Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Can Be Done with Words

Some people seem to work very hard to express themselves. They try to make what they say count for something important and good and they are not frivolous with their speech. Too many others however seem to take for granted that what they say won't matter and that they can always fix any problem their words create with more words.

It seems to me that the frivolous attitude of producing and throwing away so many products has led to the many problems in our environment by polluting the air with factories and more powerful and faster means to transport ourselves along with the waste that pollutes our air and our water by throwing away things when we want bigger and better products.

Not only do I think we are misguided by thinking this overproducing and over disposing of things will eventually satisfy our insatiable appetites, but also this attitude of viewing what we must have as needing to be the biggest and brightest along with being so careless with all our other resources carries over into our emotional lives as well. This can and does and change how we view people.

We decide whether a persons size, lifestyle, race, and abilities are worthy of our attention which ultimately leads to decisions of whether some people are even worthy of life itself.

As we attempt to become bigger, stronger, brighter, shinier and more socially acceptable, what we feel we need to fix about ourselves becomes the catalyst for the discomfort we feel when we see some of those traits or aspects of ourselves in others.

It's no wonder that we would become clumsy with our words and use them to hurt people rather than use them to empower people if we can't readily see what those people have to offer that will serve us most effectively in the way the newest and best product on the market does.

I wish that more people understood that disabled often means differently abled but even more importantly that value can be found in people by a multitude of ways that our current cultural bias often allows and even encourages us to ignore.

The word retard has been used to hurt many autistic people as well as many others with a great deal of value that is thereby conveniently ignored by the use of the label. This word is used to marginalize and devalue who people are.

Some even use the word to justify how they abuse people by claiming that people being given this label is what provides others with the right to abuse them.

One of Hollywood's newest products is the movie called Tropical Thunder and it stars Ben Stiller.

In this movie the ugly slur "retard" is carelessly used in a similar way that it has been used to mistreat many people for a long time.

The ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) is working with the greater disability community to send a message to Hollywood that this movie is not fit for public consumption because it sends a wrong and hurtful message. Also we want to send the message that we and all who understand and accept our message will boycott this movie and any other one that is made like it that reflects these inappropriate values. ASAN is working to distribute this video to as many people as possible.

Christschool has once again given of his time and talent to make this great video. The video is a reminder to me that we all have the ability and responsibility to influence peoples lives with our words and we need to learn to respect the vulnerable aspects of humanity and act responsibly with how we use words.

To anyone who can and will, I would encourage you to promote and distribute this video and encourage others to as well so that our voices my be better heard.

The video: R word

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At 4:46 PM , Anonymous CS said...

Ed, thank you for the compliment. I must say that I am guilty of some of the things you write about, but in different ways.

At 5:35 PM , Blogger Ed said...


The core reasons for doing things finds us all guilty. I don't know that anyone who ever has "room" to talk. I sure don't.

If we all waited for that room, little would get said. I'm not meaning to set any new or better moral standards for individuals to judge themselves or others by.

My point was that words that are used to discriminate may be part of a larger set of social standards and more es that encourage our values of people in ways that are less than empowering.

I'm just telling a story with words similar to what I saw you saying in the video about how I see words ultimately being used to discourage people along with the very economy that the disposable attitude I'm refering to claims to be designed to encourage or stimulate.

I don't think it works for things or people. I think people already know that there is more value in things and in people to waste all that we do.

I just think some producers (like the ones in Hollywood that produced this picture) are motivated by negative influences so they design their products (like this movie) to train us to forget or ignore what we really do know to provide them with more of an illusion of temporary success.

That's all I'm saying.

If we all wait until we are perfect or credible before we feel saintly enough to advocate for what we see as right.... well.... now that I think about it, some of us may eventually get there but you may want to go ahead and start earlier than that. :)

At 11:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ed,
I'm still here, enjoying your posts. It's enlightening for me to read ideas I share that are often unexpressed (or thought). That these things are so rarely said (for a number of reasons) makes it more difficult for me to find words for them in my own life, but reading them helps to remedy that. :)

I've been considering lately an idea that transcends looking at people as having collections of "disabilities." It is similar to the understanding that truly darkness doesn't exist, except as a perception of a lack of light.

There are many many abilities, talents, insights, awarenesses, states of consciousness, and ways of being present. Whenever a person *is* or *has* any talent or orientation it automatically lessens ability or presence in other abilities or states of perceiving. Often being one good thing excludes being another.

What I'm saying is that every person is truly a sum of what they *Are*, not what they *aren't*. How could anything be an isn't?

Thanks for all your ruminating on what *is* and its value, and also on the potentials that are yet to be (or are growing!).


At 1:55 PM , Blogger Ed said...

Hey JD,

I would rather think of what I do as healthy encouragement of thought rather that rumination. I think of someone ruminating as being overly obsessive or stagnantly repeating something.

I like your idea about the focus of all that is. What you said makes sense to me.

As enlightened as it is though, without enough practical follow through, people who are looking for ways to avoid in the moment commitment and reality based interdependent work with what is will use similar claims to justify transcending their thoughts (and their practical efforts along with them) right onto more lofty aspirations of what should be.

Metaphorically speaking, people often want to burn down a house because what it defines to them is more about what is lacking rather than considering the practical needs of the residents that are not so enlightened and won't be entering an environment where others will be either.

I agree that the focus on the ideal will empower souls but if they aren't able to feed on a little supplemental earthly nutrition, they may choose more primal views of reality before they reach their enlightened destiny.

Oppressive forces with less than noble ideals will often use the good intentions of others as a means toward what they believe to be as their purpose.

