Since today is both international workers day and blog for disability rights day, I thought I would write about the links between capitalism and disability.
I'm starting with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Extreme Makeover Home edition seems like a funny television show to me. I can't even watch ads for normal Extreme Makeover (I close my eyes, put my fingers in my ears and sing until the awful goes away), but my sister got me vaguely interested in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and now I watch it whenever I'm home on Monday nights.
It's the only American television show that I've ever seen that acknowledges that poverty exists, and how much it sucks. Rather than blaming people from their plight it shows that we could solve these problems (if only we had enough sponsors).
For those of you who don't know each week Extreme Makeover: Home Edition starts with a family in a terrible situation. Most of the time these situations are the fault of capitalism, insurance not paying out on a destroyed house, contractors taking the money and running, people having to quit their job to look after sick relatives and so on. I've long had a belief that you could tell any woman's life as a feminist story. I'm starting to think that's wider.
So the first stage is identifying the problem (which always has something to do with the family's house), and then the second stage is throwing resources at it. Usually pretty unlimited resources (the third part is showing the family their house, which is always the best bit).
In particular many of the shows are about children with disabilities. Children who couldn't live in their parents house. The two I've watched involved a young girl who was allergic to the sun, and a young boy whose bones were incredibly brittle.
The amount they were able to improve these kids lives was amazing (and made damn fine television if you like that sort of thing, and I do). The girl who was allergic to the sun had barely been able to leave her bedroom; they redid the entire house, and created a giant sun-shade so that she could go outside (then they built a whole lot of solar panels so that her parents wouldn't have huge electricity bills, it's that sort of show). The little boy had to walk on his knees, so just carpetting the floors made a difference, as did a rail, that made it easier for him to walk.
Now the 'specialness' of these kids were relentlessly pounded into us, they're loving and giving and creative and wonderful, and that's why they deserve to have the house fixed up. I think it's part of the twisted logic Amanda talked about:
In other words, it’s an elaborate justification for the divine right of kings. You can tell who is most deserving by who is most rewarded and you reward the most deserving who you identify by the fact that they are the most rewarded. Simple, circular logic that has the side benefit of making it easy not to think about the state of the world much at all.Every Extreme Makeover: Home Edition family must be extra super duper deserving, and then all the show is doing is righting the natural order of things, it's not an idictment on capitalism at all.
But what it makes me think is this: we could do this for everyone.
There's no reason houses can't be made to fit everyone, and not just people whose bodies work in a reasonably standard way. There's no reason why basic modifications that make people's life easier should be a luxury, only available for those who are rich enough to afford it. Technology which makes physical impairment less disabling should and could be available to everyone.
I know not everyone will react to this show the way I do, but I like to think that some other people watching won't just cry with happiness when the family get everything they've ever needed, they'll also get angry.
I've got one other comment to make about disability, houses, and capitalism. A friend of the family is engaged in a long-term project to study how much shittily made houses damage people's health. The answer is, of course, quite a bit.
Let's not forget that capitalism causes these problems, as well as refusing to solve them.