In my first post in this series of independence I addressed the subject in its widest context, what it means and how it impacts us and what it means if it is removed. This second part addresses the question Are we really independent? Is independence really a myth?
I mentioned in my last post about being born blind and my parents trying to make me as independent as possible, in fact all parents do that, but is it really possible for me to gain full independence? What does full independence really look like? Is it really possible? Is it really a good thing to be independent?
As much as I would love to have full independence, I don’t really think that is ever really possible, and I don’t that’s possible for anyone else either. Even though we are preconditioned form childhood to strive for independence the truth is none of us are truly independent and however independent we may be we will inevitably will all have to rely on someone or be at the mercy of systems and things beyond our control, and ultimately we may end up losing our independence anyway through ill health or having our independence restricted through the illness or disability of another as the example shown in the first part of this blog.
The world we live in independence is usually celebrated and dependence is shunned. My mum’s friend used to comment how independent I was getting around everywhere, whether it was a local shop or travelling abroad. People are scorned if they have to rely on government hand outs paid for by the taxpayer, even the government we have in power believes in personal responsibility (or is it really personal independence). The truth of the above is that yes I can travel on my own but it doesn’t work without a good transport system to rely on or people to assist me getting on and off the train at the right stop. Here’s a funny story I was getting off at Crewe station to transfer to another train I ended up on the wrong train I rang my mum to tell her I was on my way even though I’d got on the wrong train, as I had to get off at another stop to get back onto the right train, but my phone cut out, when I arrived at the other end a line of Virgin Rail Staff in their red uniforms were lining the platform waiting for me, apparently the line of red coats had gone up and down the train I should have been on it was embarrassing!
Anyway back to the topic often those who are pointing the finger at those who are less independent tend to not see their own dependency. a great example is the other side of the benefits saga is that there are many people in the UK are on benefits depending on the government for extra income whilst working, but criticising those who are not working claiming benefits also paying tax often the indirect kind like VAT, or have worked. Another example is on a discussion group a sight impaired person was critical of others relying on others a lot and yet mentioned on another post of how much their parent helped them. In disability circles it can seem a crime to ask for help or even be seen to be struggling.
The fact is we are always having to depend on someone or something in our lives to a greater or lesser extent. For those of you who pride yourselves on independence ask yourself what you do in these scenarios or what you would do.
Your car breaks down on a motorway, you need a toilet and your in a foreign city, your child goes wandering off in the large shopping centre and you have no idea where they are. your spouse has been made redundant and your still working which leaves a shortfall.
OK OK , the examples above are more emergency situations, where ultimately you will have to rely on someone for help, you will need to call a break down service, ask someone for directions in a foreign country, seek out security for that lost child, and possibly take courage in both hands to ask the boss for a pay rise, or claim benefits. But equally we rely on our banks to pay our direct debits to those we owe money too, we rely on supermarkets to supply the food we want to purchase, emergency services to come out to us in the event of a fire, burglary or heart attack, councils to manage our waste, Governments to support our public services, the train to arrive on time and the list goes on.
The truth is from all this we are not truly independent, we are always needing at some point to depend on something or someone else in our day to day lives. So the question I asked can we truly independent? Equally can we be fully dependent, the answer to these questions is no, however there is a third option, a word I don’t often hear interdependence,
In conclusion I believe there is nothing wrong with having a level of independence but recognising that we are not completely independent, it’s an irony a contradiction for us to say we are independent or be fully autonomous, it’s an ideal but never a reality. Also our worldview on this issue is wrong, independence/dependence are neither right nor wrong unless there are extremes involved. There is a danger though that in our celebrating of independence we lose sigh to the value of the necessity to depend on others at times. in my third part of the post I will address the notion of interdependence., the fourth part I will address Co=dependence which is the extreme of dependence and my last part will address the issue of what you do if you or a family member start to lose your independence as a result of illness or disability.