Inviolable Uniqueness: Human Enhancement Technologies, Ableism, and the Healing Potential of Human Dignity through FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement
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Ableism is the term used to describe the set of discriminatory attitudes and practices in favour of the able-bodied. The prejudices of ableism operate against people with age-related impairments, chronic medical conditions, injuries, variant forms, and physical, developmental, and/or psychiatric disabilities. The root of ableism is societal regard for the value of human life that is merely conditional on the basis of functionality. The phenomenon of ableism and its relationship to human enhancement technologies comes to the fore in the recent film FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (Making Change Media, 2013). For producer and director Regan Brashear, physical disability is the primary lens through which ableism is presented for examination from multiple angles. Intimate interviews with several people with physical disabilities and performances by integrated dance companies featuring dancers with and without observable disabilities are the documentary’s two distinct but complementary primary approaches, combined with observational cinema and archival content. The film’s articulate verbal and striking visual content drives at the eponymous question of whether the human body or society has greater need of being fixed. The remedies needed to fix society are not technological in nature. Societal changes with plausible efficacy in combating ableism depend on transcending material realities and values. The film, confined to a secular American cultural context, raises urgent questions but offers no answers. The Church, with its public role in offering holistic, non-mainstream perspectives on the universality of human value and historical advocacy for marginalized people, is a fit respondent for one of the film’s calls to action: to lay out a path for societal healing towards justice through the thick of ableism’s myriad manifestations. In this article, Catholic social teaching that addresses people with disabilities explicitly, as well as the fundamental concepts of human dignity, is articulated in response to FIXED’s evocation of ableism’s threat to the common good, exacerbated by broadly but unevenly distributed human enhancement technologies.
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