Twitter absolutely destroyed all the surrounding context for this discussion, so I’m fixing it.

Blind Unfiltered is responding to this post, in which I said:

I’m not saying blind people shouldn’t attend to hygene. But claiming that sighted people will assume that all of us are smelly because they met one of us who happens to be is soft bigotry because it assumes that sighted people can’t treat us as individuals.

My response to their original follows.

Yes, it does happen. But where this becomes problematic is when those same sighted people aren’t seen as individuals, like when “if blind people do x thing then sighted people will” is deployed.

To continue this, and to get the necessaries out of the way, I have no doubt that the people cautioning other PWD with this sort of thing have the best of intentions. But either everybody is capable of making a choice to apply the specific to the general, or they aren’t. And assuming that sighted people will apply the specifics of a single interaction to an entire community, even for the sake of trying to improve the actions of others, is a denial of their ability to choose.

And I see it all the time, from this particular discussion about blind people and hygene, to the discussions about the conduct of dog handlers and just about every other discussion being had.

It’s all pretty ironic given the immediate leap to defend anyone accused of ableism and to attack the accusers.

There are absolutely individual sighted people who will assume that one blind person is all blind people. But there are also plenty of sighted people who make a point of not doing that.

Blindbeader wrote an excellent peace critiquing the use of privilege by blind people, which is definitely worth a read, especially if you consider yourself a part of what’s known as the disabled rights movement. I agree completely with what she’s saying, but for me, the post brings to mind a few other points. First, that we all have privilege of some kind, and second, while we should be careful about letting our own allow us to forget the lack of it by others, I think we need to look at how we encourage others to “check theirs”, as it were.

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, “Check your privilege,” not because I don’t think all of us need to be aware of how our upbringing, the environment we were raised in and live in, or the advantages we have in life can’t influence how we perceive others’ situations, but because of what it implies. To me, it implies that the person that phrase is being directed at has never looked outside their own bubble to consider what the speaker of that phrase may be going through. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true. After all, if we were all masters of empathy, the world wouldn’t be in the shape it’s in. But sometimes when we’re advocating, our self-righteousness gets in the way, and we mistake it for righteousness instead. I think we all should take a step back from time to time and look in the mirror. None of us can be perfect, but I believe if we displayed a little more empathy when advocating for our favorite cause, whatever that is, we’d get a lot more done with a lot less rancor attached. And we might even end up with a better society in the process.

If you wear rags, that’s what people see. If you array yourself in a fabulous ballgown–well, some will be resentful, but that’s a risk of moving through the world. The best part of putting on the ballgown is that its cut and color are your choice. You’re not waiting for someone else to discover you–you’ve already made that discovery for yourself.
Ilana C. Myer

This entire post is worth the read, but I think the above is the money quote. As women, or as people with disabilities, I think we tend to self-deprecate, and that can be detrimental to everything we’re trying to accomplish. Not many of us, whether as women or whether as disabled people, do a very good job of talking up our accomplishments, and that’s something I know I need to work on personally. Specifically within the disability community, the successful people do this very well, and I think, until we can learn to do this without thinking twice about it, those of us within said community need to make it a habbit to study the successful people, learn from what they do, and copy it until we’ve learned to talk about what we do without feeling like we’re being arrogant or self-absorbed. And obviously, we also need to make sure we don’t become arrogant or self-absorbed. Talking about our accomplishments is fine, even good, but we’ll also need to make sure we don’t become jerks in the process of shedding our self-deprication habbits.

Nachum Ish Gamzu was blind in both eyes, both arms and legs were amputated, and his entire body was covered in boils. He was lying in a dilapidated house, and the legs of his bed were resting in buckets of water, so that if ants tried to crawl up and bite him, they would not be able to. 

Once, his students wanted to remove his bed from the house and then afterwards remove some other vessels. He told them to remove the vessels first before removing him, because, “I can guarantee you that as long as I am in the house, the house will not fall.” And that’s exactly what happened: They removed the vessels, then his bed, and then the house collapsed. 

