Superman and the starship

Dominic Minghella wrote a powerful post recently called ‘Eleven days in March following on from the equally powerful ‘From the dark end of the street’ in which he describes his experience of COVID-19

In his latest post Minghella calls out the government for the eleven day gap between knowledge and action. A period of explicit herd immunity, ‘last gasp of breath’ commentary and the hand of Cummings. Minghella says:

Incredible, isn’t it? Thousands of people suffering or dying or grieving because of those eleven arrogant, stupid, murderous days.

…those eleven days show us that our government has form. Left to its own bewildering devices, it makes terrible decisions.

This gap is now at nearly 40 days as more experts wade in and call out grotesque government inaction. It seems clear that a mis- (or deliberately) guided policy initially focused on the economic (and eugenic) belief that a chunk of ‘burdensome’ people dying through lack of immediate action was no bad thing. A speech by Johnson in Feb highlights his belief that the UK should be the country to soar Superman-styley during the pandemic. Going boldly where no country has gone before.

For disabled people and their families the pandemic has generated an additional layer of fear and terror. Being considered not worthy of life is a jobbing hazard when you don’t fit narrowly defined normative expectations of what it is to be human and it wasn’t long before people were receiving template DNR forms. While we don’t know the number of deaths in care homes and residential settings, it’s obvious this group of the population have been left without adequate care, attention or protection.

In a recent publication, medic David Oliver suggests blanket DNRs are an issue of ‘poor choice of language and a depersonalising style of communication’ rather than a deviation from the general principles of  choice between life and death facing medics:

Oof. Way to go Oliver. Spoken only from the comfort, superiority and safety of not being on the Does Not Count list. A group of disability rights campaigners have launched a legal challenge around the failure of the government and NHS England to publish guidance on how NHS treatment for COVID-19 will be prioritised if demand outstrips supply. We want a bit more than medics ‘choosing carefully’.

Of course, learning disabled and/or autistic people have been suffering or dying or grieving for decades of arrogant, stupid, murderous days. Terrible, terrible deaths. What we are currently witnessing is mainstream bods experiencing what disabled people and families experience as pretty much normal across their (typically shortened) lives. A gut wrenching dismissal of human life through a combination of greed, ignorance, disinterest, fear and arrogance.

There are some green shoots [I know] however. Signs of enlightenment and a wakening and warming of attitudes to difference. Channel 4 News covered the legal challenge live yesterday in cracking coverage. Sky News, similarly, ran with a serious fist pump moment:

A man. A beautiful man. And his family.

Human life.

We have to ask ourselves what the woeful response to COVID-19, leading to countless, devastating deaths, is revealing about the treatment of and response to different people. Reflect on the enforced, widening recognition of what it’s like to be treated like complete and utter shite. As dispensable and disposable. We have to think about what this means about us all as individuals and as a society. And we need to make sure we don’t lose this small light and the too rare tumbling of the marginal and the mainstream.