Sunday, September 02, 2007

BATT: Against Pity

Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody poor
--William Blake (from The Human Abstract)

You'd think it was obvious, but clearly it's not obvious at all to some people ... Nobody needs pity. Nobody enjoys being pitied--no matter what is promised in exchange. There's a reason "Piss on Pity" is such a popular t-shirt in the disability rights movement.

But don't just take the t-shirt's word for it.... this antipathy to pity has a long, strong history. My favorite version is from George Sand (1804-1876, portrait at left), who experienced regular and intense bouts of despair (she wouldn't have called it depression, but we might today):
I implore you, Pylades, do not see me as a tragic figure, do not tell me it requires an appalling effort for me to sustain this cheerfulness. No, no! This is not a part I am playing, it is not a duty, it is not even calculated; it is an instinct and a need. (from Lettres d'un Voyageur, lettre 5)
Or try these lines from the diary of a young American southerner going blind in 1833:
You are sorry for me!!!
Eternal God! Am I then that thing
As to excite pity!
Give me deep scorn, without disguise,
Most rancorous hate, abhorrence
Any thing, but pity!
---Lines written in the diary of Joseph Lyons, Savannah GA (more about Lyons here)

Looking for more contemporary evidence against fundraisers that rely on pity? Check out all the other contributions to Blogging Against the Telethon, at Kara's place on Monday.

UPDATE: Kara's got the blogswarm up now--great turnout! But wait, there's more good news: Kara Sheridan is already on the schedule to host an upcoming edition of the Disability Blog Carnival (in October).

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Nobody needs pity" -- absolutely.


I did a blog on the telethon as well at http://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2007/09/03/why-deaf-people-should-boycott-jerrys-telethon/

If you choose to come look at my telethon post then I hope you'll also stay and look around at some of the posts I've done about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, which I think is another subject that people with disabilities should be up in arms about. And BLOGGING ABOUT!

Linda said...

Nor does conferring sainthood on the "disabled" or their families serve any useful purpose--seems profoundly linked to pity and to an equally insulting assumption that only saints can deal with any real challenges.
Linda

Kay Olson said...

Wonderful quotes, Penny.

For everyone you quote there are so very many depressing poems on impairment that always make me cringe. Thanks for providing some gems.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Hi -- I wanted to make sure you knew about the latest that is happening with Jerry and his, yes, humanitarian award:

Jerry Lewis, the man who runs the annual Telethon to raise money for people with muscular dystrophy in the US is about to receive a humanitarian award. Many people in the disability community is protesting this award because they feel that Jerry perpetuates and entrenches negative, harmful stereotypes toward people with disabilities. More about the petition campaign at: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

There is also a Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

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