You put forth an interesting thought, but I think I see a large hole in it. What you politely call "social class" is really someone’s socio-economic status, and you know first-hand how transitory that is. The minorities you are used to have elements of identity involved. Social class and disability do not. The former is also different from the latter because it is not necessarily long term. While you might believe that your past defines your behavior, and it certainly contributes, you’ve also stated that our behavior is a matter of rational choice. I think you can see a disconnection there vis-à-vis any sort of identity-building.
Disability has the additional reality that it doesn’t have a single unified meaning. Even within a single diagnosis, there are so many different ways disability can manifest itself that it’s hard to feel any sense of commonality. And, that’s not to mention any denial there might be.
One of the moms who have contacted me about Xpress-It consistently uses the phrase "differently abled" to describe her son. That’s her choice, and I know she means well. Yet, I keep having to resist the urge to ask her if her child is a X-man or something. That might be a cold-hearted response, but that phrase would literally mean we must have abilities others don’t. That’s simply untrue in the physical sense anyway. Unfortunately, disability is something you do have to come to terms with, and calling it something else won’t help. This woman’s son will be entering high school soon, and that’s definitely not a kind and gentle environment. If he isn’t already comfortable with his physical limitations, they will each be pointed out to him in unflinching detail. Sadly, the only way to deal with something like disability is with eyes wide open.
From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2007 8:58 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it
I figured you would get a twist off the Marx reference. While Marx’s political theory is a bit idealistic (we will all just…share. Riiight) alot of his social theory work is behind some of the originators of conflict theory. Not that they admitted it in the 50’s though. I wondered if you would catch it.
Something you said just got me thinking. You noted that working together is often difficult in the disability rights area. I think it it the same in social class struggles. I wonder if there is some conceptual link between the two. Bear with me here. I am thinking through this. One thing that has always seperated social class from other marginalized groups, like African-Americans, women, gays and other minorities is this sense of a shared culture. We have momvements where people can be "proud to be…whatever." Remember the whole 70’s "sisterhood"
thing, or the Black power movement. (okay I was born
’79 so remember isn’t exactly right :). Even in modern manifestations you have gay pride or Latin culture and so on. Yet social class doesn’t have the same kind of "cultural"unity. For the poor, the very catagories are by definition about failure….Do you think their might be some kind of similar thing going on in the diability community. Conceptualization about lacking….something? Health maybe? What do you think?
That kind of thinking could be a reason why solidarity is tricky in those groups… On the other hand there might be a material link. Access to resources is limited to lower groups by society. But for the poor and the disabled, their conditions of being is defined by that lack. One can still be Black or Jewish etc and have access to resources, like labor power, money and so on. But being poor means having that lack of resources…maybe disability means something similar in terms of labor power. For the disabled, like you said, the condition is more than just conceptual its embodied….I need to play with this idea some more…I think the goal for most groups to to have whatever marks them as "different" not matter. Because, I would argue, what we all want is really power, goods resources that kind of thing. One might say that equality movements are really about enlightened self interest.
Well, anyway let me know what your think. In any case, I have to agree with your point about Hawkings. A Nobel will get you alot of power… I just ment that changes since the middle ages in the way disability and gender were thought about gave both people access to education that would have been denied them had they been born before the early stirings of equality issues… hope that makes sense…
I have a crazy week ahead so might be a bit out of touch.
— Scott Royall <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Likewise, your emails never fail to elicit a smile.
> Your Marxist reference threw me off a bit; it took me a while to
> dredge up enough of those ancient memories to place your comment.
> Believe it or not, the first two-thirds of my college career was at
> LSU with the bizarre minor of Political Science. Yep, the University
> of Houston couldn’t fathom my Computer/Political Science major/minor
> split either when I transferred. My specialty was the USSR. Even so,
> my only direct contact with old Karl was in Introductory Philosophy.
> Yeah, he was big on the class struggle, wasn’t he.
> Grr. Ok. But then he went totally off the rails and missed the fact
> that just about every human with a heartbeat lives to gain something.
> "For the greater good" sounds great, but does not motivate.
> (Hey, that rhymes!) You
> were spot on in saying that modern initiatives are motivated by
> self-interest. That’s just the nature of the beast (us).
> I do not know enough about Marie Curie’s life to comment. Hawkins, on
> the other hand, was a Nobel Prize holder before his ALS went active so
> his employer had every reason to help him. I don’t need to tell you
> how valuable Nobel winners are to schools. Helping Hawkins keep going
> is a big money-maker.
