The Dust Jacket: A two part fantasy blog on stigma as dust and dust as star material that’s also a two handed play.
Part 1 by Pat Kane
One of them had unwittingly left a vial of the stuff at the far end of the table, next to the salt and pepper.
Distracted, I guessed. But a rare opportunity to examine something that'd had always alluded me.
I had to bide my time though. I couldn't let them see me do it.
Eventually, when they’d stopped staring and as the room swelled with conversation I Slowly, slid my hand towards the vial.
It was standing where it'd been left, right on the edge.
My fingers touched it, then closed around the slender glass.
The vial was lighter than I expected.
I paused. This is stigma, I whispered to myself, in its purest form.
Then carefully I tipped a little out.
I remember the room thumping to darkness, and my hand flashing pallid white.
I remember feeling deathly cold.
In that last moment I think I did see it fall, the grey dust like stuff, towards my outstretched palm, and though I felt nothing it must have landed.
I remember no time passing, just staring, in astonishment.
My hand had become an empty space.
An empty space criss crossed with luminous lines.
The stuff from the vial had gathered in the creases.
Lit them up, like an X-ray.
A snapshot image that begged for diagnosis.
For a long time, I peered at the lines. They showed no life story.
I tried to see what was wrong.
Then I saw the fractures. They were hidden in plain sight.
Green stick splits from childhood. Jagged faults from recent years.
Suddenly, I realised what it was.
What it was I was looking at.
The strange and distorted luminous lines
The broken pane of Johari's window.
Smeared with a deleterious poison.
Cracked by an irreversible corrupting balm.
Disgusted I had to do something.
So I cast the vial away.
I saw it fly out at speed.
And the room burst back to life.
I saw it fly, towards the people. In an arc up then down.
Then land and smash upon their table, and the smoke grey cloud that billowed out.
I saw them jerk back their chairs. Their faces screw in horror.
Felt the wind from their coats as they tried to waft it away.
And heard their ringing protests.
This stuff’s for them. Get it away.
But the dust didn't care.
It hadn't got time to listen to their stories.
It feared to question its own privileged place in the world.
And refused to stand aside.
So, it did its work.
It coated their hands. And then their faces.
They were standing there like skeletons, then one by one they turned around.
They looked at me!
Like I was the traitor. Like I was the one who'd made it.
I held up my hand to show them.
Hoping they would see what it'd done to me.
Hoping now, they'd understand.
But instead I saw just staring faces.
And one by one they went away
Part 2 by Philip J Connolly
There is another dust.
Human beings are a mix of dust and water.
We are two thirds dust and one third water.
The miracle is that we are dust and water in the act of doing; actively using tools, talking, walking, collaborating, thinking, being unique and so on.
Miracles beget miracles.
We have organs like our appendixes or tonsils that belong to earlier periods of our evolutionary history but we also have aspects of our bodies that may be connected with our recuperative powers.
Recuperative powers for our challenges.
We have skills such as echolocation, hibernation and neuroplasticity that we don’t even understand the reasons for.
Why do we emit light?
Why do we have a kirlian aura?
Why do we only use a fraction of our brain power?
We don’t yet know.
We do know from John Gribbin and others that dust, the solid matter that our bodies are made from originates as the debris from exploding stars.
Stars that have cooled and oxidised.
In effect we are all recycled stars.
There is no need to doubt ourselves: we already have star qualities.
Could we begin to exchange the stigma dust for stardust mixed with the cooling waters of humility?
Seek and ye shall find.
On the basis of our body size we should live the same length of time as a horse, about twenty-five years.
The reason we typically live three to four times longer is due to our resilience.
Resilience sums our ability to find adaptation techniques or coping strategies in response to shocks to our systems such as our bodily systems.
Could we begin to break the stranglehold of stigma by identifying not with our disabilities but by the adaptations and coping techniques we uncover, learn or enhance in response to our disabilities.
Could the national disability strategy currently in preparation progress this approach?
Firstly it could cut through the dichotomy between being a fully adjusted disabled person winning medals in the Invictus Games and being the disabled person in trauma and recognise most disabled people are in between these poles, on a journey of recuperation or rehabilitation. They may recognise the concept of the everyday hero, the joy of small triumphs that may be mundane to the outsider but significant to the disabled person who has accomplished them. Stop the unique inspiration stuff and support the aspiration ambitions underpinned by natural resilience that can be both boosted and bolstered.
Embrace contact theory. You could as a non-disabled person for example visit every shop in every retail centre and never knowingly be served by a disabled person. You may have no recollection of being advised on your decisions by a disabled person whose judgement you trust or come to trust. You may have had no contact knowingly with a disabled person as an equal or in a context where the authority resided with the disabled person. It is a bit like the racial stereotyping where a business proclaims its performance in employing black people but does so only as cleaners, counter staff or security guards. Contact theory says we need to see more disabled people employed in customer facing roles such as retail or in occupations such as teachers or in civic roles such as magistrates.
And how should the cabinet office avoid stigmatising us?
Treat us as rounded people with many roles to fulfil and with more than one pathway to work and above all with agency; not in an over simplistic way as merely benefit claimants waiting to be job matched.
Join the Disability Resilience Network, leave stigma untouched, out of view and find your star qualities instead.
“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars,” Oscar Wilde.