Disability Adjustments and Lockdown: a comparison and a question

Suspending freedom to function for the sake of others’ need is a much more complex question than people seem to be allowing.  Here I consider it in comparison with what people are prepared to do to accommodate disability needs – though there are other possible analogies to explore such as what is and isn’t allowed in the criminal justice system.

There is an act in British law requiring institutions such as universities to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students.

However, “reasonable” can be very widely interpreted, and at my first institution it was considered unreasonable to expect lecturers to give me their notes on white paper.

The issues in living accommodation were worse: I had known dyspraxia and CPTSD, the latter in particular being well known to cause serious noise sensitivity problems, and yet it was apparently quite unreasonable to either place me in a student house with housemates prepared to be quiet, or to restrict the freedom of the other students by asking them to turn their music down or use headphones, in order to prevent their fellow student and housemate becoming seriously ill.  Similar difficulties are present with noise sensitivity in wider society: I lived briefly with a girl who was normally ill for several weeks around 5th November due to issues with fireworks, and I have heard someone with autism say that they had been on the verge of suicide due to a neighbour insisting on playing a musical instrument repeatedly in the middle of the night – the authorities insisting that it wasn’t loud enough to be regarded as an issue.

Issues with what you can ask others to do or put up with in order to accommodate the needs of others are complex, and I would not advocate a simple answer.  If there is one thing that is necessary to truly include anyone with extra or unusual needs, it is the acceptance that other people are still allowed to have problems and difficulties and needs too.  Community really can’t function if one person’s needs become completely invisible and irrelevant as soon as someone else is perceived as having a greater need.  The balance between normal freedom to function and the way in which what one is doing or not doing adversely affects others has to be maintained.  It is one thing to require the strong to bear some of the burdens of the weak, but the strong do not have infinite strength, and can still be overloaded.  It’s possible to have real and acute needs which it is genuinely not reasonable to ask people to meet due to the cost to themselves: an extreme example of this being people who need organ donations not being able to require them from live donors.

However, if this is so when it comes to disability and illness and need in normal times, it applies to an epidemic too.

I think that I would suggest our lockdown response to the COVID-19 epidemic is rather inconsistent, when it comes to the limitations generally placed on the ordinary adjustments made for disabled people on a day to day basis.  This is not simple because there are all sorts of reasons for advocating lockdown other than the protection of people at high risk from the disease, and a lot of the problems with disability adjustments come from a lack of understanding, rather than an unwillingness to make effort, or have freedom to do certain leisure activities restricted in some way.  Moreover, I think most people would argue that my university was wrong and should have made the adjustments I am talking of.  And what is justly required and enforced by third parties, and what it may be good for someone to do for others voluntarily, are different things.

I think, though, despite the complexities, requiring that people at low risk from a disease suspend all their normal activities and accept house arrest* on the specific grounds that it is to protect a different group of people who are at high risk of serious illness is problematic, unless it is also reasonable to ask a similar level of sacrifice and adjustment for those who have health and disability needs in ordinary times.

Cherry Foster

 

 

*This is slightly complicated: I personally have developed severe depression as a result of the lockdown, but I am thinking here of the people for whom it is unpleasant but not actually a threat to life or serious illness.

The Punishment fit the Crime? (More COVID-19 isolation fun)

The object all sublime

Shall be achieved in time

To make the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime:

For here we represent

A scheme to parliament

To make each COVID fool

Into much needed fuel

For people’s innocent merriment,

Their innocent merriment.

The health legislator, who acts like a traitor,

And visits their second home,

Is forced to rough camp in a field always damp

Infested by rats that roam.

The keen police official, who with zeal abyssal

Checks no-one has brought ice-cream,

Is questioned in lectures, with curious conjectures

Regarding their household regime.

chorus

The holiday makers, who from their home acres,

In Devon or Corn-a-wall

That in order to reach an adequate beach,

Travel North of Hadrian’s wall,

Are marooned on an island near tropical Thailand

With three barrels of bog-standard beer,

In the pouring rain, with mosquitos insane,

And no source of food but a spear.

chorus

The tape measure lady, who utterly gravely,

Says you’re half-an-inch too close,

Is set to the task of fitting surgical masks

Precisely on doctors morose.

The religious group, who with hearty whoop,

Say it’s faith to take no care,

Are only allowed to meet in a crowd

In a room with a grizzly bear…

chorus

The Prime Minister who, on a single issue,

Orders excessive lockdown,

Is imprisoned for years, in spite of their tears,

In a lonely country town,

In a leaky cellar, with half an umbrella,

On a diet of sprout and tinned sprat,

With no natural light, with red boxes forthright,

And no company but a stuffed cat.

The object all sublime

Shall be achieved in time

To make the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime:

For here we represent

A scheme to parliament

To make each COVID fool

Into much needed fuel

For people’s innocent merriment,

Their innocent merriment.

