I Hope I Become Disabled Person Again

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Confessions of a person with a disability who wants to repent and return to his true nature.
M. Hirza Barizi

“What has changed now?” the university student continued her question.

I explained how in my twenties it seems like I’ve become smarter but clumsier. Interviews such as this not only allow me to improve my speech but also expose my flaws that should have been kept secret.

“I’ve read hundreds of books, I spent hundreds of hours giving presentations in the classroom. But somehow I spoke and wrote more effortlessly back then,” I gave her an example.

Disability-related. I fell silent. Questions about disability always put an extra burden on my mind. I didn’t know what to tell her, for I rarely thought about disability.

“Change?” She provided another clue.

I smiled bitterly. My body stiffened. A big revelation was about to come out of my mouth.

“Did you know?” I said, like a storyteller not too quick to reveal, “You might not believe it. Indeed, it sounds nonsensical.”

“What is it?”

“Can you believe there is such a thing as the excitement of becoming a disabled person? It’s hard to explain. It seems like a euphoria one feels upon acquiring a new identity.”

I paused, letting the absurd revelation sink in. Feeling excited about becoming a disabled person. Oh, who would expect to hear that? In popular belief, or indeed in most instances, the early days of becoming disabled sound gloomy and filled with despair.

“Back then when I just went blind, I was eager to learn a lot of things about disability, as well as sharing knowledge with people. We can call it advocacy, although it was limited to family and social media.”

From her perked-up tone, I could see she understood. “Yeah, yeah. Like a friend of mine who was diagnosed with a mental condition and liked to post about her condition. But now she no longer does.”

All those WhatsApp groups where I used to talk with blind friends from Indonesia and abroad were gone from my phone, except ones from my campus. The Facebook page which gave me blind technology info that I’ve stopped frequenting. And my internet history entries have nothing to do with disability issues anymore.

This loss of interest might not even spare my mental operation. I no longer envisioned a disabled-friendly environment with accessible pedestrians and public transports. I no longer imagined myself independently moving around town. While in interpersonal interaction, I used to be vocal and even confrontational in the face of behaviors that I deemed inappropriate towards disability. But now I am more understanding and lax.

Ending the Zoom interview, more questions were raised than answered. No, there were no questions but a single one, albeit a huge one. What has undermined my interest in disability issues? In other words, interest in myself.

Since I’m a positive person, my first guess went to self-acceptance. I’ve been comfortable with being blind, so I’ve become less conscious of my disability. The transition has run perfectly. Hirza views himself as a person like anybody else.

However, acceptance got its own negative spin that we call resignation. What if I have lost hope of seeing my imagination and aspiration becoming reality? Or indeed, my passion is not on it. In fact, there might be 1001 reasons depending on which theory we use. Since the root of the problem has yet to be identified, I won’t pretend to bring the solution. For now, recognizing the problem should suffice.

And we have to acknowledge that this problem, apart from being limited to the individual domain, may also affect the wider social and political movement. The quality of democracy in Indonesia has reportedly decreased since Reformasi. Corruption perception worsened. This is not an excuse for my situation, but a reminder. Consistency should prevail over “anget-anget tahi ayam,” an Indonesian proverb that depicts short-lived commitment. A problem which lurks around every human initiative.

Perhaps we have accidentally arrived at the root of the problem. I’m human, as are the people who take part in the disability movement and policy-making. Humans who have ever-changing emotions, moods, and priorities. Human civilization has had its way of dealing with those shortcomings. It’s called a system. For instance, the attendance system at school and office forces one to wake up in the morning. Right, a truant pupil could ask a classmate to log in for him. But at least a teacher can do some cross-check.

Disability issues have manifested in a system in Indonesia, haven’t they? The government has put pro-empowerment regulations into law. Such institutions as the Komisi Nasional Disabilitas (National Disability Commission) have been established, and many other initiatives. However, there is a difference between a system established and a system functioning. This casual post wouldn’t look deeper into it. Systems are man-made. Therefore, a system might be able to be boiled down to a personal level. Whether it is need fulfillment, or identity, or civic duty, I have to find a personal system that can reinvigorate and discipline the disability energy within me that I long for.

Editor: Cakrahayu Arnavaning Gusti

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