Sometimes it hits me how lucky I am to be able to attend university.
The fact that my family have the economic resources to support me through this is something I try very hard never to take for granted.
That’s not a sentiment that gets articulated very much here. While I know it might not be representative of people’s inner thoughts, the cavalier attitude towards money at my university can be disgusting.
Some people seem to be treating this first year as a war on sobriety. And they’re perfectly within their rights to do so, but I can’t help viewing it as a poor economic decision, not to mention such a waste of all the intellectual resources at our disposal.
/brought to you by a nineteen-year-old who spends far too much time in the library.
People with disabilities are never more disabled than when they are overcompensating.
For so many of us on the spectrum who can “pass” to one degree or another, especially those of us who were diagnosed in mid-life, overcompensating is how we have lived our lives. For most of my life, I struggled to hear people in noisy places rather than simply blocking my ears and easing the impact of noise on my nervous system…. I sprinted to keep up with rapid-fire conversations, despite my auditory delays, my inability to use nonverbals, and my need to translate all of the words flowing like an endless caption in my head to speech. I smiled politely in conversations that bored me to death while struggling just to keep up with the words, and I said all the “right” things in response — or did I? I was gracious to people who recognized my difference despite all my spectacular attempts to hide it, and who drew away from me because I wasn’t like them. I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood learning social rules, only to find that they only went so far, and then I kept trying doggedly to make them work for me anyway. And I did all of these things, every day, for decades, until I was exhausted beyond most people’s comprehension.
I overcompensated wildly to do all the things that “normal” people are supposed to do, and now that I’ve done them, I’m told that I must be “normal”.
“The conventional wisdom of the Tower of Babel story is that the collapse was a misfortune. That it was the distraction, or the weight of many languages that precipitated the tower’s failed architecture. That one monolithic language would have expedited the building and heaven would have been reached. Whose heaven, she wonders? And what kind? Perhaps the achievement of Paradise was premature, a little hasty if no one could take the time to understand other languages, other views, other narratives period.”—Toni Morrison, from her 1993 Nobel Lecture.
“I never had, and still do not have, the perception of feeling my personal identity. I appear to myself as the place where something is going on, but there is no ‘I’, no ‘me’. Each of us is a kind of crossroads where things happen. The crossroads is purely passive; something happens there. A different thing, equally valid, happens elsewhere. There is no choice, it is just a matter of chance.”—Claude Lévi-Strauss
“All white women in this nation know that their status is different from that of black women/women of color. They know this from the time they are little girls watching television and seeing only their images, and looking at magazines and seeing only their images. They know that the only reason nonwhites are absent/invisible is because they are not white. All white women in this nation know that whiteness is a privileged category. The fact that white females may choose to repress or deny this knowledge does not mean they are ignorant: it means that they are in denial.”—bell hooks
Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.
Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.
Like many 13-year-olds, Brittany knew seventh grade was a living hell. But what she didn’t know was that she was caught in the crossfire of a culture war being waged by local evangelicals inspired by their high-profile congressional representative Michele Bachmann, who graduated from Anoka High School and, until recently, was a member of one of the most conservative churches in the area. When Christian activists who considered gays an abomination forced a measure through the school board forbidding the discussion of homosexuality in the district’s public schools, kids like Brittany were unknowingly thrust into the heart of a clash that was about to become intertwined with tragedy.
“The meaning of books lies before them and not behind: it is in us. A book is not a ready-made, terminal meaning, a revelation which we must undergo and assume; it is a reservoir of forms which receive their meaning; it is what Borges has called the imminence of a revelation which does not occur; it is an asymptote.”—A Consideration of the Writings of Emily Dickinson by Richard Howard
Response to the question 'So, what've you been up to recently?':
Things I want to say: Trying to consume as many fragments of poetry and philosophy and theory as possible, spending long hours alone in my room considering my role in the world, sleeping far too much, meditating, listening to the wind.
“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show, to any fellow human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”—The Rainbow Calendar by Kate Sanborn, 1888.
Good parenting requires psychic resources. Complex decisions must be made. Sacrifices must be made in the moment. This is hard for anyone, whatever their income: we all have limited reserves of self-control, and attention and other psychic resources. In that moment, fretting about the deadline, your psychic resources were depleted. Facing pressure at work, you did not have the freedom of mind needed to exercise patience, prioritize and do what you knew to be right. To an outsider, in that moment, you would look like a bad parent.
