|Hi. Yeah, I know I never post. I probably still won't. Sorry all.
||[Oct. 29th, 2007|04:15 am]
(in response to a post of draegonhawke)
I'm taking a (rather too long) break from a long night's homework, and I first want to say that I fundamentally agree with essentially everything that your post, the linked post, and the comments say. Since pretty much every point on the main topic that I would want to contribute has already been said more eloquently than I could, I wish to share an interesting tangent. I wish I had a better citation/memory of this, but you'll have to make do ...
I remember hearing about a combination autobiography/case study of a person who self-identified as autistic. (Or it might have been one of the other commonly-known-"mental disabilities"-that-almost-certainly-shouldn't-be-called-that-for-way-too-many-reasons-to-mention. In all honesty it doesn't matter to the core of the story, and those "illnesses" are very poorly classified anyway.) She also identified as "differently abled" (not in the way that means "I'm too politically correct to say disabled, so I say differnetlyabled, but in my mind I'm still thinking that the described person lacks abilities that "normal" people have and take for granted," but as the literal meaning). She talked about how completely differently other people looked at the world from her. "Normal" people would look at their desk and think (if they thought at all) "this is my desk." She would think "this is a construction of 17 pieces of hickory wood, all stained and finished, connected in [complicated manner described in detail], and with [complicated list of various blemishes, even those she's seen 8374 times before], and ..." so on through a list of massive detail. Every time she saw/tasted/felt/observed something, she would see/taste/feel/observe every nuance of it, even those that are massively familiar.
Such a novel perspective would obviously make the world, and her interactions with it, a very different place. She was certainly unable to "function normally" in "normal society." But in a way, she was freed from the generalizations, the racisms, that all "normal people" make. Since she saw each fresh detail of every object, every place, and every action, each time she interacted with it, she never was making those basic assumptions and unfounded generalizations that we all suffer from. (Perhaps "never" is too strong a word -- or perhaps not. Such a worldview is too alien for me to be confident in asserting an opinion.) At the same time, she was completely unable to perform many of the (seemingly trivially but actual quite complex) tasks that most people perform with no thought at all. She would be so lost in the mass of details that she would be unable to make the simplifying assumptions needed to focus on and complete the complex task.
Such a conception of the world is incomprehensible to me. I think it is fair to say that such a view of the world is neither better nor worse than our own. But (and I now take the opportunity to join the chorus of "I'm (a generalized) racist" that everyone is saying), I can't make myself believe that fundamentally. I believe, fundamentally, that "progress" is an ideal we should all be attempting, for ourselves and for society, and that progress is unattainable without some ability to generalize. This is probably wrong at least in some way -- perhaps progress is not a universally good ideal, perhaps there is a different form of progress-that-needs-no-generalizations, probably both -- but I cannot make myself honestly believe that. Logically I can reason to that conclusion -- nonetheless I don't quite believe it.
And that is almost certainly true about some dearly held belief of all people who are "normal" in this respect. And I will argue that, much like her worldview is just "different," not right or wrong, our worldview is also just "different," and not better or worse than hers -- even with all its prejudices. It is part of what defines us, it is a part of who we are, and we cannot escape it, not without becoming something that is completely Other. (There's that Us-vs-Them again.)
This does not mean that we should not try to mitigate the unfortunate effects of our stereotyping.