At 2:37 PM , Blogger laurentius rex said...

peut etre et cependant les mots sont seulement sont les mots sont, serai et n'est pas plus etre ou etait c'est tous le meme pour ceux qui n'comprend pas, et ont laissez derider Derrida faire le fusil et enthuse Althusser. De temps on tense le Roi danse.

Which is as much as to say in the words of a famous TV commercial where two protagonists appeared to be haggling in a souk in Morroco, but were in reality mutually unintelligible, We are all fluent but sadly in different languages.

So don't take the French too seriously for it is as quirky and ungrammatical as my English is sometimes wont to be.

At 3:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Ed. :)
I was inspired to look up the definitions of ruminate which included (as I meant):
4. to meditate on; ponder.
2. reflect deeply on a subject
—Synonyms 2. think, reflect.
It also said:
Chewing the cud; characterized by chewing again what has been swallowed
which, I see would be unappealling (and unnecessary) and any connotation of which I had no intention.

I appreciate your thoughtfullness, and definately your encouragement of healthy thought. This is the basis of my appreciation of your efforts. I often notice that the thoughts of many are corrupt, or influenced by the wrong motivations, understandings, or priorities. And it is my belief (and observation) that as people continue to consider things thoughtfully (honestly, accurately,and sincerely), they also continue to reach new depths of clarity, which translate into a more accurate approach, philosophy, etc. It's my personal belief that thoughts applied to a life can be completely reforming (inevitably in many positive ways) and (if a person is being honest with themselves) has to be translated into actions and into everything they continue to build.

I often have difficult understanding people who look for excuses for why a positive course of action is impossible, or who refuse to look at what positive improvements can and need to be made. Looking at the additive value of all that is, I also don't understand people who want to throw babies out with bathwater or burn down houses instead making the most of all that is as the foundation of what good things can come out of them (or are already there). Your discussion of such detours, excuses, and misappropriate actions therefore was difficult for me to follow. Often, people tell me what could be common feelings, thoughts, motivations, etc. of others, and my response is, "Really??" The thing I understood the best was, "Oppressive forces with less than noble ideals will often use the good intentions of others as a means toward what they believe to be as their purpose." But, as always, I find it impossible to figure out why, or how, people could twist the understandings you communicate, or my understanding that people are Value, not a sum of deficits, into an unhealthy course of action or attitude... to me, good ideas should only create more good things and actions. (ie, if people saw the value of autistics and what makes them tick, then the result should be to respect and love them and support what is most relevant and helpful to them.) If you are able to offer more insight into this or what you were meaning please elaborate, or continue. Also were you alluding to people looking for excuses to not support autistics, or other things? (I don't mean to "ruminate" in an excessive way, but I see that for me to be constructive in the world, I need to have an accurate view of what is, and what current limits are in place.)

At 10:28 AM , Blogger Ed said...

Larry, good point. That sounds like a good commercial With a good message although I haven't heard air in the US. I'd like to see it.

J.D., I really didn't think that you were using the word ruminate negatively. I just hadn't heard it used like you meant and I would have done better to just look it up, assume the best, and/or ask for clarification. Sorry about that.

You said: "But, as always, I find it impossible to figure out why, or how, people could twist the understandings you communicate, or my understanding that people are Value, not a sum of deficits, into an unhealthy course of action or attitude... to me, good ideas should only create more good things and actions."

I'm not sure how people twist what people are thinking in a good way into something negative. It also seems more difficult to realize that anyone could or would even do that unless there's some understandings as to "why" they do it.

The goal seems to me to be one that is disguised for and by people that use this route as claiming that it is thrifty, expedient, and purpose driven as opposed to what they see as ambiguous and what they may call people, programs,and incentives that are "dead weight".

An approach that I have seen people use to encourage progress is that of optimism. No matter what you or I ( whom I believe have the best of intentions) would use optimism for may be completely ignored by someone who claims that optimism is only the recognition of what's good.

Someone who would use optimism toward a less than noble goal may play on what they see as insecurities that, for us, is actually hope.

I've experienced and seen people being put out of schools and homes as well as refused medical care all because it was claimed that it was less than standard.

If for instance, the US were to adopt a national health care policy, the quality of care would initially go down for many that are now considered (however wrongly) middle income people who are currently insured. However, for those who are now receiving no health care at all, anything would be an improvement.

The thing is is that there's no scarcity of resources or practical help nor do anyones standards really have to go down.

As long as scarcity of resources is believed though, and people are taught that disruptions in policy and procedure are too difficult for us all to collectively share, lofty ideals may be used to avoid or ignore practical, interpersonal, direct contact with what is and what is a part of individual packages as well as the collective package that includes us all.

At 12:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ed. This clarified alot for me, and reminded me of things that I've witnessed, but had difficulty mentally assessing with words.

It also reminded me of a situation going on currently here in NC, usa, where from an initial attempt to address inadequacies in the mental health system they are closing a huge mental hospital (which I assume has many shortcomings), but without alocating sufficient resources for alternative care for the residents. A minority will be sent to nursing home type facilities, but many will become homeless. In the meantime, the government is making plans to turn the property into shopping, or a large central park. Most passionate public outcry is directed towards any attempts to *not* make it a park.

I liked this especially: "The thing is is that there's no scarcity of resources or practical help nor do anyones standards really have to go down."

I like to think of my optimism as faith ((not religious)1. confidence or trust in a person or thing 2. belief that is not based on proof (yet)) -- trust that if you believe you can, make constructive actions built on the knowing that effort produces results, and the knowing that there's always room and ability for improvement, positive improvement is inevitable. (I'm so strongly wired this way that even the hopelessly discouraged and cynically greedy can't make me lose faith in our inevitable success. ;) People can only resist progress for so long, then it becomes apparent productiveness is...well, more productive! (and beneficial for all.)

I'm off to check out your new site.



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