The Reduction of Stephen Hawking to Cripple Status Is Wrong

The Reduction of Stephen Hawking to Cripple Status Is Wrong

Stephen Hawking is one of the most superior intellects in modern world science. Yet, somewhat paradoxically and cruelly he has become the target of hate speech.

He has chosen, along with many other academics, to boycott a conference convened by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres over Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Of course, others are entitled to disagree with him in turn over his decision not to attend.

In this instance though, it is the manner in which many have voiced that disapproval which I find to be utterly objectionable.

Thus, I condemn it outright, without hesitation.

Many high profile celebrities have joined the boycott as stated too. Have Elvis Costello and Annie Lennox had their vocal cords insulted? Has Mike Leigh had his many directorial credentials trashed?

No, I thought as much. Stephen Hawking, as a prominent scientist with a disability, a wheelchair and a communication aid is a sitting target, quite literally.

Charlotte Meredith's expose in the Daily Express yesterday just shows a very nasty side of the human condition, truly.

Social network users in Israel yesterday were ventilating outrage apparently, by posting comments such as:

"He can't even wipe his own arse."

Equally beautiful was the unqualified assertion that [Stephen Hawking] should die already.

Such pronouncements are shameful and disgusting and have no place in political discourse or in the modern world.

As I said, others have not been vilified in this way. I can only come to the conclusion that Stephen Hawking has been scapegoated due to his disability.

If I delve into the mindset of those who are the agents of such scapegoating, it is perhaps easy to see why they chose him.

Such people buy into, without question the notion that those with disabilities are weak, feeble and helpless. For this notion to persist, they also need to believe that those with disabilities will not fight back as allies on Professor Hawking's behalf.

People too seem to take this personally. I am confident that Hawking has no quarrel whatsoever with the Israeli people, and that his quarrels rest with the Israeli Government instead.

Traducing Stephen Hawking to a collection of disabilities and impairments is to do him a massive disservice.

Yes, he may have disabilities, and he may be unable to wipe his own arse, but he has made more of a contribution to the world than such vituperation ever will.

What troubles me more widely too, is whether the Express article signposts us to commonly held beliefs about those with disabilities. Do people mock our inabilities in private? Do they reduce us to nothing and call for our deaths? Would it be easier if we lived in a world cleansed of all disability?

That last piece of rhetoric may be over exaggeration, but I am seething with anger as I write! I mean, wouldn't you be?

All the other figures of note who have joined the boycott have done so without even a whimper of coverage.

I believe that the reaction to Stephen Hawking's decision to join the boycott harks back to a bygone age. Where those with disabilities were locked behind iron bars, de-humanised and counted as non-people.

They have chosen, through language, to hit Stephen at the point where it hurts most, and that is why a fire burns in my heart.

Of course, such narratives are abhorrent and wrong and need to be extinguished now, and fast.

It may seem a revolutionary idea, but people with disabilities do have attitudes, belief systems and thoughts.

They may or may not resonate or chime with your own. But the comments around his decision to support the boycott are alarming and set a frightening precedent.

If every time someone in a minority expresses an opinion they are going to be insulted in the worst way possible, that is sad.

Disability hurts you know?

But what hurts more is seeing somebody's disability used against them in such a vile manner.

They of course can come at it from the point of view of mercifully for them being able to wipe their own arse.

That said though, disability can happen to anyone, and karma moves in mysterious ways.

Stephen Hawking's contribution to the world is far more noteworthy than his disability, than his wheelchair, and even his communication aid.

That is how it should be in a progressive society.

Stephen Hawking did nothing wrong. He expressed an opinion. So did Annie Lennox, and Elvis Costello. What's the difference?

People with disabilities have opinions too. We are also people, and have the right to make decisions to either support something or not, as the case may be.

We also have the right to defend ourselves when attacked, or when confronted with disgusting insults.

I know who I think has won this argument.

Stephen Hawking is not a cripple but a towering intellectual force. With all the contributions he has made to the world, I couldn't care less about his arse, or him being a cripple. Nor do I want him prematurely dead. A supreme waste of talent I feel.

I care about his achievements. When Israelis find their objectivity, so should they. They should also apologise profoundly and meaningfully.

The backlash against Stephen Hawking has shown how disgusting humankind can be.

Let us be better, please?

Stephen Hawking is perhaps crippled, but not defined by such. It should be ever thus.


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