A new humanism

The people who attended the rehearsal for the Paralympics’ opening ceremony on Wednesday evening were not the same as those who watched the Olympics’ welcoming ceremony last month. The large number of children in the stands (for educational reasons?) made the whole thing look like a school event. The crowd was lacking, both in number and in passion. A slight embarrassment about the ceremony – and the canned cheers and clapping – evoked signs of fatigue or, rather, of uncertainty. When a disabled volunteer appeared in the role of the president of the Paralympic Committee, curiosity was soon succeeded by mild amusement. How familiar are we with the sight of disabled people, that is, in large numbers, not as isolated figures? On the platforms of the metro, our «special» guests are a common sight these days. Four thousand athletes from 140 countries are estimated to be in Athens as of today. Are we ready to «host» them? In theory, we are always willing to embrace theories about «accepting differences,» «changing mentality,» «equal treatment,» «social solidarity» and «sensitivity.» Paradox lurks. When faced with the superhuman effort and the mental strength of physically challenged athletes, our eyes mist up. We insist on the inalienable right to life and then go and block wheelchair ramps with our cars. We hail the noble causes of the Paralympics but at the same time turn a blind eye to our disabled fellow citizens. Used to well-muscled and fit bodies, permeated with the aesthetics of physical wholeness and unmarred beauty, we must reinvent our limitations. We must make room for a new humanism – and not out of pity. Records are not just a result of a perfect anatomy but, most importantly, of mental robustness.

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