as a “deficit,” and women with disabilities must address the reality that the “ideal” imposed by the dominant culture regarding women’s bodies is neither part of our experience nor within our reach. We thus often need to grieve the loss of the dream of the “body perfect,” let alone the “body ideal.” As women with disabilities, some of us experience difficulty in having others identify us as “female.”

Disability and “differentness” results in many of us living our lives from the margins of society. As women with disabilities, we must begin to challenge the perceptions of “body beautiful,” along with the perceptions held by some non-disabled feminists who resist the notion of “body beautiful,” but ignore or affirm the notion of “body perfect.” Disability challenges all notions of perfection and beauty as defined by popular, dominant culture.

We must reclaim what has been traditionally viewed as “negative” and accentuate the reality that “differentness” carries with it exciting and creative opportunities for change. A lot can be learned from the experiences of women with disabilities as we begin the process of reclaiming and embracing our “differences.” This includes both a celebration of our range of sizes, shapes and abilities.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Before You Ask Someone A Question, Ask Yourself:

  • Is this something I need to know?
  • Is this information any of my business?
  • Is this information something I can get elsewhere, like Google or Wikipedia, so as not to waste the questioned’s time?
  • Might my question trigger or seriously upset the questioned?
  • Why do I feel entitled to this information, and why might that entitlement be wrongly assumed?
  • Am I being respectful, appropriate, and inclusive in my phraseology?
  • Do I acknowledge that I am not entitled to an answer, and am I willing to accept silence or a denial of information as an answer?
  • - via bittergrapes

    It's not that they're too rude or arrogant if you don't get a reply. Maybe, just mabe, they've answered it a million times before and are tired of it. Maybe the information is something widely available on the internet and still people (more annoying when those on the internet itself) ask the same thing like they're the first person to bring out such a 'clever', 'new' question. Maybe they have the right answer and know what they want to say but just can't put it into words that will convince you.

    It is especially important to keep these in mind when you're asking to those people who have to regularly deal with the same questioning and yet suceeding very little in pushing understanding through the questioner's biases and prejudices when answered. Feminists, PoC, LGBTQA, PWD.. (don't know the full forms? I ain't gonna say it this time, Google them.). However, most marginalized people are willing to educate others about their condition because they know speaking out and bringing their problems to light is the only way to awaken a sleeping society. It's only that we as outsiders (and more so if as perpetuators) have an equal responsibility to 'put an effort' at 'finding out' on our own if we can, without expecting them to neatly and carefully position everything into our heads.

    Monday, 6 August 2012

    Will You Spare Me?

    Tall and mighty I stand with my friends,
    Trying to reach out and touch the sky.
    I watch the clouds move free and happy,
    They're always busy traveling, I wonder why.

    I dance to the rhythm of the soothing wind,
    Whose every touch raise my spirits high.
    I'll grab the soil firm if the wind went wild,
    And stand a natural roof for every passerby.

    Overwhelmed with joy, I permit a little bird,
    To build upon my hands her soft cozy nest.
    I make a silent promise that during angry weather,
    To protect her delicate one's, I'll always do my best.

    Water gushes out with the clash of the clouds,
    As an unfailing reply to my call.
    And sprays its coolness over the hills and plains,
    Helping life to grow steady and tall.

    I wait with immense pride and patience,
    As the sweet ones I bear grow day by day.
    To satisfy the hunger of both men and beasts,
    I readily though painful give them away.

    I wonder with grief how long would it take,
    Before I feel the cutter's axe piercing me.
    With my existence restricted I just can't imagine,
    What life on this earth would be.

    To those who can think and work on their thoughts,
    This is what I would like to say;
    Spare me today and I shall prove to you
    That tomorrow will be a much brighter day.

    Sunday, 5 August 2012

    Trip To Vailankanni

    I joined my family for a visit to Vailankanni last Friday, a two day trip. My aunt's family was with us too. They all went mainly for religious purposes while I went for sight-seeing and to have some good time together. Looks like we both got what we wanted.
    It was really a joyful experience. A long, fun trip after almost a year. So I am definitely not going to reduce it to the religious aspects, I'll remember it for the laughs and the good moments we had. That being said, there were some not-so-pleasant things I noticed which are hard to dismiss, and since this is the only place where I can pour out, thought I'd write it down.
    We left on Friday evening. The journey was smooth and fun, except for a little trouble in the beginning where my dad had to lift me to the bus. I could have walked in with some support on my hand had it been a low-floor bus and I wondered how long it would be before manufacturers actually started realizing about the existence of disabled people, wheelchair users in particular. And what about the elderly who can't climb high steps? Don't they need to travel as well?
    Throughout the journey whenever I look outside the window, I would check to see how many places has a ramp to its entrance. The result was disappointing as expected. I really felt bad that the need to keep a ramp next to a door is such a difficult concept to understand! I remembered about a disability rights activist I had met once who works towards creating accessibility in public places and wondered how much progress they might be making.

