[nfb-talk] New THOUGHT PROVOKER #141- A New Era Coming

Kathleen Millhoff kmillhoff at gmail.com
Sat Jan 17 04:11:24 UTC 2009

On 1/15/09, Robert Newman <newmanrl at cox.net> wrote:
> NFBtalk members
> RE:  A New Era Coming
> My Anthropology 101 class had a small section on the historical study of
> Mankind's response to disability. This TP is written to express that fact of
> our history and to ask about the future. Check it out! If you have not read
> the PROVOKER, it follows.  Recall that I collect responses and post them
> upon my web site for all the WWW to read and learn from and that URL is-
> Http://thoughtprovoker.info <http://thoughtprovoker.info/>   If you wish to
> receive THOUGHT PROVOKERS sent directly to you, just write me and ask, at-
> newmanrl at cox.net
> A New Era Coming
> Is there a new era coming in how the blind are treated? Blindness has been
> part of the human experience since Man was staring across the veldt for his
> next meal and studies of our history show that Man's reaction to blindness
> and disability in general has changed as we have. It has been determined
> that to date there have been four identifiable eras for how the blind have
> been treated. They are: 1. Extermination, 2. Persecution, 3.
> Institutionalization, and 4. Normalization.
> Each era's description below will provide a brief explanation of Mankind's
> status in relation to the world in which we lived and what society's general
> response was to blindness then. And yes, keep in mind that some aspects of
> each of the earlier eras linger into the next era and to the present day.
> After considering my explanations, we will see how you view my thought
> provoking question, is a new era coming and, if so, what are the specific
> indicators and what do you think this new era should be called?
> 1.	The Era of Extermination. During Man's earliest times when human
> societies were just forming, we were still essentially hunters and
> gatherers. Life was tough; we lived from hand to mouth, each day required us
> to seek out food and shelter. Our resources were meager, all members of the
> group had to work together to insure the survival of the clan. When times
> got tough, the general rule was that the weak were exterminated to ensure
> the survival of the clan. The harsh measures spared no one. A child that was
> born blind was placed out on the hillside to die, exposed to the wild
> animals and weather. An adult that was injured or became blind through
> accident or aging would be expected to go into the wilderness and unburden
> the clan from caring for him or her.
> 	2.	The Era of Persecution. As Mankind became more
> sophisticated, we increased the group's resources to handle our basic needs.
> we developed agriculture to assure our food supply. We built structures to
> live in and gathered in cities for mutual assistance. We invented armies to
> protect us, educational systems to train us, medicine to care for our
> health. Life was easier and the blind were no longer seen as a threat to
> survival of the group, so they were allowed to live. However, because the
> blind were seen as weak, not capable of fully participating in the needs of
> the community, whether protecting it with arms, farming, or learning a
> skilled trade as a craftsman, the general rule for the blind was that you
> were allowed to live, but you had no rights. Many of the blind were
> outcasts, relegated to a life of begging on the streets, seen as objects of
> pity, sometimes made fun of and at times preyed upon.
> 	3.	The Era of Institutionalization. Later yet in time, when the
> world became more settled, societies more sophisticated, and resources more
> abundant, some of the blind were taken in and cared for by charitable
> organizations. These earliest facilities were established in the religious
> abbeys of the Middle Ages, being called alms houses or asylums for the
> blind. It was in these early establishments that the blind were first
> provided training in daily living skills and taught crafts, with their
> produce sold to pay their keep. Later, actual schools for the blind were
> established. It was in these schools that a few training opportunities for
> trades were offered as careers- piano tuning, rug weaving, and chair caning
> for the men, sewing, rug weaving, and homemaking for women.
> 	4.	The Era of Normalization. This is our present time. This era
> began and grew as consumer groups made up of the blind put forth their own
> agendas for improving all aspects of life for the blind. Most blind school
> children attend class right alongside their sighted peers. Most societies
> now sponsor rehabilitation services to assist blind persons from birth to
> their senior years, including opportunities during their working years to
> enter educational training programs for trades, professional careers,
> business, or homemaking. Now the blind are employed in a wide variety of job
> positions in all classes of employment. Yet, even with our modern
> adaptations and techniques to enable blind children and adults to be equally
> competitive with sighted members of our society, the blind as a group still
> receive uncomfortable acceptance by the sighted public and a high incidence
> of discrimination in employment.
> 	5.	Is there a new era coming?
> Robert Leslie Newman
> Email- newmanrl at cox.net
> Http://www.thoughtprovoker.info
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The deeply entrenched attitudes about blindness we currently
experience are similar in many ways to the deeply entrenched feelings
of racism held by whites towards darker skinned peole, be they Native
American/First Nation, African American, or Asian. In fact,
linguistically, anyway, the concepts are linked; dark is negative,
blindness is darkness; language is an expression of thought and
likewise of states of being. As long as people perceive others who
differ from thenselves as inferior, negative, lacking, attitudes of
racism and similar attitudes about blindness will persist.  I haven't
got a parllel word for racism or nationalism as it might relate to
blindness, so, for this purpose, I'll just call it "orbism, meaning
the belief that a person's abilities , their personhodd, lies in the
presence of fully functioning orbs (eyes).  While we may be departing
the era of normalization and approaching the era of non-labelization
(the era when people are seen as human possessors of souls, differing
only in physical characteristics such as shortness, blindness,
kindness) or unkindness), we'll have the huge chasm of orbism to
breach.  Just as civil rights legislation did not shake the
foundations of racism, so also will the foundations of orbism not be
shaken by laws.  It's only education, including exposure, involvement,
awareness and hard work, that will alter perceptions and bring us to a
new era.  We've elected a blind governor (I know he wasn't actually
originally elected to the post), and an African -American president.
It might feel a lot like normalization; it won't go much beyond that
until hearts and minds are altered.  We can start at home and work on
our own backyards.  We can consider our own perceptions, determine
where adjustments are needed, and spread that more than positive
feeling that all of us our in this human family together, riding the
same spacecraft, heading for the same outcome. - best, kat
kathy millhoff

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