THE ADVANTAGE OF THE DISADVANTAGE...




     It was only a short piece, but it made me absolutely furious. A friend of mine read it to me. It was a chapter from a book, containing a collection of magazine columns, written by a female author, about her first encounter with a blind man. My friend wanted my opinion as a blind person myself.By the time she had finished reading, I was outraged. It's not really important that the author was Tamar, pseudonym for the late Dutch jewish writer Renate Rubinstein; it's her account of her encounter that counts. It could have happened anywhere, in one of the highly industrialized countries.



     The author receives a telephone call from a blind man, explaining that he works for a talking book library which has a project going on of recording fragments from books by the authors' own voices. An appointment is made for him to come to the author's home to do such a recording. If you ask me, there we have snag number one: since her caller is blind, the author has no suspicion about making a recording at home, of only fragments of her work, instead of doing a professional job in the library studios. But, blindness is noble, says Tamar. "The blind have something sacred about them", she writes. "Justice is blind", "seers are blind!". In other words: a blind man doesn't arouse suspicion!



     On the day and at the hour of the appointment, her blind caller rings the bell, in the company of "a friend", as the young lady is introduced to the author. After sitting down and having deposited his cassette recorder on the table before him, the noble blind man begins to talk.... about himself, about his blindness and how extraordinarily well he has adjusted to it. He doesn't seem in the least interested in her. He gives no explanation about the so-called recording project. The author even learns that he is a married man and has a couple of children.



     Curiously enough, the effect of his demonstration of egocentrism is that the author starts talking about her own problems, because she suffers from multiple sclerosis. To her own surprise, she finds herself in a game of trying to outbid each other with her blind guest, about their suffering and how well they cope with it. In the end even the young lady can't resist contributing her mite with a complaint about a pain in the elbow (which is probably due to her blind friend's steady grip, but the author doesn't realize that!).



     In the end, after a brief recording has finally been made too, the author's blind guest suddenly declares: "All right; now you have seen me, and I have just as much a right to see you. Please stand up!" Remember: the blind are sacred and this was the author's first encounter with a blind person, so she reacts the way most sighted people would in similar circumstances, when they are unacquainted with blindness. She does not question her guest's demand until after he has gone. She does stand up and her guest takes all advantage of the opportunity, looking, in his manner, all over her from hair to toes. Or, as the author puts it herself: "Slowly and with extraordinary sensitive fingers, he felt all of my face, my hair, my forehead, my temples, my cheeks, my mouth; then my neck, shoulders, breasts, -- 'oh, oh,' I said, like an old frump! -- ribs, hips, thighs; I found it very exciting!' Nevertheless she still asks herself, after her guest has gone, if he would dare to claim his right of the queen too?" Strangely enough, the question doesn't occur to her if he is in the habit of demanding his right of male persons as well.



     The advantage of the disadvantage, is the author's caption for the situation of her blind guest but unfortunately she does not analyze the matter any further. Indeed, many blind people take advantage of their disadvantage, or, perhaps more accurately put: they abuse of their handicap. In this case, we are confronted with a modern blind power attitude which is completely phony because its followers will never take their argument to its logical consequence, or else, they would also demand to "see" the wild beasts in the zoo, to mention but one example. I have a beautiful nest of a mother scorpion with a number of kids in my back yard and would gladly offer the author's guest to come and have a good look at them, and I bet he never saw such beauty before in his life and would have a long and stinging memory of them!



     As we have said elsewhere at many occasions: rights exist only as a consequence of responsibilities. Not even parents have a right to their children. They have the responsibility to educate them and form them into responsible human beings and as a consequence of that responsibility, they have the right to protect and direct them. Too many blind and visually impaired persons claim rights that do not exist because they are not prepared to accept the responsibilities without which there are no rights. Anyone wanting to hold a job, for instance, has to have the skills to do precisely that job and the punctuality to execute it. No other condition is a valid argument to get it. On the contrary: using one's handicap as an excuse to claim anything at all, not only degrades the individual who does so, to the status of an impudent beggar, but by virtue of psychological effect, gives cause to discriminatory attitudes towards the blind.



     Nobody will deny a beloved blind person the pleasure of seeing him or her, but that has not really anything to do with seeing, nor with rights but with giving of one's self.