    We reached there by next day morning and rented a single room house. After a quick freshening up (the salty water made you want to bathe because you bathed in it) and breakfast, we left for the shrine. The structure was absolutely stunning. More so the awe at how much our species has evolved from using primitive tools to creating such architectural sophistications. Simply being there made me marvel and feel proud of our human history.  

    The good feelings were however short lived, till the moment we entered the church. I felt like a drop of oil in a pool of water, not able to mix with the atmosphere of religious binding. I couldn't be a participant (didn't want to either), only be an observer. Many of the practices all so familiar and yet oddly, revealing new meanings that stayed hidden during those years of blind conformation.

    There was this ritual of making people, mostly those with illnesses, sit as 'adima' (slave) to the Velankanni Mary and I was thinking, 'yeah right, that's some 'love' she's got there to require people to be slaves.' The name Vailankanni (meaning 'Virgin of Velai') itself made me cringe when I Googled it, the religious obbsession with virginity was so apparent. At one place there was a nearly one kilometer long paved way filled with beach sand for a custom in which people had to go through that full distance on their knees. My dad somewhat pressured me to participate but I stuck to my refusal. We saw a two year old kid doing it (mainly by his father forcing him) and everyone were like ''so cuute''. The words coming to my mind were 'child abuse'.. Later, on returning to our rented house, we were to find our neighbor sitting ouside with his knees bleeding after he went for that.. There was also a Thirupathi style head shaving and applying of a cinnamon powder misture. Many of our bus mates returned bald.

    Some of the things actually made me laugh, the kind of unreasonable behavior even seemingly well educated people were exhibiting (like couples wanting children tying handkerchiefs in the shape of a cradle on sacred trees). Showed how deeply entrenched superstition is in our culture and how education does not necessarily guarantee rational thinking. But the thing I felt most bad was when after the Mass, which had a huge attendence of people from different parts of the country and outside, I saw most of them crying, some badly weeping, as the procession brought holy water and statue of Jesus. I felt so bad that all these people were being cheated..the amount of faith they were having..all for nothing.. It was so unfair.. Many of them were spending money they otherwise wouldn't have. Many of them had left their medicines or given up hope on treatment and come with so much expectations for being cured. And some would even return with the false belief that they really had been, and stop their medications, where in fact the healing could be only a temporary placebo in effect. I felt so enraged at the same time, the fucking church spreading their lies and taking advantage of so many innocent people's trust and sorrow, mercilessly cheating them with their dogma for wealth, power and control..

    It made me realize no 'loving' god, if there was one, would ever want to put his children through such an ordeal where they had to flatter him and beg for relief from a fate he himself impossed on them. No 'merciful' god would punish you if you failed to do so according to standards set by people claiming to have telepathic connections to him, unprovable to others.
    In the end, I liked the trip. I really did, not just because it was a fun journey with family and cousins but also because it was an eye-opener for me. I went on a pilgrimage and came back more of an atheist. Life is only once. It's up to us to give, take and make the best of it, without relying on man-made myths and monsters. This world, with all it's beauty and indifference, can surely be made a better place if we lived and worked with that understanding.

    Friday, 3 August 2012

    Bits From Books 8.0: 'Contours of Ableism' by Fiona Kumari Campbell (1)

    ( I'm currently reading 'Contours of Ableism - The Production of Disability and Abledness' written by Fiona Kumari Campbell. I downloaded the ebook from here, a site with a brilliantly large collection. After reading a book once, I generally don't feel like reading it again unless absolutely necessary. So I thought it would be nice to keep a record of some the interesting/important excerpts for future reference, and hence these type of posts. )

    //Ableism refers to: A network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, species-typical and therefore essential and fully human. Disability then is cast as a diminished state of being human.  (Campbell, 2001, p. 44)//

    //Whether it be the ‘species typical body’ (in science), the ‘normative citizen’ (in political theory), the ‘reasonable man’ (in law), all these signifiers point to a fabrication that reaches into the very soul that sweeps us into life and as such is the outcome and instrument of a political constitution: a hostage of the body. The creation of such regimes of ontological separation appears disassociated from power. Bodies in this way become elements that may be moved, used, transformed, demarcated, improved and articulated with others.//
    //Women talk about being proud of who they are – proud because they are women; aborigines talk about being proud because they are aborigines; gay men and lesbians about being proud because of their sexuality. But throughout the disability movement we are much more likely to hear people with disabilities talking about pride in themselves despite their disability. (Parsons, 1999, p.14)//

