I don’t want to be like every think piece from the past 8 months that begins with “in these unprecedented times”, so I’ll just update you briefly on what 2020 has brought for me. I started with health crises in the family and a whopping concussion, then a massive relapse which led to me needing my powerchair in my own home, a first for me.
Mum finally had surgery on her collapsed lung, 18 months in the making, after reaching about 50% lung capacity (or oxygen uptake, can’t remember which). She’s still recovering, it was a huge ordeal and entirely preventable. Medical negligence, amirite?
I also lost my uncle, grandfather (on Christmas Day!) and Patrick Cat. My friend Ani made this beautiful artwork of Patty and her Lily, which makes me want to weep with sadness and gratitude.
Good news: I finally received my new powerchair, a TA iQ MWD, after many NDIS stuff-ups. Hooray to freedom! Bad news: I’m too wiped out from the fitting to have tried it properly (2 hours outside! I got sunburnt on my hands, perhaps my dorkiest moment ever).
During this process, I was reviewed for my eligibility for NDIS, which, as it turns out, was a decision made by an NDIS staffer who didn’t read any of the documents on my file before deciding I was ineligible. I only found this out, and had my review overturned, because I made a formal complaint and my MP’s office made one on my behalf. Otherwise, I’d have lost my funding. I’m still recovering from the mental health effects of this experience, which the National Access Team manager described as a “learning experience” for the staffer involved. (Meaning, we won’t discipline her, fuck you.)
I made very few clothes, and lots (100s!) of masks. I didn’t see my brother for months, as he was in lockdown in Melbourne. But at least I knew he was considering the lives of others, which is more than I can say for many.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of this year was the realisation that Disabled, poor, BIPoC and other marginalised lives who were disproportionately affected by COVID meant nothing to so many people. Zip, nada, zilch.
It’s one thing to sort of know, in the back of your head and heart, that when push came to shove you were seen as “less than”, but it’s quite another to see people openly admit that they thought the elderly and Disabled should die off, that it didn’t matter how many people had to die so long as they could play a round of golf or go shopping at the Mornington Peninsula.*
This time last year, my hopes weren’t exactly high, but one thing I didn’t expect to be saying in a year’s time was “gee, it seems like a lot of the world is really, really into eugenics.”
So. Not entirely unprecedented times, but perhaps Entirely Predictable Response to a Global Pandemic When Only Some Lives are Valued. At least it’s given my “unfollow” button a workout.
*Australia might seem like a utopia right now for how we handled the pandemic, but the lockdowns were deeply divided along race, class and ability. If you want to read more, The Other Sociologist’s Pandemic, Race and Moral Panic is a great overview. It’s written before Melbourne’s latest stage 4 lockdown, but explains how certain ethnic groups were penalised and unfairly targeted for a pandemic that was essentially introduced to, and spread within, Australia by rich white people.