Welcome to another Bear Essentials article where we divert from our coffee focus, and look at issues surrounding life and accessibility.
This time I want to talk about judgement, not in the great and global sense, but rather in the specific case of disability. Even more specifically I am going to start with the way it relates to my personal illness and my life, then I am going to talk about what I think of this.
In recent weeks I have come across a particular viewpoint from quarters that will remain respectfully (ah how ironic that word choice is in this moment) anonymous. You see, it has come to my attention that a number of people have read my work here, looked over our social media feeds and come to a very specific conclusion…
“I’m pretty sure Bear isn’t actually ill. I mean look at all that stuff on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and he’s writing articles and consulting with companies. So really can he be paralysed all that time like he says?”-I am of course paraphrasing, for a number of very sound reasons.
Right of Reply or Not?
It’s pretty hard for me to write a response to this sort of thing. Indeed I wasn’t 100% certain that I even would, and it’s taken a lot of reflection to get to a place where I think I can even address it clearly. My first response was a deep seated mixture of anger, sadness and fear. But let’s not put the cart before the horse, I will get to the emotional consequences, but first I want to address the point at issue.
If you were to read the statement above or one similar, and then just looked over the very well curated social media feeds connected to Bear Essentials, you might actually conclude it was a fair point. You would be very wrong, but I can see it, if it’s a really rainy day, and I squint… a lot. Let’s get direct, shall we.
Do I post a lot on Social Media?
Yes, or rather Bear Essentials does. As it goes, I don’t actually post on social media, really at all. Because that’s not my role here. While a lot gets posted about me on our feeds, I am fortunate that I don’t have to do that work myself.
Those of you with a background in writing and/or communication might well notice that the voice of Bear Essentials on Social Media seems different than the one you get here, and that’s because it is. My wife and Bear Essentials’ social media manager Em handles all of our accounts, she does this because our digital footprint is in many ways the lifeblood of what we do, and she understands that aspect of our business. That’s a part of her role for Bear Essentials, not mine.
So the idea that I spend a lot of time on various devices is a false one, but I can sort of see where it may come from.
Does Bear Essentials Social Media Seem Very Upbeat?
Again, yes. For a number of really good reasons. Those of you who have taken the time to read the work here, our posts and comments, or even met us in person will know that we make a point of not allowing the negative aspects of life to outweigh the positive. We use our presence and platform to promote a positive viewpoint, and to encourage inclusion and understanding.
Now that doesn’t mean we can’t or don’t talk about hard topics, or address the unpleasant aspects of life, try this one on for size to see what I mean. But we do so with a clear direction of travel. Bear Essentials was, is, and always will be a platform to champion the acceptance and inclusion of everyone, always. If you don’t share that perspective, we probably aren’t your kind of people.
You seem to do a lot?
Honestly. Yes. Yes I do. So sue me.
Ok, ok. So let me be a little less blunt, I do use my time to do what I can, and it’s not easy. But over more than five years of experience, I have learned how to manage my conditions to allow me to make time to do some sort of work. Back to some bluntness, right now, despite my efforts, It doesn’t come close to paying the bills. Not remotely. Indeed you could argue that with my illnesses I will never make a living independently, so why bother at all?
Well folks, I do this as much for my mental health and my passion for the subject, as I do for money. Yes I can command a decent rate as a consultant due to my knowledge and experience, but with limited time and unpredictable demand it’s not what you would call a going concern. But doing what I do, helps me to maintain my identity and sense of self worth. That is priceless and also my right.
The Emotional Elephant in the Room
So having addressed, as much as I care to, the clinical aspects of the issue, I will move on to talk about how I feel, and about the problems of the attitude that all this comes from.
I’m not sure that language can properly articulate the full range of emotions that come when you are confronted with the outright judgement, entitlement, bias and bigotry that comes with the viewpoint above.
Now let me be very clear, words are my tool box, and I am writing this piece very deliberately in the cold light of day. I chose the words above for a reason. I want anyone who has such confrontational responses to anyone facing disability, mental health concerns or any such challenges, to feel very, very uncomfortable. Because they should.
Saying what I paraphrased above, hurts those you aim it at. Hard. Moreover you have no right to do so, not ever.
Such sentiments demonstrate a fundamental belief that you have the right to judge another based on a snapshot. This is wrong. Plain and simple.
I considered, indeed even wrote a section for this piece that talks about why my statement is true. I explained how such a snapshot can be very misleading, I talked about the different contexts and perspectives of those who are disabled. Then I had a realisation. I don’t need to do that. Ever.
Or at least I damn well shouldn’t.
In the world in which we live, I should never feel that I have to prove, justify, expound on, much less fucking defend my disability (over 1,000 words before I swore, given the subject, I’m pretty proud of that). Yes when the need arises it’s my responsibility to communicate my needs see here to read all about that, but that’s not the same as being tried in an impromptu kangaroo court, by self entitled people who are only peripherally familiar with my world, no matter how close they see themselves as being to me. It’s not even close.
Is there a Point?
I can accept that some people may have read this piece and wonder if I am just venting, but I promise you I am not. I wanted to write this for a reason.
To teach a vital lesson. To call out a disturbingly pervasive thought cancer, that is devastating to people who have frankly, more than enough to deal with already.
I’d love to see this little piece of mine create some discussion, to see it allow people to see the reality of reflexive judgement.
I want you all, every person reading this, to take something from it. In fact I would very much like you all to share and reshare it. Because I believe it’s past time that we started to push even harder to see attitudes like this die the death they deserve.
So that’s me. Thanks for reading, take what you can, learn if you want, disregard if you must.
Above all, be well.
About Bear Essentials Coffee
Thanks, – Bear