[nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our Image

John G. Heim jheim at math.wisc.edu
Thu Dec 18 22:25:13 UTC 2008

Yeah, I hope I am proving the point of those who disagree with the movie. 
Because I'm one of them.

Just so we're clear... I myself do not believe that going bblind is a 
disaster. I am claiming that that is what the movie says.

I don't buy the "it's just a metaphor" argument. The reason is that a 
metaphor is by nature a comparison. "All the world's a stage," is the 
classic metaphor. Well, this movie says, "Going blind is a disaster." That's 
the metaphor it uses.

I think the writer and movie producer are boneheads to put it mildly. I 
mean, if they had said, "Well, we're sorry we had to make you look stupid 
but we figure our message is more important." Well, okay. fine. But they 
don't even seem to get why their metaphor might be offensive.

Again, my logic as to why it's offensive... You wouldn't make a movie about 
what happens if people get a disease that makes their right arm fall off and 
then all the people who already were left handed take over. No, it has to be 
something people think would be bad enough to make them helpless. Enter the 
blindness metaphor.
PS: I didn't post 12 copies of my first message in this thread. The 
listserve did that.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Hingson" <info at michaelhingson.com>
To: "'NFB Talk Mailing List'" <nfb-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 12:00 PM
Subject: Re: [nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective,The 
Protests Harm Our Image

