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February 2014

“There are none so blind…”

We live in an increasingly politically correct world – like it or not. As the resident curmudgeon, I opt for the “not” part. Politically correct (in my experience) has, most often, proved to be a euphemism for cowardly, surrender-monkey peaceniks who have yet to meet a tree they do not want to hug. Say what you need to say and, for crying in a bucket, speak clearly. Do not say physically disabled when you mean crippled. Do not say that a person is vertically challenged when you mean that the bloke’s a short-*rse. And, in keeping with the theme for this month’s column, do not say visually challenged or visually impaired when you mean BLIND.

Blind is blind. I am aware that there are degrees of blindness (ask any politician) but, in essence, blind is blind. I have met a number of blind people in my time and, on the whole, they have proved to be a remarkable bunch. Self-sufficient, independent and, seemingly against overwhelming odds, cheerful to boot! Admirable traits all. This is indeed the case with a young blind man, Basheer Claasen from Vorna Valley in Gauteng who, despite life having thrown him a severe curve ball has learned to cope. He has learned to adapt and make the best of the cards he was dealt. In an effort to help himself and increase his independence as far as is possible (he’s blind, not crazy – he realises his limitations), Basheer recently finished working with the South African Guide Dog Association (SAGA) and is now the proud owner (or could that be “partner”) of a beautiful Labrador called Zigzag who is his faithful guide and companion wherever he goes.

The extent of the trust that Basheer and Zigzag’s SAGA trainers place in this remarkable animal is evidenced in the fact that Zigzag recently passed (with flying colours) an intensive three day course designed to teach him how to successfully lead his master along the 2 km. route to and from the local Spar so that Basheer could, for the first time, go and do his own (assisted) shopping. So, in due course, Basheer and Ziggy tootle off to the shops – happy as larks. They arrive at the local Spar unscathed. Basheer’ beaming, Ziggy’s chuffed – what a clever boy! So far, so good. Enter – even in our politically correct world – the usual suspects who care only for themselves in their narrow, shallow and materialistic existences.

No sooner had Basheer and Ziggy entered the store than a manager approached him and asked him to “remove his dog from the store” owing to complaints received from other customers who were afraid that Ziggy “might eat some food off the shelves”.  Egad! The curmudgeon is very rarely truly incensed but, in this instance, it is very likely a good thing that yours truly was not in the store at the time to witness this callous, shameful, ignorant and selfish example of the depths to which insensitive “people” will sink. Not to mention the stunning ignorance and sheer dofness of the manager concerned. If this guy had two brain cells to rub together, he could make a fire and light the dank corners of his empty mind.

Of course, Spar management has subsequently apologised and smoothed the ruffled feathers. We Geddit. SAGA had a “go” about public ignorance of the function of guide dogs…. Blah blah blah. Yeah, yeah. Basheer and Ziggy just had to “suck it up”. Being blind, he’s used to that. What still hasn’t and, probably never will change, is the sheer, hateful, unthinking callousness of some people who are, in effect, blind themselves - without ever being aware of it. There are none so blind as those who are too dumb to see…   

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