“When I’m not there I’m still Here: Redefining ‘Contribution’ and ‘Value.’ “

I’m Chronically Ill and Disabled.  I’m an Activist.  I’m a student and I miss school for days at a time because I get sick.  A lot of the work I’ve done has been unpaid or underpaid and therefore undervalued.  Over the years, I’ve encountered many folks who believe that I cannot be an “effective” activist if I’m not physically present at events and actions.  I challenge people to question definitions of “effective” and “valuable.”  We must also deconstruct the term “productive.” Such terms have historically been used to discount the contributions of marginalized people.  These terms are also used to create and maintain hierarchies–if we can establish whose contributions are most “valuable” & which people are “valuable” then oppression is justified–and abuse is justified–and dehumanization is justified.  Also, it’s becoming more apparent to many–as we move toward an online world–that physical presence is not necessary to make an impact, to create change.

So–If most of our daily activities happen online why do some people still uphold physical contribution over all other (and equally important) forms of contribution?  Why aren’t human beings viewed as inherently valid–as contributing just by existing?

Because institutions and businesses are threatened by this.  In fact, the entire system is threatened because we threaten the current value system that equates physical presence & contribution with some kind of quantifiable exchange.

Capitalism wants us to believe that the most real contributions come from physically participating–physical presence. for those of us who cannot be physically present–our contributions are often discounted or down played.  Ultimately, all contributions are valid because all beings are inherently valuable.  This is something that radically reshapes the value system we’ve been taught. The more we recognize ALL contributions, the more the idea of power shifts–it’s no longer completely externalized–it’s internal and complex–and constantly shifting and changing form.  Ultimately, it is more difficult to control people who are in touch with their inherent power.

As I write this, I realize that it’s sending ripples of change out there–& no matter how small the effect is, it is still an effect.  It is still a contribution and it is just as meaningful.

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4 Responses to “When I’m not there I’m still Here: Redefining ‘Contribution’ and ‘Value.’ “

  1. Exactly!
    i’d add that even when we *are* present, it must be present and conforming to ableist notions of what being present/ being activists/ having an impact/ etc means, or else it’s shut down/ dismissed.

  2. Matt Young says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

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