Low-income parents, however, also face a tax on their psychic resources. Many things that are trifling and routine to the well-off give sleepless nights to those less fortunate. To take a simple example, everyone may face the same bank overdraft fees — but steering clear of them is pretty easy for the well-off, while for the poor it requires constant attention, steely reserve and enormous amounts of self-control. For the well-off, monthly bills are automatically deducted and there is still some slack left over. For those with less income, finding ways to ensure that rent, utilities and phone bills are paid for out of small, irregular paychecks is an act of complicated financial jugglery.
Shocks get magnified. For the well-off, a broken-down car is little more than a temporary annoyance; if needed, they can “just take a cab.” For those with less income, it necessitates real, meaningful trade-offs and painful sacrifices. If taking a cab becomes unavoidable, it may mean having to spend less on groceries. It may mean cutting back on the time spent with a child on account of having to work extra hours to make up for the unexpected expense. Equally, trying to avoid shelling out the cab fare may mean taking an extra couple of hours to get to work, with less time and energy left over for other things, not least supervising a child’s school- work and keeping tabs on his social life.
This has dramatic implications for policy. For instance, many standard policies that aim to improve outcomes for children from low-income families impose additional conditions – take your child to an additional program, monitor his progress, attend regular meetings — that amount to a further tax on already limited available mental bandwidth. Behavioral science thus suggests that such policies by themselves are unlikely to be as successful as one might hope.
Instead, a very good parenting program may not look like one at all. Deal with the economic instability that taxes psychic resources. For example, stabilize incomes, provide low-income credit alternatives to deal with the ups and downs of life, or ensure stable housing. These may not be “parenting” programs in the conventional sense of the term. But by freeing up psychic resources they allow people to be the parents they want to be. They allow more traditional parental skills programs to be more successful.
So, what does it take to be a good parent? Freedom of mind. And that is a luxury low-income parents often cannot afford.
“Gradually, typically Protestant modes of handling books evolved, relating to their character and to class. More or less expensive ways of binding were significant, pages were carefully turned, hands were washed before taking up a Bible, the time of the day and the day of the week mattered and so did the space. Even the writing tools with which notes might be entered and their colours were never chosen accidentally but according to cultural codes, as were the typography, the places where books were shut away or shelved, the clothes which were worn for reading and the mental and emotional disposition before one began reading. Most of this was not new. Books of hours and other illuminated manuscripts, the Vulgate and other ‘high’ religious writings had been similarly treated during the Middle Ages, and humanism had likewise matched its unparalleled veneration of classical authors with corresponding reading habits: Machiavelli or Thomas More would never have read Socrates without putting on a fresh shirt.”—Ulinka Rublack, Reformation Europe
“Mysticism closely linked speaking with a sense of taste and eating. The divine word was to be tasted sweetly, it melted on the tongue or had to be chewed on meditatively to comprehend and absorb it fully. […] The spoken word was linked to sensual and material qualities, such as sweetness and toughness, structuring expression and meaning. This explains why hearing could involve such intensity and emotive experiences which were later lost.”—Reformation Europe, Ulinka Rublack
The worst institutions have lots and lots and lots of staff. They have beautiful grounds that people are more or less free to walk around on. Every room is decorated in ways that suggest a regular, pleasant house — and if anything is stained or broken someone fixes it, washes it, and paints over it within a day. There are no locks on the doors.
All of the staff are gentle and would never physically abuse an inmate. They are highly trained at redirecting and calming anyone who becomes violent. If you go outside, they follow you at a discreet distance, where they think you can’t see, to give the illusion of freedom and privacy. Their every movement and tone suggests sweetness and gentleness.
But they treat everyone as if they were somewhere varying, between infancy and four years old. With everything — everything — that entails.
Because they do not use physical restraint, they have to restrain you in other ways. They do it by such skillful manipulation that if you ever find out you were being manipulated, it’s long after the fact. If you confront them on it they’ll sweetly and politely tell you they have no idea what you mean. And they will continue to somehow always get you to do what they want, or else to feel awful about not doing so.
I don’t particularly feel entitled to comment on this — I’ve been institutionalised (for depression), but thankfully I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve suffered physical abuse or neglect. Very interesting article, though.