Betwixt independence and dependence

These austerity times seem to place onus on self-sufficient and independent citizens taking responsibility for their selves and their families as government and welfare services roll back. But working with people with learning disabilities and their supporters has convinced us that we need to be talking about interdependence. But what does this five syllable tongue twisting word actually mean?

We all want to be independent. And being independent is a human goal. Many people with learning disabilities desire independence. This is completely understandable when society and history have viewed disabled people as only dependent. While we recognise that independence is desirable we have learnt in our research about the importance of interdependence:

  • Interdependence underpins all human relationships.
  • In order to be human we need others to recognise us as humans.
  • We progress through life by being dependent upon one another: and this interdependence is a hallmark of what makes us human.

Interdependence refers to those times when we depend on others for support and those others depend on us for support. Support does not mean that there has to be an equal flow of resources. We might support others more than they support us. This might change over time. But the fact that those others are there indicates that we are reliant upon them to live. Interdependence is part of the fabric of society. It is about time we started celebrating our reliance upon one another.