> Jon,
> You have just proved the point of those who disagree with the movie and 
> thus
> react to it.  Is it a disaster to lose your sight because you can't take
> care of yourself?  It is if you do not learn how to cope with something 
> you
> had and then lost.  However, in our society we have redundancies all over
> the place except for such things as losing a sense or ability.
> To promulgate that myth is objectionable to many who know better.  It is a
> myth to believe that blindness needs to be a disaster.  It is only such
> because the existing perception is that blindness is the end of the world.
> The facts say otherwise and it is important to make sure people have the
> facts.
>            Michael Hingson,
> President,
> The Michael Hingson Group
> 84 Bahama Reef
> Novato, CA 94949
> Phone Direct number (415) 827-4084
> Fax number (415) 883-6220
> Mobile/Pager (888) 965-9191
> Email info at michaelhingson.com <
> mailto:info at michaelhingson.com>
> For information on Michael's speaking topics, his availability, and his
> consulting services on Diversity and Access Technology for blind persons
> please visit <
> http://www.michaelhingson.com>
> For information on Guide Dogs for the Blind please visit <
> http://www.guidedogs.com>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
> Behalf Of John G. Heim
> Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:19 AM
> To: NFB Talk Mailing List
> Subject: Re: [nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective, The
> Protests Harm Our Image
> Well, if we're going to talk about that movie again, I'd like to point out
> that the epidemic could *not* just as easily have been anything else.  You
> wouldn't have a movie where people got locked up and were unable to take
> care of themselves if they had a disease that cause their right arm to 
> fall
> off or something.
> The movie's whole point is that losing your sight is a disaster. You can't
> take care of yourself if you go blind. Otherwise, the movie wouldn't make
> any sense.
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Sherri" <flmom2006 at gmail.com>
> To: "Nfbf Leaders" <nfbf-leaders at yahoogroups.com>
> Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 7:11 AM
> Subject: [nfb-talk] Fw: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective,The 
> Protests
> Harm Our Image
>> I'm just passing this along, because I for the most part agree with her
>> perspective., though I'll probably incur someone's wrath for doing so.
>> *smile.
>> Sherri
>>> From: Penny Reeder <penny.reeder at gmail.com
>>> Subject: [leadership] Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our
>>> Image
>>> Dear ACB Leaders,
>>> Here's a copy of my latest blog at "Penny for Your Thoughts," on
>>> GettingHired.com.  If you decide to circulate what I wrote, please
>>> include the link, as follows:
> http://community.gettinghired.com/blogs/pennyforyourthoughts/archive/2008/12
> /16/blindness-and-perspective-the-protests-harm-our-image.aspx
>>> Blindness and Perspective, The Protests Harm Our Image!
>>> Members of groups which call themselves "the organized blind" are 
>>> hopping
>>> mad.  It's
>>> been a tough year for them.  First it was the movie, "Blindness," that
>>> infuriated
>>> them.  Now, it's two skits on the December 13, broadcast of "Saturday
>>> Night Live."
>>> During October, many members of these groups protested against the 
>>> movie,
>>> "Blindness."
>>> "It portrays a terrible image of The Blind," organizers of the
>>> demonstrations against
>>> the film ranted.
>>> I guess it did.  Certainly those poor wretches who were struck, by 
>>> virtue
>>> of an epidemic
>>> that paralyzed a fictional Latin American city by making every citizen
>>> but one instantly
>>> blind, didn't cope very gracefully, or graciously, with their instant
>>> disability.
>>> The newly blind protagonists couldn't manage even the simplest tasks.
>>> Fear and repression
>>> were the government's response, and quarantine.  And those
>>> blind-from-birth  people
>>> who already knew how to live independently were transformed into
>>> society's criminal
>>> element.  They had an extortion racket going on in the quarantine
>>> facility, and that
>>> was just the least offensive aspect of the ways they violated the
>>> newly-blind  detainees.
>>> It was a grim portrait of an epidemic, but as a blind person, I did not
>>> find the
>>> specific portrayal of disability in the book, "Blindness," which I read,
>>> or the movie,
>>> for which, I have to admit for the sake of full disclosure, I saw only
>>> the previews,
>>> offensive. I don't think that the blind men and women of the book or the
>>> film say
>>> anything about me or the other people I know who are blind.  I think the
>>> novel by
>>> Jose Saramago,is a brilliant portrayal of a society paralyzed by terror,
>>> and the
>>> epidemic of blindness could just as easily have been an epidemic of
>>> instant paralysis,
>>> or speechlessness, or swine flu, or extreme paranoia.  How would any of
>>> us react
>>> to a deadly or disabling or terrifying epidemic?  How would our
>>> government respond?
>>> What would we let the authorities get away with?  These are the 
>>> questions
>>> that the
>>> Nobel-prize winning author engendered for readers of his compelling
>>> novel.  These
>>> are the questions I asked myself, as I read the book, and later as I
