Monday, November 25, 2013

Human = Human

Today I read this heartbreaking and fantastically honest article about poverty, disability, and value. Seriously you should read it!

Every op ed piece I read defending food stamps or other benefits bend over backwards to point out the majority of recipients are employed. The majority are good people. Good people work.
But I do not work. I am autistic, and being the autistic I am means I am real world, social model disabled. I do not work because I cannot. There are a dozen hypothetical ‘what if…’ or ‘should be…’ scenarios in which I could hold down a job, but that is not my reality.

Work and the willingness/ability to work is a shitty metric for how to value a human being. Actually scratch that, trying to ascribe value to humanity is fraught and dehumanizing.

But we do it every day in examples just like Bridget cites above. We do it every time we try to figure out if someone is a good/bad person. No one, however different or amoral they seem to be acting, can ever fail at being a person. I admit that there're people who's humanities I have trouble relating to because of my personal ethics and energy levels. But my failure to recognize their humanity doesn't mean they're not still very human.

Value and humanity have nothing to do with each other. A human is no more or less a human because of what they can or can't produce or do. When we treat people's capacity for productivity as a metric for value, we dehumanize and erase people who produce less.  Treating productive people as if they are more valuable is how we get the idea that so called geniuses are allowed to be assholes, or the notion that famous artists (like  Roman Polanski) should be absolved for their abuse & dehumanization others; as if the value of what they produce in some sick calculation, outweighs the humanity of those the abuse/dehumanize.

I've written about the falseness of work's supposed dignity-bestowing qualities. Reading Bridget's article today really hit home to me how misguided it is to think that "jobs, jobs, jobs" is the best and only answer to the problems of poverty.

Financial independence through "honest work" is too simple and inappropriate a goal for feminism or any other anti-oppression efforts. It throws people like Bridget under the bus completely and ignores unpaid forms of labor (like parenting). It also devalues community and family interdependence which have long been an invaluable survival resource for many poor people.

Jobs are not the (only) answers to the disempowerment of women (or any group). Employment fails to address the complexity of concerns faced by people who are unable or even unwilling to "work" in the traditional sense.

I'm personally at the intersection between sick and difficult to employ. I don't have the physical energy to work most jobs full time. Specifically I don't have the energy to work in most forms of education, direct action politics, social work, or customer service which are the only things I am qualified for/interested in. In addition to the problem of energy I also don't want to work full time on someone else's dream, even if it is a dream I believe in and want to collaborate on.

I have a regular commitment to and faith in my creative process as a writer. Writing is one of the few things I do consistently have energy for. I am sick today and still working on it. But it is work, albeit work not currently ascribed much value by our society.

My ability to do writing work consistently doesn't make a me a good person or even a good writer. It demonstrates my commitment and consistency (qualities prized by capitalism and the culture of productivity). And I don't deny that there is an impulse in me that encourages pride such consistency, but consciously, intellectually I know that the amount and quality of work I do has absolutely nothing to do with my worth as a person.

I'm still the same amount of human and that shit is invaluable.

No comments:

Post a Comment