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Elliot Rabinowitz's picture

"Broken Brains" - What to do...

“Culture” and “disability” are certainly difficult words to define. Personally, I like the definition of disability as “recognition of a difference with a judgment of needing to be fixed.” I agree with many of the sentiments expressed about valuing difference. Living in a world where everyone is the same would definitely be a bland existence. However, it is challenging for many people to see difference as simply “difference” without the associated ideas of something “lesser” or “worse.” This has been made evident time and time again throughout history. There seems to be a need to marginalize those who are different, almost in a way to qualify oneself or one’s shared community (culture?) as better than “the other.”

Just because disassociating “difference” and “disability” may be challenging, it does not mean that individuals and societies are exempt from at least trying to change their ways of thinking. Creating a world in which all people could happily, functionally, and peacefully live with one another would be great. And though it may be idealistic, working to generate such a world is a fantastic goal. One way to do this would be to help people understand the idea that everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. Working to recognize these in all individuals and value them would help people respect each other and work to create a better community. This was written effectively in our third reading – “The primary objective of mental health professionals ought to be not to "fixing problems" but rather to encouraging and facilitating the potential inherent in each individual to be continually shaping and reshaping their own lives.” Though that phrase speaks specifically to “mental health professionals,” I think opening it up to an objective for all people could help our world immensely.

We should support a community that strives to praise people for what they can do well. That definitely includes people who currently may be classified by the DSM as “suffering” from a “disability”, whether it is autism, depression, or something else. However, I do not think that this is the only solution and will work for everyone. Changing societies and the world is difficult. That is not to say it should not be done or is not the right thing to do, it is simply a rational recognition of the challenge. Therefore, while working to create a more accepting and compassionate community, it is natural for other methods of change to be supported. For example, if someone is depressed and wants medication or regular meetings with a counselor, that person should be supported in their autonomous decision even if it is the society/culture in which that person lives that has made them feel like those are their only or best options. Ideally, that society would want to support the person for their differences and could successfully help the person value their differences and not feel like they need to change or be “fixed.” However, I think that is not always possible, and thus other actions must be taken, especially in extreme cases such as when people pose a threat to others or themselves.

There is never going to be only one solution to the question posed in class – “What is the answer?” Working to change the world from multiple angles by recognizing the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches is an important point that I think should be discussed further.

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