>>> thought about
>>> the movie, and the organized demonstrations against the film and 
>>> theaters
>>> showing
>>> it.
>>> I found their demands for censorship to be an assault against many of 
>>> the
>>> values
>>> and freedoms in which I believe, and I thought the organizations and
>>> people who demanded
>>> that the movie theaters refrain from showing the film were 
>>> embarrassingly
>>> narrow-minded,
>>> and that they did nothing to improve society's image of people who are
>>> blind or the
>>> disability of blindness.  They are not speaking for me, I told anyone 
>>> who
>>> knew about
>>> the demonstrators, or anyone who asked what I thought.
>>> Now, it's "Saturday Night Live" that has inspired the wrath of many in
>>> the so-called
>>> movement of the organized blind.  SNL, apparently searching around for
>>> someone new,
>>> to replace Sarah Palin as an object for humorous exaggeration, chose
>>> David Patterson,
>>> the Governor of New York, who happens to be legally blind.  In addition
>>> to addressing
>>> telling questions of the day like who will be replacing Hillary Clinton
>>> as senator
>>> for New York State, and what can repair a self destructive economy, they
>>> focused
>>> on his blindness as a suitable topic for typical SNL ridicule.  The
>>> skits - there
>>> were two on last Saturday's SNL - damage our image, the protestors
>>> complain.  The
>>> writers and the cast portrayed Patterson as incompetent, and as a
>>> buffoon, that's
>>> what they say.  Well, maybe they did, but here again, I part company 
>>> with
>>> my enraged
>>> colleagues who claim to speak for everyone who is blind.  I thought both
>>> skits were
>>> funny.
>>> When Patterson held up a printed chart, upside down, I laughed-because I
>>> have done
>>> the same thing countless times.  Better to laugh than to cry, or pretend
>>> it never
>>> happens, or regret that it does, or berate myself for something over
>>> which I have
>>> no control!  Sure, if I've had time to prepare for a presentation, I'll
>>> mark the
>>> top of a printed chart with a paper clip or a staple or figure out some
>>> way to keep
>>> from displaying it upside down, or backwards.  But, if I haven't had 
>>> time
>>> to prepare
>>> in advance, I'm just as likely to hand you a printed sheet of paper
>>> upside down as
>>> right side up, or with the print side down.  So what!  It doesn't say
>>> anything about
>>> my character or my competence, and the best way to respond graciously is
>>> to see the
>>> humor in the incident and move on!
>>> I'll bet that David Patterson, the real Governor Patterson,  does just
>>> that when
>>> something similar happens to him in the course of his real life.
>>> In the second skit, Patterson wanders in front of the camera, spoiling
>>> the shot.
>>> Of course, he doesn't realize what he's done, and the pretend host of 
>>> the
>>> pretend
>>> "Week End Update" doesn't know what to do either.  "Just keep walking I
>>> guess," she
>>> says with a mixture of confusion and annoyance and regret.
>>> Not funny, those people who are blind with the huge sense of personal
>>> effrontery
>>> and outrage say!  You can't portray one of us that way!
>>> Why not?  Again, I hate to admit it, but this kind of thing can happen 
>>> to
>>> a person
>>> who can't see with alarming frequency.  Or is it just me?
>>> I live near Washington, DC.  That means that every once in a while, I
>>> visit one of
>>> the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, or one of the monuments on 
>>> the
>>> Mall, and
>>> it happens every so often that my guide dog and I, walking down the
>>> sidewalk in front
>>> of a famous monument, or waiting to meet a family member or a friend
>>> outside a famous
>>> building find that we're in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You need
>>> to move,
>>> a sighted companion might murmur, and then, by way of explanation, say,
>>> "You're in
>>> the way.  They're trying to take a picture."
>>> So, I smile and tell the family group trying to create a Washington
>>> memory that I'm
>>> sorry, and I move.  That's it.  No big deal and no problem!  An
>>> occurrence like that
>>> says nothing about my ability to walk around independently or my
>>> awareness of my
>>> environment, or my ability to get a job, or to do a job.  (Certainly I'm
>>> not applying
>>> to be a truck driver!)
>>> The news releases from the blindness organizations, and the angry op ed
>>> pieces say
>>> much less about SNL's understanding of what it means to be blind than
>>> they say about
>>> their own inability to see humor in the ordinary, sometimes a little
>>> annoying happenstances
>>> that occur because people who are blind really cannot see.  Again, I 
>>> say,
>>> they are
>>> not speaking for me!
>>> Am I disloyal to the other members of the community of people who are
>>> blind because,
>>> when I was a kid,  I used to laugh at Mr. Magoo?  He always reminded me
>>> of myself,
>>> and it always tickled me when he crashed into a wall or misconstrued the
>>> letters
>>> on a label!  (I might have laughed even more frequently if the cartoons
>>> had included
>>> a video description track.)
>>> Maybe I'm a jerk because I used to love "Head Wound Harry," in an 
>>> earlier
>>> incarnation
>>> of SNL?  Certainly I wouldn't laugh at a real person with a real head