His students said to him: Rebbe! You are a righteous man! Why do you suffer so much? 

“I brought it upon myself,” he responded, “for one time I was traveling  to my father-in-law’s house, and my supplies were distributed on three donkeys. One donkey carried food, one carried drink, and the third carried delicacies. A poor man approached me and said, ‘Rabbi, sustain me!’ I replied, ‘Give me a minute to unload the donkey [and then I’ll give you something to eat].’ However, by the time I unloaded the donkey, the man passed away.

“I fell on his face and declared, ‘May my eyes, which had no compassion on your eyes, be blinded; may my hands, which had no compassion on your hands, be amputated; may my legs, which had no compassion on your legs, be amputated.’ And my mind did not rest until I said, ‘May my entire body be covered in boils.'”

His students said to him, “Woe to  us that we have seen you in this state!” He said, “Woe is me if you had not seen me in this state!”

The Talmud then inquires: Why was he called Nachum Ish Gamzu?

Because regardless of what happened, he would say, Gam zu l’tovah — this too is for the best. One time, the Jews wished to send a gift to the Roman emperor. They appointed Nachum to travel, since he was accustomed to miracles happening. They sent him with a chest full of jewels and pearls. On the way, he spent the evening in an inn, and while sleeping, the residents of the inn stole the jewels and replaced them with dirt. When he awoke the next morning, Nachum saw what had happened and said, Gam zu l’tovah. 

When he arrived at the emperor’s palace, they opened the chest and saw dirt. The emperor was angered and wanted to execute Nachum and his entourage, saying, “The Jews are mocking me.”

Nachum said, Gam zu l’tovah. 

Elijah the Prophet then appeared in the guise of one of the Roman ministers. He said, “Perhaps this dirt is the very same dirt of their father Abraham. When he threw dirt, it turned into swords, and when he threw straw, it turned into arrows.”

Intrigued by the possibility, the emperor decided to test the dirt, and attack a province that they had been unable to conquer. They threw some of the earth at their enemies, and they conquered that province. 

The emperor was so pleased with the miraculous powers of the dirt, that he filled Nachum’s chest with precious jewels and pearls and sent him on his way with great accord. 

On his way home, he once again stopped at the same inn. The residents asked, “What did you bring with you to the emperor that he bestowed upon you such great honor?” 

Nachum said, “That which I took from here, I brought there.”

The residents of the inn thought that the earth of the inn must have miraculous powers, so they demolished the building and brought the soil to the emperor, saying, “The earth that was brought here was from our property.” 

The emperor tested the dirt in battle, and found that it did not have miraculous powers, and he had them put to death.

This has always been one of my favorite stories from the Talmud. I think believing that things happen for the best doesn’t mean that whenever something bad happens, we should just roll over and say, “This is for the best,” and leave it at that, without taking any action if action is needed. Instead, I think that believing everything that happens is for the best means that we should strive to find the good, or positive, (they’re not the same thing), in whatever happens.

But I don’t think it’s our job to do this for other people. In fact, I think most of the time, we should refrain from telling other people “This is for the best,” when something bad happens. What the best is in any situation should be left for each individual to find, or not find.

Tweeters are freaking out—again—about another report that Twitter will soon lift its famous 140-character limit on the length of tweets. They should calm down …

Source: Twitter isn’t raising the 140-character limit. It’s building a wall.

Unless, that is, they care about an open web. I do, deeply, and so yes, I’m freaking out over this. I care deeply about owning one’s own data, (a thing that already doesn’t happen to a certain extent on Twitter, even less so on Facebook), and I agree with this piece that Twitter’s character change impacts that. I don’t think people should be handing over their content to someone else who then gets to decide what to do with it, the original creator’s interests be damned. And this applies to everybody from individuals to organizations and publications.