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All The Different Names For The Same Thing

essietee's picture
"Different Names for the Same Thing" - Death Cab for Cutie

Upon reading the Margaret Price selection from her text Mad At School, I was struck by the necessity we exhibit for a sense of identity. An identity is something that we take on ourselves, something that we can choose to abort or adopt on our own free will. While I may be influenced by those I associate with in my community, no one forces me to identify as one particular thing; it is my own free will that allows me to do so.

I am intrigued by the motifs of identity written about in Margaret Price’s Mad At School introduction. Like Price, I may appear “healthy as a horse yet walk with a mind that whispers in many voices.” Can’t those “voices” be viewed as my many identities? Can I not obtain something unique from each of them, something intriguing with which another individual may identify? Morever, who is to say if I am mad or sane? After all, it does take one to know one.

Is it possible, as proposed by Simi Linton, to “reassign meaning rather than choose a new name?” What might be lost or gained in doing so? I immediately am brought to the controversial current debate over Asperger’s Syndrome and the Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a class I took last semester, we discussed how Asperger’s is viewed by some as simply a higher functioning form of Autism. Many Aspies do not agree with this prospect on several levels, one of them being that it takes away a portion of their identity. The New York Times posted an article on the subject back in 2009, which discusses altering perspectives on proposed changes to the DSM and what the loss of diagnosis may mean for the Asperger’s community: 

Furthermore, I remain pensive on the identification of an individual who has disabilities. As proposed by somshine in the post “A Disabled Person or a Person with a Disability?”, how do our views on individuals change if we view them as “a person with a disability” or “a disabled person”? “The problem of naming has always preoccupied DS scholars,” writes Price, “but acquires a particular urgency when considered in the context of disabilities of the mind, for often the terms used to name persons with mental disabilities have explicitly foreclosed our status as persons” (Price 9).

I conclude with a quote from Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, which I think encompasses my own feelings on identity and the way in which I wish others to view me: 

“For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name, or, if this were not within her power, to give birth out of love for life to successors who would do it in her place.”