I recently watched the movie “No” which is a movie about the protests against Pinochet in Chile in 1988 . The main reason for me selecting this movie (which is from 2013) was the dramatic political situation and demonstrations in Chile a couple of years ago, but surprisingly if left me with an idea about what needs to be done in the “disability right movement”.
It is not an insight which is either new or surprising to me – but this movie made me even more convinced about what really has to change.
So, this movie is based on a true story; the director has used a lot of authentic film material. In short it tells the story about the time when Pinochet was the dictator of Chile and he, due to international pressure, gave room to the opposition to say their meaning in public television. They were given 15 minutes every day during a month to convince people about why they should say “NO” to Pinochet in the coming election. At the same time a campaign for “YES” was given the same space (and then of course the “YES”-side had all of the other time of public TV as well).
The whole movie focuses on how they created this NO-campaign – a campaign where everyone from the opposition at first wanted to show the world how Pinochet has violated human rights, made people “disappear”, assassinated people, and forced thousands in exile. However, this changed when a man from the advertising industry was recruited to create the campaign – a man who was convinced that no matter how awful, horrible and unacceptable those facts were – it wouldn’t engage people sufficiently to win the election. This simply because people don’t vote based on hard facts, they vote with their feelings. So instead he created the “NO – la alegría ya viene” (NO – the joy will come) campaign filled with hopeful messages and a joyful tone about what the future would be like without Pinochet. And this campaign turned out to be really convincing; in the coming election (in 1988) Pinochet had to see himself defeated by the NO-sayers.
So what has this to do with the disability rights movement?
I suppose you can guess my point here.
I have many times asked myself why this movement is so vague and quiet compared to other “movements”. Quiet voices, fragmented groups with little in common, people under stress and difficult situations are for sure some of the reasons for it. But I also believe that there is a lack of vision about the future. The movement has been so focused on pointing out all the statistics and cases about violations of human rights, inaccurate treatments, discrimination, lack of resources etc. that the energy surrounding it has been filled with a rather complaining and negative vibe.
Of course, those facts MUST be documented and published and of course it would feel a bit like hypocrisy just going out in the streets, waving flags and saying “the joy will come”. But I definitely believe there are some good learnings from this movie for both large associations as well as many individuals working for disability rights. Imagine what it would be like if we could get together in a THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT AND UNIQUE-campaign? Celebrating the fact that everyone is unique and showing how this is truly essential for society to flourish?
I am pretty sure it would be easier to have more folks coming along in the streets that way…
In some terms I think we can see this coming in social media – where Instagram actually is a platform which both opens up and brings people from the “movement” together in a mostly positive way. Of course there is a balance here though. At least I know that many Down syndrome awareness campaigns can have a bias towards the “everything is happy life”- message, which in a way also can become problematic, but I am more thinking of a common movement for broad disability right-questions here.
One example of someone doing this right now and doing it amazingly good is Caroline Casey! She has together with others started the Valuable 500 campaign in order to get disability on the agenda for many of our largest companies. And the way she does it is both to say “Hey, this is really problematic” but also “Hey, you can really gain something from becoming a more inclusive employer…” and I am certain that this message is what will make them change the way they act and run their companies in the end.
You can read more about the campaign here!