Buying Citizenship

I just got back from an “open house” hosted by my former uni. Happened to get some nice insect photos along the way, which pleased me. But I had an annoying experience talking to a researcher who’d recently been made a full professor. He told me about his students, and how they’d graduated and gone off and gotten jobs. I mentioned that over a year later, I was still looking for a job that reflected my post-graduate degree. What, he asked me, hadn’t I been applying for This job and That job? Yes, I had, I replied. Once again I had that bewildering sense, the vertigo of the psyche, where it seems like everyone else graduates and goes off to get gainful employment.

He couldn’t understand my dilemma. There were jobs out there (obviously, if his graduate students had been getting them). Unstated, but staining the tone of his questions, was the disdain of what was wrong with [me] that I couldn’t get a job? I ended up feeling like an unemployable idiot.

I’m not of course — actually, I have three different jobs. Put them together, and I have something almost like a full-time job. I get excellent employee reviews on my jobs. But it’s still patchwork employment at low pay. Jobs are not a given, under any economic circumstances. Sure his students got jobs — but for every person who does get the job for which they applied, there’s a score or more of other people who didn’t get that job. And despite my academic achievements (completed with great struggle against health issues), in the realm of employment I have “failed” to succeed at the appropriate performance levels expected for someone of my social station. I’m bidding too low in the marketplace for citizenship.

“Being included in society” means that you are given full benefits of that membership. Being included in society also means that you are considered to be an autonomous and self-directed person.

In contrast, someone who does not fulfill such requirements is not completely adult and independent — they are a minor in the quasi-legal sense, both dependent and diminished. To gain inclusion, one must somehow prove that they are “worthy”. This sense of worthiness means that you have earned the respect of others. You have proven that you can fit in socially, and behave in the ways that people expect you. You can prove that you are responsible for doing those activities that are decreed by the society-at-large as being necessary to your station.

If someone fails to complete or maintain these expectations, then the society will withdraw or withhold respect, and you will no longer be integrated. Not being integrated ranges from being snubbed to being completely shunned.

You will, in other words, have lost your personal rights to be a member of society. As people are fond of reciting, “Rights equal responsibilities!” Well yes, they do. We are all responsible for behaving appropriately and compassionately with one another. But in some situations the word “responsibilities” becomes twisted into meaning something different, into meaning attaining specific kinds of performance levels.

For instance, if one tries to be independent, then others assume that you are signing yourself up for a completely unassisted rôle. To be independent means that one must be self-sufficient in all applicable realms (householding, acquiring work etc). It’s as if they’re setting up this performance bar, where you have promised to be able to do everything all by yourself to some arbitrary level of expertise. If you cannot always maintain that level by yourself, then you have also accepted being dunned for failing. Failing therefore means that you “deserve” to lose your “privilege” to participate in the social realm.

“Well, you made your bed, now lie in it!” is the figure of speech one sometimes hears, which generally means, “You created the mess you’re in, now you have to deal with it.” In cases like this, the figure of speech can also mean, “Well, you should have known that you wouldn’t be able to hack it. If you can’t, that’s your problem. Don’t expect any help from me.”

But who the hell is deciding these things? It’s often not conscious, but part of the empowered majority’s view of what makes them competent, and therefore worthy of being in that majority. People hang onto the skill requirements because they had to struggle to reach them, therefore everyone else must, too. Making life easier for anyone else would diminish their own hard efforts.

Those who are members of society uphold these expectations of others, thus reinforcing the status quo. The value of a citizen is judged by how well they can perform up to standards, where someone in a particular social station is expected to be competent in all skill areas (educational, employment, domestic, the social realm, etc). Anyone who is not competent in such skills is of a lower social rank. And as lower-ranked members of the society, they have less power. As lower-ranked members of the society, they also receive less respect.

To be respected, one must be “responsible” by being able to perform at the requisite skill levels, and/or one must be deemed “useful”. Those with physical disabilities or cognitive dysfunctions are given special status if they can provide some exceptional skill or savant talent that makes up for their inabilities. They’ve been given the social contract, but one amended with a lot of asterisks leading to conditional statements.

The general public is defined as everyone but the disabled or otherwise marginalised. In contrast, the “low-functioning” disabled are the not-useful people, and the “high-functioning” disabled are marginally useful — tolerated, but see contract amendments *, **, and ***.

