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”.