by Michael Bailey

bedient functionaries are dangerous. It is obedient functionaries who are simply “doing their job”— staffing institutions, participating in commitment hearings, doing the dirty work for nursing homes and sheltered work-shops.

Their dirty work is what makes such zones of indignity and injustice possible. Indeed obedient functionaries have been the essential props of the gigantic, insane, state-spon­sored crimes of our time.

No act is committed in a moral vacuum. No job that impacts the life of another person can be evaluated or judged unless its moral content is judged as well.

There is a next step for people with disabilities who travel the road to self-deter­mination. It is to examine in the clear light of day the values of a system that leaves so much power in the hands of people whose opinions, expertise and vision is under-valued and whose behavior is largely ignored: the obedient functionaries.

uel to power the disability business… its raw mate-rial… the bituminous coal of care... is this the future for people with disabilities?

Of course those in control tell us that is not the way it is, certainly not the way it will be. They tell us that we are entering a new era of inde­pendence and self-

direction. But I

wonder if the

thinkers and policy

makers really know

who it is who must

manifest the

patience, the

stamina, the

commitment and

the vision to

change a system

which has for

centuries operated

upon the principles

of helplessness,

dependency and

degradation, paid

for in the currency

of gratitude.

The people

who will or will

not be there to

offer the long-

heralded individu­

alized supports are

today typically low

wage, low status


being involved, let
alone for making
change, is highly
variable. Since the power in
the system has always come
and still comes from the top
down, low status employees
exist only to be managed and
directed. No one thinks of
them as policymakers. But
without them no policy
change is possible.

The result of top-down management is a large class of obedient functionaries who go about their work with no sense of responsibility or accountability beyond that required by licensing.

e know that scientists have developed and are creating ever more refined methods of prenatal screen­ing, methods which may in future eliminate all births of what they call “fetal anoma­lies.” Thus we have the power


They are low status line workers, just doing their jobs; just doing the dirty work.

to exterminate in future the human beings who possess what is seen as a flaw, a characteristic that is today deemed undesirable.

Murder is a crime that, by destroying individual lives, violates the legal and moral order of the community. Extermination is a crime that, by destroying an entire community, constitutes a crime against the family of communities that make up mankind — a crime, as international law has come to realize, against humanity.

Murder is a crime against the living; extermination is a crime against the future. Extermination is never possible unless the obedient functionary simply does her or his job — philosopher Hannah Arendt called this “the banality of evil.”

No passion or personal animosity is required to simply follow instructions and fill the role of functionary in a system which creates only two actual commodities: suffering and dependency.

It seems to me that we must find ways to make staff responsive and responsible only to the people they work for — people with disabilities. Without a new role and a new partnership of equality between people with disabili­ties and industry staff, and for as long as management comes from the top down, people with disabilities will inevita­bly be left squarely in the role of victim — victim of what-ever current definition of “duty” guides the daily activity of functionaries in the disability industry.

uty is said to be the noblest of human pur­poses. This idea, like any other, is distorted into a weapon of attack in the hands of the narrow-minded who are pleased with their own mediocrity. They will use the power of “duty” to silence talent, to rid us of enthusi­asm, genius, and indeed all of the enemies of the status quo. Accent on status, their status, their place in the order of things.

To hear them you would think that duty meant sacrific­ing superior abilities, that having a conscience or vision is a fault to be expiated by leading the same life people do when they have none of those flaws.

When the state becomes an exterminator of human spirit as well as life, and the law, instead of enjoining evil, supports and enforces it — as does the powerful weight of custom, habit, bureaucratic inertia, and social pressure — an individual who might seek to oppose a policy is left in an extremity of moral solitude.

To expect individual staff people, alone and unsup­ported, to resist official dictates of “duty” is to expect what few of us can offer in even extreme circumstances, as when heroism is called for. Fewer yet can offer it stead­fastly from day to day.

Emanuel Kant identified radical evil (as opposed to ordinary evil) as that which occurs when the will, even when unafraid or unswayed by temptation, somehow inspires itself to commit evil.

Adults with disabilities are all survivors of a system grounded in radical evil.

Only by shifting the power away from bosses and funding sources will we at last cease being raw material for an industry and begin being the responsive and responsible people we de-serve and always have de-served to be. Anything less will leave us kidding our-selves about who is really in control of our destiny.

An individual who might seek to oppose a policy is left in an extremity of moral solitude.