We’re expected to live up to standards that describe not just about how well we’re supposed to be able to do something, but also how we do it. Heaven forfend you achieve the same end results by going about things in some totally bizarre manner, or one that takes appreciably longer, or one where you accompany the task by performing strange little tics or rituals “for no reason at all”. “No reason at all” means the normals don’t understand why you do things that way because they don’t do things that way, not that you don’t have a reason for why you do things the way you do. 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.

Well I have a newsflash for the rest of society:

Citizenship is a given, not something “earned”.

10 Comments

  1. qw88nb88 said,

    20 August 2007 at 21:41

    Yes indeedy. The hideous decor at JRC is simply there as distractors from what is really going on. It’s a part of the cleverly-designed “Baffles”:

    The whole purpose of this is to keep the people manageable by convincing them that they can’t understand what is really going on, and that their own personal realities cannot be valid. Keeping people confused by deluding them as to what they are really experiencing will preoccupy them, and keep them from getting uppity. Learned helplessness prevents them from taking effective action.

    If nothing else, one very, very important thing I have learned over the years is that,
    When something seems confusing, it means that we don’t have the whole story, and that we need more information.

    All these knots of dismissal, denial and denigration are disabling. They are designed to snare one in traps, recursively wandering about in a standstill, and getting nowhere. They are meant to stifle enquiry.

    I wish I had some good answers about the employment scene. And I would agree — you would think that being in the “Land of Sped” would be more understanding and accommodating, but that’s not necessarily so. I can say that it really depends upon the individual school and district cultures. Despite the horror stories you hear from the blogging world (ever mindful of what constitutes “news” — things going well aren’t news, and students who aer succeeding don’t end up with IEPs, generally speaking), not every place is horrible.

    ~#~

    On other matters, I am always curious how you found my blog? My daily query results always include “cat drawing” for whatever odd reason, but I suspect that didn’t land you here …

  2. Morpheus said,

    20 August 2007 at 18:39

    I’m going through many of those issues myself… I have 2 master’s degrees (in the field of education & clinical field) and I am having difficulty finding work despite all my experience & education. I have sent out over 100 resumes (and I was being selective), got about 8 interviews & only 1 job offer for a part time job I don’t want. The last place of employment fired me due to my medical issues and neurological conditions (which got significantly worse this year due to several incidents out of my control) and I am having difficulty getting my life back together.

    I went into the field of education for job security as the clinical field has been dying in the past 5 yrs or so…what I didn’t realise is that the field of education- even special ed, is very prejudiced against teachers with any sort of disability, especially neurological. Having migraines & AD/HD & other neurological stuff going on is a huge detriment and I don’t always feel I understand the unspoken politics in this realm…why can’t I get a second interview at jobs I would have thought were beneath me 10 yrs ago???

    While my struggles are very real, I find that society is my biggest disability. I’m sick of the way people are perceived & the focus on the almighty dollar. I know I can contribute & some places could greatly benefit from my skills, but time and time again, I am just not given a chance. I am very frustrated.

    BTW, I don’t know what you said about Judge Rotenberg Center, but I noticed JRC on your list. I had an interview there (I got offered the job!!) and it took all my willpower to not run out screaming…That place is some twisted, creepy funhouse with horrid midwestern 1980s artwork and freaky practices hidden away in a desolate office park. It is worse than what the news mentiioned. I met someone who worked there & he seemed pretty spooked out & desperate to leave.

  3. 30 July 2007 at 20:16

    OMG yes, thank you for this post.

  4. medrecgal said,

    30 July 2007 at 13:16

    Andrea,

    What, did you sneak into my head and read my mind? (LOL!) This post is so totally reflective of my own experiences with employment that I couldn’t quite believe when I read it. “They’ve been given the social contract, but one amended with a lot of asterisks leading to conditional statements.” Yes, indeed! They’ll tolerate you, but not without pointing out your failure to meet their standards at every possible opportunity! And because my particular disability isn’t readily obvious on casual inspection, there have been many occasions when they’ve accused me of making it up or making it seem worse than it really is. Those are the times when I have all I can do not to beat them upside the head and say something really nasty. I don’t, of course, but it only reinforces my lack of desire to uphold a value system I don’t necessarily agree with. I’ve spent years trying to explain to them that speed isn’t everything, of course to no avail. But I keep reminding myself that this clash of ideals isn’t something I can fix, at least not until someone can come along and fix the neurological glitch responsible. They tell me they don’t like the way I do their job, and I want to tell them to take a flying leap off the nearest bridge because I’m tired of hearing about it. And trying to remedy the situation by getting back into my actual career that I trained in school for has been another whole nightmare owing to where I live and the fact that so many people don’t want to take the extra time to train someone with a learning disability. Heaven forbid….ARGH!! But I refuse to bow to “the man” and give up on this!!!

