Trigger Warning: eugenics, death.
A few weeks ago I downloaded TikTok (@WheelerDax), a social media platform where you can create and share little videos, in an effort to expand my ever-growing empire. Despite feeling positively geriatric compared to most of the people on the platform, I’m actually having a lot of fun both creating and viewing content. My videos reach far more people than my ill-fated YouTube channel ever did, and while not perfect, the auto-captioning tool makes creating accessible content significantly easier. While some criticism of TikTok is perfectly valid, so far my experience has been in contrast to it’s negative reputation.
Having followed a handful of accounts, the algorithms that control what you do and don’t get to see very quickly picked up on two common themes; cats, and disabled people. It was perhaps only logical, then, that the algorithms quickly directed me to disabled cats.
I’m immediately going to point out that I’m very against people who use a disabled pet or even child for clout on social media, and so I was quite fussy about which disabled cat accounts I chose to follow. That said, if it appears that a disabled cat is in a stimulating environment where they are cared for and loved, I hit that follow button faster than Usain Bolt after a double espresso.
Of all the cats on the platform there is one in particular who has stolen my heart; Willy, or @iamwillywonky, a gorgeous all-black cat with a disorder that affects his ability to control his movements. As such he needs support to walk, and even one of those adorable kitty wheelchairs doesn’t really help him because all four of his limbs are impacted. I would suggest someone invent the equivalent of my powered wheelchair for him, but cats are close enough to world domination as it is without such technology at their disposal.
Unfortunately, the owners of Willy’s account often receive comments and messages suggesting that, due to his disability, Willy should be put to sleep. People genuinely believe that, purely because he is disabled, he cannot possibly be happy. While it’s obviously hard to tell just from some little videos, that cat honestly seems to be one of the happiest and most fulfilled animals on the planet. How anyone could bear to see such a bright spark of joy be extinguished is beyond me.
Now, you’re probably wondering why on Earth I’m raving about some cat on my blog. Aside from the fact that my very first word was cat (sorry mum and dad), the comments directed at Willy impact disabled humans, myself included. If people think that about a cute animal, chances are they have even less empathy for similarly effected human beings.
The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that of the general public, has made it exceptionally clear just how little regard people have for disabled lives. Even before the pandemic, disabled people would often hear the abhorrent line “if I were you, I’d kill myself”. Now, people refuse to wear a piece of cloth over their face or stand a bit further away in order to protect disabled lives, and we are frequently told that there’s nothing to worry about since it’s only those of us with pre-existing conditions dying anyway (which also happens to be a lie). The attitude that a disabled life cannot possibly be worth living nearly killed me, and has killed countless individuals who were denied life-saving healthcare purely because they were disabled, despite the protest of family members and even the disabled individual whose life was on the line.
As such, this controversial but seemingly innocuous comment on a social media platform highlights a much bigger and scarier problem; the eugenics movement is alive and well, and disabled people are among those on the sharp end of the dagger. I, for one, am just glad that Willy cannot read.