15 September, 2011

2. How Indistinguishability Keeps Its Groove

I'm sorry to mix metaphors because I often compare zombies to people like me (unusual gait, does the same things a lot, often judged to be better off dead) but let's focus on some different aspects of the zombie and swivel that image over to another group of people: staff.

How did you get your groove back? Well, indistinguishability, you never really lost it, and that's what scares me. Maybe this is a failure of mine because how can I be more scared by a difference of opinion than I am by more obviously bad things, like violence? I'm not sure. I know I find vampires pretty unterrifying when they're sadistic, but zombies are unbearable because they don't even know or choose the crimes they commit. There's nothing to explain.

So what I'm trying to do is explain. Not why I'm against indistinguishability, cause I have, but why it seems so stupid when I say that, like I'm against electricity. People respond with the most ill-thought-out support, and it doesn't matter at all. "But flapping your hands is against social norms and kids need to learn to follow social norms!" Across the country, kindergarteners are told to be yourself and do the right thing even if it makes you stand out--except when it comes to this one group of little kids. "But other kids will notice that they're different and exclude them!" Okay, just like when kids are bullied for race or religion their teachers start training them to look like white Protestants. Maybe you're thinking people can't pretend to be white, but some people can--and besides, good luck convincing his peers that a kid who can't talk isn't disabled, even if he keeps his hands by his sides.

This is a completely meaningless argument though because anyone who defends a point so weakly has already won. Even if someone says "Yeah, I guess you're right," it's like some interesting philosophical discussion about unicorns. Intelligent input darling, now let's go back to our day job where we kick horses in the face for having horns when they shouldn't.

"Hey hold on," you may be saying, "I'm not kicking anyone in the face! I'm just writing a behavior plan where if Erica talks about unicorns too much she doesn't get dessert."

That's cool but a lot of disabled people have had to live with this stuff longer than you have, and it kind of feels like being kicked in the face.

"Aw, but it doesn't feel that way to me."

That's because it's your job. Everyone's job feels normal to them. Our government likes to pretend that Abu Ghraib happened because Lynndie England is a bad person, but she just had a work environment where she thought it was normal to act a certain way. I know this is an aggressive comparison, but there isn't a point of wrongness where the things that you're doing suddenly feel wrong. I feel that if people were more aware of the broad spectrum of things that can feel normal when it's your job, it would possible to engage them in real conversation about what they do.


  1. Indeed.

    Everyone's context does feel normal to them. Except when it doesn't. It takes time and space for the context to be so normal. And what you do and are in that time and space...

    And, yes, Lynndie England - kicking unicorns (and Iraqis). If Iraqis screamed and shivered like unicorns (the unicorns I know have a high-pitched sound they use to call or when they're hurt).

    Joe Bageant wrote about that really well (Deer Hunting with Jesus - chapter THE BALLAD OF LYNDDIE ENGLAND - another nursing home chapter AN AUTHORISED PLACE TO DIE). One of the things I remember is the Hologram.

    (And he experienced some distinguishability pressures too, and so did his classmates/colleagues. Pulling out an example from Rainbow Pie - much more diffuse book than Deer Hunting).

    When I think of broad spectrum - it's like sunscreen.

    It protects you against the UV rays which are invisible - infrared and ultraviolet.

    "Be free to wear sunscreen" and be aware of the choice and its implications?

    Electricity - noise, static, expense.

    (There's a lot of sense in being against the electric companies and going off the grid!)

    Would being against indistinguishability be like being against light or fire? Or against darkness?

    Think of the reasons for the action and the feelings too. Then follow through and see what would happen to the social norms.

    Something in a New Zealand context:

    A disruption in social media involving children and people

  2. Thanks so much Adelaide that book sounds really good. I haven't read much about Lynndie England and the other people at Abu Ghraib but I am really interested to.

  3. Some of the other people at Abu Gharib:

    England was hanging around with Graner, and there was one called Meaghan. Right now I'm going with those who were court-marshalled and those who gave evidence.

    There's a good Guardian article from the 3rd January 2009 which talks about the consequences of whistle-blowing.

    What I picked up:

    * England was "friends with everyone" in high school.
    * For the past 2 years she's been avoiding many of those people who would recognise her.
    * She wanted to be a storm-chaser.
    * The Guardian article mentioned that she was a situational mute, and also had a learning disability.
    * After Abu Gharib, she found that she was a very visual person.
    * In her junior year she worked as a cashier.
    * Something struck me a lot. The article said "she looked like a 14-year-old who shouldn't have been there".

    Brockers, Emma [2009] 'What happens in war happens

  4. I feel as if I'd better understand this post if I could locate "1."

  5. thanks so much for your interest, and it's here: http://adeepercountry.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-indistinguishability-got-its-groove.html
    I will have a table of contents type thing when I'm all done with it, like with social skills don't exist.