Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back to Malaysia

Doing an Internship in Malaysia a couple of years ago, I fell in love with this country.

There is so much to love and to enjoy. The food is amazing, the people are friendly and its rich history make it a joy to visit again and again.

Its geographical location to Perth and the opportunity to their fly cheap using AirAsia makes it easy for me to visit regularly.

I managed to score a super sweet deal on a flight to Kuala Lumpur and so I convinced my dad to join me for a week’s holiday there.

We first visited Malacca which used to be a major trading post so it has substantial Portuguese, Dutch, chinese and British influence.   

Being history buffs we loved visiting the museums and the historical sights as well as catching up with friends.

Malaysia being a sort of shoppers’ paradise we couldn’t help to indulge a little when we got to KL. So in between doing the sights and eating way too much we did a spot of shopping in China Town and at KLCC.

Penang was our final stop and we loved every minute. We were particularly interested in this part of Malaysia since Papa’s sister has lived here in the 1950s. we thought of her often and how Georgetown much have changed since then.

We fell in love with the quaint architecture and the street art that was so pretty. We loved the history and we learnt so much. We enjoyed thinking of lives past while enjoying a cool drink at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel.           

All too soon it was time to go home but we got on the plane home we were exhausted but happy.

Thanks Malaysia, until next time.

What we ate!!

My Dad and I have just returned from a holiday in Malaysia and since the food is amazing as well as plays a large part of the consciousness of Malaysians, it is worth a blog post on the subject.

Since we love food we wanted to eat like a local and at a local price. Below are some of the amazing dishes that we tried often perched on plastic chairs at some street side eatery where we were the only foreigners. It was amazing!

We also had good drinks as well. Not only was there cheap beer but there was also Starbuck which I had an unnatural and strange obsession with. 

We were also lucky in finding a Swiss run bar as well as an Aussie run cafe in Penang both added good memories to our trip.

Wheeler's Cafe is down Love Lane and could easily be a cafe in any of Australian capital cities. The decor is clean, fresh and, more importantly, it is air conditioned.

The coffee is great and the cake was lovely. Wheeler's is somewhere I will return to on my next visit.     


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Is disability just about the body?

Simone de Beauvoir once said ‘one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’ and even though this a feminist quote, the idea behind this quote is also relevant to those of us who have a disability.

As a gender and communications studies student whose intellectual awakening was thanks to the 1970s feminists, the idea that society constructs a story around someone’s body was something that has always fascinated me.

But this blog post isn’t about 1970s feminism.

It looks at whether disability is socially constructed and the implications of this on those who identify as having one.

Just to step back for a moment, I want to first look at what the theorists are saying about this idea. Germov and Freij argue that ‘disability is not about physiological impairment, but how that impairment is socially constructed through cultural values, people’s attitudes, and social practices…It is not impairment itself that is disabling, but the perceptions and actions of a disabling society’ (2009).

Mike Oliver states that ‘The category disability is not fixed and absolute, but can be, and indeed has been in a verity of different ways throughout history, within particular societies and in any given social context’ (1989).  Interestingly, he later argues that the concept of disability is dependent on public policy and governmental economic policy but more on this later.

Susan Wendell argues in The Rejected Body that ‘neither impairment or disability can be defined purely in biomedical terms, because social arrangement and expectation make an essential contribution to impairment and disability, and to their absence’ (1996). She also argues that the social environment in which disabled people operate affects people’s ability to function.

But more importantly, she argues that ‘disability is socially constructed through failure or unwillingness to create ability who do not fit the physical and mental profile of ‘paradigm’ citizens.   

What does mean for those with a disability?

It means that my disability is more than just my left sided weakness but how it is represented in society is influenced by social and economic forces. There are many ways that this impacts people with disabilities and some of these are discussed below.

It is about the economy, stupid!    

Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog about Bill Clinton.

Mike Oliver believes that capitalist economies have experienced booms and busts and in the process has influenced government policies in regards to the disabled. He argues that ‘no longer does it [welfare provision] reflect tragedy and anxiety and the influence of benevolent humanitarianism. Rather, it reflects the burden that non-productive disabled people are assumed to be and the influence of modernist realism. The ideological climate in which this finds expression focuses upon the notion of dependency’.

