Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Response: "Practices of Looking" Chapter Nine

So this chapter was all about "scientific" images. I found it disturbing on all sorts of levels. Oh, where should I start? How about starting with this troubling and very prevalent idea of "normalcy."

"Normal" came up a lot in this chapter. There were photographs and MRIs to categorize "normal" people, as opposed to the diseased, criminal, and crazy. Now scientists are trying to sort out what is and is not "normal" with DNA. The book talked a lot about how this idea of "normal" has been (and will probably continue to be) used to rationalize prejudice and discrimination--a fancy "scientific" way of white Europeans shouting "I'm better than you are" at the rest of the world.

I think the problem with "normal" goes beyond discrimination--though goodness knows that's a big enough problem on its own.

I don't think I've ever claimed to be normal. For years now, I've proudly proclaimed that I'm crazy and celebrated my abnormality. Because of that, once in a while someone scolds me for having such a "low" opinion of myself. But most of the time, I take "crazy" as a compliment. Why?

Because there is no such thing as NORMAL! It doesn't exist! It can't exist. There's no "normal" and "abnormal." There's just difference! The whole world is overflowing with this great big beautiful rainbow of difference, and we keep blinding ourselves to it because we all just want to be this ambiguous, imaginary thing called "normal," and we can't! "Normal" is just another way of trying to get everyone to be the same. Difference is good! "Abnormality" can be a wonderful thing. Think about the great figures in history, the real difference-makers, the inspirational leaders, the role models you look up to, and ask yourself if you would ever call them "normal." Do you think Abraham Lincoln was normal? How about Albert Einstein or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Leonardo da Vinci? Pablo Picasso? Heck no they weren't normal!

Yet "normal," which occasionally takes the pseudonym "average," is up on this pedestal that we're all supposed to aspire to. We're supposed to be normal, and if we're not normal, we're weird, and then we're outcasts. So I try to celebrate how "crazy" I am, and then I turn around and find myself taking three prescription drugs in attempt to live a "normal" life. In fairness, there really isn't anything wrong with wanting a little help if you go weeks at a time without being able to sleep more than a few hours a night, and if you're in so much pain once a month that you can barely crawl off the floor. But when it's so ingrained in culture that you're supposed to be "normal," the fact that you are so extremely not "normal" can be devastating when you're supposed to be in the prime of your life and the doctor hands you that third prescription.

I apologize, Imaginary Reader. This has turned into more of a personal rant than a discussion of the chapter, but it is my genuine reaction. I'll discuss more of the intellectual stuff in other posts.

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