In a world where we virtually live amidst bias all the time, how would you answer the following question: What links Beethoven, Stephen William Hawking, Oscar Pistorius and Nick Vujicic? The answer to this simple question lies way beyond their natural and mind boggling talents. Beethoven was a living symphony of his time. Stephen Hawking literally gazed into a parallel universe by giving us a deeper understanding of the one where we prevail, one which is full of drama, tragedy all living inside the confines of a “black hole”. Oscar Pistorius, before he became all the more famous for an apparent crime he would have not wanted to have commit (allegedly involved in shooting his own girlfriend) had struck gold, literally – at 2011 World Championships in Athletics and the 2012 Summer Olympics that soon followed. And, people have only just started reading, appreciating and understanding the daring and guile of Australian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic. What separates these amazing men of inimitable creativity and daring is the fact that they all are what the world calls disabled or differently abled.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Today, on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities(IDPD), a day marked especially for noting and celebrating the lives of all those who live among us but with distinct but painful disabilities, must we remember an important lesson in life. That bias and conditioned thinking precedes often our lives and most of our actions may not perhaps ever be overruled, but we all must stop and pause to think for a second about the lives of those that aren’t marked by the virtues you and I have been lucky to get.
There are many hundreds and thousands of lives around us in a world diversified by the beauty of an India to the richness in the culture of Africa, united by the splendor of an Australia to the naturally glorious locale of Moldavia- that continue to suffer the neglect from those who should in fact be caring for the challenges these lives face; a set of disabilities that hamper natural functioning and activity of human lives. The United Nations, the world’s premier autonomous body advocating, imparting and upholding the spirit of Human Rights has marked December 3 each year since 1992 as The International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
In the 23 years hence since the world first got a global reminder to mark out a specific date recognizing the plight, challenge and importance of persons with disabilities, the existing ground realities aren’t too bright. And, this isn’t just for India. Around the world, as many as 1 Billion persons from the 193 countries as identified by the United Nations itself suffer from some form of disability. The figure constitutes for about 15% of the world’s population. And must it be said that the World Health Organization that’s come up with the figure is knows its math. To further corroborate this ground reality, one would have to glaze past the eminent Washington Post that just recently reported that around 785 million people suffer from some form of physical or mental disability.
This sizeable population that includes as many people as you would get when you literally club the population of an Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Uganda, Tanzania and another country put together (as an instance). Making for the world’s largest minority, these aren’t very fascinating statistics about our world in the 21st century.
The world around us: the highs and lows
For sure, the developments and providence one has seen the world’s nations attain when it comes to Technology, Education, Agriculture, Innovation and Sustainability constitute a brighter figure when one looks at the globe. But, in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries where sporadic economic jumps in the GDP aren’t and cannot be qualified to constitute development- governments and their administerial set ups need to undergo a vast change in outlook as far as fair treatment of persons with disabilities is concerned.
In most cases both ignorance and discrimination prevail and shatter millions of inimitable and talented lives of those marked with disability. In some nations of the world abject ignorance toward these persons often downsizes participation from the disabled toward divergent ventures or activities aimed at or related to creation of national wealth or with regards to self-sustenance. In other cases, an utter disregard or at best, lack of any regard toward the talent and capability of the disabled prohibits parity and association toward growth: of both of an individual’s life and career and toward engendering national development.
In such circumstances, one needs to ask a question since the time is right: just what can we do to improve participation and active involvement of the differently abled from the course of life- so that they too, just like us are able to lead a truly meaningful and valuable life!
Encourage more: learning from the legendary lives around
If we just take a minute’s pause and look around us, deliberately escaping the mindlessness that often circumnavigates our lives, we will find that the disabled persons have done more on most occasions with less on their side than we could ever have or are doing, at the present moment.
Oscar Pistaurios, who isn’t even 30 yet had already been nicknamed as the blade runner, for his unbelievable exploits at 2011 World Championships in Athletics becoming the first ever amputee to win a full able-bodied world track medal. Setting world records seems to be in his DNA if the events of 2012 Summer Olympics are to be reaffirmed, where the young Protean won 2 gold medals. In so doing, he didn’t need legs.
The famous aviator from Briton, the late legendary flying knight Sir Douglas Bader, who served in the Royal Air Force of Britain during the titanic air wars of the infamous World War II garnered incredible feats. He recording 20 aerial victories and four shared victories, including six probable’s and shunted down as many as 11 enemy aircrafts (of Hiter’s Nazi Germany) during the heroics of the famous Battle of Britain.
It is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest aviators in the history of modern Air-warfare that they made a film on Bader’s daredevilry, aptly titled, “Reach for the sky”. Such daring was the London born, pipe smoking gentleman that Hitler himself spared him the torture upon his famous capture before the Battle of Britain, where the Empire truly bounced back. Douglas Bader, it turned out had lost both legs soon after being inducted into Britain’s Royal Air Force.
Nick Vujicic, held justly as a modern day legend, suffers from a peculiar medical condition called Phocomelia, or the absence of four limbs. Mere imagining the plight of such a dreadful human condition would evoke gory nightmares. Yet, Mr. Vujicic does everything and perhaps a bit too craftily and normally than most of us would with all four limbs in place, including walking, strolling and even swimming. He’s one of the most sought after motivational speaker and the ever cheerful Aussie commands a loyal fan-base from around the world.
If we traverse from the field of sport and literature and foray toward art then Beethoven’s masterful musical talent, nurtured amidst literal ‘deafness’ could only stoke our emotions and inspire us to do the unthinkable. Yes, it is an undisputed fact that the German born Music genius revered for countless sonata’s and symphonies had literally turned deaf (don’t confuse with tone-deaf) whilst creating his world famous Symphony no.9. The Deutscher derived inspiration from fellow German, renowned poet Friedrick Schiller, 11 years his senior, whose poem Ode to Joy inspired Beethoven to go ahead and compose the unfinished melody. Today, the million plus Youtube(a common way of us accessing information in our times) is a standing testimony to a “differently abled person” doing the unthinkable.
Let us therefore make a pledge and attempt to live to what possibly seems to be the first immediate purpose of our lives: to make the best of what god gave us. And let us remember to stand up, support and extend a hand of compassion, sympathizers go home- to those who have done much more with quite less.
What’s Up Life salutes the mighty lives of our friends on the International Day of Person’s with Disabilities.