It is a shame that it has come down to money but there is limited amount to go around.

However, I would love to see money being used to empower people so that they can play an equal part in the workforce/capitalist economy and that society can benefit for this previously underutilised human resource.  

We’ve go so much to offer and contribute, it’s just we’ve got to be seen that way.

Subtle forms of discrimination are important issues to consider

While there are many forms of discrimination both overt and of a subtle kind. Susan Wendell describes several kinds of discrimination that are not so obvious.  

Firstly, she thinks that the modern pace of life often disadvantages people with health conditions because they are unable to keep up with those more able-bodied individuals. The impact is, according to Wendell, is that ‘expectations of individual productivity can eclipse the actual contribution of people who can not meet them, making people unemployable when they can, in fact, do valuable work’ (ibid).  She also argues that society is run by the well for the well and relegates disabled people to being the ‘other.’

My concern with her argument is that in challenging the theory that disability is a social construction, she is, in fact, formulating another idea of what disabled people should be like in a manner that isn’t at all convincing. In other words, her arguments perpetuate a narrative that ignores the potential of individuals to develop strategies and coping mechanisms to overcome such difficulties presented in a hostile environment.

It is not to say that discrimination doesn’t exist but the focus should be developing individual agency rather than a narrative of disempowerment.

What is inspiration porn?

Many Australians have heard about Stella Young, especially since her TED talk and her untimely death.

But she coined the term ‘Inspiration Porn’ after being nominated for an inspiration award when she was 15 solely on the basis for getting out of bed and remembering her own name. She claimed that disabled people are held up as objects of inspiration for able bodied people. Able bodied people need inspiration like us in order to put their lives into perspective.

Stella argued that people with disabilities do overcome things but it isn’t what think. It isn’t our own bodies, diagnosis and poor access to buildings that are the problem (although they are sometimes a pain) it is how society describes and the low expectations us that are the hardest things to get over. 

Personally, I’ve found that it is the hardest thing to grapple with. People seem to have no problem with defining me in ways that reflect their own stereotypes and to meet their own agendas.

It seems that it comes from the lack of representation of disabled people in the media and in the community. You either see them portrayed as victims or heroes. In other words, as either as dysfunctional, dependent and inferior or as exceptional inspiration porn but not as individuals getting up every day, earning a living and making a life for themselves.

What do I want for the future?

I would love to see a discussion about how we frame disability and the implications that for society as a whole.  It would be interesting to see how governmental policies and societal expectations influence how disabled people are perceived.

While I really don’t want to sound like Martin Luther King, I really do have a dream that one-day people will live in a society that won’t be judged by how well their body works but by the content of their character.

I really look forward to my identity not to be manipulated to fulfil someone else’s agenda or to act as inspiration because I am not really that exceptional.   

List of references

Germov, John and Freij, Maria (2009) Second Opinion: Online Case Studies. (4th Edition)

Oliver, Mike.  The Social Construction of the Disability Problem.

Wendell, Susan (1996). The Rejected Body. New York: Routledge.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Can you imagine a world without writers?

This was a question that was asked during the launch of the 2016 Perth Writers’ Festival. Personally, without the books they create my life would be a dull shade of grey and would be completely void of any colour.

On this balmy Perth evening we were reminded of why writers’ festivals are such satisfying experiences. They are a celebration of great minds and that they encourage us to be engaged and actively curious.

Judging by this year’s programme, I am sure this PWF 2016 will be all this and more.

The writers that I am really looking forward to hearing are Simon Sebag Montefiore, Masha Gessen, Lindsey Tanner and George Megalogenis.

This year PIAF have chosen the theme of empathy to be the narrative of PWF 2016 and there will be many discussions, movies and exhibitions on the subject.

As with most communities, food is a massive part of what makes us human and will also be a central theme of this year’s festival. It is no doubly a great part of being empathic as it seems to satisfies people’s most human need.  

I am sure I’ll have my mind blown and my book collection will increase a little but that adds colour to life and makes it worth living.
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