What was your first reaction when you found out about the existence of Braille? Probably a little bit of shock and confusion at first. Likely some disbelief that it actually functions, or that people are willing to manufacture it.
Maybe even something resembling disgust or agitation was felt by 7-year-old you. Whatever that strange pity or bewilderment was quickly turned into fascination and appreciation for a reading system made for those with visual impairment.
I can’t give a history on Braille, but from what I can tell, its rise in use was rather expedient. Few people defended “raised letter” systems for being more “like the real thing”. It was not regarded as “in bad taste”, it was just tough to motivate to motivate the educational and industrial sectors to incorporate it.
A thing like Braille has the potential to briefly invoke a sense of confusion and alienation, but for the most part, everybody’s on board with the system that lets you read with your fingers. Considering how things often go for people aching for decent accommodations, Braille has been a dream. A win on so many fronts.
But the world’s not so simple, right? There are plenty of neat and convenient and easily agreed upon things a person with a certain disability can ask for and use, and almost everyone else will oblige. Sign language interpreters doing their endearingly meme-worthy thing at political conferences is an example of this. The straightforward existence of wheelchairs is another.
And yet there are other aspects to “disability” which generate the fires of social tension with obscene consistency.
They’ve resulted in treatment that ranges from horrifying to upsetting to frustrating to bothersome to cliche.
Why are things still so?
Why not just trust the judgment of the person with the disability?
That can be best summarized with this statement:
Even within the heart of someone who wants, say, a ramp to be built in a step they want to roll up onto, are these two things- a sense of having the right amount of power over a situation and a feeling of doing things in a crafty and novel manner.
There’s a willingness to create inconvenience in a tasteful way.
A wish to make new obligations in a brilliant way.
An ache to bend the hearts of others to your will, but with precisely the right dosage of imposition onto someone else. And surely the spicy mood created by that will is there.
Fighting for your idea of personal dignity can be so difficult because other people feel they can sense that you’re acting in bad taste.
Like you’re close to modern civility but ever so slightly titled into instinctual savagery. Like you’re close to self-interest but ever so barely leaning into bland conformity.
Allow me to explain the nightmare once again: the reason why it’s hard to defend yourself when asking for accommodations, perhaps especially for those whose disabilities aren’t visually apparent.
It’s because the person denying you your heart’s desire sees you as…..failing to match their own idea of what good taste is.
You’re the stereotype of what people fail to define but always try to define:
People just not getting it.
To the vast majority of grown up human beings, good taste is knowing when to back off, when to indulge, when to cooperate, when to go your own way, when to be expressive, when to work hard, when to antagonize, when to negotiate, when to praise, when to scorn.
To do none of those things adequately is what makes you “awful” in a person’s eyes. And to merely falter at them significantly despite being on the right track is what makes a person “tasteless”.
And when a person feels “tasteless” to you rather than “awful” it’s hard to make them your enemy, an object of extreme hate.
But it’s very easy to do the opposite of what they’re begging you to do….
to a person who feels moral but tasteless.
It’s so easy to meet a stretched hand with a little slap.
It’s so easy to let go of a hand trembling in pain
when the person has such a fucking juvenile look on their face.
you feel it, the banality of evil, the banality of Karen.
Some on disability forums say that the best tip to give people confused at how….not to offend any disabled person…is to simply treat them like people. Not to care too much about exactly how to look at them or touch them or speak around them, but just to treat them like people.
what if the sense of “I’m just treating people like people” is too intricately flawed to begin with for that to ever work?
What if all the weird little jokes and provocations and empty promises and small talk and risks and evasions in and the bizarre playful nuanced little things in a human interaction where both parties are convinced each is the more mature…
can’t help but make their way into your disabled experience and taint it?
The only solution for you is to awaken this world
from the nightmares created by everyone feeling like they can
tell the itty bitty differences between good and bad taste.
Yes, call it the plain, mid-level evil created by navigating other people like an adult.
