Minette Marrin, please shut up.

Special needs is a loaded term. It brings some fluffy connotations of cute, lovable and unchallenging kids, but for the most part it is an incredibly broad definition that encompasses pain, anxiety and uncertainty. And that’s just for carers. Those with special needs have a full spectrum of health issues that fate has cherrypicked for them to deal with. Then there are the ongoing social issues ranging from being ignored to being targetted for abuse.

But we band together as we can. The internet provides us with some wonderful connectivity and allows us, mostly the carers, to compare notes and feel part of a wider community. What doesn’t help is when somebody who’s technically inside the camp, someone with quite powerful influence through her high-profile newspaper column, ends up pissing all over us.

I have written about you before, Ms Marrin, but last year I had the time and patience to have a little fun. Twelve months on and I have neither the luxury nor the inclination for gentle ribbing. Your oppositional stances on this issue of intellectual disability are confusing and downright dangerous to a minority of people who need advocacy, not mixed signals.

You can write beautifully, and with touching insight. I wonder if this is because your younger sister was born with a mental handicap. Having a son with Ds certainly gives me an insight I would never be able to buy, and when you wrote this piece about the gifted singer Susan Boyle appearing on X Factor or whatever show it was, and the feeble-minded audience reaction to her, I sensed understanding in your DNA.

…the jeering audience of vain young people trying to catch the camera’s eye and the preening judges of this contest are the nasty boys and girls of fairy stories who mock the poor old lady because she is not young and beautiful, only to be punished when her real self is revealed. And their punishment is to be revealed as they truly are – heartless, thoughtless and superficial. They will grow old too, to be ignored in their turn, and then they will understand that appearances are not everything. And those who despise people who are not thin, not young, not beautiful and not cool will one day find themselves despised in exactly the same way, by people just like their younger selves.

But then you swing to some unforgiving default position as is your way, seen here in last week’s article in The Times. As if your special needs insight gives you the right to choose for all, you have decided that it all boils down to the cost of care workers, and what becomes of a child born to intellectually disabled parents. I’m not about to dismiss these as insignificant factors. They are not. But nor am I about to let them decide whether people we don’t know should be prevented from ever living. While you ponder the grubby cost, from the cosiness of Britain’s unimaginable wealth in the eyes of four fifths of the world’s population, let me direct you to the case of Kelly Fitzgerald, from New Zealand.

Go tell Kelly that a) costs; and b) a future that only your crystal ball seems capable of divining are the two reasons that you have for slamming the door on any idea of her being a parent. Have you seen the way that her mother gently ensures that Kelly doesn’t get any more credit than her siblings? Have you? She’s a stunning tower of virtuous equality, that woman, proud of all her children in an unfussed way, and you and I could both learn from her. Mostly you, though.

Another avenue you could learn from, Minette, is closer to home. Learn from the person who said that ‘Susan Boyle managed to rise above [the bullying and belittling sneers of the studio audience]. She found herself in church choirs and karaoke, restored and triumphant in music; it’s a story of the undefeated spirit.’ Learn from yourself. If you can sort out your own Jeckyl and Hyde handicap, Minette, and use that column of yours to advance the cause of life with the altruism you can sometimes show, you too can help to ‘break the grip of this sneering world’.

Otherwise find a more worthy opponent for your bias. Intellectually disabled people have enough to deal with.


8 comments on “Minette Marrin, please shut up.

  1. Elbog says:

    She closes with:
    “There are some things in life that all the love you have cannot change and cannot make better.”
    I think that Kelly proves that wrong – or at least half wrong.
    My perception from her essay is that Ms. Marrin is struggling with these issues; I don’t have a wider context. I don’t think she’s certain, at all.
    The problem (as I see it) with much of her reasoning – and she alludes to it – is that the same principles she applies to the fitness of any one individual can be applied to most of us; it becomes a matter of degree. It can be viewed as either miracle or mistake that there is no licensing for parenthood. Most governing authorities struggle with it on a case-by-case basis, which (again, my opinion) should be the “norm”. If we in the “special needs” camp put “people first”, blanket characterization itself is the enemy.
    The struggle is the point. For each and every one of us, special, regular, or superstar.
    If she truly believes in her last sentence, she has nothing more to say to me, let alone little reason to get out of bed. My final analysis is that she’s not sure of any of it – there may be hope for her, yet.

  2. Eileen Owens says:

    Hi Nick, super post- thanks. You must have more hours in the day than the rest of us! Fantastic link to Kelly Fitz., will definetley be sending that on. I love that sentence” Yes I’m pretty proud of her, but I’m proud of all my children”. Hope Christmas has arrived in Dublin- you’ll be buying a family sized gondola, then?!

  3. Hey Nick, this post is beautifully written. Strong stuff.

  4. NAN P. says:

    As commented on this woman before, she is a “little mine” – of ignorance!

    I think she is very troubled…

    And she is also Trouble, because her voice carries. If it didn’t, we could simply ignore her!

  5. Iisadom says:

    it is my belief that people who really really want to be parents; make good parents. Love Stretches

  6. WillieWalshWestport says:

    Paper never refuses ……… Let her off with her prejudice and stereotypes. To take any of the ideas seriously is to stress out. I was at an evening conference recently on stress management where one of the comments was that those with their heads up their own arses can never present us with a real vision of the future.

    Kelly is an interesting girl though – now there’s someone with vision. Kelly, the whole independent living movement and those involved in highlighting the importance of natural supports are where it’s at. I noticed that Kelly’s brothers were a big part of her motivation. In this country the ‘In Control’ ethos is starting to have some traction – about time too. Check out the Adelaide CLP – Community Living Project – for a picture of what’s possible when you start with the idea of respect for a person and a commitment to being in a place where you belong.

  7. Mel says:

    Great post Nick. I am a big fan of Kelly too 🙂

  8. Dovic says:

    Seriously. Awesome. Post. And lets not stop there. Loving your whole blog 🙂

    Wonderfully written stuff in here, and I’d pick this post as one of my faves (and that’s without reading what Minette Marin had to say – can’t be bothered with what sounds like a lot of dribble to be honest) but there are too many goodies in here to choose from.

    And lovin Dan N for helping me find you.

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