“Would you have sex with Oscar Pistorius?” a gay friend asks. I stare at him blankly.
“Of course not!” I shout, outraged.
“Oh, that’s pretty ableist of you,” he says, disapprovingly. “If you wouldn’t even have sex with Oscar Pistorius… I mean, he’s so good-looking.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I say. “I wouldn’t not have sex with him because he’s disabled. I wouldn’t have sex with him because I’d constantly be worrying about whether he’d murdered his girlfriend or not.”
“No,” says my friend. “Say you knew for certain that he was innocent. Would you have sex with him?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” I say. “I’d even pay him. He’s fucking beautiful.”
“And would you,” my friend shoots me a malicious glance, “would you make him keep his flippers on?”
We start giggling. We’re laughing at Oscar Pistorius because of his disability. Not despite his disability, but because of it. That’s what we are doing. It’s morally unacceptable to laugh at disabled people – but if a joke’s funny enough, you’ll laugh anyway.
Contrary to what Silke Burmester thinks, we’re not laughing at Oscar Pistorius because we want to include him in society. We’re just laughing at him to be funny. Humour can often be cruel, can often be sadistic. We’re being cruel, we’re being childish, we’re being unfair. Oscar Pistorius is so rich and so good-looking that I don’t even feel that guilty about it. But that is what we’re being.
So. Silke Burmester thinks the biggest problem facing disabled people in Germany is that they don’t get laughed at enough. Or something. They want to be part of society? Being part of society means being part of society’s crap jokes. So when we laugh at disabled people we’re actually doing them a huge service, because we’re treating them like normal people who’ve got a bit of leg missing, rather than walking round them on tip-toes, being all sensitive and careful and cautious.
You know what? Even if she’s right – even if people not wanting to laugh at cripples and blind people and spastics and all the rest of it – is patronizing – is a form of exclusion, you know what? It’s not the worst form of exclusion they face. Walk round Berlin – walk around Neukölln. How many disabled people do you see, literally lying in the road, begging for money. There’s a guy on crutches who begs on the U8, his flesh is literally rotting away, he’s verdorben. The reason so many disabled people are poor – begging in the streets – is because they’re not part of society. It’s physically hard for disabled people to participate in society. It is hard for them to get places. I remember before I had my kid, I’d always thought the Berlin underground was quite disabled-friendly. Then I had a kid and a Kinderwagen and I realized that it fucking isn’t. When you have a Kinderwagen and the lift is broken you can wait obediently by the stairs for some teenager to come and help you carry it up. What can disabled people do? Disabled people are physically excluded from taking part in society. The exclusion is physical. They don’t get jobs. They don’t get jobs because they’re not as easy to work with, because they are harder to employ, as in use. There’s less use for them. My mother has multiple sclerosis. I wouldn’t employ her. There are disabled people I would employ, for sure, but my mother’s not one of them. If I had a company and someone put a gun to my head and told me to give my mum a job, I’d make her a sleeping partner and tell her to stay home. These are just facts. Being disabled is physically hard. You are physically excluded from being part of society.
As well as the physical exclusion, there’s also the stigma. Disabled people are stigmatized. I snogged a guy once in a disco – it was a few years back, now – and then he told me he had epilepsy. I remember the way I felt about him totally changed, I stared at him and he kind of swirled around in my head and I had to put him in a new box – in the “disabled” box. I felt guilty for doing it and I kept on snogging him afterwards – but it happened. He changed categories. Just look at the way the word “behindert” is used as an insult in German schools, for fuck’s sake. Not even schools, I know grown German adults who use that slur all the time. “Das ist voll behindert!” So, come on. Do not pretend to me that the worst form of exclusion facing disabled people in Germany today is people being too precious about the cripple jokes. Do NOT. Just fuck off. Just actually fuck OFF.
So. We shouldn’t laugh at disabled people. Well, that’s my personal opinion, anyway. I think maybe at some point in the future, when there’s lifts and ramps and a really high Behinderte-Quote and we’ve all forgotten about our weird Nazi-perfect body fetish, then yeah, great. Then laughing at disabled people will be morally fine. But until that point, the decision to laugh at a disabled person because of their disability will be a morally unacceptable one. Here’s the thing though: if the joke is funny enough, we’ll laugh anyway. We will. But do not pretend – how disingenuous can you be, seriously – do NOT pretend we are laughing because we want to include them in society more. Grow up. We’re laughing because we’re cunts and the least we can do is admit it. The very fucking least. We’re cunts and sometimes we find jokes about disabled people funny. It’s not okay. But that’s how it is.