“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The moral "where with all"

While in Cape Town at the IASSID conference, I attended two presentation relative to personhood of people with disabilities, in particular intellectual disabilities. One presenter quoted Dr. Hans Reinders using the phrase "precarious personhood." It is a good phrase, pointing to the tenuous nature of the lives of many people around the world.

A second presenter used the phrase "traditional moral philosophy" as kind of the point of appeal for personhood, implying that traditional moral philosophy will bring us to the awakening we need to love our brothers and sisters in spite of their perceived, negative, personal characteristics. I felt like she was Peter Pan asking me to throw myself out the window because she says I can fly. I raised the question, "If just about everywhere in the world, pretty much forever, people have been excluded on the basis of their disability, to what traditional moral philosophy are you appealing? Our traditions have failed us at every turn. Our secular and at times religiously informed moral values have been traditionally unhelpful and problematic. To imply otherwise is to evidence an intellectual disability. You are therefore appealing to a morality that is basically not present." Strangely, she agreed.

Such morality is not present in the majority of parents until a child with a disability is born to them and even then not always so. It is not present in schools where special education teachers force inclusion on children but do not live lives inclusive of their own peers with intellectual disabilities. Our only hope is to appeal to settings where the morality we desire is present although perhaps dormant in many situations like the Christian church. We have the opportunity to lead the way in the development of values that will value people with disabilities. In many ways it is not natural for societies to have such values...they must be taught. Or better yet, they must be modeled by us for society because we as Christians can at times talk a good game, but can't back it up. At least not yet, and for sure not universally. Pockets of brilliance do not an argument make, however, but as the pockets grow, more will want to reflect what they see.


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