I believe that the core of life is the creation and sharing of meaning. It is easy to forget this core when things are going along smoothly and we can ignore most of what passes before us without any great risk.
That time is past.
We live in a period of intense volatility, and we not only lack tools for dealing with such rapid and unpredictable change, we carry with us a set of assumptions about how our society works that might have been useful as rules-of-thumb in the past, but are no longer so.
In fact, these assumptions drive us to make poor choices, triggering changes and consequences we can’t predict, and forcing more poor choices on us.
The only way to manage this astounding level of uncertainty is to craft a strategy that will provide us with a framework for making difficult and tentative decisions over and over.
Nowhere is this change in how we make choices more important than in the disability community.
As all of you are aware, our struggles to build access, inclusion, and choice into our society have stalled and retreated at the Federal level because of the actions of the current administration. But, our progress has always been incremental and hard-fought, requiring persistence and a relentless commitment to our values over decades.
Now, while persistence and relentless commitment will still be very important, there are many forces that will actively work to undermine and destroy the progress we have made.
I want to talk to you about our struggle for rights in the larger context of long-term changes in our society that are now and will be constricting our community’s social and political capacity to innovate and expand freedom and choice for ourselves. The legislative and regulatory frameworks we have used for progress in past decades are currently eroding, and it isn’t clear that we can stop that erosion, much less reverse it.
In addition, there are large social forces that will make those legislative and regulatory frameworks less effective even as we succeed in defending them against attack.
In the future, it will not be enough for us to demand our rights. We will also have to create the social frameworks within which our rights will have real meaning and through which we can live fulfilling lives of choice.
We will not be able to depend on others for the success of these efforts.