By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES — People who are different might bother other people’s eyes but it hurts those on the receiving end more, who have to put up with society’s averting glances, its disgust.
This reflection came to me after watching a French film, where a dwarf and a normal-sized woman began a romantic relationship and their problems multiplied, she doesn’t want to present him to her friends, and much less, to her parents. Hung up on his condition, the character feels inadequate, in spite of him being a professional from the upper middle class.
The example shown on film works, but, what if this dwarf was a poor person earning a minimum salary, who walks along the street poorly dressed, who lives as best he can in a shack? It would be another disadvantage for somebody who already bears the cross of being a social outcast.
The reality is that you can’t feel what you don’t experience. How many times have we asked ourselves, or put ourselves in the situation of the person who is viewed badly, of the person who is discriminated against by the rest of society?
Rare people frighten and seem unusual to those who are considered “normal”. If we see a disabled person with a beautiful woman (according to the standards set by film and TV), we will hear ourselves saying: “she must be with him out of pity, or because he is rich and has assets.” Ultimately, we don’t accept these couples as they seem extravagant to us.
Fat and ugly people, people with Downs Syndrome, are all victims of people’s contempt. The case of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, comes to mind, who was born with Proteus Syndrome and was exhibited in a circus show as a freak because of his monstrous deformities, without respecting his dignity as a human being.
Preconceived notions are instilled in us ever since we are small children, just like any indoctrination, be that political, cultural or social. Absurd laws are created for everything which appears outside the “norm”, the status quo.
Now, I’m remembering a case of what happened near my neighborhood: a young man fell in love with an older woman; she was nearly 20 years older than him.
When the young man’s mother found out, she waged an all-out war against her son, trying to separate him from the “old woman”, which is what she used to call her. In short, and so as not to bore you, that love story quickly ended. A few years later, the young man fell in love with a woman who gave classes at a special needs school where they both used to work.
This time his rebellion won out: his mother had no other choice but to accept her daughter-in-law: a young and deaf-mute woman.
This isn’t just a question about learning to live with people who are different, but in instilling the philosophy of love for thy neighbor from childhood.
Institutions and anybody who wants to get involved with the wrongly called “unusuals”, including mentally retarded, autistic and blind people, etc., should use a more productive form of compassion, which allows them to feel useful in society.
Nevertheless, I believe that there are only really two kinds of “abnormalities”: inflicting harm on others and remaining indifferent in the face of somebody else’s pain.