Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

News of the (Instructively) Weird

I caught this little item from the AP today in the Paper of Record. I'd like to just paste the whole thing but in fear of the copyright police I'll just give the lede:

Disability groups in Greece expressed anger on Monday at a government decision to expand a list of state-recognized disability categories to include pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs.

No, it's not The Onion, this is evidently real. It seems that in Greece, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists are already eligible for disability. The main advocacy organization for people with disabilities is outraged because this will dilute the pool of money available for them.

I was a student of the late Irving Kenneth Zola, a founder of the sociological study of disability and of the Self Help Movement; and I consulted for and worked with the Massachusetts Coalition of People with Disabilities, among other relevant experiences. I strongly support the basic philosophy that there is much to be gained in both productivity and justice if society can adapt -- architecturally, culturally, economically -- to be more inclusive and empowering of everyone, rather than creating a physical and social environment that many people cannot navigate and that fails to value the abilities that everyone has. After all, in one way or another we are all disabled, and will grow more so -- it's a matter of degree and of kind. (For example, watching an NBA game, I know I'm disabled.)

But, as a fairly simple matter, I fail to see how pedophilia or kleptomania or pyromania are economically disabling conditions meriting a pension. Yes, if you've been convicted of a crime you will have difficulty getting a job, but that just raises the broader question of our policy toward ex-offenders. The diagnostic label seems irrelevant. All of these are behavioral proclivities, in other words, which our modern fashion is to categorize as "diseases," which is a matter of some philosophical contention but there you are.

However, if the Greek policy strikes you as bizarre, what about schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder? These can qualify you for disability in the U.S., as could substance abuse disorders at one time (although that has been greatly restricted). That seems to make sense, to most people. And the vast majority certainly support accommodation and assistance for people who are blind, who cannot walk, who have cognitive limitations, and other more classic categories of disability. So where is the line, exactly?

I actually am not sure. This is a bit of puzzle.

1 comment:

roger said...

pedophilia or kleptomania or pyromania label a person who has committed a crime, or crimes. schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder describe mental conditions which may or may not lead the sufferer to commit crimes.

ok. perhaps not a bright line difference.