Human rights are not for sale.
It can’t be denied living in an affluent country such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and many others is a wonderful privilege. Many of us walk around with multiple connected devices to connect us to the world, our biggest concern when selecting a place to meet can be the presence of free wi-fi. I sit myself here typing on my Macbook at a local café connected to the internet via my iPhone. It is certainly a privileged existence I am able to lead.
None of this is to diminish the reality of struggles and challenges that I and others face, whether they be as a result of neurology, illness, physical mobility or anything else. However, what I have is choice. I have the choice to freely move about my community, I have the choice to sit in my lounge room or stay in my bedroom. I have the choice to brave the world of people out there or to stay secluded in my own home.
Essentially I have much of human rights upheld. Sure, there are nuances in that, there are real issues, real challenges that I face, but overall my situation is one of privilege.
Not so for all autistic and mentally ill people. I awoke this morning to this story, in the New Zealand Herald. It is a devastating heart-rending story of an autistic man in New Zealand, for whom, human rights are a real issue.
Watch the video, read the story. And be angry. Be disgusted. Here is a man who our so-called developed society has utterly failed. Locked up in seclusion – it may as well be called solitary confinement – in a so-called health institution.
This man locked in a room with nothing but a mattress on the floor and plastic bottle to piss into.
There is a saying that says something along the lines of how we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of how civilized our society really is. In this case the judgement can only be that we are not civilized at all. No, not one bit.
This man’s parents clearly wish they could turn back time and change their decisions, and I am sure many of us can relate to feelings like this over situations in our lives. My heart aches and breaks for them. As I read this article my heart broke, tears rolled down my cheeks and rage and anger was ignited within me.
The thing is, though, that the health authorities and so forth acknowledge that this is a totally inappropriate, unhealthy and in fact damaging place for this man to be. And yet, they wring their hands with talk of funding and resources.
I’m sorry, but you know what, that’s just a pile of bullshit.
If the authorities actually gave a shit about this man, there would not be ringing of hands, talk of funding cuts, resource limitations. There would be action. The man would be rescued, the institution held to account and the consequences to staff played out.
But no. This is not what is happening, all we see happening is talk.
All the while the politicians are driven around in their chauffeured cars, enjoying the benefits of wealth and freedom, Ashley languishes, locked up, a prisoner.
This is a crime, this treatment qualifies as torture. It is a deprivation of human rights.
We can ask ourselves how we got here, how a civilized society got to a point where this could go on for years and years, and yet the answer is staring us in the face.
This happens because:
We don’t act when disabled children are bullied.
We don’t act when schools use isolation and locking up of autistic children.
We allow human beings to be characterised broadly in society as damaged and less.
We wring our hands and have enquiries when schools put autistic kids in cages.
When peak organisations express sympathy for parents that engage in abusive acts towards disabled children.
When books titled I wish my kids had cancer are able to be published.
When falsehoods are spread about vaccines causing autism.
When so-called charities perpetuate a narrative that autism has come to destroy your life and steal your children.
It happens because all those smaller things go unchallenged, because we don’t stop it from happening, we don’t stop the bullying, we don’t counter the myths, rather we hide behind claims of everyone being entitled to their opinion.
Human rights are for all, not just the strong, but most importantly they are for the vulnerable, the weak, the sick, the outcast, and the different.