Once again I’m rolling my eyes and sighing, getting my flat-pack soapbox out of my pocket, unfolding it, placing it on the floor and stepping up.
The new Mencap campaign was launched only a matter of hours ago, and yet already some in our community are complaining that they do not like the TV ad.
I cannot help feeling that they are nitpicking over details without looking at the bigger picture.
In it a DJ with Down’s Syndrome changes the discriminatory words of an academic from the 1960s from ‘Down’s syndrome is not a person’ to ‘ Down’s is a person’.
Yes, I know the voiceover at the beginning is upsetting, but then the ad is meant to be edgy, shocking even. And although the phrase ‘Down’s is a person’ is both factually and grammatically incorrect, and is not one I would ordinarily want to hear, I think in the context of this ad it is not offensive.It represents a subtle shift in attitude away from a dehumanising view of learning disability towards a more humane one.
This is what we need to bring about — subtle shifts and small improvements.
We have a such a long way to go to change public perceptions. We cannot hope to cover the distance in a single bound, nor to smash down existing beliefs and replace them with completely new ones overnight, Human beings are creatures of habit: they find change uncomfortable, painful even.to challenge too suddenly and too aggressively the deeply ingrained beliefs upon which their world is built is to threaten the foundations of their existence, and they will fight harder to cling to the safety of a belief system in which they know exactly where they stand, even if it is wrong.
Perhaps what we need to do is to subvert existing attitudes, creep into the public consciousness like sneak-thieves, steal a few words at a time out of the prevailing narrative, and rearrange the rest so that the change is barely felt, and little by little gently mould and manipulate them to give a new message. This means that there will be some discomfort on our side from time to time, but since we are the ones who want to see the change happen we must put up with it, in order to acheive our ultimate goal. We cannot afford to push others too far out of their comfort zone or we risk alienating them, so we must instead push ourselves out of ours.
No doubt some will be rolling their eyes at me now. But if you really want to see change happen, what good does it do to sit on your arse whingeing at those who actually do something to try to change the world?
Here endeth the rant. for today.