I could use racism, sexism, or classism to make my point about privilege and fraud. But today, for Blogging Against Disability Day, I’m going to use ableism/disablism to make my point.
In Anglophone cultures, when somebody says ‘I have a disability’, unless it’s really obvious, the default reaction is that they are lying. Got fibromyalgia? Then you must be making it up because you’re too lazy to work (note: this is sarcasm).
This is why every disability benefit system I know about puts a strong emphasis on finding ‘fraud’. If a single person were to fraudulently get disability benefits, that would be THE MOST TERRIBLE THING EVER, and we should spend lots of money to prevent fraud, even if it costs way more than letting a few people fraudulently get some meager benefits (more sarcasm).
But what about catching fraud among privileged people, such as abled, white, rich men? Such as the abled, white, rich men who run the financial centers in the City of London and on Wall Street?
Not a single financial regulator I know about puts nearly as much effort into catching fraud as disability benefits agencies, in spite of the fact that catching fraud is part of the core mission of many financial regulators. The core mission of a disabilities benefits agency, ideally, is to help people with disabilities.
In fact, many financial regulators try to protect the nice, abled, white, rich men from having their frauds discovered, because it would be a shame if those nice, abled, white, rich men were caught committing fraud, or, *gasp* got prosecuted (more sarcasm). For just ONE example of this, look at the free eBook at Naked Capitalism about the foreclosure review scandal.
This is partially due to corruption – rich men can bribe politicians, people with disabilities who are broke (there is a high correlation between poverty and having a disability) can’t. But the financial oligarchs also exploit ableism/disablism to re-direct anger away from them to people with disabilities.
The current global economic crisis was largely caused by the fraud in the world’s major financial centers – i.e. rich white man fraud. But somehow they have made the case that a major cause of the financial array is all those greedy people with disabilities (I find it incredible how people with high positions in the world’s most powerful financial firms can claim that people who try to get meager government benefits are greedy – it’s the pot calling the porcelain vase black).
And because we live in an abeleist culture, many people buy this nonsensical argument, and direct the anger which should be aimed at the frausters in the major financial centers at people with disabilities instead.
They’ve even managed to use corruption to steal the benefits of people with disabilities by finding ‘fraud’ that doesn’t exist. A big example is ATOS, which makes big profits telling people who are so sick that they are about to die that they are ‘fit to work’.
Ableism (and racism and sexism and classism) shields privileged fraudsters from accountability. And because they face less accountability, it is they, not the oppressed people who are assumed to be lying until proven otherwise, who have much more incentive to cheat.
And I think that is one reason why ableism (and racism and sexism and classism) persist – it is very useful to the people in power.