>>> wound, but
>>> the SNL exaggeration always made me laugh.
>>> That doesn't mean that I wouldn't help a real person with a real head
>>> wound, any
>>> more than I think it would be okay to judge a blind person who wanders 
>>> in
>>> front of
>>> a TV camera as incapable of functioning effectively or independently in
>>> society.
>>> I know that when I hand a colleague a printed piece of paper upside down
>>> that that
>>> person will judge me on the basis of the words I wrote on that sheet of
>>> paper, not
>>> on the basis of my not being able to physically see the print on the
>>> page!
>>> It seems to me that when they present themselves as humorless and
>>> judgmental and
>>> carrying huge chips on their collective shoulders, people who are blind,
>>> and demonstrate
>>> against an acclaimed novel, or a cartoon character who can't see very
>>> well, or a
>>> film where blindness serves as a metaphor for a societal flaw, or a skit
>>> on SNL,
>>> do those of us who are blind much more harm than they change opinions or
>>> modify attitudes
>>> in the people who are the objects of their outrage.  Discrimination on
>>> the basis
>>> of disability is inexcusable, the unemployment rate for people who are
>>> blind is six
>>> times the unemployment rate for people who are not blind (or at least,
>>> that's what
>>> David Patterson said when talking to reporters the night after the
>>> Saturday Night
>>> Live skits), and the attitudes and statistical reality that fact
>>> describes reflect
>>> a situation that is truly terrible for many people who are blind.  But,
>>> it is a sense
>>> of humor as well as a shared appreciation for everything that makes all
>>> of us, disabled
>>> and non-disabled, human that provides a way for us to cope with life as
>>> we know it,
>>> and a starting point for working toward shared goals, including full
>>> employment.
>>> When an organization that claims to represent "the blind" defines a
>>> novel, or a cartoon
>>> character, or a skit on "Saturday Night Live" as a personal attack
>>> against every
>>> person who is blind and fails to find humor in the minor scenarios that
>>> result, not
>>> from any incompetence, but rather from the very circumstance of not 
>>> being
>>> able to
>>> see, then, as a class of people, they risk being labeled quick to anger,
>>> humorless,
>>> and unlikable.  If people run the other way when they see us coming, if
>>> they feel
>>> like they have to apologize for using ordinary words like "see" or
>>> "look," and if
>>> they would just as soon hang out in places where we aren't so they won't
>>> have to
>>> worry about saying the wrong thing or laughing at the wrong joke, then
>>> it's unlikely
>>> that they will place people who are blind very high on anyone's list of
>>> people who
>>> are employable.
>>> The blindness organizations are fond of describing the disability of
>>> blindness as
>>> just one characteristic.  It's no different than hair color, or height,
>>> or ethnicity,
>>> I have heard their spokespeople explain, and to a certain extent, I
>>> agree. It's
>>> not my blindness that defines who I am, it's my capabilities, my
>>> intellect, my ability
>>> to relate to other people.
>>> It's not my blindness that defines me, but that blindness is an aspect 
>>> of
>>> who I am
>>> that is a little more important than the color of my hair, because it is
>>> my blindness
>>> that requires my employer to accommodate my need for a screen reader on
>>> the computer,
>>> it is my blindness that excuses behavior that would be described as
>>> rude - like walking
>>> through the middle of a photo shoot - unless the people I've
>>> inconvenienced realize
>>> that I did that because I didn't see what they were doing.  It's my
>>> blindness that
>>> causes me to hand you a sheet of paper upside down or backwards.  You
>>> need to know
>>> that I can't see so you will understand, and I need to acknowledge that
>>> error by
>>> laughing about the inadvertent slip-up, and letting you know that I
>>> understand why
>>> you have momentarily been taken aback.  It's our mutual acknowledgement
>>> of my blindness
>>> that allows both of us to get beyond an uncomfortable situation, and 
>>> it's
>>> the humor
>>> that lets both of us move beyond the moment of discomfort and get back 
>>> to
>>> the interaction
>>> that's important.
>>> So much analysis about two little skits, you're probably saying.  And, I
>>> agree.
>>> The so-called organized blind need to understand that it is our 
>>> blindness
>>> that engenders
>>> those momentarily uncomfortable situations for all of us and for sighted
>>> people who
>>> interact with us, and it is an acknowledgement of what it means to be
>>> blind, i.e.,
>>> that we can't actually see, and a sense of humor that can save the day
>>> and allow
>>> everyone to move forward together to solve the real problems that the
>>> characteristic
>>> of blindness ought not to engender, problems like discrimination, lack 
>>> of
>>> opportunity
>>> for education, or social inclusion, and an unemployment rate that really
>>> is six times
>>> higher than the jobless rate for people who can see.
>>> Posted
>>> Dec 16 2008, 01:44 PM
>>> For other Blog postings at Penny for Your Thoughts, visit:
>>> http://community.gettinghired.com.
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