 

Cherry Foster, after W. S Gilbert, and with significant input from one who prefers to remain nameless!

How shall we seek Thee?

Champaigne_shepherd
The Good Shepherd by Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

O Lord, how shall we seek Thy help who have forsaken Thee?

Thou gavest us all Thyself by bitter death and bitter grief,

Thy Body broken, Thy Blood shed for us upon the Tree,

And still, when questioned by the flame, we turn from Thy belief.

O Lord, we turn away the gift of Thine appointed aid,

Demanding that Thou shouldst provide according to our choice,

And setting now our earthly life above Thy help, we fade,

And cowering thus deny Thy Life, Thy witness with one voice.

Through the shelter of Thy faith that sustained Thine anguished death,

And through the love of Three-in-One that raised Thee from dark hell.

And by the blood of those who gave for Thee their mortal breath,

And in the courage of the One who ever with us dwells:

O turn again, and turn us, Lord, to place in Thee our trust,

Not human sin, nor mortal death, Thy covenant can shake.

Turn us to look to Thee for help and not to mortal dust,

That we may witness to the Life that all from Thee may take.

 

Cherry Foster

 

 

N.B.  Given our cultural tendency to an “all-or-nothing” attitude, I would clarify by saying that I advocate taking all possible precautions in the process of receiving the Sacraments (Thou shalt not put the Lord Thy God to the test); it is denying access entirely on the grounds of human risk that I argue against.  Also, I don’t claim to be innocent in this or anything else, and as always, I do not judge anyone else’s conscience.  That, at least, is thankfully not my problem!

The Epidemic (a bit exaggerated)

In honour of McGonagall, whose capacity to set teeth on edge is never likely to be bettered in the English language.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known,

The panic from mouth to mouth was blown,

“Someone has died of a virus new,

And it might turn out to be worse than flu.”

And many countries went into lockdown,

Deserted were the city and town,

Even in the country people went out in masks

And improvised them from various printed scarves.

And the British Prime minister nearly died,

And many people bitterly cried,

Because by the rules of the Brits at the time

Attending his funeral would have been a crime.

Many people went awfully pale

As they found out with a dreadful wail

That despite human power people do die

As this strange fact had been thought a lie.

So perhaps we will learn from this dreadful sight

To be aware of our mortal plight,

To put plastic gloves in the right place,

And not to cough on our fellows when running a race.

 

Cherry Foster

 

N.B. To avoid misinformation: “by the rules of the Brits at the time…” as far as I know, the rule was that only immediate family could attend funerals.

Also, while I think there are aspects of the situation and the attitudes that are fair game for satire, and would insist that an epidemic should not remove all other ethical or practical considerations from sight, I have no intention of laughing at actual death or real grief.

“In solidarity” – comforting or upsetting?

Do you find people talking about suffering “in solidarity” with some other group of people comforting, or does it upset you more?

One of the mainstays of the sympathy of the clergy in regard to the fact that many of us have been deprived partly or completely of our worship and/or normal sacramental practice by COVID-19 prevention policies is to explain that our suffering is “in solidarity with X group of people who have the same problem.”

For example, someone told me that our being deprived of the capacity to receive the Precious Blood put us in solidarity with poor Churches that can’t afford enough wine for the whole congregation to receive, and today I received a letter which talked about our loss of the Sacraments being “in solidarity” with persecuted Christians similarly deprived.

Like a lot of things, I do completely appreciate that those who say it mean to comfort, and also like a lot of these things, I am actually deeply upset by it.

When such disjoints between what is meant and what is heard happen, it is very important for people to talk about them and discuss why – otherwise we are heading for a state worse than that of those on the unfinished tower of Babel!

Part of the fact that I find the “in solidarity” convention upsetting is to do with perspective, for although the clergy are undoubtedly having an extremely hard time, they are not in quite the same position as the rest of us with regard to these things.  Which means that one group of people are saying to a second that they (the second group) are suffering something that first group is not suffering “in solidarity” with some different third party.  I feel that this is an inappropriate external imposition of a spiritual and emotional response which, while it may be very worthy, can only be a personal response coming from inside, not a response one group of people can assume will come from another.

This would perhaps suggest a more tentative phrasing would be better: “some people may find it helps to think of this suffering as being in solidarity with…” rather than an apparent expectation that we should respond like this and find it comforting or useful.

Moreover, I’d comment that I personally don’t usually find the insistence that other people are suffering the same, more, or worse, comforting when I am myself suffering intense grief.  Sometimes it may be necessary to hear it for practical reasons, but often people draw attention to others’ suffering as if they suppose it to be comforting – that it will somehow lessen the burden of my own grief.  But the notion that enduring not only my own grief, but that inevitably suffered in empathy with the others I am being reminded of, will cause me to suffer less rather than more, seems odd to me.  This doesn’t just apply to the solidarity comment, but to a lot of others.  (I suspect this difference is down to personality type and the manner in which any particular person processes things).

