Monday, September 26, 2005

not being brave, just being 

I’ve been thinking about those statues of disabled children you used to see on the high street; they was a blind boy and another with calipers and a girl with a cane. They all had the same humbrol pinkey beige skin you got with home model kits and they all had a slot in their heads to feed them money. I’ve got a postcard of roadside saints in ireland; mary has the same colour skin and the same impassive stare; imploring and accusing at the same time.

If you gave your sweet shop change to these poor little frozen children, with mournful eyes and silent tears then you were a good person. You were lucky to be able to see where to put your penny and could feel smug that every little helps before you went home to tea.

I assumed they had gone because of progress; a rejection of that patronising, pitiful cap in hand bullshit. It belongs to another age, not a world that values individuals and preaches that we can all be special.

Unfortunately that’s not entirely true. Those statues hold a lot of money and the modern world knows no shame. They were easy targets for thieves and so the poor ickle chillen are hiding from the bad men that want to kidnap them.

I got to thinking about where they were; in my minds eye the terracotta army have a rival. I googled away and asked around; aside from a brief sighting in a colour supplement (a disabled boy in the corner of some trendy artists flat) nobody knew where the figures had all gone.

I’m glad we don’t have to pass those children anymore but still I felt uneasy. Mostly there’s only three kinds of disabled people you see in the media: pitiful, evil and fearful or super heroic and inspirational. They are all extraordinary and all extraordinarily damaging. They all mean something bad and something abnormal and it’s not enough.

When I was a child I wore calipers and spaz was the playground taunt of choice. It sounds sick now I know but I used to love seeing the boy outside the paper shop; he was the only person I ever saw who looked a bit like me. I’m struggling to think about who my role models would be now; the invisibility is all wrapped up in eugenics and scientific claptrap but there is still an aching screaming gap in our collective consciousness.

That’s why, despite everything, I’m just a little bit sad you don’t see those statues anymore, pathetic and damaging as they are. I miss the boy because when I was lonely he was my friend.


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