  5. qw88nb88 said,

    29 July 2007 at 20:22

    No, this isn’t about “elitism”. There is a misunderstanding going on here, so please do not go inventing insults where none were intended. I agree that sexuality and disability are frequently serious issues.

    Using someone’s written works is borrowing something belonging to the person. It’s simply polite to ask before borrowing something. For instance, during the blog carnivals the authors are sending the carnival host links to their writings, so the host can then string those links together in a single post. Sometimes the host will quote brief passages they find especially good, or that they want to draw the readers’ attention toward.

    In the blogging world, including the realm of disability bloggers, the established method is to quote and link to the author’s blog. Reprinting entire works is done by prior permission. These are not things that I have come up with just to spite anyone. Other bloggers will expect the same. They are the ways that we respect each other’s authenticity. Likewise, (barring dyslexic blips) bloggers also make a point to get the names of the blog author and blog title correct, to reduce general confusion.

    It is also helpful to know that in the realm of autistic bloggers, there are a lot of people who write in a very straight-forward, no-nonsense manner. It’s often described as being “blunt”. That’s not the same thing as being intentionally insulted — if someone is insulting someone else’s point of view, it’s pretty damn obvious. Rather, autistic bloggers do not use a lot of vague, indirect, flowery language. We mean what we say, and we say what we mean. It may seem disconcerting at first, but most people find that they get used to it very quickly.

    If you are interested in submitting something to the disability blog carnival, please do. The subject of the next disability blog carnival is “on holiday” (on vacation), and the submitting link was given in the previous reply.

    cheers,
    andrea

    PS I put the Fair Use Statement up because several people were trying to put my works up on their commercial Web sites. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is something that protects your own essays you write and put on your blog, as well.

    PPS You are still welcome to quote a paragraph and link to this blog.

  6. Ms.Pet said,

    29 July 2007 at 19:12

    Wow! Nice to know you have the classic arrogance and elitism that the academia is so known for. I actually consider sexuality and disability to be a serious issue. Sorry to offend, oh superior one. I’ve taken your article and any links, etc. off.

    And it was in regards to the blog carnival I was asking for the subject on.

  7. qw88nb88 said,

    29 July 2007 at 16:42

    Ms Pet,
    What’s the subject of what, my blog or the Disability Carnival?

    The subject of my blog, as stated in the top sidebar box titled, “What’s the buzz?” is:
    An “insect psychologist” examines human behaviour, education, and disability rights, from personal and social theory perspectives and points inbetween.

    The subjects of the disabilities carnivals vary with each carnival. The information for the next one is here.

    When people add others’ blogs to their blogrolls, they do so because they have previously determined them to be blogs of especial note that they read regularly & recommend. People vary, but I think for the average person it’s a little more serious than signing yearbooks with your 257 closest friends.

  8. The Goldfish said,

    29 July 2007 at 16:21

    This is a subject very close to my heart, being unemployable and having taken a while to come to terms that this doesn’t make me a burden on society. In purely economic terms, I am. But a person is very much more than an economic unit. You are posting some great stuff just now Andrea.

  9. Ms. Pet said,

    29 July 2007 at 5:51

    PS. ADHDer and NVLDer myself, plus more you can find in my profile.

  10. Ms. Pet said,

    29 July 2007 at 5:50

    Hi! Found your blog through the blog carnival. What’s…the subject by the way? Anyways, would love to exchange links with you if that’s okay. I write about Sexuality and Disability mostly from a queer perspective. I’m always looking for writers with other perspectives to add their voice. Love how you write, so, if your interested, feel free to send me something. It’s very broad, from sexual orientation, to sexual politics, to sex with disabilities, to dating, relationship, to gender. Anything that could possibly fall into “sexuality and disability.” *grin* something on bugs even! LOL


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