    //Viewing the disabled body as simply matter out of place that needs to be dispensed with or at least cleaned up is erroneous. The disabled body has a place, a place in liminality to secure the performative enactment of the normal. Detienne’s summation points to what we may call the double bind of ableism when performed within Western neo-liberal polities. The double bind folds in on itself – for whilst claiming ‘inclusion’, ableism simultaneously always restates and enshrines itself. On the one hand, discourses of equality promote ‘inclusion’ by way of promoting positive attitudes (sometimes legislated in mission statements, marketing campaigns, equal opportunity protections) and yet on the other hand, ableist discourses proclaim quite emphatically that disability is inherently negative, ontologically intolerable and in the end, a dispensable remnant. This casting results in an ontological foreclosure wherein positive signification of disability becomes unspeakable.//
    //Everyone is virtually disabled, both in the sense that able-bodied norms are ‘intrinsically impossible to embody’ fully and in the sense that able-bodied status is always temporary, disability being the one identity category that all people will embody if they live long enough. What we might call a critical disability position, however, would differ from such a virtually disabled positions [to engagements that have] resisted the demands of compulsory able-bodiedness  (McRuer, 2002, pp. 95–96)
    The conundrum, disability, is not a mere fear of the unknown, or an apprehensiveness towards that which is foreign or strange. Rather, disability and disabled bodies are effectively positioned in the nether regions of ‘unthought’. For the ongoing stability of ableism, a diffuse network of thought depends upon the capacity of that network to ‘shut away’, to exteriorise, and unthink disability and its resemblance to the essential (ableist) human self. This unthought has been given much consideration through the systematisation and classification of knowledges about pathology, aberration and deviance.//

    //When looking at relations of disability and ableism we can expand on this idea of symbiosis, an ‘unavoidable duality’ by putting forward another metaphor, that of the mirror. Here I argue that people deemed disabled take on the performative act of mirroring in the lives of normative subjects:

    . . .
    To be a Mirror is different from being a Face that looks back . . .
    with a range of expression and responsiveness that are responses of a Subject-in-Its-Own-Right. To be positioned as a Mirror is to be Put Out of Countenance, to Lose Face.  (Narayan, 1997, p. 141)

    In this respect, we can speak in ontological terms of the history of disability as a history of that which is unthought, to be put out of countenance; this figuring should not be confused with erasure that occurs due to mere absence or exclusion. On the contrary, disability is always present (despite its seeming absence) in the ableist talk of normalcy, normalisation and humanness
    . Disability’s truth-claims are dependent upon discourses of ableism for their very legitimisation.//

    //Internalized oppression is not the cause of our mistreatment; it is the result of our mistreatment. It would not exist without the real external oppression that forms the social climate in which we exist. Once oppression has been internalized, little force is needed to keep us submissive. We harbour inside ourselves the pain and the memories, the fears and the confusions, the negative self-images and the low expectations, turning them into weapons with which to re-injure ourselves, every day of our lives.  (Marks, 1999, p. 25)
    ..it is important to pause and think about the nature of harm that disabled people experience and the very concept of harm
    . For instance, is it the impairment itself that causes the harm? If so, we should focus on reducing or indeed eliminating the impairment, which is a common perspective. Such a view interprets disability as harmful in and of itself. In contrast, there is a view among some disabled people that whilst impairments at times cause inconvenience, tiredness and even pain, the primary source of harm is external to the person, situated in the realm of belief.//

    //From the moment a child is born, he/she emerges into a world where he/she receives messages that to be disabled is to be less than, a world where disability may be tolerated
    but in the final instance, is inherently negative. We are all, regardless of our status, shaped and formed by the politics of ableism... One assumption underpinning my argument is that ableism is essentially harmful and, instead of providing solace to disabled people, it actually involves practices and attitudes that induce other forms of impairment and injury.

    The way you see me, it’s not me, not the real me. You see the shambling, the stumbling, the lunge, and you don’t see me. Except for the feet, I’m almost you. But most of all, I’d like a chance to show you the way I see myself, the way I know I am. It’s not that bad once you get used to it. Please, just a day, no, not that – a minute, a second, a second – that’s all I need, a second – you would all love me.  (Bell, 2000, p. 285)//