That slight sense of being the ever more tasteful one,
and how your cheeks clench when you do it.
I want you to be sickened by that feeling in the right amount.
I want you to reject that sensation of “hey, I’m just being the grown-up here, sheesh.”
Several years ago I watched a video complaining about other people complaining about motion controls making their way into their video games.
Motion controls, mind you, are that thing where you wave around the Wii Remote to play tennis virtually. They’ve become infamous for leaving a streak in gaming history of extreme gimmicky-ness, half-assed functionality, and intrusion into games that could have played just fine with two analog sticks, a d-pad, and 1 to 12 buttons.
And likewise, they have their fans as well. Plenty of people loved driving in Mario Kart Wii. Swordplay in games like Skyward Sword had that extra bit of joy for your inner lover of combat.
VR is also pretty damn big on motion controls, since your whole body can actually get into it properly. But the most common form of motion controls these days is aiming in games like Splatoon, where the controller’s movement can be used in addition to an analog stick, to make aiming really, really precise and fun.
We can argue about the way that some games kind of half-force you to use them, but for various PC games, it’s completely goddamn optional.
This is the video that I was talking about.
To summarize, this one Tuber was all like “get those motion controls out of my video games!”
And the other guy was all “that’s ridiculous, there’s no reason at all to complain about motion controls when you don’t have to use them and they didn’t even impact the development of the game and the normal controls!”
You might agree with that. How is it even remotely possible to care about motion controls that were just kind of gently patched into the game?
You could smile cheekily at your screen and hope you find the answer someday.
Or you could try understanding in terms of “having good taste”.
It’s almost like you’re drilling straight into the ground, right? Digging and digging and digging and digging, deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, into the murkiest, murkiest murkiest spaces of whatever “your heart” really is to find out what “having good taste” actually is
Good taste is balance.
Of indulgence and restraint,
of novelty and tradition,
of weirdness and simplicity.
To some people, a gamer’s thumbs upon a d-pad and a few buttons is the epitome of good taste.
And anything fancier than that
comes from a similarly joyful
but much much more egregious
and fundamentally ugly-feeling place.
And to some, (I say this feeling sick by the way at how things are)
leaning toward the wishes and conveniences of the typically abled majority,
rather than trying to muck them up for a minority,
at least within a few situations where it feels appropriate not to accommodate too hard
also feels like the epitome of acting in good taste.
It feels like nuance, it feels like navigation, it feels like adulthood, it feels like
the spiciest kind of peace.
A type of inner warmth that almost hurts and feels “off” of what a person should be,
but ultimately because easy to adjust to, and ends up rather gratifying and comforting.
Like burning flakes upon the tongue you somehow come to love.
Ah, yes, that is the feeling.
Adding spice into your life by being just the right amount of difficult to other people.
It would be wrong to not savor that.
And simply hand everything to everyone who asks.
Well, does the term “banality of evil” or “banality of Karen” make more sense to you now?
Just as that one guy felt he had good taste in his hobby and couldn’t resist hating on at controller tilting enthusiasts,
someone could easily say rude things about disabled persons
(again, I am slightly sick now)
out of a sense of good taste in how things operate in public and shit.
(I could cry just a little)
There’s a spirit of playfulness and a will to power inside the way things get done from day to day,
including something like the use of steps and rails in front of a building.
For somebody to interrupt that, to challenge that, to rewrite that, certainly comes from a similarly playful and powerful place.
So, disability having stranger, or reading this, does this answer suffice?
People look at you as just another kind of adversary.
Just another quirky little rival in the ride of life.
And the suffering you experience by them could only be negated,
if the sense of having good taste was in me, and all, and you, defeated.
To end the nightmare, learn to wash “good taste” out of your mouth.
Destroy the sensation that comes from looking at the NES rectangle and thinking
“yeah, don’t stray too far from that”.
The whole world needs to learn not to glow like fire with warmth and wit
when they see someone being “tacky”, even if that person’s world is crumbling.