The Convergence of Disability Law and Policy: Core Concepts, Ethical Communities, and the Notion of Dignity
Interview with Rud Turnbull
Produced by Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
The Affective Side of Public Policy
Rud Turnbull: And that brings me to the fourth area of my present interest, and it will seem again, I think, somewhat farfetched for a lawyer to be talking about it, but there is an affective power to public policy. And I want to talk about the affective side of public policy. And it begins with what I call BMIT. What does that mean? Beyond Mechanical excuse me. Beyond Mechanics, Intervention and Technology. The mechanics of what we do of our interventions and of our technologies obviously are very, very important, but if we think only about them and only about law as a means of regulating relationships, we don't do enough for people with disabilities and their families. And my family life story is proof of that. So what do we have to do to get beyond mechanics, interventions, and technologies?
The first thing we have to do, I think, is to talk about personhood. Now personhood is a social condition that describes how a person has standing, has a position within their community. It is a bestowed condition. It can be stigmatizing or it can be esteeming. It is something that is bestowed, that is conferred upon, and therefore it can be withdrawn from. And so my concerns are how personhood attaches. Esteemed personhood attaches to a person with a significant disability.
One way it attaches, and this is the third issue of affective, is by our empathy. Now empathy means the ability to see yourself in another person's position, to stand in their shoes. Empathy is important as a way of beginning to relate to another person, as a way of seeing their personhood. But empathy is an inert condition. It does not require anything except the ability to identify. Just the ability to identify doesn't cause action. What causes action is compassion. "Com" meaning with, "passion" meaning action. Action with a person, action that takes the empathy of the personhood and changes it.