    //Delgado and Stefancic (2000) declared,

    Because racism is an ingrained feature of our landscape, it looks ordinary and natural to persons in the culture. Formal equal opportunity – rules and laws that insists in treating blacks and whites (for example) alike – can thus remedy only the more extreme and  shocking forms of injustice. . . .
    It can do little about the business-asusual forms of racism that people of color confront everyday and that account for much misery, alienation, and despair.
    Applying similar reasoning to the state of disablement, the ‘business-asusual’ forms of ableism are so absorbed into the function of Western societies that ableism as a site of social theorisation (even within critical disability studies) represents the last frontier of inquiry. Disability studies is still preoccupied with debating the distinctions between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’. Although there is recognition that the term disability can be both culturally and economically constructed, the state of impairment remains under theorised. .. Cultural practices of shaping bodies can affect the aetiology of ‘typical’ human functioning. The ranking of bodies occurs through dividing and partitioning according to clear-cut descriptors of ‘race’ ‘gender’, ‘caste’ and ‘disability’ (Mitchell & Snyder, 2003). Gordon and Rosenblum (2001) suggested that similar approaches to disability, as have been applied to race, might lead to new and productive sites of engagement. They argued that there are likenesses and distinctions in the ways disabled people and other stigmatised groups are named, enumerated, dis-enumerated, partitioned and denied attributes valued in the culture.//

    //Hahn (1986) testified that there was a close link between the attitude of paternalism, the subordination of disabled people and the ‘interests’ of ableism:

    Paternalism enables the dominant elements of a society to express profound and sincere sympathy for the members of a minority group while, at the same time, keeping them in a position of social and economic subordination. It has allowed the non-disabled to act as the protectors, guides, leaders, role models, and intermediates for disabled individuals who, like children, are often assumed to be helpless, dependent, asexual, economically unproductive, physically limited, emotional immature, and acceptable only when they are unobtrusive.//
    //..ableism as a conceptual tool, goes beyond procedures, structure, institutions and values of civil society, situates itself clearly within the histories
    of knowledge and is embedded deeply and subliminally within culture. Many people are familiar with the concepts of sexism and racism, to denote negative differentiation on the basis of sex or racial origin; but ableism is generally perceived as a strange and unfamiliar concept and it is important to refute a rigid understanding of ableism from the outset. The intention is not to propose ableism as another explanatory ‘grand narrative’, a universalised and systematised conception of disability oppression but rather highlight a convergence of networks of association that produce exclusionary categories and ontologies (i.e. ways of being human).//

    Wednesday, 1 August 2012

    Speaking out is NOT "Playing The Victim"

    Read this at Greta's Christina's blog and really had to agree:

    “Seems you’re making a catch-22: if people talk about it, they’re trying to be victims, but if people don’t talk about it, it doesn’t happen.”
    When people talk about oppression and marginalization and bigotry — racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, etc. — we often get caught in a particularly nasty Catch-22, beautifully summarized above. If we don’t talk about oppression and marginalization and bigotry… nobody will know about it, and it can and will be ignored. In fact, many people will assume that this particular form of oppression and marginalization and bigotry is now a thing of the past, and doesn’t even exist. If a certain amount of progress has been made in a certain area — sexism, for instance — many people will act as if the problem is entirely behind us, and we don’t have to worry about it, or think about it or, Loki forbid, change our behavior.

    But if we do talk about this oppression and marginalization and bigotry? We get accused of “playing the victim card.” We get accused of making up the marginalization, or exaggerating it, or going out of our way to look for it, or twisting innocent events to frame them in this narrative of victimhood, or trying to manipulate people into giving us our way by scoring sympathy points we haven’t earned. And not at all coincidentally, this once again results in the marginalization being made invisible: ignored, treated as if it either flat-out doesn’t exist or is too trivial to worry about.

    And THIS:

    And you know the thing that really galls me about this particular Catch-22? Aside from the whole “invisible” thing, I mean. The thing that really galls me is that speaking out against oppression is the opposite of victimhood. Speaking out against oppression is one of the first steps to claiming power. Speaking out against oppression takes strength, courage, a willingness to take flak. Speaking out against oppression can put you in harm’s way. Speaking out against oppression isn’t “playing the victim card” — it’s saying, “I am sick to fucking death of being a victim, and I am demanding that it stop.” (originally not underlined)

    So the question I have for people making this “victimhood” accusation: How, exactly, would you like marginalized people to proceed? Is there any possible way we can make oppression and marginalization and bigotry visible, which will meet with your approval?

    And why, precisely, do you think your approval matters? Why do you get to be the ones who decide which forms of oppression and marginalization and bigotry are important… and which ones are not? Why do you think that decision should be up to you?

    Apart from the fact you don't need anyone's approval, the last people whose agreement you would need in order to speak out about your "own" experience (oppression) are the ones who get annoyed by it. The ones most irritated by your speaking out are the ones contributing the least to changing the situation, if not propagating it.  

    Thursday, 26 July 2012

    A Little Dose of Cute

    Cat lovers and dog lovers often don't seem to go along very well. I'm somehwere in between both, with a slight tilt towards dogs in case of grown up ones. But when it come to puppies and kittens, there's no meaning for the question of who's cuter. Both of them are adorably cuutee!! Hope you enjoy these little dose of heart-stealing moments from my favourite mammals.

    Kittie calls first

    "Did someone mention me?"

    "What, you folks still fighting? Silly humans."