Moving Into Commitment and Inclusiveness (PART 2)

Implementing personal change creates opportunities not only in the immediate sense, but also because you will find yourself connected to others in new and surprisingly beneficial ways.

However, the ripples can ricochet back in unexpected manners. Personal change that moves towards social change is always a threat to someone – often masses of someones. People often find change to be a threat, or they find differences to be threatening. Agents of change that push at the paradigm are therefore met with resistance. (Excruciatingly earnest but ineffective revolutionaries typically underestimate the weight of social inertia that buffers systems against major changes.)

But what is it that makes change – even social change obviously intended to improve opportunities for people – such a threatening concept? Why does challenging social assumptions create such opposition?

A lot of it has to do with the discomfort of having the world view pushed and challenged. "Cognitive dissonance" is an emotional reaction to events that contradict what you know; they make your brain hurt, as it were. To be able to accept that what you are experiencing is real means that you have to change your attitude, OR if you are to maintain your beliefs then you have to change how you are perceiving things. So, do you adjust your understanding of the world, or do you imagine things to be different than they are?

In this case, someone acting out of the paradigm (be it a social hierarchy, a expectation for a particular kind of social interaction, or a personal ability) challenges not just the hidden assumption that there is a paradigm. It also challenges that everyone must be contained and constrained within it, and that what they do is because of their position in that paradigm. It’s an artificial social construct. It’s not “real” except what we make real, and we can change that.

If people can't imagine why you would act the way you do, they may erroneously attribute various motivations or faults to you, despite the lack of real evidence for such. They then try to “put you in your place” because you are acting out of character, and not fitting into the expected social rôles. When you are trying to push for social change of some sort, especially for acceptance of differences, you are going to get a lot of challenges to this new agenda of inclusiveness.

People who assume they are normal can be trouble. They tend to go around changing the world to suit themselves; their standards are "community standards". "I'm normal, so if I like it this way, almost everyone else will. Right?”

~Glyn Webster

Inclusiveness is an extremely dangerous idea, because it redefines all of the miscellaneous parameters of what is “normal”. A great many ideas about “abnormal” did not fully exist until someone came along and set down specific boundaries about what constituted “normal”.

Artificial boundaries exist everywhere. A lot of people’s definitions of themselves are what groups they belong to, and those groups are partly defined by “otherness” – who and what they aren’t. People who have spent their entire lives in a world defined by exclusion, where exclusion defines many of the others as being not-normal and therefore not-okay, often do so without any consciousness about this exclusionary paradigm. It’s too entrenched and socially invisible.

Inclusiveness will only become normal when there is no Other to exclude. To do that, we have to realize that in most ways, in all the important ways, everyone is okay-normal for who they are. (It is intentional behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable, not the intrinsic qualities of a person.) We all pay a great price when people must go around pretending to be something else than what they are and someone else than who they are, and trying to "pass for normal".



  1. Idetrorce said,

    15 December 2007 at 11:05

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  2. 25 June 2006 at 8:54

    Well, that was more of an adventure than I expected. When I added the blog, I discovered that my portal program, which is free software that is no longer being supported, wasn’t working properly with the new version of phpBB and wouldn’t save descriptions of sites in my web links list.

    Fortunately, my husband is a very good software developer. He looked at the source code for a few minutes, identified the offending line, and commented it out. Yay for alpha geeks!

  3. qw88nb88 said,

    23 June 2006 at 19:58

    I agree with the anthropologic conundrum you’re stating here. And as you point out, there are ways of diverting that. I think the trick is to focus on “what/who our group is for” without regressing to “who our group is against”.

    You certainly may add my blog to your list, Bonnie!

  4. 23 June 2006 at 19:52

    Hi Andrea! I’m not sure if it is possible for humans to overcome the idea of “otherness” entirely, as it seems to be hard-wired in all primates to some extent, but there certainly are better ways of defining our artificial groups and their territorial boundaries and ground rules. For instance, tribal warfare as a rite of passage into manhood no longer exists in most parts of the world; instead, we have sports teams and academic competitions. As ridiculous as sports-obsessed people sometimes can get, it’s a lot better than if they were shooting each other.

    “Abnormality” is indeed a fairly recent concept, an outgrowth of industrialization and eugenics. Most of society’s current ideas about normal and abnormal psychology did not exist a century ago.

    May I add your blog to my list of pro-neurodiversity sites on Aspergian Pride?

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