A long time ago, after yet another gloomy parade of statistics, someone (I think it was Martin Coyle? Apologies if it wasn’t you Martin, or even if it was, for dragging you into this) asked me if I was in any hopeful about the future, and to write a blog about it. Well, after a long time and a lot of gloom in the middle, here it is. My grounds for hope are quite straightforward. It’s seeing and working with people with learning disabilities who are, in all sorts of different ways, working for freedom, for themselves, for other people with learning disabilities, and in common cause with others.
People campaigning and people going down the insider route. People who challenge oppression wherever they see it, persuasively and without bitterness. People with energy and resilience to keep going in hard times. People doing the media thing with force, clarity and charm. People who come up with creative solutions when sclerotic bureaucracies are stuck. People with persistence and impressive patience in the face of organisations that repeat the same offensive crap over and over again. People who can transform a conversation in a room without saying a word. People who are honest, trustworthy and reliable. Incredibly persuasive people who bring all lots of reluctant organisations with them. People who give a huge amount of time, commitment and emotional energy while being poorly paid or not paid at all. And people who have a good time while they’re doing it.
If you want to find effective organisations working to achieve social change in the face of sometimes extreme pressure, organisations of people with learning disabilities are an excellent place to look.
For us professional fellow travellers, and for me personally, I’ve been very slow to realise what my job should really be – to support this remarkable coalition of people in ways and on terms not determined by me, which includes the possibility of being binned if I’m getting in the way.
In the words of Public Enemy, it’s taking a nation of millions to hold people with learning disabilities back, and you know what? In the end, it won’t work. People with learning disabilities will move beyond co-production to controlling the means of production. There’s my hope (believe the hype).