Ubu Ableism

ubuTheater of the Absurd...

The image on the left above is a sketch by Afred Jarry of Ubu Roi. The book cover on the right is from Maurice Marc LaBelle’s excellent study of the Theater of the Absurd. As a poet who happens to have a disability (this, in the vein of: as a writer who has green eyes, since its both a differentiating feature, and, simultaneously of little provenance, save there are some who think witches are most likely to have green eyes…a dilemma for some of us…) ahem, yes, as a poet with a disability I always bounce off the frontal carapace of Ubu-ableism, (you have to hand it to me, that was a strikingly coagulated sentence.)

Ubu-ableism differs from your run of the mill ableism. The latter is simple. It says, “there are places for these people.” ROM ableism is nothing more than rehabilitation sequestration. It survives everywhere, from the University of Iowa where the office of disability services is hidden in the basement of a dormitory and can only be reached by elevator. Or at Syracuse University where the office of disability services is on the top floor of a building and can only be reached by elevator. In the event of fire you must imagine there will be especially competent emergency personnel who are remarkably trained, who will especially save you, if you’re one of those disabled people, who only wanted to arrange some extra time to take a printed test. And now you’re in an emergency where you can’t roll out the door. Imagine. In any event, ROM ableism is essentially institutional thinking. Certainly the real estate is cheaper in the basement or on the top floor of an underutilized building. Come on, you wouldn’t want to put disability services smack dab in the center of your campus. People might see. They might think you don’t have a good school. I’m not wrong to say this. If you believe in your university and believe that students with disabilities are a source of excellence, than you’ll put your office of disability student services at the center of campus, as they did long ago at UC Berkeley.

Ubu-ableism is enhanced discrimination. It works like this: Ubu is in charge. He is (or she is) only concerned with greedy self-justification. Think of Ubu as Donald Trump wearing a military outfit.

Ubu thinks that the Americans with Disabilities Act is an unfunded mandate.

He thinks that the disabled are not “us” but those people.

He ardently believes they possess insufficient value in support of his quest for more goodies.

He is never shy about saying they should go away.

He sometimes runs academic conferences.

Sometimes he runs a chain of restaurants or a division of the Veterans Administration.

He advises on political campaigns.

He can be a pretend liberal like Ira Glass.

He’s certainly on the faculty of many universities.

His smile and his sneer are identical.

He calls for the end of social security.

Or she.

 

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