The Sociology of Disability

Ok ok, this one well earns its spot on the "response required" pile. 🙂

—–Original Message—–
From: Alecea Standlee
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2007 3:57 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it


As always a pleasure. You are without a doubt one of

the most interesting people I have had the opportunity

to discuss. Feel free to post this email on the blog.

First off, ah technology, the PC/Mac debate is as much

fun (and as solveable) as the Pepsi/Coke debate.

Ultimatly, I must probably conceed the field to you.

Despite my time at Dell, when it comes right down to

it, I am more interested in people than technology. I

can’t argue that Jobs and co. haven’t maintained a

near stranglehold on apple products from hardware to

accessories. On the other hand, there are some things

that Mac’s just do better. And I must confess, after

spending several hours trying to get my Mac to run a

number of Sociology statistical programs, there are

some things PC’s just do better. Vista is to me an

untouched venue. Perhaps i’ll check it out.

With regard to your comments on sociology and

inequality studies. You have a number of valid points.

I took Sociology classes as an undergrad myself, and

generally hated them. I couldn’t stand the surface

discussion of issues that frankly pissed me off. Here

i was, the illegitamate daughter of a teenaged hotel

maid, raised in "middle of nowhere" Idaho on few

hundred dollars a month. I grew up alternating between

homelessness and a 30 foot trailer for gods sake…And

these privledge middle class teachers where talking

about social inequality and systems of power! What the

hell did they know… I could toss out a story about

living in a tent for a few months and how I overcame

my cirucumstances to get to college and get an A on

sympathy. I suppose i could defend sociology, point

out the ways in which it has shaped and expanded

understanding of human behavior. I could also point

out, that despite its flaws, and its occasional

half-arsed practitioners it has produced some

extrodinary insights into social strucutes. I might

also mention that for good or ill, sociological

research guides public and social policy. As thats the

case, I have every intention of making sure that the

sociology I produce, and that my students produce is

not superficial or inane.

But… for me there is more…I wanted to understand

society, I ached to understand humanity. Why do we do

what we do… is it nature like you are suggesting. Do

we respond to one another based on age old biological

imperatives that want us to eat, sleep an of course

mate? It reproduction why we are jittery around the

disabled, unable to get attracted to the obsese, and

plain pissed off about homosexuality?

Or is it culture. Are we raised to believe that is

group or that is superior? Do we exist in a

socio-culture space that brainwashes us on a daily

basis, tells us what to eat, where to sleep, who to

have sex with? the nature vs culture debate is a big

one. Sociology and anthropolgy vs biology its a

battle royal!

Seriously, I admitt that biology and nature have some

impact on a behaivor. But to suggest that our behavior

is somehow dictated by our lizard hindbrain is in my

opinion a total cop out. ‘oh, the devil made me do

it!’ I’m not buying it. We live in a society that

shapes us, I have no doubt of that, but we in turn

shape it. Who we are, what we do, is guided but

culture and its a powerful force, don’t mistake it.

Millions of people have died for culture, for beliefs,

for what they are taught. Its not easy to change

attitudes, to change culture, but it is possible. its

not hardwired. As a society we no longer lock up our

disabled, enslave based on color, or kill based on

sexual orientation. IF those things were part of inate

biology, we would not be able to change them.

If that the case and we can change them, that leads to

your final question…should we change them. Should it

be survival of the fittest? Is that what is best for

our species? Would you let your child be born if you

knew he or she would experience your level of

disability? Would I let a a child be born if I knew he

or she was going to be raised in grinding povety and

physical abuse like I was? I don’t have clear answer

for you here.

I "overcame" my circumstances, I am the living

embodyment of every anti-welfare, bootstrap theory

privledged republican who preaches if you only work

hard enought you can get out of proverty, racism,

sexism, hetrosexism fill in the blank. Was my life

shaped by culture…absolutly.

But my mother works for minimum wage at a job she

hates in order to rent a room in a dingy bording

house. My sister ignores drunks who smack her on the

but and insult her while she carries drinks in a smoky

casino. And my baby brother will spends his life

counting the days he has been clean and out of prison

and has done so since he was 19 years old. Are there

lives shaped by culture? Damn staight.

I will understand how the forces that raised and

shaped us could have produced such different people.

Because when it comes down to it, society is not

simple. Its not as easy as nature vs. nurture. Biology

vs society. Is an equal society possible? Honestly,

probably not. Is it desirable…I think so. Is it best

for humanity? Well I think that depends on how we

define equality. It depends on what kind of society we

shape, and how in turn that society shapes us. Is

allowing everyone to procreate indescrimatly best for

humanity? Probably not. Is allowing only the

privledged to procreate, wealthy, white, western,

perfectly healthy, equality? No. Nor is it best for

humanity, after all survival depends on genetic

variety. Finding the line between social justice and

survival is what good sociology is about. How can we

make society work better for everyone. How can we

create a society that meets the needs of the

indivdiual and the species? That what sociology and

social justice and inequality studies is supposed to

be about.

i love your emails…they make me think!


— Scott Royall <> wrote:

> You see, I didn’t forget.


> If you like "pretty shiny," Vista should be right up

> your alley. It is

> definitely that. Vista, at least on a M1710, is also

> surprisingly resilient.

> Macs achieve similar stability through the Josef

> Stalin methods, they

> control the entire market vertically. The sole

> difference is that, instead

> of the Red Army, NKVD, and KGB, Jobs employs legions

> of lawyers marching in

> tight phalanx. Microsoft is a hippy commune by

> comparison!


