Dear Rosie and the rest,
My intention was NOT to equal the kind of courses you describe with what I
called among other things "cheap entertainment". I realised when I read
Elisabeth's posting that I had used the public event in form of conferences
etc as the only example and that that might be misleading. So let my try to
clarify or indeed complicate this issue further:
How do you expose something without exploiting it? Is that indeed possible?
These are questions where I think we have no easy answers. So I turn to the
structure for clues and what I then see, is that in these events (public and
less public, of all sizes and with all types of participants) it boils down
to two points: what exactly you are supposed to expose, which really has to
do with the purpose of exposure; and who has the power to decide the
situation and control the event enough to make sure that the purpose of it
My point is that if you are supposed to expose your personal emotions and
feelings about your private situation, to the sole purpose of trying to make
other experience what you are feeling. This is impossible and will only lead
to the kind of situation where empathy is indeed pity. What Elisabeth
described so accurately as a tendency towards social voyerism. In this
situation wether I who am "performing" feel I am sharing experiences or not,
I am disempowered. I have no control over the purpose of my exposure and I
have not been able to choose or control the situation I am in. This has
absolutely nothing to do with awareness training, which I happen to beleive
is very good and necessary.
I guess there will be a kind of grey zone, where exposure to create societal
change and exposure for the sake of voyerism meets. As a person in control
of an event like this, I can choose to expose extremely personal and
vulnerable expeiences and feelings, to illustrate a general point which I
make. This is not something I will call exploitation. I have the power to,
at least in some sense, make sure that my experience is an "illustration" to
the point not to the feeling and certainly not just to me as a person.
However, if I am not in control, and maybe the participants have come to
this event in the illusion of learning just this one thing - "how does it
feel to be disabled?", then I think, no matter how hard I try, I will become
exposed to voyerism. This is in my view exploitation.
I guess it all comes down to the old matter of power. Do I have the power to
choose to expose myself as a part of fulfilling the purpose I am meant to
fill? Or am I without power over my own situation and exposure; am I in fact
And as always with power it's a slippery thing. So much depending on things
behind the surface. So much depending on the situation of the moment. But
no matter how hard to target where it is in a given situation, I happen to
think it is absolutely essential to recognise that there is an enormous
difference in having power or lacking power.
But then, isn't that the basic to everything in society?
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