I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them, we’ve all seen them: those posts on your Facebook feed that tell you about all those “feelgood” moments in the world. That one time a permanent cripple in a wheelchair got up and walked down the aisle of their daughter’s wedding. Oh, or that time that a bunch of school teachers combined their own annual leave and unused sick days to give to a fellow teacher, so that he could continue to spend time with his child diagnosed with cancer! How about that time when a hardware store used their products to create a walking aid for a physically disabled boy whose family couldn’t afford a real one?
Feels good to read, right? Warms the cockles of your heart. Except I’d like to take a moment of your time to read these headlines out to you again, in a different way. Let’s try something, you and me, and I want you to tell me how you feel after you’ve read these re-written headlines.
Permanently crippled person spends twenty minutes agonisingly walking down the aisle of child’s wedding, because of the shame and stigma associated with wheelchairs. (They return to a life in the wheelchair after this extremely painful endeavour that was, at no point, a benefit to them.)
That time a bunch of teachers sacrificed their own legally owed time off and gave it to their fellow teacher so he wouldn’t have to lose his job and risk his finances in order to spend time with his child who was just diagnosed with a debilitating and potentially life-threatening disease (that will also cost thousands upon thousands to treat, meaning if these teachers hadn’t done this, this father would simply have had to continue attending his job and sacrifice spending time with his child simply to ensure he could treat them.)
A hardware store builds a walking aid for a physically disabled child because their family simply cannot afford the egregious cost of medical-grade walkers; this walking aid could potentially break and cause great injury, and if it does not, then surely we need to question why official medical aids are so impossibly expensive when they are so integral to the less-abled of our society who already face so many other barriers.
Do these stories seem so feelgood to you now? I hope they didn’t, and that’s because they shouldn’t. These stories and thousands of others like them get dressed up in flowery language every single day to try and disguise the fact that this is not a society we should be promoting. This isn’t how a healthy society should work, but as long as we pretend stories like these ones are actually “feelgood” and “heartwarming” then you can avoid the implication that there is something inherently sick with our society.
Disabled people shouldn’t need to feel like they have to abandon their wheelchairs in order to take part in the weddings of their children – and wheelchairs shouldn’t be stigmatised at all. If somebody requires a wheelchair for their mobility then they should not, at any point, be asked to abandon their mobility in favour of something more “socially acceptable”. Similarly, if somebody has a family member diagnosed with something as devastating as cancer – a potentially terminal illness that costs huge amounts of money to treat – surely we shouldn’t expect that person to choose between keeping their job so they can, indeed, have that money they need to treat their family member or otherwise lose their job so they can spend time with them in the knowledge that, potentially, that time might now be cut very short. And why on earth is it a “feelgood” story that a physically disabled person, unable to access the care they need due to the paywall it is put behind, has to be given a ramshackle Macgyver walking aid so that they can simply exist and get around?
None of these stories are “feelgood” stories. They are all shocking revelations as to the poison that runs deep in society’s veins, and the fact that the media will spin these stories as anything else is even more chilling still. We have reached such a point, in our oh-so-advanced society, that the media will tell you these stories are good ones, as opposed to the biting revelation of the dystopia we’re living in.
Now I’m not saying that all feelgood stories are inherently bad, and I’m certainly not saying that they’re unnecessary. The opposite in fact; we have reached such a dystopian level of suffering in a society that only a few generations ago was thought to be the best it could be for its time, that feelgood stories are needed now more than ever to remind ourselves that good can be achieved as long as people work to achieve it. But, don’t you think we also set ourselves a dangerous precedence when “feelgood” stories sold to you are, when you look at them factually, a horrific catalogue of how toxic the world is and just how desperate people are starting to get? Don’t you think it’s not right at all, that something is very wrong in fact, when this is what the working class has to resort to in order to simply survive half the time, and that fat cat CEOs will see these stories and try to sell you the idea that these are ideals?
Because that is what you are being told, when these stories are presented as they are. That these nice, cute, heartwarming events are ideals we should strive for. And I don’t know about you… but I disagree entirely. Actually the opposite; these stories shouldn’t need to exist at all, and if they should exist, then they should be represented honestly for what they are: horror stories.