> And what, pray tell, does the Zune have to do with

> the PC? Precious little,

> of course. You worked for a large corporation long

> enough to know that they

> are as multi-faceted and imperfect as the people who

> run them. None do

> everything right. Do I really need to remind you of

> the Newton and iMac? The

> Mac needed to co-op Unix to escape obscurity. The

> one thing about the Zune

> that may yet save it is its upgradability. With the

> iPod (and likely the

> iPhone), the only upgrade path is tithing large

> portions of your income for

> future models. Emperor Jobs has pranced around naked

> much too long.


> The study of inequality, and indeed Sociology in

> general, makes my teeth

> itch. Admittedly, my personal exposure to Sociology

> was limited to the

> undergraduate level during the early ’80’s. By no

> means do I consider myself

> as any sort of expert on the topic. Yet, one of the

> aspects that stuck in my

> mind was how superficial Sociology seemed to be. I

> wasn’t forgetting that I

> was just working with undergrad concepts, but

> everything seemed so naĂŻve. I

> would write papers that would leave my professors

> wet with joy even while I

> fully realized I was laying heavy smoke! I recall

> one course that included a

> post mortem of Great Society initiatives, and I

> figuratively spent much of

> that semester in amazement that educated people

> could ever propose such

> obviously (to me anyway) flawed programs. Ah, the

> "wisdom" of youth, eh?


> A logical conclusion of something I wrote the other

> day is our urge to

> achieve complete equality in society is not always

> in the best interest of

> Humanity. We tell ourselves that disabled people

> should have full equality,

> but I’m not convinced that it could–or even

> should–happen. Everyone feels

> some discomfort in the presence of obviously

> disabled people, and I’m sold

> on the idea that that discomfort is rooted in the

> same instincts that make

> certain body types universally preferred for mating.

> Though humans see

> ourselves as largely rational creatures, far more of

> our routine activities

> are driven by very primitive instincts. That’s

> hidden by our brains being

> hard-coded to rationalize everything. Unfortunately,

> I don’t think we can

> really consider re-engineering society successfully

> until we come to terms

> better with our base nature.


> While I was married twice, both marriages were

> doomed before they begun by

> the limitations and unfavorable comparisons imposed

> by society as an

> intentional or accidental response to my disability.

> For instance, my wives

> struggled to define their own self-image partly

> because they felt obliged to

> be my primary caregiver. Perceiving themselves as

> equal partners was quite

> difficult. Therefore, I don’t accept the

> mind-numbing mantra of "all life is

> precious." The truth is, we can create life at the

> drop of a hat (or other

> item of apparel). The basic opportunity is the

> result of a mechanical urge

> only tenuously related to rationality (whether

> there’s papal approval or

> not). Indeed, it is much like tossing a die in that

> it simply initiates the

> process. Whether or not a life is produced is

> hopefully the rational link in

> the equation. Factors such as the parents’ ability

> to provide for a child,

> and what that child’s life is likely to be like must

> be weighed. To not do

> that essentially reduces us to our animal instincts,

> literally breeding like

> rabbits. Knowing what I do now, I can’t say that I’d

> be eager to bring a

> child into the world if I knew he or she had my

> level of disability. To be

> sure, my life has had some nice moments, and the

> final verdict is still out.

> Yet, I don’t think anyone can accurately imagine how

> lonely my life has

> been. I’m to a point where I don’t see any

> possibility of future

> relationships, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a few

> more romps in the hay

> while I’m here!


> Getting back to Sociology, I think sociologists need

> to realize that

> tweaking a society is a lot like flying a supersonic

> jet with

> overly-sensitive flight controls! If you’re a

> ham-fisted Democrat, you can

> barrel-roll the country into the ground right

> quickly!


> Do you mind if I add this email to my blog. It

> touches on topics I think

> should be touched on.


> —–Original Message—–

> From: Alecea Standlee

> Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 3:49 PM

> To: Scott Royall

> Subject: Re: FW: Xpress-it


> Scott,

> Wow, legendary huh! I can’t says I was expecting

> that.

> I have to admit your critiques of Mac makes me grin.

> I

> love a good Mac vs. PC argument. I might point out

> PC’s attempts to replicate the sucess of iPod, ‘nuf

> said there. As well as the infrastructue and GUI on

> the last releases of Windows have been a bit

> familiar… But as one of my pal’s says, Apple has

> spent their last few years as a free product

> development department for Microsoft. Don’t know

> what

> that says about Apple!

> I don’t consider myself a fan-boy (or fan girl for

> that matter) I am more of a mixed medium person in

> practice. I like pretty shiny at home (hence the

> Mac)

> and my department uses pc’s, Dell’s actually, at

> school.

> With regard to social inequality studies, thats my

> area of study and research. I have historically

> focused on gender and social class inequalities

> primarily, thats where I have done the most

> research

> and have personal experience. Though, I have done

> some

> work in disability, age, race and sexual

> orientation.

> I know what your mean about the complexity of

> inequality. I recently spent some time working with

> a

> friend of mine Liat Ben-Moshe as she finished her

> recent book "Building Pedegogical Curb Cuts:

> Incorporating Disability in the University Classroom

> and Curriculum." Which addresses disability issues

> in

> class design and teaching. It’s an excellent book

> dealing with institutional resistence to adaptations

> for disabled students and teachers. Liat has been

> struggling with getting an instructorship in her

> post-doc career because she is also in a wheelchair.

> So despite its so-called progressiveness academia

> still has a ways to go.

> I am currently working on a couple of projects, one

> examing the impact of Black Masculinity on

> educational

> attainment in inner city schools. Another is on

> community building and communication via cyberspace

> amoung minority groups…thats in the early stages

> now. I have some good research on sexual orientation

> support, gendered groups and ethnic cultural

> preservation groups. I am looking to incorprate a

> disabilty support or information dissemination

> cybercommunity. Feel free to suggest any other

> pieces

> I am missing.


> After you contacted me, I checked out your blog. I

> see

> what you mean about being a busy guy! on that note,

> I


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