Finally, I think it is that “in solidarity” is straightforwardly not something that helps me with this type of intense spiritual confusion.  It is the very essence of Hell that solidarity is not a possible response.  It would not have the nature it has, if it did not cut off the possibility of relating to anyone else inside it or with regard to it.  In this particular type of confusion, to appeal to solidarity is a category mistake.  This reason for not appealing to “in solidarity” would only apply to things that elicit this response in others, and I have no idea how common it is as a spiritual response to the loss of worship or the sacraments*.  That it is possible, however, should be theoretically obvious**.

What do you think?  If you talk to others of solidarity, why do you feel it could be helpful?  If you hear people saying it, do you find it comforting or upsetting, and what do you think the reason for your response is?

Cherry Foster

 

 

*I am among those who would test the soundness of spiritual responses by asking if they are consistent with the Tradition, not by asking whether or not they are normal.  That is, if someone says “I felt God called me to commit a murder,” or that He told them to worship Ashtaroth, then I would think them almost certainly deceived.  And similarly there are things I really experience spiritually that I do regard as unsound because they are contrary to theological truth – I regard them as something to be acknowledged as there, but not accepted as right or true.  But that is different from assuming something incorrect merely because it is unusual, and it seems to me there is a tendency to do that.

**Assuming that Hell is properly understood as a state of exile from God, and that the things we do in worship are real, both of which statements I would contend are correct, and would seem to me to be what my branch of the Church (traditionalist Anglo-Catholic) generally teaches (yes, people are welcome to tell me I’m wrong about that :-P.  But some of us do actually listen to what is said in Church and think about it, however much of a shock this may be to those who are not used to people taking an interest!  I’ll expand on the whole question if anyone actually wants me to).

By the way, the one helpful thing someone did say to me – in case it is of use to anyone else – was to remind me of the vision of St. Silouan: “keep your mind in Hell – and despair not“.

 

 

 

Shall we demand of God…

(As always, I know that people are doing their best in difficult circumstances and do honestly believe they are making the right decisions – but I also think that there are things being ignored which are important).

Shall we demand of God

That He sustain the hungry without food,

That none may be at risk from taking shopping to them?

Shall we demand of God

That He send angels to minister to the sick,

That no-one may be put at risk by nursing them?

And shall we demand of God,

That He sustain the Life Divine without the Sacraments

That there may be no risk to any from receiving them?

 

Cherry Foster

Easter in Red

Resurrection_(24) Photo credit Surgun source Wikamedia Commons no copyright
Photo credit: Surgun; source: Wikimedia Commons

Although our infant children die of want,

Although the plague take old and young alike,

Although the sun become a darkened blank,

The earth ice over, or its fire strike.

Although dark terror slaughter in our streets

And there be none to hide from sight the dead,

Although Thy people would Thy mercy cheat,

The churches leave Thy starving flock unfed.

Yet in Thy Resurrection we rejoice,

With sorrow felt and joy more deeply known,

And we would hymn Thy victory with one voice,

With failure set aside approach Thy throne.

The grim miscarrying of fallen earth,

Becomes in Thee the labour of live birth.

 

Cherry Foster

Three Nights

Sunset on Good Friday

Rogier_van_der_Weyden the entombment of Christ wikimedia commons, no copyright
The Entombment of Christ by Rogier van der Weyden. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Photo credit unknown.

 

Tonight Thou sleepst, and no Man may awaken Thee,

Tonight Thou sleepst, in peaceful garden still.

Without blame we go, who last night had forsaken Thee,

Beyond our power now to work Thee good or ill.

Tonight Thou sleepst, and no Man may awaken Thee.

Last night Thou gavest Thy Precious Body for Thy friends,

Last night Thou weptst in hopeless, anguished prayer,

Last night, in grief, Thou wast betrayed to grievous end,

Last night was laid upon Thee beyond what Man could bear,

Tonight Thou sleepst – alas – our most beloved Friend!

Tonight Thou sleepst, the bitter doom of flesh Thine own,

Tonight Thou sleepst, who did not have to die.

Last night of choice Thou took’st our pain and grief unknown;

Tonight Thou hearest not contempt, nor prayer, nor cry.

Tonight Thou sleepst, the bitter doom of flesh Thine own.

Tonight Thou sleepst, and no Man may awaken Thee,

Last night we went, and fearful from Thee strayed.

Last night beset by those who had mistaken Thee,

Tonight Thou liest to mortal wounds betrayed.

Tomorrow night, Thy God shall Thee in glory raise,

For utterly defeated Thou dost here in victory lie,

And every living voice at last shall sound Thy praise

Who loved us unto death and thus reversed our doom to die.

 

Cherry Foster