Stop Minimizing People’s Problems

This is another one of those moves that can easily end up being ableist as fuck.

I recently posted a message in the fediverse pointing out that the COVID-19 tests provided by have the worst packaging ever that I’ve seen in any testing kit. I can fit four Flowflex kits, four tests, in about the same space. It took all of five minutes before someone started gesticulating about SUVs being a bigger problem.

Bloody hell! This shit again?

Listen, I don’t know if SUVs are in fact a bigger problem. I’ve not done the mental work of comparing the two. It remains that the fact that you believe it is a bigger problem has no bearing on whether the packaging here is a problem. Multiple problems can exist simultaneously.

No only this but, in my eyes, minimizing the issue here is of one piece with “we’re all a little autistic,” and other slogans of this sort that attempt to minimize the issue of disabled people. You know why the wasteful packaging is a problem? Because I have very little space at my disposal. You know why? Because my revenue is limited. You know why? Because I’m disabled.

Yes, receiving these tests in wasteful packaging has had a real impact on how I set up my space. If I still lived on almost nine acres of land, as I used to, I wouldn’t bat an eye, but I’m now in a one-bedroom apartment with very little space to spare. My COVID-19 tests used to all be in my medicine cabinet. Now they aren’t, because they don’t fit in that space. Your minimizing my problem is ableist. If I were not disabled, then I’d have the space to not worry about it.

However, independently of my own situation, the problem of wasteful packaging is in fact a real problem. Again, I don’t know how it compares with SUVs. However, if we want to tackle climate change, it is an issue that we have to tackle alongside the sale of unnecessary SUVs. It is not one or the other. In addition, as I’ve shown in my post, the problem has already been handled. The Flowflex tests give me four time the testing power in the same space.

The notion that a problem is a first-world problem falls into the same category. Calling a problem a first-world problem is just a way for you to dismiss an issue while hiding yourself behind a popular maxim. Newsflash! I live in a first-world country. Yes, all my problems are first-world problem. You’ve gained nothing if you come at me declaring that my problem is a first-world problem.

I had a shitty night.

Well, at least you were not homeless. Also, first-world problem.

The Lunesta did not work to help my sleep.

Well, at least you slept in a bed. Also, first-world problem.

The barrista short-changed me.

Well, at least you got yourself coffee. Also, first-world problem.

My store is not generating enough revenue.

Well, at least you do have some revenue. Also, first-world problem.

I was sunburned at the beach.

Well, at least you do get to go to the beach. Also, first-world problem.

In all these cases, what you’re doing is dismissing the issue that the person reported. In at least some of these cases, that move is also ableist.

I recently watched As We See It. It is a show about autistic people. One of the characters has trouble navigating the outside world. Loud noises startle him easily. He is extremely afraid of dogs. I don’t have this problem, and most of the world does not have this problem. If this character were to post to the fediverse, what would be our answer? Tell him that his issues are not real problems because, oh my god, look at all the SUVs being sold!!!!! Tell him to “be a man?”

How about we just listen?

Moreover, I’m not a fan of comparing problems. There’s no end to it. You can say that something is a problem. Someone else can come saying that something else is a bigger problem, right or wrong does not matter. Then yet another person can claim that yet another problem is an even bigger problem. There’s just no end to this merry-go-round.

I’m not a fan of comparing problems, just as I’m not a fan of comparing diseases or conditions. I doubt that many of you will consider a headache to be worse than cancer. I’ve had cancer. When someone comes complaining about a headache, I don’t go “Shut up, I’ve had cancer.” What I do is listen to them and wish them well, irrespective of my past health troubles. Similarly, when someone talks to me about a problem, I don’t dismiss them.

Listen. When I post in the fediverse, there are easy solutions if you just can’t stand my message:

  • You can ignore me. This is super easy to do. Roll your eyes if you must, then just move on to the next post.
  • You can mute me.
  • If you think that my message is beyond the pale, you can block me.

Sending me a reply dismissing me, however, is a sure way to find yourself on the path to being blocked.






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