Life Style

Disability, from Neanderthal to augmented man

The difference, its acceptance, its contributions, constitute – it is fortunate – an inexhaustible material for the youth edition. Throughout the library, it is about identity, including sexuality, racism and even disability. And it is this last theme that is tackled in a way as original as it is instructive a brand new documentary album intended for adolescents. Original and instructive because the book, summoning archaeological discoveries, takes us back a long way through time and civilizations. Objective of this journey, which brings us back to Neanderthal man and his protective outbursts vis-à-vis the most vulnerable: to show how the perception of disability and, therefore, human relationships have evolved. For better and for worse.

Tutankhamun needed canes to walk

In this book rich with a thousand anecdotes, a thousand stories, we learn that the Egyptians invented the first prostheses, which were worn even in the tomb, in the hope of regaining all of their physical capacities once they reached the beyond. Tutankhamun himself, stricken with limp, was buried with a hundred canes which had helped him move. We also read that Confucius, who died at the age of 80, is sometimes represented in a chair equipped with wheels, the ancestor of the wheelchair. Or that the first “retirement home” for severely disabled elderly people, recently discovered in the Drôme, dates from the 13th century.e century.

→ READ. The delicate education of children with mental disabilities

But history has also often been very cruel. The “monster markets” of ancient Rome, where people walked to make fun of “Legless, men with atrophied arms, three eyes or an ostrich neck” to the appalling Aktion 4 program wanted by Hitler and which led to the sterilization or death of 80,000 disabled people.

From “repaired” man to “augmented” man

The album, with graphic and colorful illustrations, traces the dazzling progress of medicine, the suffering they alleviate, the hopes they arouse, the possibility they give to work or practice sport at a high level. But the author does not lose sight either of the specter of eugenics nor of the ethical questions raised by a change of paradigm which now seems inevitable, with the transition from a “repaired” man to an “augmented” man.

Increase man?

In the mirror of centuries and millennia, without pathos or injunction to good feelings, the young reader is invited to look at the psychological springs of exclusion, between fear, mockery and curiosity. And in turn, perhaps, to wonder about the relationship to difference within our society.


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