> One thing that disabled people don’t do well or often is act as a
> There is a bunch of stated reasons for that behavior, and I strongly
> suspect that the "jittery" feeling you spoke of is a large factor.
> Those few of us who haven’t given up on life, who are really trying to
> be a part of the world, truly don’t see ourselves as members of a
> minority. We see ourselves as individuals first, and then perhaps as
> members of our ethnic or gender groups. In a sense, that’s what you
> would want ideally, for disability to not matter. Yet, it actually
> does matter hugely, as my case demonstrates.
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 4:40 PM
> To: Scott Royall
> Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it
> I so enjoy your emails. You do a remarkable job of discussing some of
> the key issues in the social sciences. I love your thinking. Conflict
> theory, (what you are talking discussion of tension between instinct
> and society) is a particularly interesting theoretical framework
> within the social sciences. It’s also one which I actually do buy
> into. There are a few theoretical orientations I am pretty critical
> of. It suggests that individuals and groups are always in conflict
> with the structures and strictures of the greater social framework.
> The more micro level argument is actually what you discuss, that
> individuals are in conflict between their instinctual selves, their
> needs and desires and the internalized controlling ideas of the
> greater social forces.
> seems to be a bit of Marx in your discussion….:)
> I am really interested in your historical argument about the origin of
> equality movements. I think I see your point…after all what
> motivation would the powerful have to embrace equality except to
> protect their own power? I would even go so far to say that in modern
> times, the motivation for equality movements in general is selfish.
> For the marginalized, its a means of gaining power and material goods.
> For the powerful its a means of pacifying the masses as well as
> justifying their own power and assuaging guilt. I wonder if the
> morality of the motivation undercuts the practical benefits to
> individuals? Do you think that equality initiatives have a benefit to
> Perhaps, allowing previously untapped minds to come to the fore.
> Certainly, Marie Curie and Stephen Hawkings have benefited humanity,
> and they wouldn’t have been able to if they had been born without the
> benefit of a least some social change…. What do you think?
> Sociology, in general, is specifically interested in how things work.
> How the relationships of power are negotiate between and among groups.
> Obviously, a psych major would be better able to answer why and a
> philosophy major to discuss the morality of the situation but hey… I
> do what I can. One criticism often levied at this kind of thinking is
> to ask how we can apply the question to the so called "altruist."
> the altruist the result of some social process or just a psychological
> anomaly…What do you think
> As for the "diss" of sociology. No offense taken. I have this friend,
> one of the smartest men you will ever meet. Just let him tell you
> about it! Hes a double PhD in some kind of quantum physics thingy and
> non-Euclidean mathematics. Apparently he is an expert on something
> only a few people in the world understand…or care about. His social
> skills a bit lacking though, as with many genus level minds. He once
> told me that I had a good mind, he was sad to see it spoiled by
> squishy science and too much liberal arts education. He considered it
> a compliment… In any case, he tried to explain math to me once. Said
> it was like music, he could see the math behind reality, the numbers
> in the world around him. Chopin in the movement of atoms, perfect pi
> in the eyes of a beautiful women. I didn’t get it, still don’t
> understand the connections he made. But i understand passion. I
> understand the drive to see the patterns, to understand how the world
> works.. i get that…
> some people technology is about that passion, I think.
> I do actually sometimes miss Dell. If for no other reason that the
> sense of of being able to help, practically and immediately. (not to
> mention the money was better than being a grad student) What I do is
> often so much in the abstract, Ivory Tower if you will, that its
> frustrating. I am doing research now on the relationship between
> identity and technology. I am learning alot from people who live and
> breath in cyberspace. I appreciate the importance of computers and
> the Internet to some communities and individuals in a way I never did
> before. It makes what I did at Dell something different than how I
> viewed it then.
> Well, I am pretty off topic in this email. In my defense…I think I
> have the flu. Feel free to comment on something I said or ignore me
> Take care,
> — Scott Royall <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > Here I sit waiting for Microsoft to get Live.com back up so I can
> > post stuff on the blog. I might as well answer you.
> > I think the phrase "nature vs. nurture" assumes
> > those factors work
> > together generally, and I don’t buy that. To me, nature and nurture
> > are usually in conflict. Most men probably feel deep down inside
> > that the Barbarians had it right. Romance be damned! Rape, pillage,
> > loot. Yeah, that’s the ticket! The only problem is, all that raping
> > makes for lots of babies, and those babies are our genes so we can’t
> > just bash in their little heads. No, damnit, there’s nothing else
> > for it. We gotta raise the buggers,
=== message truncated ===
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