Sunday, 2 September 2012

Fighting in the disability movement

So, look. There are a lot of rucks going on inside the disability movement at the moment: arguments breaking out, people blocking other people on Twitter, not-so-subtle digs in articles and blog posts...the list goes on.

I don't know anyone who likes it like this. Most people I've heard from hate it, as I do.

Many things contribute, I think. But in happier times, when we weren't being assailed by the Coalition's attacks on the jobs, incomes and even lives of many disabled people, we wouldn't be trying to pull together in one movement. There are many of us within the anti-Coaltion, anti-WRB movement who would otherwise be fighting and leading our own campaigns. We like to be in charge. We find it difficult to be told we're wrong. (And yes, before you all tell me, I'm fully aware that I'm as guilty of that as anyone else!)

And many of us operate on a hair-trigger anyway: quite aside from the aforementioned Coalition actions, things like pain, fatigue, and other effects of our impairments can have a huge impact. Then there's family issues, again potentially so stressful and painful.

And if you're putting yourself "out there" on social media, you tend to attract trolls: no-marks with nothing better to do than hurl abuse, and who don't care that there's a real person at the other end. The sensible thing to do, of course, is to block them. But people like us don't like not getting the last word....

So what can we do? These are my ideas - grateful for any more (but no obscenities please ;-)
  1. Try to remember who the common enemy is! Hopefully this will get a bit easier once the summer recess is over and they're back in session.
  2. If you feel yourself losing your temper, take 10 seconds before hitting Enter. Could the person at the other end of the Twitterchute feel just as bad as you? Almost certainly!
  3. Remember to disagree with the opinion, not the person.
  4. It can be hard to tell somebody's mood in writing. Did they mean that as a joke? Sarcastically? Sod's Law says that inevitably we'll take things the wrong way!
  5. Block trolls. Early and resoundingly. Don't let them wind you up.
  6. Finally, we have to support each other, and pull together. We need everyone for this battle.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" ~ Helen Keller 

 Now, if I could only learn to take my own advice...

Edited to add: This excellent post by @markoneinfour looks at these issues from a specifically mental health perspective.


  1. I know some people don't like religion being dragged into things, but this isn't something that's a matter of faith... I'm going to quote Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Advices and Queries number 17, and I'm doing so because I think it's good advice outside of any religious context. If you don't believe in any sort of God, edit it in your mind appropriately. Goodness, "the divine", whatever. Plenty of us Quakers do that mentally all the time - I don't believe in any God in the usual sense of that term, for instance.

    "Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people's opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken."

    I find those principles very useful in dealing with differences between people who are trying to work together, especially when I'm one of the people involved.

    I'm not preaching it as something that people should do because it's any sort of holy writ - it isn't even that to Quakers. It is, instead, advice that Quakers have corporately come to through our collective experiences. I think it's advice that's useful outside of Quaker contexts as well.

  2. I have watched people blow up over the past year and a half over and over again...and I think it's worth people remembering that no-one speaks for everyone. We can only speak for ourselves, individually. I've seen so many accusations about how one group isn't speaking for "all" the disabled, or how they should be speaking for "all" the disabled. I've seen people take potshots because they're "old hands" and don't want anyone else new "on the bandwaggon". It's all getting a bit ridiculous now.

    I'm not really about the "solidarity", and I've been rather quiet through the whole rash of angst and woe I've been seeing because I know futility when I see it. There is no way we are going to be a single, unified force because, quite honestly, we're all too different. Such is Man. I can't help but think of the Occupy movement's women being told not to report rapes in order to not "divide the movement".

    I know the context may seem severe compared to bickering online, but in my view if people disagree strongly with any portion of the movement, then their time would be better suited to finding another way, their own way, one they agree with, rather than trying to persuade others they are doing it wrong. I think this needs to be something to keep very much in the forefront of our minds...not all aspects of the movement are going to appeal to everyone. And that's fine. The end result is something is being done; and that was better than nothing.

    May each find what works for them, and spends their energy upon it. It's better than the alternative.

  3. I didn't see the original comment that started all this off, but I understand that the author misunderstood and apologised to the people he had offended (I did see that bit) and has since had to deal with an awful lot of hate tweets long after that. He also suffers from depression and regularly posts series of tweets saying that his life is futile or whatever, so people should think about that before they have a go at him. All this today was about that one tweet - there is no religious war going on. People should just cool off.

  4. I think it would be best if people avoided discussing the specific incidents in question. It's all quite complicated, and little could be gained (and much lost) by rehashing it all now.

  5. As Sam says, I think it's best to avoid specifics. My post wasn't just about today's events, anyway.

  6. Demonstrates how we are all in it together and the uncertain times we are in and how at the end of the day the best should be out there for every sick/ disabled person and their carers but it is just not and we all can see the backward steps this Gov is making. Personally it is not surprising this is happening but if Gov just took note of twitter they would easily see what the mood of the country is in and perhaps act now instead of later when more cuts come in and unrest that comes with it.
    Myself I suffer brain fog and often make wrong points, decisions! Can easily upset some one and think "oh no , not again".....we all know it's really hard, and that is the part we can not disagree with.

  7. Great article. Lots of good advice for interacting online in general. I have a really hard time with just getting up and taking a break when something that I read online gets me really wound up and I want to lash out back...but I'm working on it. I'm much better at than I used to be. Trying to remember that the other person may really be struggling helps.

  8. Good post. So true - most is down to ignorance of what is going on and an unwillingness to assess all the available evidence - that apart when things are just plain wrong follow the money.

    Keep fighting.